Commencal Meta TRAIL V4.2 RACE Review
The King of Affordable Bikes
Words & Photos by ChiliDog
When we started on this affordable bike testing adventure, I’ll admit I wasn’t particularly excited. Sure, affordable bikes are what 90% of us (ourselves included) actually buy, but when it comes to testing, it’s far more fun to ride a decked out, top of the line masterpiece. It’s like being the auto journalist at Car and Driver who’s stuck reviewing the Nissan Versa while the guys over at Road and Track are rolling around in a Porsche 911 Turbo.
At least that’s what I thought… until I fell in love with a bunch of affordable bikes. Unlike getting stuck in a four-wheeled toaster with an iPod jack as the most exciting feature, almost every one of the sub-$4k bikes we threw a leg over had no problem holding their own against $10,000 dream machines.
Commencal makes a particularly noteworthy stab at that market, with bikes like the Meta Trail. Our top of the line V4.2 Race model retails at $3,600 while the wallet-friendly Meta Trail 4.2 Origin version with the same geo but a lower end spec comes in at $2,099. The Meta TrailV4.2 literally had us scratching our heads as to how Commencal was able to hit such a low price point without cutting any of the important corners.
The Meta TR is the shorter travel sibling of the Meta AM we reviewed a few months back. Both have stout aluminum frames and Commencal’s signature suspension design where the rear shock is tucked neatly into the top tube. With 130mm of travel, the TR takes everything we love about the AM, and puts it in a smaller package. The two bikes actually share the same 66.5-degree head tube angle and 17.2-in (437mm) chainstays.
Our XL frame has a 25.9-in 25.9 in (658.8mm) top tube length giving it plenty of room upfront. Suspension spec is a Fox Factory 36 fork and a Fox Factory Float in the rear. Yeah, I said Factory. Even though this bike comes in at $3,600, Commencal kept the top of the line Fox stuff. It also packs Shimano XT brakes and e*thirteen TRS wheels. Shifting duties are handled by the ultra-reliable SRAM GX Eagle 12 speed rear derailleur.
Commencal provided specifications for their in house bar and stem on the bike, but much like the Meta AM I found the bar’s back and up sweeps to be a bit odd. Though it’s a matter of personal preference, it’s still worth noting. I also found the rear tire to be severely deficient of climbing traction on loose soils. While it’s plenty fun to slide the bike around with a simple twist of the hips, the rear tire is an item that needs to be immediately swapped on purchase to truly unlock the highly capable potential of this bike.
Getting a chance to ride the AM and TR back to back offered the best insight on these bikes. While similar, the Commencal Meta Trail is the weapon of choice if climbing is in order. Despite its slack angles, the trail surprised me over and over with its climbing efficiency.
With the shock locked, it was a veritable XC machine, with our kinda geo. It was also quite comfortable on long rides. While some of the enduro bikes like the AM will climb acceptably, they aren’t particularly cozy for a 20 or 30-mile ride that ventures to the XC side of the spectrum.
The Meta Trail V4.2 Race is equally comfortable on an XC loop as it is ripping an aggressive flow trail. In fact, on a ride in Bend, Oregon I was blown away that the bike didn’t flinch on a ten-mile climb or the ten-foot drop we hit on the way down. Stable in the air, the Meta Trail enjoys popping off trail features and takes well to mid-flight inputs. Direction change is quick and precise whether on the ground or off.
Small bump compliance is exceptional, which should come as no surprise given the Fox Factory suspension spec and the proven suspension design that is both simple and effective. While Commencal’s parts spec looks good on paper, it really shines out on the trail. We never experienced as much as a single hiccup from any part of the bike despite months of floggings under various riders. While the e*thirteen wheels aren’t the lightest option, they have stood up to all the abuse we can throw at them. The SRAM drivetrain also proved to be rock solid, with snappy shifts throughout the gear range.
The Meta Trail V4.2 does have its limits, however. In the rough stuff, it’s clear where the Meta AM pulls ahead with the longer travel and coil rear shock. Commencal did a great job making the Meta Trail a capable rig, but deep braking bumps or rock gardens definitely overwhelm the suspension travel. We were asked countless times on the trail and by friends, which bike was better between the AM and the TR and it’s likely a question many of you at home will have. With similar geo and shared features between the two, the call ultimately comes down to the terrain.
If you enjoy climbing, primarily ride smoother natural trails or flow trails, and aren’t regularly riding anything overly chunky at high speeds (think Bend, Oregon style terrain) the Meta Trail Race is your weapon of choice. It’s a bike that can stretch from XC rides to bike park jump trails while handling almost everything between. The TR is a great do-it-all bike so long as you aren’t thundering through rock gardens or massive braking holes.
Should your rides routinely take you on trails with large rocky sections you used to ride your DH bike on, the Meta AM is going to reward your extra efforts on the climb. Of course, you could also go out and buy both for the price of most high-end carbon enduro bikes. If you’re like us, owning more bikes is always the better option.
The Wolf’s Last Word
Is the Commencal Meta TR V4.2 the best bike out of the affordable bunch? It’s a tough call to make, but it is without a doubt one of the most well-rounded in the test group. It climbs exceptionally well but maintains an aggressive and enjoyable demeanor on the way down. Small bump compliance and cornering traction were noteworthy even compared to bikes double and triple the cost of the Meta TR. It honestly had me questioning why people spend so much on bikes. The component spec cut corners in the perfect places while splurging for the good stuff in all the most important ones.
Though riders looking for something more aggressive from Commencal should consider the Meta AM, 90% of your average riding terrain is well within the scope of the highly versatile TR. If you gave me $4,000 to spend on a bike, the Commencal Meta TR V4.2 would be at the top of my list, and I’d even have a couple hundred left over for a rad trip to go break it in.
Weight: 29.5 lbs
Frame: Aluminum; 130mm
Fork: Fox Factory 34 FLOAT, 140mm
Shock: Fox Factory FLOAT, 210 x 50mm
Brakes: Shimano XT
Handlebar: Ride Alpha, 780mm wide, 31.8mm
Headset: Ride Alpha
Saddle: Ride Alpha
Seatpost: KS Lev Integra, 150mm
Shifter: SRAM GX Eagle; 12s
Stem: Ride Alpha 50mm
Rims: e13 TRS
Tires: Maxxis Forekaster 27.5 x 2.35 (f), Minion SS 2.3 (r)
Bottom Bracket: SRAM GXP
Cassette: SRAM XG
Cranks: SRAM GX Eagle; 175mm, 34t
Derailleur: SRAM GX; 12s
Rear Tire in Loose Soil
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