A trail bike should be happy to have a go at pretty much anything: capable when the going gets tough, not too much of a handful when the trail is more chilled. It doesn’t need KOM-setting climbing capability, but it needs to get to the top without too much pain. Most importantly, it’s got to be fun. The Commencal Meta TR 29 Brit Edition does it all and that’s why it’s our 2019 Trail Bike of the Year.
The Commencal Meta TR 29 Brit Edition is one of our Bike of the Year bikes for 2019 and has been crowned our Trail Bike of the Year. To read reviews of the other contenders and the categories tested across road, mountain and women’s bikes, visit our Bike of the Year hub page.
Commencal’s first real 29in contender in the trail and enduro bike market, the Meta 29, was introduced in 2018 and it was a bike I was very excited to see. I rode the longer-travel AM version during the summer and knew the 130mm TR was likely to impress.
Specifically it’s the Brit Edition that stands out from the crowd. Standard Meta TRs get a 140mm fork and all-round tyres, but in reverence to the burgeoning DIY trail spots that pop up all over the hillier parts of the UK, Commencal has stuck a 150mm Fox Factory 36 fork and a chunky Schwalbe Magic Mary with the Addix Soft compound rubber up front.
While the 36 on my test bike wasn’t the all-singing GRIP2 damped version that’s listed on production bikes, the combination of the stout, well-damped fork and the über-grippy rubber up front meant acres of confidence in what the front wheel was about to do.
The Renthal cockpit is almost universally appreciated Dan Milner / Immediate Media
The 66.5-degree head angle isn’t raked out by any stretch, but the 475mm reach is up there with some of the longest on the trail bike market, allowing you to weight the 800mm Renthal Fatbar, pushing said grippy rubber into the dirt.
I know that the GRIP2 is a step up in performance but my RC2 damped fork offered plenty of support. Arguably the Lyrik is slightly more sensitive to small bumps, but at the top-end I’m niggling here. The Fox 36 is a great fork that aids grip over rough ground and keeps you propped up when things get steep.
At the back, the 130mm of travel is controlled by a Fox Factory DPX2 shock, which comes with a three-position compression switch to adjust the circuit in the open mode, giving plenty of tuneability.
The relatively simple four-bar design is fairly neutral, but offers lots of mid-stroke support and progression deeper into its travel, even with no spacers in the shock.
The Fox DPX2 shock is nestled into the underside of the top tube Dan Milner / Immediate Media
It was on the steep, natural tracks of South Wales where the Commencal really caught my eye. The muddy, rooty tracks that snake down the mountains require plenty of front-end traction and support and, with plenty of catch berms, a composed and controlled back-end simply makes life easier.
The Commencal works wonders on the steeper tracks, but it’s still impressive when the gradients are less severe. There’s enough anti-squat in the back end to keep it feeling pretty snappy out of turns and on short sprints up to a lip, even with minimal added damping through the shock.
Our test bike had the RC2-damped Fox 36, however stock bikes will get the even better FIT GRIP2 Dan Milner / Immediate Media
There’s also enough length in the bike to give you plenty of space to move around. When it gets tight and twisty you can shift forwards to get the front wheel digging in on flat corners, while simultaneously dropping your heels into the pedals, situated low thanks to a 38mm bottom bracket drop.
Similarly, the 475mm reach gives you confidence when it gets fast and you let the bike surf over loose surfaces.
When it comes to the overall shape of the bike, my only real criticism is that the rear triangle is fairly wide. If you suffer heel scuffs on your current bike, I’d put money on the Meta causing problems here too. I occasionally found my calves catching the seatstay as well.
Fast and fun, the Commencal does it all Dan Milner / Immediate Media
If you get your kicks from flatout smash-fests through the rocks, tackling tight, twisty tech or pointing the nose of your bike down something impossibly steep, the Meta 29 never shirks its responsibilities.
We were looking for a true all-rounder and, more importantly, a bike we all wanted to ride time and time again
The 76.5-degree seat angle puts your hips nicely over the pedals for an efficient pedalling position, and there’s a lockout on the shock should you wish to get a bit more energetic with your pedalling on smoother surfaces.
The Hans Dampf tyre at the back isn’t too draggy either, and there’s a full SRAM GX Eagle groupset to give plenty of top and bottom range.
We pitted 20 bikes of a similar price and nature against each other in our Trail Bike of the Year test. Picking the winner was challenging: there were bikes best suited to epics in the wilderness, those that could handle any UK downhill course and everything else in between. There’s no manual for what makes a true ‘trail’ bike and everyone wants different things.
An Addix Soft compound Magic Mary ensured front-end traction was never an issue Dan Milner / Immediate Media
It was a tough process and we only picked our winner — the Commencal Meta 29 TR Brit Edition — on the last day of our video shoot in Finale Ligure, Italy, when as many of the team as possible had ridden all the main contenders.
The winning bike had to fulfil a number of criteria: some of the team want a bike that’s not going to hold them back on the gnarliest of trails; others want a bike that’s versatile enough to jump from blue trail to steep wooded hillside, with a cheeky whip or manual in between. If you want a versatile bike to suit most riders, compromises have to be made, but Commencal seems to have minimised those.
It’s not the best climber, not quite the best descender, and there are probably better bikes at negotiating tight woodland trails, but the Meta was right up there with the best in all those categories.
We were looking for a true all-rounder and, more importantly, a bike we all wanted to ride time and time again, and this year it’s the Commencal that’s come out on top.
Commencal Meta TR 29 Brit Edition specifcations
The Commencal Meta 29 TR Brit Edition is our Trail Bike of the Year 2019 Dan Milner / Immediate Media
Sizes (*tested): M , L*, XL
Frame: Alloy 130mm 29in
Fork: Fox Factory 36 FIT GRIP2 150mm
Shock: Fox Factory DPX2
Chainset: SRAM Descendant Eagle
Shifters: SRAM GX Eagle
Mechs: SRAM GX Eagle
Wheelset: E13 TRS
Tyres: Schwalbe Magic Mary Addix Soft 29×2.35, Schwalbe New Hans Dampf Addix Soft 2.35
Brakes: Shimano XT 200/180
Bar: Renthal Fatbar 800mm
Stem: Renthal Apex 50mm
Seatpost: KS Lev Integra 125mm
Saddle: Fabric Scoop
Commencal Meta TR 29 Brit Edition geometry
Seat angle: 76.5 degrees
Head angle: 66.5 degrees
Chainstay: 43.4cm / 17.09in
Seat tube: 46.5cm / 18.31in
Top tube: 62.5cm / 24.61in
Head Tube: 11.5cm / 4.53in
Bottom bracket drop: 3.8cm / 1.5in
Wheelbase: 1,218mm / 47.95in
Stack: 62.5cm / 24.61in
Reach: 47.5cm / 18.7in