The SX is the harder-edged, longer-travel version of the 150mm travel Meta AM trail bike.
It’s an utterly focused enduro descending machine with a single-ring drivetrain and on-the-ﬂy adjustable Fox CTD suspension.
Ride and handling: progressive shock rate
That chunky aluminium frame houses 160mm of low-slung, linkage-driven single-pivot travel with an extremely progressive shock rate to cope with hard and fast hits. With all that weight sat low down and combined with a short head tube, a low bottom bracket and a relatively short top tube, the SX changes direction rapidly despite its slack head angle. It also gives it a very planted feel mid-corner, which is only aided by the supple, ground-tracking back end with its 142mm through-axle.
The bike happily pops from corner to corner, but it really shines when you grab it by the scruff of the neck and muscle it about. It’s a little terrier of a bike and very rewarding on descents – especially the steep and loose kind, where it feels like a bike with much more travel. On ﬂatter terrain you’ll need to make the most of the under-bar lever for the Climb Trail Descend (CTD) compression damping adjustment, which alters both the Float shock and the ﬁxed-travel 34 fork, if you want to get anywhere.
Frame and equipment: shut up, legs
You’ll still need strong legs to keep the 36-tooth ring of the FSA Gap cranks turning on steeper climbs or long drags. And while the e*thirteen LG-1 chainguide keeps everything secure, the SRAM X9 rear mech isn’t a clutched Type 2 model and there’s a fair bit of chain slap when things get rough. The SRAM X7 shifters aren’t as crisp or smooth as higher-end versions either.
Commencal’s own-brand bars are a good width at 760mm, giving plenty of high-speed leverage when combined with the stubby, stiff 50mm stem. Despite the lack of front shifter, the CTD lever and RockShox Reverb dropper post mean your left hand still needs to be pretty dexterous to keep everything coordinated. Internal cable routing, meanwhile, keeps the usual rat’s nest of cables organised.
We’re big fans of the grippy and predictable Onza tyres, but the admittedly chunky-for-a-2.25in rear is about as big as you can ﬁt in the chainstays. The Formula RX brakes don’t have the instant bite of Shimano or Avid, but they offer plenty of modulation and power if you get on with the angled levers.
Bright things usually signify danger, and that’s totally true for the SX. It’s a bike that can take on the roughest and steepest of trails, and ﬁre you out laughing like a loon. The progressive, supple suspension means it claws grip out of the most unlikely places and keeps calm on big compressions and drops. It’s a very convincing impression of a downhill bike, but despite being so stable, it’s quick to carve a line and turns in eagerly.
We happily overlooked the slightly sullen uphill performance too, because the remote suspension adjustment allows reasonable progress despite the SX’s heft. Ignore the numbers, and try the ride.
HIGHS The planted handling keeps you on line no matter how rough it gets.
LOWS Steep single ring gearing means you’re better off slogging uphill.
BUY IF… You play the long game on the ups to pin the downs.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio