Commencal Meta 4.2 £1699

Maverick single-pivoter delivers pace, grip & comfort

BikeRadar score 4.5/5

With its brilliantly supple rear end, the Meta 4.2 proves that Commencal can do more than just gravity sleds. It combines ground-hugging grip with decent pedalling efficiency, though it lacks the tautness of race-bred cross-country bikes. This is a fast, comfortable and efficient all-rounder capable of tackling just about anything.

The Meta 4.2 is one of a range of trail-riding rigs that borrows downhill-inspired suspension technology, trims out the fat and presents it in a svelte format that promises to be both fast and plush.

Sitting between the £1299 4.3 and £2199 4.1 in the range, the 4.2 blends a SRAM transmission with Formula brakes, a RockShox Reba fork and Fox RP2 rear shock.

Ride & handling: quick, comfy & easy to like

A roomy cockpit, slender saddle, mid-length stem and fast-rolling tyres all hint at the Meta 4.2’s primary purpose – to rack up the miles as fast and in as much comfort as possible. Decent kit makes it easy to get comfy and the handling strikes the right balance between singletrack nimbleness and fireroad stability. It’s a very easy bike to like.

The ‘contact system’ delivers on its promises, too. Switch the Fox Float RP2’s ProPedal compression damping off and the rear wheel tracks over the tiniest of trail undulations with a speed that’s only rivalled – in this company, at least – by the Iron Horse’s virtual pivot point set-up. Roots, rocks, holes and small rodents are dispatched with nonchalant ease, making technical granny-ring grunts in particular a pleasure rather than a chore.

The penalty for all this suppleness is a trace of bobbing under choppy pedalling, but flick the ProPedal on and the relatively high compression damping set-up removes all but a few stubborn traces of bob.

Point the Meta 4.2 downhill and it’s easy to see why Commençal has earned a formidable reputation among gravity riders. The linkage system’s combination of initial plush and eventual progressiveness makes it feel as though there’s more travel on tap than 100mm. That sounds like a bad thing, but the gradual ramp up to the travel limits provides vital rider feedback that makes it straightforward to scrub off speed and avoid trouble.

Chassis: keeping the single-pivot faith

The days when single pivot was the only game in town are long gone. Multi-pivotage, combined with the new generation of platform-valved shocks, has tempted many bike manufacturers away from the simple swingarm-with-a-big-bolt- through-one-end route. Commençal is one of a few to maintain the faith, albeit with a twist.

See that arrangement of black plates and rockers connecting the swingarm to the shock? That’s the heart of Commençal’s ‘contact system’. The push-rod joins the swingarm to one end of the rocker, while the shock bolts to the other end.

Carefully tweaked pivot placement gives the shock a supple linearity in the early part of its stroke – to allow the rear wheel to track over even the smallest of trail obstacles – and increasing progressiveness towards the travel limit so the suspension ramps up to its 100mm limit with a natural feel.

Combine that with a neutral main pivot placement between the middle and big chainrings, and switchable shock compression damping, and you’ve theoretically got the best of all possible worlds: single pivot simplicity with linkage suppleness and pedalability.

The Reba fork, with up to 100mm of travel, is a solid performer for trail-riding duties. It offers easily adjustable initial set-up and all the compression gates and rebound adjuster knobs (well, one of each, to be precise) a discerning rider needs.

Equipment: powerfull stoppes, slick shifting

High-quality components abound on the Meta 4.2. SDG and Race Face finishing kit looks good and works well, while Formula’s Oro brakes are powerful, reliable stoppers and the SRAM transmission is slick, although the internally routed swingarm cable housing gives the rear mech a slightly stiff feel.

Verdict: hard to pigeonhole, fun mile-eater

With its combination of pace, grip and comfort, the Meta 4.2 defies easy categorisation. Neither light nor taut enough to be a contender for serious cross-country race duties, it’s still a formidably quick – and surprisingly supple – mile-muncher that’s equally at home on technical climbs and rock-spitting descents. Proof, if any were needed, that there’s plenty of life left in good ol’ single-pivot designs.

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