Penny-pinching might be de rigeur in certain areas of life (cut-price supermarkets, half-price train travel etc) but it won’t get you far in the bike world, as this is where performance tends to be reflected in the price!
Most of us are already aware of what kind of a bike we can get for our money, but what about students, school kids and newbies to the sport whose wet dreams of carbon, Kashima and co linger elusively out of their financial reach? Fortunately, manufacturers have cottoned onto this, and have headed down a more affordable full-suspension alleyway. This is where we found the in-your-face Commencal Meta Trail Origin 650B. The first impression was overwhelmingly positive with its super cool frame, but how would this penny-pinching bike fare in practice? Intern and test rider Laurenz has been out testing it for a few months now, hoping to clear up the issue of whether this could present true value for money.
Not necessarily negative when it comes to bikes, the geometry of the META Trail is best described as ‘long and slack’. With a wheelbase of 1,179mm (frame size large) and a chainstay length of 437mm, it’s more of a ferry than a speedboat. The similarly long reach of 460mm gives a pretty strung-out riding position.
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Fast and flowing, the trails in Stuttgart’s forests are certainly made for those who like a bit of pedaling, proving themselves the ideal testing ground for the META Trail. But this bike wasn’t going to have it too easy as we hammered down the technical trails in Latsch in the mountains of South Tyrol too. From swooping flow trails to techy and rough, it has had everything under it.
At 1.85m tall and weighing in at 84kg, I went for a large frame, putting 1.8 bar in the front tyre, 2.0 bar in the rear and 30% sag in the 120mm forks. The front, which I found a little too low, was raised with spacers under the stem.
The COMMENCAL climbs like the mountaineering giant Rheinhold Messner at his peak. Once the forks and the somewhat agitated rear are locked-out, then the 13.2kg bike comfortably climbs like a featherweight. The quick rolling tyre combination of MAXXIS ARDENT at the front and a MAXXIS IKON at the rear work to your advantage here too. As the rear is largely unaffected by pedaling, it’s just a case of pushing down on the pedals, gritting your teeth and letting the bike do the work. Offering decent traction too, it soaks up trail chatter and small bumps generously.
On tight switchback sections, although planted, the META Trail can feel a little sluggish. It takes some effort getting it up and over obstacles; however, you’ll be rewarded if you do put in some more power as the COMMENCAL can really rock out. Once in the air, the bike remains fairly stable, and brings its playful side out.
Pure mountainous terrain, like I presented the META with in South Tyrol, should be approached with caution as the thin sidewalls and narrow tyres (2.25/2.2”) give a high risk of puncturing – upgrading is definitely worth it here. After I had to fix my first puncture in the heat, I decided it was time I was a bit choosier with my line choices and managed to avoid any further punctures.
Bikes in this travel category have a tendency to get twitchy at high speeds – but not the META! Although you’d be wise to slow down over big bumps and high drop-offs as even though the aggressive geometry is on your side, the 120mm travel is the weakest link here.
The X-Fusion suspension on the COMMENCAL, comprised of Velvet forks and an O2 RLX rear shock, is responsive and reliable. Alongside the three configurations on the rear shock, the forks also have an additional lock-out function that you’ll be grateful for on long ascents. Despite delivering an undeniably good performance, we’d want more travel and more rigidity than the Velvet provide, as this would allow the bike to be ridden more extensively. Compared to its more expensive peers, the Velvet lacks compression adjust, but if you ride with enough sag then it feels sensitive although it tends to stack up on quick repeated impacts. This is where the rebound shows its limitations.
Totally at home on fast, swooping flow trails, the META Trail Origin is one for pedallers. But the absence of a dropper post is one that you’ll sorely miss. We’d recommend heading straight for the COMMENCAL online store to upgrade.
The 1×10 drivetrain is hassle-free, and has the added benefits of an E13 extended range cog with a 42-tooth cassette as stock. Intuitive shifting and a tidy cockpit – we approve!
After three months of pretty heavy-duty testing on some wildly varied trails, the META Trail is showing some signs of wear and tear, although given the intensity of the testing, these are fully understandable.
Frame: META Trail 650B
Rear shock: X-Fusion O2 RLX
Forks: X-Fusion Velvet 650B RL2
Brakes: SRAM DB5 180 mm/160 mm
Drivetrain: Race Face Ride cranks /SRAM 10x cassette with a E13 extended range cog with 42 teeth.
The COMMENCAL META Trail Origin 650B is a trail bike for price-conscious buyers who are willing to spend just that little bit more. For 2,199 € you get a bike with a solid and dependable spec, good geo and the guarantee of approving nods on the trails. With a few upgrades, the META Trail has the potential to be a genuine all-rounder!
For more information, visit: commencal-store.com
Text: Laurenz Utech | Photos: Klaus Kneist