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.