Commencal Meta AM 1 29 review£3,800.00

Surefooted with a top spec

BikeRadar score3.5/5

With its chunky fluoro yellow frame tubes glowing above the trail, you're certainly not going to miss this top spec, big wheel mountain beast from Andorra. 

If you want smooth rolling, ground anchored maximum speed, you don't want to disregard it either.

Frame and equipment: mostly top spec

The Commencal AM 1 29 frame appeared last year and just like its 26in brother, it's a rock solid structure. Curved tubes, welded rocker linkage, asymmetric shock straddling sections, a 12x142mm Maxle and double sided seatstay pivots ensure outstanding stiffness. Gear cables and brake hoses are internally routed, although the externally routed RockShox Reverb dropper hose routing produces a big loop. 

The shock is exposed to flying filth and while Commencal have managed to squeeze a reasonably sized rear tyre in, it does take the paint off the seat tube at full 130mm (5.1in) travel. Commencal have gone all out with the Fox Factory dampers - always a good sign in terms of smoothness and adjustability. There's a stiff 130mm (5.1in) stroke Float 34 CTD and a Float CTD shock. 

A Reverb dropper post as standard is a great touch on a natural trail bomber like this. The RaceFace Turbine cranks pimp up an otherwise adequate, rather than amazing, transmission. The own-brand wheels are stiffer than last year's Fulcrums, but again we would expect something better from a near-£4,000 bike.

Ride and handling: confident and stiff

Commencal have nailed the surefooted confidence of the Meta. The ultra stiff frame carries all its weight really low in relation to the axles, and it absolutely scythes round corners and surfs drifts with an outrageously cool calmness when the tyres let go. The suspension and larger wheels mean outstanding flow on rough trails and once you've got the measure of the long wheelbase, it pumps really well for a 29er

There's very little bob or wallow when you stamp on the gas, so the awkward-to-reach shock controls aren't an issue. There are moments when the front end does start to feel a bit nervous before the back even begins to think about sliding, and 10mm more fork travel and 20mm more bar width (and possibly a shorter stem too) would open up the AM 1 29's obvious gravity greed potential even more.

A tougher rear tyre is likely to be on your upgrade list very soon if you're ploughing this otherwise impact-ignorant unit down rocky trails. Adding a bit more weight in the form of a chainguide would also be wise, and at more than 32lb already, it's not like you're ruining a naturally responsive climber or flyweight trick flicker. 

This all makes a build-up from the £1,700 frameset a potentially more appealing option - and you could even build it up with a 650B rear wheel for better clearance and slacker angles. 

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: 45
  • 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 than 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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