Commencal Meta HT AM 650B Race  2016 Mountain Bike Review

Commencal Meta HT AM 650B Race 2016

Reviews / Hard Tails

Commencal 170,780

At A Glance

Everyone needs a hardtail in their life, fact. Not only do they teach you how to ride properly, but they also provide endless amounts of fun and excitement, at any speed. With the recent, frenzied developments in full suspension bikes, an opportunity has risen for bike manufacturers to take a seat back at the drawing board and create a modern aggressive hardtail to slot into the ‘enduro’ market.

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Commencal have done this with their Meta HT AM Race. With a slack 65.5 degree head angle, low slung bottom bracket, long travel (160mm) forks and super short (428mm) chainstays they have created an animal, a bike that snarls and growls as soon as the front end is aimed anywhere near a descent.

Commencal provide four different levels of bike in this 650b model, the Origin, Essential and Race in aluminium and the CRMO, their new steel version. We tested the Race, which boasts the same triple butted 6061 aluminium as the lesser specced Origin and Essential. The low, slack and aggressive geometry make for a great looking bike that shouts out its intent to be ridden hard. We like how the cables hide away neatly in a recess underneath the top tube enhancing the clean lines and simplicity.

This year's Race model comes with some tasty upgrades over the 2015 model. The RockShox Pike 160 solo air fork, 1X drivetrain, SRAM DB5 brakes, wider bars and a shorter stem keep the Meta HT bang up-to-date. Commencal’s own brand ‘Ride Alpha’ provide the wheels, crankset and cockpit while SRAM X7 shifter and X9 mech make up the drivetrain. The Seatpost is a KS eTen dropper (100mm) with a Ride Alpha saddle perched on top. A 150mm dropper would have been welcomed to the new bits list, especially on the larger sizes - maybe next time! Thankfully this ride comes with some great tyres too, the Maxxis Minion DHR II 2.3 front and rear (EXO, Dual compound, 60 Tpi, Tubeless Ready).

On The Trail

This bike comes into it’s own as soon as you point it downhill and somehow makes you ride like a madman without even noticing. The fun factor is off the scale, as it should be with a hardtail. From day one I was sold, it felt at home on the steep, muddy and rather awesome local trails that are usually reserved for DH bikes. The Meta HT AM just loves to go fast.

The super short chainstays and progressive geometry create a ride that encourages you to throw the bike into corners with confidence, that back end immediately drifting then snapping into line behind you on steep and tight turns. Sliding feels easy to control through the pedals thanks to the low bottom bracket and small rear triangle, this bike makes you want to whoop and shout with dangerous regularity and over-enthusiasm.

We love it when test bikes rock up to the office sporting good rubber, and the Maxxis Minion DHF tyres certainly don’t hold the bike back from its cornering capabilities. The climbing ability is very good considering it’s just under 13kg in weight and has such a slack head angle. It’s no race whippet, but it is more than capable of getting you to the top of the descents, which, let’s face it, is what this bike is all about.

The RockShox Pike RC 160 Solo Air do the bike justice upfront, as does the wide riser bars and short, burly stem which give a solid feel and all the leverage you need to wrestle your way down more challenging trails. The SRAM DB5 brakes are a big improvement for 2016 and with big rotors offer huge handfuls of awesome stopping power. Taking time to set up the forks properly is essential and helped me to get the best out of this wild beast.

When I say wild, I mean it. If you get your line wrong at speed you will have a fight on your hands, a really good fight. Those short and stiff chainstays that make cornering so much fun, can also make taking on the really rough stuff simply terrifying. A good shoe/pedal combo is needed to give you every chance of holding on to the Meta as it brutally smashes through rock gardens and boulder strewn trails, your feet and ankles and knees taking the brunt of the energy.

A bike like this clearly needs a good set of wheels to handle the inevitable abuse the rider throws at it. The double walled Ride Alpha tubeless ready rims held up well during the test, providing just enough stiffness to do the rest of the bike justice. I would love to see it come with a completely bomber set of wheels though to fully comply with the intentions the rest of the bike has to offer.

The drivetrain didn’t disappoint either, the X9 derailleur performing impeccably in line with the smooth clicking X7 shifter. I loved the neatness of the 1x10 set up using a Ride Alpha narrow wide 32 tooth chainring and 11/42 rear cassette. The use of a 42 tooth expander is a nice touch and provides a good range of gears. I did drop the chain a few times so adding a chain guide of some description would be a wise upgrade.

Overall

The 2016 Commencal Meta HT AM Race is, without doubt, a ‘hardcore hardtail’. It will not be everyone’s cup of tea, a full suspension bike will give you a smoother and faster ride for sure, but there is no getting away from the fun, adrenaline and excitement than you get from jumping on one of these bad boys. It will teach you to ride properly, to stay light and to pick lines sensibly.

It will encourage you to keep your weight balanced and to leave the ground with style and confidence. If you’re looking for a rigid rear end for trail riding and XC, then this is probably too much bike, but if you’re the sort of person who occasionally enjoys turning up for an uplift day on a hardtail and hitting the downhill tracks then look no further, you will want one of these. A serious amount of fun has been had on this bike - there will always be a space for a bike like this in my shed. I can’t wait to try the steel version!

• 12.9kg Full Bike
• 2.1kg Frame (alloy 6061 triple butted, Top tube hidden cable path, Tapered headtube)
• 650b
• 160mm Fork
• 1x10
• Sizes S, M, L and XL
• Modern progressive geometry

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This review was in Issue 40 of IMB.

For more information visit Commencal

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By Charley Oldrid
Charley Oldrid is a man who spends a lot of time in the saddle. A highly experienced Mountain Bike Guide, having led trips all over world riding the finest trails he can find. His personal riding style can only be described as wild, getting sideways isn't an option on a ride with Charley, it's mandatory. If anyone can find the limit of a test bike, it's him.

Tried this? What did you think?