Commençal’s Meta AM 29er was unveiled at this year’s Sea Otter and is one of the latest models to join the expanding Meta range. Dubbed the ‘big wheeled’ version of the 26in Meta AM, the bike was designed to tackle the same riding terrain as its smaller sibling. And with Commençal rider Rémy Absalon winning the 2011 Megavalanche on a Meta AM we had high hopes for this 29in version.
Ride and handling: Slack head angle and low centre of gravity for the rough stuff
BikeRadar piloted the bike around the rolling trails of the Vosges mountains, France, and we were pleasantly surprised with the ability of this trail bike. It comes with 130mm of travel (20mm less than its smaller-wheeled sister).
“Technically speaking it would have been difficult to offer a bike with more travel,” explains Commençal designer and engineer Nico Ménard. “It’s really hard to find the right balance, allowing enough space so as not to have contact between the wheel and the seat tube and avoiding long chainstays.”
However, we found that the travel difference was compensated for by the larger wheel diameter. Its potential to keep momentum over rough trails provided us with the same feeling we got riding the bike’s 150mm, 26in counterpart.
The Meta AM 29er tackled dry, rocky descents with ease. The 68-degree head angle is slack for a 29er and positions you confidently ‘in’ the bike and ready to attack the trail. Although the longer chainstays (458mm) offer slightly less fun, we still found that the Meta offered good grip off-camber and out of corners.
Commençal believe they’ve found the optimum position for pedalling efficiency, with the whole Meta range using a 73-degree seat tube angle (bar the AM 29er, at 72.5 degrees).
The combination of a more upright seat angle and subtle offset allowed the bike to climb well. The pedalling position was also efficient, especially on technical climbs. Although 29in wheels are a bit sluggish to get going, the geometry of the AM 29er has been designed to compensate for this, providing sharp pedalling performance.
Frame and equipment: High-end spec with more options available for 2013
The AM 29er is a limited edition for 2012, only available in one high-end spec model. However, Commençal have confirmed that there will be a bigger spec option available on the 2013 range.
The AM 29 is set up with Fox 34 Float RLC, SRAM X9 Trigger, Formula RX brakes and Fulcrum wheels. All parts have been chosen for their reliability and predictable nature. Other notable features include a RockShox Reverb post as standard, along with internal cable and hose routing – a definite bonus and a welcome addition for all-mountain riding.
The rear suspension works on a four-bar linkage setup, offering a good ratio between weight, stiffness and durability, with a floating shock designed to relieve stress on the front triangle. Using the same suspension principles as the Supreme DH V3, the shock is housed in a ‘shock tunnel’ and positioned to sit central and low, keeping mass as low as possible.
The use of a 190x51mm shock provides a slightly lower ratio, giving the Meta AM 29er better reactivity and pedalling performance. Our initial concerns that the shock would be vulnerable to mud have been addressed by Commençal, who created an opening under the down tube to allow mud clearance and have developed a mudguard that protects the shock from any projections (mudguard not provided as standard). However, while testing on the dry and dusty trails it wasn’t possible to evaluate the effectiveness of the claimed mud clearing ability.
The single pivot is favoured by Commençal. Ménard explains that it allows the engineers to work on the best leverage ratio for the desired setup, with the main pivot position for the AM 29er being optimised for 2x10 transmission. In Commençal’s opinion, it’s the “optimum setup for a full suspension bike”.
In terms of flex there’s no bridge between the seatstays, with Commençal believing that if the frame is too stiff it will have good precision but lack control over roots, rocks and off-camber sections. The little amount of flex in the frame allowed for effective and predictive absorption of the terrain and contributed to the playful feel of the bike.
Commençal have opted to use Shimano’s press-ﬁt BB92 standard bottom bracket, along with a semi-integrated Cane Creek tapered head tube. This not only increases stiffness but allows for the use of a Cane Creek AngleSet. Other notable features include a post-mount rear brake mount, ISCG 05 chainguide mounts, internal cable routing and a 142x12mm rear axle.
The Meta AM 29er weighs in at 14.25kg and will be available in June 2012 with a retail price of €4,699.