Commencal Meta AM V4.2 Race 2017 Mountain Bike Review

Commencal Meta AM V4.2 Race 2017

Reviews / Enduro Bikes

Commencal 133,747

At A Glance

The Commencal Meta range has a pedigree that seems to go back to the dawn of time almost, it’s been a hugely popular bike for the brand. In the early days it was defining All Mountain and these days is synonymous with enduro. Available in various guises we were big fans of the new Meta 4 when it was launched a few years ago.

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The Meta V4 heralded the introduction of the new Contact System suspension platform, a simple two stage rocker linkage. The goal of the set up was to improve the overall feel of the suspension, for small bump sensitivity in the early part of the travel, while offering an optimum axle path and also provide support when pedalling. That’s been achieved by the higher than usual single pivot point above the bottom bracket.

Moving the rear pivot as close to the rear axle as possible helps improve the sensitivity of the system under breaking while the seat stays drive the two stage rocker linkage and the shock. The shock mounting itself is arguably the most striking aspect of the system. With the shock mounted inside the top tube and housed under an especially wide hood you can fit just about any shock you desire as there is plenty of room.

The new Meta AM V4.2 uses the same system but has been designed from the ground up around the new Metric Shock system that was launched last year. This brings the bike bang up to date and also allows it to run the sublime RockShox Super Deluxe RC3, which is a further improvement on the popular Monarch Debonair. There is 160mm of travel available to you out the back with a progressive ramping curve aimed at helping the wheel track the small stuff while being capable of taking big hits.

Up front the RockShox Lyric RCT3 Solo Air is set to the Boost Standard, as is the rear end of this bike, making it as modern as anything else out there at the moment. This shock is an upgrade over the immensely impressive Pike which arguably changed the way we thought about front suspension for a couple of years.

The frame itself is built using their NEC +Ultra SL aluminium, which you can read as 6066 Triple Butted. The welding is of an incredible standard and Commencal have worked really hard on the production of their bikes. Warranties are at an all time low and shredders like rampage star Pierre Edouard Ferry and Cecile Ravanel of EWS fame have been testing these bikes to the limits and failing to break them. If Pierre can’t snap a frame, then neither in theory should you!

The geometry is up to date without being outrageous, the V4.2 takes .5 of a degree off the head angle which is now 65.5 degrees. The chainstays are sensibly short at 437mm and the wheel base is longish at 1205mm. BB height sits at -12mm the reach is 448mm, all these measurements are for our large bike we tested. Essentially it’s longer, lower and slacker, but not outlandishly so, meaning it should come close to the claim of being a downhill bike you can pedal up a hill, which is how Commencal see the Enduro sector and this bike.

The rest of the kit on this Race spec model is all good stuff, it’s a medium price point, for a bit more money you can go full Eagle if you desire. Commencal have put the budget into the suspension components here, so for your money you get the popular SRAM Gude RS brakes, SRAM GX level drivetrain and a RockShox Reverb Stealth dropper.
You’re rolling on the ubiquitous Maxxis rubber with a High Roller II 2.4 EXO up front and a Minion DHR II EXO 2.3 out the rear. These are set on the very capable and surprisingly light Mavic EN427 rims with Formula hubs. Finishing kit is an Ride Alpha affair which is Commencal’s own brand of parts and the 780mm bars and 50mm stem are pretty on point for a bike of this style.

On The Trail

Set up on the Meta AM V4.2 was simple enough, the bike comes pretty much pre built from Commencal, it’s just a case of sticking the front wheel and the handle bars on. As this is now pretty much a direct sales brand it’s good to know the bike ships professionally almost totally built.

One niggle would be leaving the Reverb cable at full length, it’s an easy fix but if you’re not big on bike maintenance it could be a bit daunting. Thankfully shortening a Reverb hose is as easy as tying your shoelaces, however for a direct sales brand this would be the icing on the cake.

The RockShox suspension was easy as ever to tune, the new Lyric 170mm looks an absolute beast upfront and offers plenty of tuning options with tokens provided should you want to really dial in a personal feel on the front end. With the bike ready to go it was time to hit out local test loop.

Having ridden the Meta AM V4 extensively I was keen to see how the 4.2 compared. Our local loop starts with a brutal road climb as we leave the confines of the office and head out into the countryside. It’s always a good place to see how the pedalling efficiency on a bike is dialled in. It’s steep it’s boring and it’s long so it gives you some time to play with the settings on the shock and see how the suspension system deals with pedal bob.

While the weight and the bike and the chunky fresh rubber made the climb pretty arduous, the pedal response was nothing short of phenomenal. The two stage rocker linkage works to reduce bob to a bare minimum, even with the shock in the wide open position the bike responds to pedal input in a direct manner and you feel the power being transferred to the wheels and not lost as the suspension compressed.

