Commencal’s Meta AM V4.2 Essential makes no concessions for what it is: an enduro bike. Downhills are its forte, uphills, well, are managed. For a bike squeaking in just under $3,000, this Meta AM V4.2 is shocking in its overall control and confidence.
Fox’s DPX2 rear shock is a good match for this bike, it’s metric sized but not trunnion mountedRussell Eich / Immediate Media
Impressive parts and suspension
Fox suspension handling both ends was a real highlight. Up front, the 170mm travel 36 Performance fork has a stiff chassis with a supple stoke. Being the lower-end 36, when smashed hard on long descents it did feel overworked.
Loss of high-speed compression control, especially through the mid-stroke, was the main culprit. Again, it took a lot of hard-charging through nasty rocks and big hits to upset the fork. On the majority of trails, its tracking stiffness and overall function were excellent.
Out back, the DPX2 rear shock is an accomplished performer and a good match to the 36 on the front. It features a piggyback for extra oil volume and it makes a huge difference in remaining composed through relentless roots and rocks.
Personal preference certainly varies, but I would have liked to find more than the single volume spacer in the fork and shock as I clacked the bottom a number of times. It’s easier to remove extra volume spacers than order them and install.
It’s hard to argue with 12-speeds from SRAM’s GX EagleRussell Eich / Immediate Media
Onto the drivetrain, seeing SRAM’s Eagle at this price point is a treat. Especially with the 34t front ring, the 50t bail-out gear on the cassette was welcome.
Along with the capable suspension, the 30mm wide E13 TRS rims and wide trail Maxxis tires seem to be purpose-built for this bike and its intentions. The rear rim took a massive root hit where I bottomed the rear shock and squashed the tire to the rim, yet it rolled away with no dents, no pinch and no loose spokes.
In the middle, the Formula hubs are an obvious budget spec. They posed no real issues but were noisy and super slow to engage. A wheel upgrade could turn this bike from great to insane.
Shimano’s SLX discs were an interesting spec in the otherwise SRAM drivetrain. Modulation was good, as was the iconic lever shape, but unfortunately they were a tad underpowered even with the 200/180mm rotor spec.
Commencal Meta AM V4.2 Essential riding impressions
If you’ve ever ridden behind a talented descender, it can look as if they’re bouncing and floating down the trail. That appearance comes from weighting corners yet being light over rough stuff.
Even with the less expensive Performance internals, the Fox 36 is a very, very good forkRussell Eich / Immediate Media
This is how the Meta AM V4.2 begs to be ridden. It feels similar to a downhill bike with a low, raked out front end, a good amount of travel, and wide, stiff wheels. The whole package delivers a planted, substantial feeling.
Controlled and confident is the Meta AM’s attitude. Commencal really nailed the feel of this bike; it’s rangy 1,215mm wheelbase and not overly snug 437mm chainstays made it easy to stay centered in the bike. It sits low and slack and takes a whole lot of speed and stupidity to make it nervous.
The 65.5-degree head angle made plunging down steep trails almost too easy. And while the 74-degree seat angle is far from a trendy number, it worked well enough, especially with my gangly legs.
The dragon’s blood red frame had just the right stiffness. At my weight of 84kg / 185lbs, it felt stiff but not harsh. Sideways landings and missed transitions felt controlled, well, as much as they can.
This little link ties the front and rear frame halves together and helps with the impressive frame feelRussell Eich / Immediate Media
As for climbing, this is one of very few bikes where I would recommend toggling the rear shock compression lever. Flipping the DPX2’s compression knob definitely kept the Meta AM higher up in its travel and improved pedaling response.
It weighs 14.3kg / 31.5lbs, yet feels more substantial. The bit of heft is very welcome when smashing through rocks and sending it fast and deep in loose, rattly trails.
But who really cares about the ups when talking about a bike like this? Ripping downhill is where it’s at and where this bike is brilliant.
It’s fast and hugely capable. It’s much more confident and composed than most bikes in this price range.
Pedal strikes and heel rub
All that low-slung confidence does come at a price, and it’s pedal strikes. Perhaps I was pedaling in the wrong places, but it certainly seemed that if there were any rocks on the trail, my pedals found them.
Bottom bracket height for the Meta AM V4.2 sits at 330mm. For comparison, a Santa Cruz Nomad is 14mm higher, a Norco Range 12mm, a Trek Remedy 16mm, and a Specialized Enduro a full 20.5mm higher. Couple that with the Meta AM’s 12mm bottom bracket drop, and it easy to see the middle of this bike is close to terra firma.
Commencal specs its Small and Medium bikes with 170mm cranks, while the Large and X-Large get 175mm. I’d rather see 165mm and 170mm cranks used.
Commencal tucks the rear disc caliper between the stays but it causes the already wide rear end to be even widerRussell Eich / Immediate Media
The chainstays are really wide, too. I rubbed my size 46 shoes on the frame until I installed some iSSi Trail pedals with a 58.5mm length spindle, which are 4mm longer than Shimano XT Trail pedals. Even then, my heels still hit.
I’d also like to see some sort of chain guide on a bike of this caliber. There are ISCG05 tabs and Commencal does offer a chain guide as an optional add-on.
Commencal Meta AM V4.2 Essential bottom line
A full-size water bottle fits, just barely. A side-load cage makes bottle entry and exit much easierRussell Eich / Immediate Media
If you’re lucky enough to live in an area with properly rugged, steep terrain or spend your weekends racing enduro, the Meta AM V4.2 Essential is an impressive bike. Taking on an enduro race without changing a single spec would be entirely feasible, even on this lower-level smasher.
On the flip side, if your local haunts are more tame or you’re not a total fiend for gravity-fueled fun, the Meta AM V4.2 would certainly be overkill and a handful for all but super strong, talented riders.
Are you the type of rider who’d ride lifts every single day if you could but reality says you still have to pedal up? Commencal built a bargain bike for you in the Meta AM V4.2 Essential.