Commencal Meta AM 29er: Long Term Review
Back in May 2012 I had a quick ride on Commencal’s new Meta range. You can read about it here. Following that Commencal sent a Meta AM 29er to test and I have been riding that for the past ten weeks. The Meta AM 29er is a 29″ bike with a distinct gravity slant. Long, low and slack, it certainly promises on paper and felt great on our short test day.
I own Basque MTB , a mountain bike guiding company based in North West Spain and ride almost every day. I estimate I have ridden 2,000 km and descended over 60,000 meters in that time with a mixture of pedalling and uplifted riding. The riding in the Basque Country and the Pyrenees is very varied but generally quite bumpy and technical.
So, the Commencal was put through its paces. Did it live up to being thrown down the Pyrenees mountains day in and day out? Read on to find out…
|Some of the mountains the Commencal Meta 29er has climbed!|
Commencal Meta AM 29er: Details and Geometry
The attention to detail on the Commencal frame is fantastic. All cables are routed internally, including the Reverb dropper post. This gives beautifully clean lines but, more importantly, also keeps the cables out of the way and less likely to snag on anything or rub the frame. I have found that the cables are pretty much silent while riding and it makes for a noticeably quiet bike. The cable for the Reverb post needs a little bit of fiddling to get the length right to allow full seatpost extension without buzzing the back tyre at full compression but once set you don’t have to think about it again. The large BB drop, coupled with the low slung shock gives the bike a low center of gravity and this translates to a real stability on the trails. Unfortunately the shock is in the line of fire for all the dirt from the back tyre, however Commencal now provide a mudguard for the shock as standard with the frame.
|Commencal Meta AM 29er’s Bearings|
Total weight for the Commecnal Meta Am 29er is 14.45kg or 31.8lbs excluding pedals.
Due to the suspension and linkages around the bottom bracket Commencal were forced to make two choices for the Meta AM 29er. The first choice was a post mounted front derailleur. This works perfectly and I haven’t had to touch it at all. The second choice was the BB92 press fit bottom bracket. My experience of press fit bottom brackets has been poor, however this one has lasted well. It creaks a bit and could probably do with a bit of a clean and grease but it has lasted for the whole test period with no play.
The frame runs on 8 sealed bearings which look really well sized and are definitely on the strong side of the spectrum. I had a couple of issues with the linkage bolts coming loose but this was solved with some threadlock. By the end of my test I had a very small amount of play in the one of the bearings on the seatstays, probably caused by damage when the linkage bolts came loose. I asked Commencal about this and they said that on some of the early press bikes the bolts didn´t get threadlock applied and that for production bikes this wouldn´t be a problem.
|Commencal Meta AM 29er Down By The Sea and Rear Derailleur|
The rear axle of the Meta AM is a 142×12 bolt through design. It is a little awkward to get the rear wheel in and out because of the way the rear derailleur is tucked away but this offers a really protected location for the rear mech. I didn’t touch the rear derailleur once during the time of my test which is something of a record for me. Usually I would expect to have snapped at least one rear mech during this test period.
With the Meta AM 29, as with the rest of the Meta range, Commencal have really produced a stiff and strong feeling frame. At no time during the test did I ever feel I was asking the frame any questions it didn’t have the answers for. This is no doubt helped by the large bearings, floating shock design and the 142×12 rear axle.
|Geometry of the Meta 29er compared to other similar travel 29 inch bikes.|
The Meta AM 29 is a low, slack frame compared to other similar 29ers. The wheelbase is relatively long and the chainstays are middle of the road for this type of bike. I will look at the ride in detail further down but it is just worth saying here the geometry of Commencal’s Meta AM 29er just feels perfect and within a few minutes of jumping on it I felt right at home.
|Fox Float RP23 and 34|
Commencal Meta AM 29er: Suspension Performance
I have read a lot of discussions on the web about 29er travel. What I keep hearing is that you don’t need as much travel because of the fact the bigger wheels tend to roll over things easier. That is undoubtably true when carrying speed on rough ground, however when jumping or with big hits on the trail there is no disguising the lack of travel. Having said that the rear suspension on the Meta AM 29 is very controlled through the travel and is also very progressive, meaning it ramps up towards the end of the stroke and means that this bike sucks up the harder hits well. I found that I prefered the feel of the bike with slightly less sag than I would normally use and I eventually settled on around 23%. This reduced the small bump sensitivity but the 29″ wheels deal with small bumps really well and the stiffer suspension meant that the Meta performed really well on bigger impacts.