Having the shock situated under the top tube also makes it really easy to access and adjust the settings. You defiantly feel the rear end firm up as you put the shock in firm mode, however the difference isn’t huge, so if you wanted to leave the bike wide open you wouldn’t be wasting too much energy.

With the boring bit out the way it was time to hit our local DH trails dug into the side of a small hill, with berms, jumps and some fast terrain to attend to it was great to see the bike come alive under foot. The Meta AM V4.2 is stable, responsive and supple. With a proper suspension tune the rear end feels sublime over the rough stuff, tracking the terrain and giving you lots of control.

The burly front end with Boost spacing is stiff and direct, point the bars in the direction you want to go and the front wheel eagerly obeys, even on the most technical of sections. It’s hammering over the rough stuff that the bike really shines, it’s a beast of a bike, poised, stable you never really feel like you get anywhere near it’s limits.

Capable would be an understatement, it’s more capable than I’ll probably ever be, and when you see shots of Pierre Edouard Ferry doing things on this bike that I’ll never do, you know it’s not writing checks it’s body can’t cash. As far as anything gravity focused is concerned the Meta AM V4.2 isn’t lacking anything in the trouser department.

The long wheelbase, low bottom bracket and 160mm and 170mm suspension combine to eat up anything you put in its path. If you do get offline again the bike is perfectly capable of riding it out, it’s more likely to be you at fault if you fall off this one!

With the DH runs done it’s back to the uphills on our test ride and a hideously steep loose climb with some technical sections. I wasn’t expecting this big bike to set the world on fire for me here, and to be honest, it didn’t. However, I certainly didn’t feel held back, or like the bike struggled with the challenge at all.

In fact I’ve since gone on to set a few PB’s on a few uphill trails on it. The long wheelbase and 74 degree seat tube angle set it up well for long loose and straight grinds up the hill. However get it into some tight twisty uphill sections and you’ll find that wheelbase that gives you so much traction and stability starts to become a handful.

All you have to do is pinch yourself and realise that while it might not be firing up the hill like a cat that’s been stung in the ass by a bee, it is getting you up the hill without too much drama, and once you are up the top, you can point it back down again and get 52 shades of rowdy all over again. Firmly ending up in a pleasure room full of sweat and lube.

On the flats the acceleration is there, as we said earlier pedal response on this bike is impressive, however it’s not going to handle like a 140-150mm carbon trail bike through the single track because it isn’t one. Commencal sum it up perfectly when they say this is a downhill bike you can pedal up a hill. That pretty much nails it in a few words while I’m waxing lyrical with a couple of thousand.

What didn’t we like? We swapped the 780mm bars for our preferred 800mm carbon set up. Not because the Ride Alpha were lacking in quality, just because we’ve been rolling on 800mm for so long it seemed a shame to take a step backwards. We’ve also read some reviews and reports about the wide chainstays at the back and your feet hitting them. After getting nearly 500 miles in on this bike with plenty of pedalling we’ve not experienced that issue. We’re running DMR Vaults (Brendog edition with the beast pins) and FiveTen freeriders and I have huge size 12 feet. After reading about this issue we were kind of expecting it, but it didn’t materialise for us.

The seat tube length is pretty long, the nature of the frame and the welding necessitate it, but it means we’ve only got about an inch of the dropper post poking out, at 6’2 and riding a large frame that’s not an issue, but a smaller rider looking for the stability of a big bike might want to swing a leg over one first.

As far as the wheels go, the EN427 rims from Mavic have stayed true and the Formula Hubs haven’t missed a beat. A wheel upgrade would be the first place we would look to make changes, if you wanted to shave some weight, then this is the obvious place to start.

Other than that, we absolutely bloody loved it, so much so Rou Chater has gone out and paid hard earned cash for one to be his trusty steed for the foreseeable future!

Overall

In an age where everyone is striving for longer, lower and slacker bikes with outlandish numbers and flip chips allowing you to go really crazy the Meta AMV4.2 stands as a beacon of sensibility amongst the madness. Shaving a mere .5 degree of the head angle of the old bike, adding some travel, ramping up the suspension curve a little and stretching things out a touch from it’s V4 sibling has resulted in an absolute gem of a bike. Where the V4 left off with it’s 150mm of aggressive trail ready travel the Meta AM V4.2 steps in and cranks the volume up to 11.

It’s rowdy, capable, planted and stable to boot, it’s not a chore to pedal it up the hill, and when you get to point it down, you’ll be questioning the need for anything else…

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This review was in Issue 49 of IMB.

For more information visit Commencal

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By Rou Chater
Rou Chater is the Publishing Editor of IMB Magazine; he’s a jack-of-all-trades and master of none, but his passion for bikes knows no bounds. His first mountain bike was a Trek 820, which he bought in 1990. It didn’t take him long to earn himself a trip to the hospital on it, and he’s never looked back since. These days he’s keeping it rubber side down, riding locally and overseas as much as possible.

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