Chances are if you’ve been following our social media or read any of other reviews lately you’ve caught glimpses of this sexy silver beast – the Commencal Meta AM V4.2. Occasionally we’re rushed to get reviews out, and other times we only need to ride a bike a few times to get a handle on it. Then every once in a while we get a bike like the Meta AM V4.2. A bike that makes us not want to publish our review in fear that the company will shortly thereafter send us a return label to and take it away from us… We don’t want to send it back.
Built from 6066 triple-butted aluminum, this 160/170mm all mountain bike is designed to be ridden hard. Our V4.2 is the New Zealand Edition, meaning it’s got a brushed silver finish with some native New Zealand tribal art and a friendly Kiwi bird reminding us to “Have Fun.”
The NZ Edition comes spec’d with a 170mm Fox Factory 36 Float Boost fork and a 230x60mm Fox Factory DHX2 coil shock to handle the 160mm of rear wheel travel. Shimano XT brakes and a SRAM GX Eagle drivetrain stop and move the bike while e.thirteen wheels and Maxxis Minion tires keep us rolling down the trail.
Things we didn’t love from the spec include the hubs and Ride Alpha’s bar, grips and saddle. The saddle is tolerable for shorter rides, and after spending the first few rides tweaking the roll of the bars, we grew to accept them. What we never could get on board with however was the drag of the rear hub. It was a notable performance detractor and something that made climbing and coasting a regular point of complaint.
Geometry on the Meta AM V4.2 is great for aggressive riding and downhilling. We felt DH bike level confidence on everything from 40MPH singletrack to chunky rock gardens. Our size large test bike sports an 18-inch (458mm) reach, 65.6-degree head angle, 47.83-inch (1,215mm) wheelbase and 17.20-in (437mm) chainstays. With the spec’d 170mm fork the stack height measures 24.09 inches (612mm) and the seat tube angle sits at 74 degrees.
While the 65.5-degree head angle and coil sprung shock may suggest that this bike is built for going down hill, we found that we ended up riding this bike on quite a few epic-level rides. In fact, with fast-rolling tires and different wheels, this bike isn’t half bad on the ups – for a burly all mountain rig that is. Something that did annoy us a bit while pedaling the Meta AM was the curved stays and the protective chainstay guards. They help protect the top and bottom of the chainstay but the two pieces create edges that we frequently caught our heel on. It resulted in a clicking sound each time we pedaled and the plastic lifted up off the frame and snapped back against it. I don’t normally have heel rub issues but as you’ll see in the photos of the bike, there was just enough rub to leave marks, but not change my foot position.
As we mentioned before, the hubs, especially the rear, have quite a bit of drag. It was noticeable on climbs and low-grade descents or flat sections. We had lots of tailgaters telling us to lay off the brakes on flat sections of trail while coasting. We’re on our third set of tires with this bike so we’re confident it’s not rubber related.
Highlights of the bike are many. On the trail we instantly fell in love with the bike’s composure in the rough stuff. We hate having to use the analogy but the confidence and bump-eating ability had us feeling like we were on a downhill bike. The Meta AM loves it when we go deep, brake late and let it loose.
On some of our more natural, scratched-in descents where braking bumps are interrupted by embedded, jagged lava rock, we were able to pass our usual brake points by a full bike length before grabbing the binders and dumping the bike over into the turn. With the right tires, it was infallible.
Commencal’s website calls for a 450lb spring on their size large, but I ended up riding a 500lb spring with a rider weight of 172lbs. It was our first time riding the DHX2 for a length of time and while the small and big hit performance blew our tester’s minds, it also developed a damping issue about 3 months into our testing. After a quick rebuild at the Fox booth at Sea Otter Classic we were back in business. The Fox Factory stuff is undoubtedly a major part of why we love this bike and the sensitivity is nicely paired with progression on bigger hits.
Along with the suspension, the geometry and overall feel of the bike also gave our testers confidence to push the bike hard. We spent a lot of time aboard this bike and never once felt awkward on it. It has a natural, yet aggressive stance that lets the pilot feel like he is truly in control. When you run out of skill, the Meta is there to remind you that it’s got everything under control.
The downside to that all-out performance on the nastiest of trails is the rather lazy feeling it gives on smoother, flatter trails. If you want a 160mm bike for the few time a year you travel to a bike park, but you spend the majority of the year riding trails more suited for a 140mm bike, you’re probably going to feel like you fed the bike Z-Quil for breakfast.
There are other 160mm bikes that perform better on mellower terrain, but we’re not sure if many outperform the Meta when you need it. Riders looking for a more trail oriented steed should look to the Commencal Meta Trail. We’ll have that review in the coming months, but it’s safe to say the bike won’t disappoint if you’re looking for less travel.
The Wolf’s Last Word
If we had to leave aggressive, speed-thirsty all-mountain riders with a simple take away note, it would be “Hell Yeah!” In fact we know for certain that we’ve sold a couple of these bikes already to people we’ve met on the trail or friends who have sent us texts asking for recommendations. And they’re just as stoked as we are.
Having a carbon bike isn’t a deal breaker to us. We’ve had plenty and realize that material doesn’t make or break the ride. There are lots of smooth, sexy looking plastic bikes out there at similar price points, namely the YT Capra, and in our opinion, this bike is an easy choice for our chunky terrain and riding style.
Small bump performance is above most bikes in category. Combine that with an ability to gobble up the chunkiest of rocks, a $4,199 price tag, killer aesthetics and we’ve got a bike that really excites us. Beyond the shock issue we developed and the slow hubs, this bike is kick ass. Just make sure you ride steep enough terrain to make use of it, otherwise it’ll be a bit tiresome.
Hub Drag Slow on Mellow Trails Heel Rub on Chainstay Protectors
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