The original Meta was a classic aggressive trail bike – the new Meta has a lot to live up to. Happily, a complete frame reworking has kept all the rider interaction and naturally insolent spark of the original, but framed it in a phenomenally stiff chassis with even better suspension control. The result? The What Mountain Bike Flat Out Fun Bike award for 2012.
Here’s what the judges had to say:
"Just looking at the super-sloped top tube, compact rear end and the way the shock’s packed low into the centre of the bike – above the big press-fit bottom bracket – you can see it’s a low-slung gravity bomb.
The downhill-style, 66-degree head angle, Fox 36 fork and screw-through 142x12mm rear axle confirm its serious intent, while internal cable routing (including ports for a remote dropper post) give super-clean lines.
Commencal have had the sense to put the money into crucial areas. The Fox fork, Formula RX brakes, Mavic rims, Maxxis Ardent tyres and a well-shaped cockpit mean it’s ready to go nuts straight from the shop.
Despite ingeniously-driven suspension that feels too soft in the car park, the Meta meters shock movement perfectly whatever it’s pounding through. It glues the rear wheel to the ground, drives forward off rollers and boulders and swallows big drops with a seemingly bottomless verve.
Yet there’s plenty of platform to really press your feet into berms as you strain your neck looking for the exit – the tracking accuracy from both ends is outstanding.
The result is a bike that leaves all but the best, most carefully set up big-money bikes standing on typically tight and techy UK descents. While the short position means you’re going to be cramped, excellent pedalling manners mean it winches you back to the top as efficiently as you could hope for on a steroidal 32lb hooligan."
Read on for our full review of the Commencal Meta SX:
Our first ride on the Fox 32 fork-equipped all-mountain version of this bike concluded that with the right shock tune and componentry the chassis could be a benchmark bomber. The super-controlled, surefooted yet fun SX spec version proves that without doubt.
Ride & handling: Makes it easy to go all out on trail fun
Outstanding composure, coupled with the unshakable stiffness of the SX chassis, makes the SX an insatiable ripper straight away. Even at the end of long, sodden trail testing sessions where we’d totally had enough, jumping onto the Meta put the fun back into the riding. However hard we turned in, it still had more to give mid-corner, relishing the chance to rail round on the big Ardent side knobs with totally communicative yet surefooted assurance.
While it’s short in the rider compartment, overall wheelbase is long enough for decent stability. We were wary at first but it never fluttered, tucked or threatened to high-side us even at ball shrinking speeds. It handles big block hits well enough to face broken geology with a grin. We genuinely struggled to find something the suspension didn’t feel great on, despite a bare minimum of tuning.
Its sharpness also means pinpoint accuracy when slotting rocks, hooking berms or hitting emergency exit lines on unseen off-piste carnage. The super-short top tube/cockpit reach and short chainstays make it easy to really chuck around, whether that’s to pump or pre-jump extra speed out of the trail or showboat for fun.
The suspension naturally squeezes additional push out of the back sides of jumps, rocks or landings, continuing its upward spiral of combative confidence. Because it comes out of almost every section level and straight, you can pile on the power immediately for maximum gain, whether you’ve got a number on the bars or just a grudge against the guy behind.
While the hefty overall weight takes some grunt to get moving, if you can cope with the stunted cockpit space and constricted breathing it pedals well enough to leave the ProPedal threshold lever untouched on all but the longest, smoothest climbs.
Frame & equipment: Commencal tick all the boxes
The unmissably yellow frame has plenty of reason to stand proud on the trail. The tapered head tube includes ports for internal gear and brake routing as well as a spare hole for the seatpost remote hose if you can be bothered to disconnect it and thread it through.
There’s a long shared maintube seam for stiffness, and the tubes themselves – including the seat tube brace – are very broad rectangular sections to remove any rotational twist. The low-slung top tube keeps that centre of gravity very low. The shock is also mounted low and centrally inside the big hollow window in the super-broad, press-fit bottom bracket and main pivot keystone.
Massive seatstays drive the broad faux bar rocker linkage, and a 142x12mm screw-through axle locks the back end together behind the big, double-sided seatstay pivots. Internal cable routing continues through the asymmetrically offset chainstays and there’s masses of mud room, even with the big, 2.4in rear tyres.
The extra large Maxxis Ardent tyres – our favourite fast-rolling rubber – are just one of the things that Commencal have got totally right with the spec, despite it being one of the cheapest bikes here.
The Mavic rims they sit on are reliable heavy-duty classics, and Commencal hubs have always been fine in extended use. A remote-control dropper seatpost is an enduro essential, and the RockShox Reverb post is another MBUK fave. The bar is wide enough for decent leverage when the trail turns random under your front wheel, without being so broad that every passing tree becomes a punchbag. The short, squat stem is spot on, too.
The Formula RX brakes are super sharp and the post-mount 180mm rotor rear makes adjustment easy. While more downhill-focused riders are bound to end up fitting a guide on the ISCG tabs, the suspension is so smooth that we had no issues with dropping the chain on the 2x10 setup, even on rocky, pedal-stabbing sections. Short 170mm cranks offset the low bottom bracket in terms of ground clearance. Even with internal routing, the SRAM gears need more TLC than Shimano to keep them smooth though.
It’s the suspension tune on the Meta that Commencal have really got right. The Fox 36 fork up front has the simpler open bath damper rather than a sealed cartridge, but small bump performance is excellent and it rarely felt flustered, however hard we ragged it down stuff. The RP2 damper at the rear has a pretty much perfect compression tune for the linkage, too. It feels very soft in the car park and traction is excellent in corners, but hit the trails and it’s totally poised at every point in the stroke, only bottoming out on properly cartilage-compressing loads.