Commencal Meta SL: First Look & Ride Impressions
Last week we showed you the Commencal Meta AM 29′er. The other new bike this year on Commencal’s Meta platform is the Meta SL trail bike which, with 120mm of rear wheel travel, offers the shortest travel of the Meta range. The Meta SL uses the same suspension design as the rest of the Meta range, a single pivot, 4 bar linkage with a floating shock, designed to reduce the forces acting on the main frame and keep the center of gravity low. This test bike didn’t have a guard on the shock but Commencal told us that the production bikes would have a neoprene guard to protect the shock. Read of more more details, pictures and a ride report.
The Meta suspension is tuned specifically for the SL, giving a less progressive ride than the Meta AM. This gives the Meta SL better pedalling performance, at the expense of the plushness of the bigger bikes. The suspension has been optimised for a two ring set up, with a big ring of between 36 and 39 teeth and a 26 tooth or bigger granny. This limits the kickback in the smaller ring and provides great pedalling efficiency in the big ring. The geometry of the bike sets out Commencal’s intentions; this is a fun bike, designed to enjoy the downhills and the numbers reflect this. The head angle is slightly steeper than the Meta AM, at 68° vs 67° but the bottom bracket is lower. Commencal specify bottom bracket height as a drop from the hub and the Meta SL is -10mm, compared with +3mm on the Meta AM. It is worth noting that the tapered headtube will take an angleset for those of you who might want to change the head angle.
The frame uses the same internal cable routing as the rest of the Meta range, giving a very neat finish. There is also internal routing for a dropper seatpost, although Commencal spec a standard seatpost on the Meta SL, an indication of its racier intentions. The bottom bracket is a BB92, the same as the rest of the range. This was chosen as it works best with the suspension design and gives a stronger and stiffer frame. The frame is equipped with a tapered Fox Float RL Fit 120mm fork and our bike came with SRAM XO / X9 shifting, Formula brakes, Fulcrum wheels and some nicely designed Commencal finishing kit. Everything worked well during the test and the 28/42 gearing felt about right for the combination of my legs and the bike.
We test rode the bike on the same wet and greasy trails as we tested the Meta AM 29′er on. Initially I picked out a large frame. I am 5’10″ (178cm) and would usually ride a medium frame but other test riders suggested I might enjoy the large better so I tried that. Straight away the bike felt too long for me so I changed the stem to a shorter one. The bike felt better but during the test ride I just wasn’t comfortable and felt like a bit of a passenger rather than a pilot! I was too stretched out and didn’t feel that I could move the bike under me as much as I wanted to. After the first run I changed the bike to a medium and instantly felt comfortable. It is really worth getting the sizing right because on the rest of the test ride I really started to enjoy the bike.
On the first climb the bike felt fast and efficient; it accelerates quickly with hardly any movement from the rear suspension even without the propedal on. Quick bursts out of the saddle were no problem and the stiffness of the frame and tautness of the suspension meant the bike shot forwards with every effort. When it came time for the descents the bike felt great; in fact it felt far better than I was expecting. It is fair to say that with everyone else opting to ride the 29′er that afternoon I was having to work hard to keep up, especially in the corners, but I found the Meta SL more fun. The bike is quick to turn and feels very stable in the corners. The low and stiff frame really helps here, making it very confidence inspiring and the suspension provides plenty of grip. At speed the Meta SL is a little bit twitchy compared to the 29′er but again the suspension works very well, keeping everything in control when the ground gets rough. The suspension definitely feels less progressive than the 29′er and I bottomed it out a couple of times but I liked the firmer feel of the initial travel which meant that any distance I lost to the 29′ers in a corner I could pull back with a couple of pedal strokes. It is a bike that needs the rider to work a bit to descend at speed, not like the point and shoot 29′er, but that makes it fun. I think that the Meta SL would benefit from having a dropper post specified as standard, it is definitely a bike that needs the seat down on descents whereas with the 29′er you could get away with having a higher seat and just holding on!
I have to admit that at the end of the test I was very reluctant to give the Meta SL back and if we had another run I would have chosen the Meta SL over the 29′er. Both bikes are very capable and benefit from a very stiff frame and excellent suspension design, which one you prefer will be down to your riding style.