1. To move or run smoothly with unbroken continuity, as in the manner characteristic of a fluid.
2. To exhibit a smooth or graceful continuity.
3. To hang loosely and gracefully.
Riders can have flow, trails can have flow, we can have flowy days and flowy style. I think that our mountain bike holidays are all about Flow. That feeling of carrying speed, dealing with the terrain with an easy pump of the bike or twist of the hips. It’s addictive. It is also what the new Commencal Meta AM 29er is all about. I have been lucky enough to be testing Comencal’s new 29er for the last 10 weeks, putting plenty of miles on it so read on to see what I thought.
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First of all, let me tell you how I have tested the Commencal Meta 29er. I have been riding the bike for the past 10 weeks which might not sound like much but I have been riding 6 full days a week. I estimate I have ridden 2,000 km and descended over 60,000 meters in that time so I would say that compared to normal use the bike has seen a year of riding. The riding in the Basque Country and the Pyrenees is very varied but generally quite bumpy and I have been riding everything from The Desert to the Big Pyrenees Mountains on this bike, and doing a mixture of uplifted riding and pedalling.
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. Some testers have reported the cables being noisy but I found just the opposite; the cables are pretty much silent 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 stood up and pedalling hard. The pro pedal lever is a bit hard to reach when you are sat on the saddle 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 is a thing of beauty. It is stiff, obviously important with 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.
All the components are detailed below with a breif summary. I will also link to any full reviews of the components if I felt one is justified. In summary all the components worked really well. For those of you who know my history with SRAM you will be surprised to find I really rate the SRAM X0 rear derailleur and X9 shifters. The Meta AM 29er comes with Commencal’s 730mm low rise handlebars, the tips of which are 1065mm from the ground with the 50mm stem, all of which gives a cockpit that just feels right to me.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. The front wheel survived the test in tact but the rear wheel was easily buckled and I snapped some spokes. Both rims did remain ding free and I was able to re-true the wheels, however if I was to keep this bike I would give it the better wheels it deserves.
|Fork||FOX 34 RLC Float 140mm 15QR Tapered||The forks performed fantastically. Controled, plush, stiff and reliabile.|
|Headset||Cane Creek 10 series||Faultless.|
|Stem||Commençal VIP OS 50mm||The cockpit of the Commencal Meta 29er feels great.|
|Handlebar||Commençal VIP 0,75″ OS 730mm||The shape and width are perfect for the type of riding the Meta AM 29 is designed for.|
|Grips||Commençal Lock-on||Grippy with a nice thickness. They only clamp at one end and it took some time to get the bolt tight enough so they didn´t come loose, however once that was done they stayed in place very well.|
|Brakes||Formula RX internal 180/180||The brakes performed well throughout the test. Consistent bite point, great power and a nice gradual feel. I changed the pads a couple of times but the brakes never needed bleeding and I rarely had to use the bite point adjuster. Very highly recommended.|
|Shifters||Sram X9 2×10||Not as precise feeling as the Shimano XT, however performed well through the test.|
|Front Derralieur||Sram X9 direct mount 2×10||Faultless throughout the test.|
|Rear Derraleiur||Sram X0 10 speed||I didn´t touch the rear mech once through the test period. Performed very well indeed. Slightly less precise than a Shimano XT and with a heavier action. The mech I didn´t want to like but ended up liking a lot!|
|Bottom Bracket||SRAM BB92||Creaked at various points throughout the test but didn´t develop any play. It isn´t perfect but definitely something I can live with.|
|Crankset||Sram S2210 CARBON 2×10 38/24||The cranks worked really well. A good combination of ring sizes for all but the very steepest sections. The mechanism for attaching and removing works very well indeed and never came loose once. Removing the cranks is really easy, even on the trail with just a multi-tool. Very highly recommended.|
|Cassette||Sram PG 1070 11-36||Lasted the course of the test. I am getting some chainsuck now however that is to be expected given the amount of use.|
|Wheelset||Fulcrum Red Power XL 29. 15QR front, 142×12 rear||The front wheel is strong enough but a bit flexible, however the rear wheel is the weak point of the whole bike for me. The wheel is noticeably flexible and isn´t strong enough for the type of riding the Commencal Meta AM 29er screams out for. I would prefer a tubeless wheel, slightly heavier and with more width. In the Fulcrum XL’s defence it remains ding free and I have managed to re-true it each time it buckles.|
|Tyres||Maxxis Ardent 2,25 front, Maxxis Crossmark 2,1 rear||Despite fearing that the tyres looked a little on the XC side of things they performed very well. I would have liked something a bit heavier in the rear, mainly to stop pinch punctures but the grip was perfect. The rear Maxxis Crossmark was a very fun tyre, it broke free predictably and made for some fantastic drifty corners. The front Maxxis Ardent provided good grip although I replaced it with a Kenda Nevegal 2.1 when it wore out, the Nevegal provided more front end grip and seemed to roll well.|
|Seatpost||RockShox Reverb 31,6mm||In one word: Perfect. The seatpost never missed a beat, performing flawlessly through the test. The 125mm travel was more than enough and I never had to adjust the height using the QR.|
|Saddle||SDG Circuit for Commençal||Different saddles for different bums. This one has minimal padding and slightly too long and thick a nose for me.|
As I said in the introduction, this bike is all about flow. It carries speed like nothing else I have ever ridden. The geometry and weight distribution also leaves the bike feeling incredibly stable, both in corners, in the air and on fast straights. It is really easy to drift and hold a drift and this gives the rider a massive amount of confidence when throwing it into loose corners. I also found the bike very easy to wheelie and manual and despite not being the worlds best manualler I have got into the habit of manualling through trail sections where I haven´t managed to hold other bikes on the back wheel. I think this is partly due to the Commencal´s inherent stability and partly due to 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. The flowy nature of the Meta AM 29 makes it a really fun bike to ride. It feels like everything you throw at the bike is dealt with in a typically French manner… a nonchalant shrug of the shoulders asking you if that´s all you´ve got. The bike definitely flatters the rider, letting you get it more sideways, carry more speed or float it a bit further than you did before. Climbing is good, with a great rider position and little suspension bob although it is never intended to be a bike to race to the tops on.
One thing that is really noticeable with the Commencal Meta AM 29er is that within seconds of jumping on it I feel right at home. When I go back to one of my 26″ bikes, which I have covered far, far more miles on, it takes me a couple of days to get comfortable. Then back on the Commencal and I’m comfortable again. Once I feel comfortable on the 26er again I love it but it definitely takes time. I don’t think that this is just a 29er thing, although that definitely has something to do with it, I honestly believe this has just as much to do with the superb geometry of the Commencal Meta range.
The Commencal Meta AM 29er is evolved from the Supreme DH and it carries a feeling of invincibility over 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 top tube 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 these are bikes designed to shrug off hard riding.
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. Correct at time of writing.
Meta 2: €2999. Correct at time of writing.
Or you can buy a Meta 29er Frame by itself for €2099.
+ Fast, fun and flowy.
+ Strong, reliable frame.
+ Great component choice.
– Fulcrum wheels not as hardcore as the Meta AM 29er frame deserves.
To sum this bike up I could just use one adjective; FLOWY. The bike 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 speed through corners is very noticeable and each corner I can pull out another bike length on riders who are normally the same speed as me. The component choice is perfect for the bike in all aspects apart from the wheelset. If you are a lighter rider than me or ride less bumpy trails then you will probably get away with the Fulcrum’s but then again you should probably look at the Meta SL. To be fair the fact that the wheelset hasn’t lasted probably says more about how hard the Meta AM 29er begs to be ridden than about the wheelset itself. 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!
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