Commencal Meta AM 29′er: First Look & Ride Impressions
After a peek at the new 29er at Sea Otter, we were invited to the launch of Commencal’s new range of bikes. Joining the Meta AM and SX are two new bikes, the Meta AM 29 and the Meta SL. We are going to be releasing lots more details on these bikes over the next few days, including ride reports. In the meantime here are a few details on the new Meta AM 29. (Edit: Now updated with more pictures, specs and geometry).
The Meta AM 29 is designed to be a fast and fun bike. Using the same suspension design as the rest of the Meta range but with 130mm of travel it sits directly between the 120mm Meta SL and the 150mm Meta AM. The suspension tune also sits between these two bikes, with a less progressive rate than the Meta AM but more progressive than the SL. This is designed to impart a bit more ‘snap’ to the Meta 29 and get over some of that feeling of inertia you can have with 29″ wheels. The head angle is slack for a 29′er at 68 degrees, and this shows the type of riding that Commencal have in mind for this bike. A 140mm Fox Float 34 RLC fork rounds out the package.
The frame has some fantastic attention to detail with internal cable routing giving beautifully clean lines. The Reverb dropper post, which is specified, also has internally routed cables (but it’s not the Reverb Stealth, though). The shock sits low in the frame, giving a low center of gravity and is a floating design, allowing better management of the stresses coming from the suspension. Our test bikes didn’t have any shock guards, however I asked Commencal about this and they told me that production bikes will come with a guard to help keep the shock clean.
The bike comes with a press fit bottom bracket, a BB92. I am not a fan of press fit bottom brackets at all and asked why this was specified. The reason is that this allows the BB shell to be wider, giving more space for the linkages and giving a stiffer, stronger design. The linkage design has also necessitated the use of a post mount front derraileur which looks very neat.
Our test ride of the Meta AM 29 was on a wet morning in France. I had spent the night listening to the huge storm raging outside and wondering, between flashes of lightning, whether we would manage to ride or not. You can see in the pictures that the weather was very dark and wet and the trails reflected that with a mixture of slimey grease and greasy slime.
These trails are the training grounds of the Absalons, and you can see why; they are twisty, rough, fast, rooty and rocky. We rode a good mixture of trails on our test and the Meta AM 29 was a bit of a revelation on them all. The bike, like all of the Meta range, was very stiff laterally, giving huge confidence to throw it around a bit. I could feel some flex comming from the wheels but I think that was made more noticable because of how stiff the frame was. The suspension works very well, soaking up the bumps beautifully but the bike remains very playful. The geometry really works, as a 26″ rider I felt instantly at home on this big wheeled ripper. The rider is very centered in the bike and the slack-ish geometry really felt right to me. This bike loves to rail round corners, whether they are wide or tight, and the grip it develops takes some adjusting to. At first I was sure I was going to wash out but this bike finds grip where it shouldn’t exist. When the trail straightens out the bike can just steam-roller everything. If you want to get some pop it can be fun and playful, too.
It was noticable when we were changing between the bikes that everyone was a lot faster on the 29′er. There was a sort of “getting your head around it” phase and then everyone was flying on it. For my part, I don’t know if it’s the most fun bike I’ve ridden recently, but I’m pretty sure that on these type of trails it is the fastest.