The Fox Float RP23 BV shock worked well throughout the test. It was easy to set up and the range of rebound damping seemed well suited to the bike. There is very little bob from the Meta 29er while climbing and I rarely felt the need for Pro Pedal apart from during big road climbs. When used, the Pro Pedal works well and eliminates any bob unless you are standing and pedalling hard. The Pro Pedal lever is a bit hard to reach while riding but, unless you have limbs like T-Rex, it is possible to adjust it whilst you are moving. Up front the Fox 34 140 Float RLC with its 15mm axle works fantastically. It is stiff, important for a 29er with such hardcore ambitions. The damping is really well controlled and the fork deals with all manner of hits in a composed and predictable manner. The rebound adjustment, (high and low speed) offers a perfect range of settings and I was very quickly able to adjust the fork to perform how I like it. There is a big lockout lever on the front of the fork which is really easy to use. The 15mm bolt through worked well through the test, never once coming loose and it no doubt contributed to the stiff feel of the whole bike.
|Close Up of the Commencal Meta AM 29er Build Kit|
Commencal Meta AM 29er: Highlights and Lowlights
Commencal have changed the specification of the Meta range for 2013 so there is little point talking too much about the components on my bike in too much detail. The SRAM X9 10 speed shifters mated to the X0 rear derailleur worked perfectly though the test and I didn’t have to adjust them once. The cockpit felt perfect straight away with Commencal´s own brand 730mm bars and 50mm stem. The only fault I found was with the Fulcrum Red Power XL 29 wheels, which Commencal has replaced with own brand wheels on current models. I found these wheels to be flexible and lacking in strength, although the rims did remain ding free and I was able to re-true them fairly easily, if frequently.
Commencal Meta AM 29er: How it Rides
This bike is all about flow. It carries speed amazingly and the geometry and weight distribution mean the bike feels incredibly stable in corners, in the air and at speed. When the bike starts to slide it is very predictable and manageable, probably due to the stiffness and low center of gravity, and this inspires confidence. It is often said about 29ers that they are hard to manual, however I found the bike very easy, possibly due to the Commencal´s inherent stability and the rotational effects of the bigger wheels. Despite being a stable bike, it is also very playful. It is easy to pop and loft the bike on the trail, although sometimes on landing you are aware of the fact you aren’t on a bike with more travel. The stiff frame gives a sense of confidence and it is just a pity that the wheels aren’t quite as confidence inspiring. Climbing performance is good for this type of bike, with a great rider position and little suspension bob. It is never intended to be a bike to race to the tops on though. For those of us who are used to 26″ wheel bikes the Commencal requires little getting used to, within a few minutes I was totally comfortable on the bike, although it took longer to realise how much speed I could carry.
|Close Up of the Commencal Meta AM 29er Paintwork at the End of Test|
Commencal Meta AM 29er: Longevity
The Commencal Meta AM 29er is evolved from the Supreme DH and it carries over a feeling of invincibility from this World Cup and Red Bull Rampage pedigree. The bike feels really strong and after all the miles I have put onto it it feels good. The paintwork has held up well, there are some chips where I have crashed or grounded out the bike but they are localised and the paintwork around them remains well attached. Of course, the beauty of the internal cable routing is that there is no cable rub to age the bike. Another area that quickly ages on any of my bikes is the paintwork on the toptube but, so far, the Commencal has stood up well in this department. The stick-on chainstay protector has come away and could do with being reattached but it is a minor detail. The handlebar grips have worn out during my test period which is maybe a little bit quicker than I would expect but again a minor detail.
It is no secret that the Commencal Meta’s of old had a reputation for breaking. I asked Commencal how they had set about designing the new Meta AM to ensure it was more reliable. Last week Nico, the bike designer, told me that they have not had a single cracked Meta frame, including the frames their test riders are abusing. Considering some of their test riders are using Meta AM’s as park bikes and I have seen a video of one of them being back-flipped, that is impressive! Commencal tell me that they have developed 8 tests, all surpassing the EN standards, and have worked with their frame manufactures to get the highest possible reliability in these tests. As an example the EN test for headtube reliability requires 50,000 cycles but Commencal have found no failures within 500,000 cycles. It is this, I was told, that means that the Commencal frames are slightly heavier than some direct competitors but then these are bikes designed to shrug off hard riding.
Commencal Meta AM 29er: Pricing and Specification Options
There are two models currently available for the Commencal Meta AM 29er. The specifications are slightly different to the model I tested which was the limited edition. You can see the full specifications for both bikes below.
Meta 1: €4299. Commencal Meta 1AM 29er Specification.
Meta 2: €2999. Commencal Meta 2 AM 29er Specification.
Or you can buy a Meta 29er Frame by itself for €2099.
Meta AM 29er: Summary
The Meta AM 29er is seriously quick, carries amazing speed over rough ground and through corners and is very stable when everything breaks loose or in the air. The bike isn’t light but then again when did 32lbs become heavy for a hard hitting trail bike? The Commencal Meta AM 29er isn’t cheap, indeed at €4299 it could be called expensive but you are paying for a well detailed frame with a top shelf component specification. With the Meta AM 29er I think that Commencal have given us one of the most fun bikes I have ever ridden. A bike for big adventures and even bigger smiles!