It’s almost as if Commencal doesn’t want anyone to know about its new Meta AM. Despite a host of changes, the new model received but a lowly '.2' added to its name. I tested the previous iteration—the V4—back in the spring of 2015, and while I got on well with it on our local Southern California loops, the bike truly came alive later that summer when I cruised around on it for a week in the Whistler Bike Park.
This new version would be even more at home in the park. Commencal has upped the travel by 10 millimeters at both ends, landing at 170 in the front and 160 in the rear. The head angle has been slackened by a half degree, and Commencal says the suspension has been made more progressive.
I say 'says' because at 30-percent sag, I was bottoming out the RockShox Super Deluxe with ease. I believe the Andorrans' claims, but I was blowing through my travel and, in turn, the rear tire, double flatting on my first ride—an extremely rare occurrence for me.
The next few rides were spent around 23-percent sag, a setting that yielded decent performance uphill and down. I was able to get full travel, but without any harsh bottom-outs, and the Meta was performing better than I expected with such a setup.
But what 160-millimeter bike needs to be run with such low sag? Volume spacers were in order. Or should I say, on order. Turns out, RockShox's new metric Deluxe shock requires a different volume spacer than the Monarch, so the handful we have in our shop was of no use.
Then ensued a waiting period and a few more thumb-twiddling rides with too much air in the shock before the new spacers finally arrived.
Commencal Meta AM V4.2 Specs
Frame material: Aluminum
Travel: 160 rear / 170 front
Wheel size: 27.5
Weight: 32 lbs
MSRP: $4,600 (currently on sale for $4,100)
Riding the Meta AM V4.2
What you need to know is that unless you have the right terrain, it's very possible you'll wind up doing quite a lot of thumb twiddling yourself aboard the Meta AM. Or perhaps it's the Meta that will be impatiently twiddling in your general direction. This is not one of those all-mountain bikes that, like the Trek Remedy I tested back in November, will happily pull double-duty as a trail bike.
It demands speed, and then some more speed, and then some things to smash through with all that speed. Its head angle is perched at an aggressive 65.5 degrees, and its wheelbase stretches to 1,205 millimeters for an incredibly stable wingspan, all of which combines with the plush 170-millimeter RockShox Lyrik up front to make for a ride that's closer to DH than trail. It is, in a true sense, an EWS-worthy race bike, though I say this having never raced an Enduro World Series stage in my life.
Don't expect too much out of the Meta AM when speed and steepness aren't in the mix. You can pounce on the pedals, and the beautiful aluminum machine will go forward, but it won't enthusiastically carry speed on flat ground while you pop off all the little trailside bonus hits. "Let me know when you need me," it says, "and I'll get up," not unlike a drowsy copilot while you're getting a bit sleepy behind the wheel yourself, and really looking for some conversation.
The bike's weight is average for this pricepoint, at around 32 pounds with pedals, but we added a pair of burly 2.5-inch Minion DHFs with Double Down casings to the mix, which left our size large tester tipping the scales at 34 pounds. Lighter setups are possible—and make for a livelier ride—but it's nice to not have to worry about tires when you're smashing away the angst of a week in the office.
Instead of a carbon frame, the Meta AM has a gorgeous brushed-aluminum one and a 12-speed SRAM Eagle drivetrain, a fair bargain if you ask me. The rest of the build on our Race Eagle model is quite good—Commencal's house-brand cockpit has a nice feel, and we were enamored with the grips' subtle ergonomics. The Mavic 427 rims, which come laced to Formula hubs, have stayed true despite a long limp down a rocky descent on a flat rear tire. Nonetheless, our first upgrade would be the wheels, as a lighter set would shave weight and help energize the Meta AM.
The linkage-driven, single-pivot suspension is very stable and efficient when seated, and provides plenty of traction while crawling through uphill rock gardens. But with a wheelbase this long and a headtube this slack, you can't expect the Meta AM to eagerly engage with uphill switchbacks. Tight ones with inconveniently placed rocks that require quick directional changes are the Commencal's Achilles heel, as is the case for most bikes with such a hulking posture.
With a second volume spacer installed—as I discovered is standard for Commencal's staff and team riders—and the sag at 27 percent, I could now hear the thumb twiddling even on descents. The sound pushed me to ride faster and faster, to drop my heels and drive the metal machine into rock gardens, only to have it skip through the holes like they weren't there at all, railing into the following corner, its low bottom bracket and relatively stretched 437-millimeter stays providing incredible stability throughout arcing turns, and its comfortable 448-millimeter reach keeping me centered.
The Meta AM will have you giving another look to that steep, chunky optional line you've been pretending doesn't exist for the past few months, and when you submit to its desire to dive into the steeps, you'll most likely come out unscathed, unless you do something really stupid. Once you roll away grinning, you're going to want to hike back up and do it again. Faster. And then again, but maybe this time you'll gap those rocks and land in the middle of those other rocks and push harder into that corner, and when you do you'd better be careful, because the Meta AM will probably still want to go faster than you.
And if you did do something stupid, you can be sure that it was your fault, because the Meta AM was ready and willing, and if you weren't, you shouldn't have listened to it in the first place. Twiddle twiddle.
COMMENCAL'S TWO CENTS
"Here at Commencal we created the META AM V4.2 for two different reasons: We wanted a bike that is capable of winning EWS races (Thank you Cécile!) as well as bringing smiles to all riders' faces, so we also made it fun to ride!
At our headquarters, in Andorra, we all love it and it is the obvious choice for our daily rides. It's not an XC bike but it climbs really well…it's a Commencal so first it has to be great riding downhill! We used all our knowledge to get the best of both worlds and we are very happy with the end result. The bike brings confidence. Be ready to push your limits! You will not see trails in the same way…" — Stéphane Pons, Commencal USA Manager