Commencal has long been of the belief that “it’s better to have a good hardtail than a bad full suspension bike.” The Commencal META HT has very similar numbers to the full bounce version and even sports a similarly aggressive looking silhouette. As hardtails go, this one looked from the off like it was going to be fun.Buy Hard Tails on
The AM Essential comes in at a pretty modest price for a bike that's ready for the trails straight out of the box. At £1449.99 you’re getting a whole heap of bike, although there are a few changes you might consider early on, the main one of note would be a dropper, if you’re going to be using this bike to its full capability up and down, that would be a worthwhile addition.
The alloy frame is a sleek, good-looking design, mimicking, as I mentioned, some of the design features from the full suspension META. The finish of the frame stood out too, Commencal has, in my opinion, had a strong history in their frame graphics and paint design, and this is no different. A dark blue, grey high metallic finish with subtle, yet classily styled decals hit the nail on the head.
The Essential brings a basic but most definitely functional build onto the solid frame. SRAM NX 11 speed drive chain provides enough gears to be entirely sufficient with the precision and pleasurable shifting you’d expect from SRAM. SRAM Level brakes, with 200mm up front and 180mm rotors out back, although slightly chunkier and less refined than the more advanced models provide solid and accurate stopping power.
Hardtail it may be, but the META HT comes equipped with a more than capable, 160mm of suspension goodness up front, in the form of the RockShox Yari; the Lyrics younger brother. Still sporting the Dual Position Air and DebonAir systems and tuned to match the feeling of the Charger damper. Combined with the burly geometry, this bike is ready to attack and handle a lot for a hardtail while still providing control and comfort.
The Commencal in-house component brand, “Ride Alpha” makes up a lot of the remaining build kit and although it may not have the street cred of a fully branded alternative, it more than adequately does the job. A simple, black finish on the parts, sits nicely with the dark blue, grey, metallic finish on the frame. Having the in-house brand, I guess, is what allows them to push out so much bike for the money, so no complaints here.
The META HT joins the ranks of a rising number of bikes, which allows the use of both 29er or 650 Plus. This in essence, almost gives you two bikes for the price of one. While the geometry is not drastically affected, the differing wheel size can change the whole feel of the bike. The META HT Essential comes equipped with Plus as standard, sporting 35mm internal Spank Oozy Trail 395 rims which give the Maxxis Rekon+ 2.8 a stable and effective profile. Although the Rekon+ does not have the most aggressive tread pattern, the Plus size and rim combo allows you to run suitably low pressures, increasing grip without sacrificing the integrity of the wheel and tire.
The Plus tires set the tone for this bike, they take a lot of the rough out of the trail and give a smoother ride in general. This is great for the most part and combined with the 74-degree seat tube angle makes for an efficient climber, gripping well at the same time transferring power into satisfying forward movement.
The other side of the hill, the same characteristics provide mixed results. The Plus tyres continue to iron out a lot of the bumps and provide a smooth ride with plenty of grip. The long low and slack (just how we like it) frame rolls with the punches and provides a solid base to hang on to. 65 degrees of head angle teamed up with the incredibly capable and hard-hitting 160mm of Yari fork make for a beast of a machine.
The META is well grounded to the trail and tracks well, even through some of the looser loam and fresh cut mud. However, for some this might be a bit too tame, for those used to the sharp response and need for precision bike placement usually associated with a hardtail shred, there is distinctly less to concentrate on. For me, this opened up a whole other line of attack, the speed you can reach with ease on this incredibly stable platform is impressive and once terminal velocity is reached you can really cut some shapes into the trail. The planted suspension and long reach and large footprint of the tyres will bring you back straight and true after a journey far into “sideways”.
In summary of the META HT, you are most definitely getting a lot of bang for your buck, and I don’t think anyone would be unhappy unboxing this bike for the first time. There are elements there to upgrade, but nothing so pressing as to not allow you to get a good few miles under your belt and some time to save up your pocket money. The Plus tyres lend themselves, in this instance to the possibly more novice rider, giving a level of tolerance and comfort not often found in the hardtail package while taking away from the more extreme end of a technically attacking trail. That said, I found the playful side of the bike in there somewhere, all be it at slightly higher speeds, and the planted nature of the bike brought with it its advantages as well. A quality hardtail always wins over an inadequate full suspension, Commencal have nailed it.
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This review was in Issue 52 of IMB.For more information visit Commencal
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