Commencal Meta 5.5 UK review£2,153.80

Meta gets tweaked for British riding

BikeRadar score3.5/5

It’s a sign of how fast the trail bike benchmarks are changing that one of the top bikes of recent years is now starting to look off the pace for all-round riding.

The Commencal is still a super-smooth descender, with noticeable stiffness boosts from the new linkages and screw-through fork. The handling isn’t as lively as some of the competition though, and high weight saps climbing speed.

Ride & handling: Good climber, but lacking playbike insolence

We said last year that the Meta was in danger of losing its pole position unless Commencal did something significant to sharpen and lighten it up. Unfortunately the changes they've made haven’t been enough.

While the '09 model is stiffer around the front end and linkages than previous Metas, there’s still an ‘articulated’ feel between the two halves. There’s a serious amount of wheel flop at the rear tips too, which makes it smear rather than stick lines.

Despite a half-degree slackening of the head angle, the 90mm stem and tall bottom bracket make for a more cross-country feeling bike. 

The upsides are that it holds a line better on climbs and you can pedal through more stuff without stubbing your toes. The screw-through Fox fork and stiffer driven rear damper also feel better in control terms.

Although it’s only a stem change away, it’s got less of the ‘leap off everything, slide the rear in the gravel’ insolence it used to have. At over 30lb with a soft pedalling feel and short top tube, we knew every descent would be matched with a slog back up the far side.

New linkages help reduce rear wheel wag of previous models: new linkages help reduce rear wheel wag of previous models

Frame: Stiffer links, new tubes and revised angles

You wouldn’t guess it from a quick glance, as the layout is identical, but the 2009 frame uses a new tubeset and revised geometry.

‘H’ gussets under the big down tube and above the top tube reinforce the front end, with a flared top tube end butting up against the skinny seatpost. 

An open CNC machined section in the bike’s belly joins the bottom bracket, down tube seat tube, main pivot and front mech stub. The Contact System suspension gets significantly stiffened linkage pieces, too.

Equipment: Decent kit from Shimano and Fox, but we'd recommend a stem swap

Last year’s special edition XT Meta was a massive success, but this year’s UK edition is more of a Shimano SLX/XT mix. The SLX chainset looks great though, with only softer feel from the SLX shifters being noticeable in performance terms.

Fox rear shock and 15mm screw-through axle Float fork are a bonus, and the fast-rolling Maxxis Larsen rear tyre offsets high overall weight. The 90mm stem isn’t as swift handling as the 70mm on last year’s bikes though.

Fox’s 15mm float is our favourite 140mm trail fork too: fox’s 15mm float is our favourite 140mm trail fork too

Guy Kesteven

Freelance Writer, UK
Guy started filling his brain with cycle stats and steaming up bike shop windows back in 1980. He worked the other side of those windows from '89 while getting a degree in “describing broken things covered in mud" (archaeology). Dug historical holes in the ground through the early '90s, then became a pro bike tester in '97. Guy has ridden thousands of bikes and even more components the world over since then and can remember them all in vivid, haunting detail. Can't remember where the car keys are, though.
  • Age: 44
  • Height: 180cm / 5' 11"
  • Weight: 68kg / 150lb
  • Waist: 76cm / 30in
  • Chest: 91cm / 36in
  • Discipline: Strict sadomasochist
  • Preferred Terrain: Technical off-piste singletrack and twisted back roads. Up, down, along — so long as it's faster tfhan the last time he did it he's happy.
  • Current Bikes: An ever changing herd of test machines from Tri bikes to fat bikes and everything in between.
  • Dream Bike: His Nicolai Helius AM custom tandem
  • Beer of Choice: Theakston's Old Peculier (not Peculiar)
  • Location: Yorkshire, UK

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