Having been blown away by the 120mm travel Meta Trail V4 Essential we were excited to pull the Meta AM V4 Race out of its box in Spain and hit the trails hard.
Our sense of anticipation proved justified. Amid the sea of of smouldering brakes, chattering chains and swollen forearms that is What Mountain Bike magazine's Trail Bike of the Year test, the Meta AM held its cool to run out a well-deserved winner – despite stiff competition from the likes of Mondraker's Foxy XR and Whyte's T-129 SCR. Apart from the occasional saddle shuffle on climbs for some testers, the Meta V4 Race consistently set our testing benchmark straight from the box. It skipped and sprinted along singletrack with easy efficiency and responsive enthusiasm, linking every techy line like the missing piece of the perfect handling jigsaw. It honed down every descent, carved corners like a scythe, sucked up big hits and deep drops without hesitation and delivered us to the bottom buzzing for another run.
Frame and equipment: sorted balance and almost unbeatable spec for the price
Whipping the 780mm bars straight in the 60mm stem, the Commencal’s long, broad, kinked top tube position was bang on. While the Monarch Plus shock is half hidden in the inset cold forged top tube mount, the dials and valves are easily accessible for initial setup or on-the-fly tweaking.
The 160mm Pike fork needs no introduction in terms of flat out, stress free chaos control and the Commencal gets the threshold adjustable RCT3 version rather than the fixed damping RC of many of its rivals. While Commencal admits the lighter frame isn’t as stiff as the previous V3 chassis it’s still on point, and the slight flex helps stick the Meta's quality Maxxis treads to the trail like glue. The 28mm wide, tubeless ready Alpha rims give plenty of support and 32 spokes keep them stiff and strong.
Direct sales mean stunning value kit for the money
Should you do need to get rid of speed, super communicative Guide RS brakes are teamed with 200/180mm rotors for serious stopping power. Tucking them inboard of the stays ‘Lapierre style’ keeps them protected from uplift/crash damage too. The SRAM X1 transmission never skipped a beat in testing and the Race Face Turbine cranks have a one-piece ring spider and wide BB92 bottom bracket mean serious stiffness underfoot.
There’s a full 125mm of drop on the internally routed Reverb Stealth seatpost, which leaves the Commencal totally ready to rip with no obvious upgrades to make anywhere. Even better, because Commencal is selling direct, you get spec that would appear good value even on a considerably pricier rig – depending, of course, on the euro exchange rate.
Ride and handling: ready to get fast and loose
This new V4 version of the Meta AM frame is built around Commencal’s new pedal-efficient twin phase Contact system cam rocker. Add a semi-slick Ardent rear tyre and sub-14kg weight and the Meta charged up the first cobbled climb of the day with impressive efficiency.
It needs more pressure than normal not to sink deep into its sag, which may be an issue for heavy riders. On steeper climbs some riders complained about the need to shift weight onto the tip of the saddle to compensate for the slack 72-degree seat angle. That wasn’t an issue for others and these details were the only potential glitches the Meta showed.
The Meta can destroy a descent, but good pedalling manners mean you’ll be eager to get back to the top
The Meta has an unerring ability to put the front wheel exactly where you want it however rough the trail or tight the turn – a good job, because this ride begs to be let loose through the gnarliest terrain. While it makes full use of the shock when it needs to, it never wallows or gets bogged down, with impeccable damping from the RockShox piggyback shock shining through clearer the harder the hits and the bigger the drops.
Despite the excellent damping and control from every aspect of the ride, the Meta still managed to feel more responsive and agile than most of bikes we rode alongside it – including several that were physically lighter. This creates a greed for speed that whoever was riding it just couldn’t refuse, and all our testers praised its outstanding blend of playfulness and poise.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.