If there’s a brand that’s combined all the current geometry trends in one frame, then it’s COMMENCAL with the brand-new META AM 29. Long reach, super short chainstays, slack head and steep seat tube angles. But does that automatically mean that the new META delivers on the trail?
For an overview of the test fleet head to the group test: The best enduro bike 2021 – 13 models in review
COMMENCAL have been building exclusively aluminium frames for a long time and the latest META AM 29 is no exception. It offers 170 mm travel up front, 160 mm at the rear and, as the name suggests, rolls on 29” wheels. COMMENCAL have done a beautiful job of attaching the shock to the top tube. The entire frame is burly, with big bearings, thick frame protectors and massive rocker links. No wonder that it tops the scales at a whopping 16.20 kg with its Öhlins coil suspension and complete renunciation of carbon parts.
The components of the COMMENCAL META AM
The COMMENCAL team rely on a direct-to-consumer sales model, sending their bikes directly to the customer. If you want to own a META AM 29 ÖHLINS, you’ll have to fork out € 5,299. It comes with a complete Shimano XT 12-speed drivetrain, DT Swiss wheels built with robust EX511 rims and a Kind Shock dropper post. The dropper post on the size medium we tested offers 150 mm travel, whereas the size L comes with a 175 mm model, going all the way up to 200 mm on the XL – great! The dimensions of the Ride Alpha cockpit give no reason for complaint, but we’d have expected higher-end components at this price. Overall, the frame’s finishing quality is a little rough around the edges. Examples include the tube shapes at the head tube, the weld seams and the cable routing.
Commencal Meta AM 29 Öhlins
Fork Öhlins RXF36 M.2 Air 170 mm
Rear Shock Öhlins TTX22M 160 mm
Seatpost KS LEV Integra mm150
Brakes Shimano XT 4-piston 203/203 mm
Drivetrain Shimano XT 32/10-51
Stem Ride Alpha Freeride 40 40 mm
Handlebar Ride Alpha R27 780 mm
Wheelset DT Swiss EX511/DT Swiss 350
Tires Schwalbe Magic Mary Super Trail Addix Soft/Schwalbe Big Betty Super Trail Addix Soft 2.4"/2.4"
Size S M L XL
Weight 16.30 kg
The geometry of the 2021 COMMENCAL META AM – Long, slack, short
The COMMENCAL META AM already looks very aggressive on paper. Its reach in size large is really long at 495 mm and the head tube angle is a slack 63.6°. Due to its length, it is one of the first bikes where we had to downsize to a medium with a 470 mm reach. The 433 mm chainstays are very short in relation to the ultra-long front centre on the size large. With the size medium, the ratio of reach to chainstay length is more balanced. The seat tube angle is very steep at 78.5°.
|Seat tube||380 mm||420 mm||440 mm||460 mm|
|Top tube||573 mm||600 mm||626 mm||652 mm|
|Head tube||115 mm||120 mm||125 mm||130 mm|
|Chainstays||433 mm||433 mm||433 mm||433 mm|
|BB Drop||21 mm||21 mm||21 mm||21 mm|
|Wheelbase||1,231 mm||1,258 mm||1,285 mm||1,312 mm|
|Reach||445 mm||470 mm||495 mm||520 mm|
|Stack||633 mm||638 mm||642 mm||647 mm|
Climbing is only a means to an end but you can do so in a relaxed manner.
At 180 cm tall, you’ll still be within COMMENCAL’s size recommendation if you’re on a size medium. The riding position is central and upright, though you’ll quickly notice that you’ve got a lot of weight on your hands on flat terrain: this bike is clearly designed to ride up steep climbs and blast down even steeper descents. Despite its heft, climbing is a relaxed affair thanks to the efficient chassis which hardly absorbs any of your pedalling input, together with the upright but compact riding position which ensures that the front wheel always stays planted.
Though the META AM 29 prefers taking things easy on the climbs, its character flips as soon as you let gravity take over. In size medium, it’s a super agile, direct and playful bike and rides very differently than the size large we had for our race bike group test. Contrary to what you might expect, the Öhlins coil suspension doesn’t transform the COMMENCAL into a sofa. Instead, it offers a lot of feedback from the ground and reserves its travel for the moments when it’s really needed.
Party time! The direct handling of the META AM delivers hard to beat fun!
As a result, the rider’s input gets implemented immediately, allowing you to pump the bike through dips and rollers, carry a lot of speed and jump to flat without hesitation. However, there are bikes that offer significantly more traction at the rear and the RXF 36 can’t keep up with the best suspension forks in the test. By downsizing, the handling becomes pleasantly agile and balanced despite the short chainstays. Due to the rather firm chassis and the generally short frame, the COMMENCAL META AM 29 isn’t quite as composed at high speed. The bike’s weight helps to calm things down, though you’ll feel it when trying to pop off small features. This will only be exacerbated when you upgrade the tires to more robust models – unfortunately, the stock Schwalbe tires in the Super Trail casing don’t do the bike justice.
How does the META AM compare to the competition?
The COMMENCAL META AM and the Nukeproof Mega 290 Alloy both make relaxed work of every climb thanks to their steep seat tube angles and efficient rear end but they differ significantly on the descents. Despite the air suspension, the Mega 290 Alloy is significantly more sensitive and generates more traction, whereas the META AM is more direct and provides more feedback from the ground. At high speed, the Nukeproof pulls away with ease, providing significantly more control and confidence.
Tuning tips: order the bike with a FOX instead of an Öhlins fork | keep an eye on the total weight
The COMMENCAL META AM 29 is an excellent bike to be playful on. Its handling is direct, agile and lively on the descents, getting you psyched from the get-go. However, it lacks composure at high speed, requiring you to stay focused and alert so that you don’t get caught out by the trail. If you choose to downsize to compensate for the enormous reach, the riding position is rather compact on the climbs. Because of its weight, the META is a slow but steady climber.
- direct and fun handling
- provides a lot of feedback from the ground
- relaxed climbing position
- the handling of the large frame sizes is unbalanced
- downsizing comes at the cost of composure
You can find out more about at commencalusa.com
The test field
For an overview of the test fleet head to the group test: The best enduro bike 2021 – 13 models in review
All bikes in test: Canyon Strive CFR (Click for review) | COMMENCAL Meta AM 29 Öhlins | GIANT Reign Advanced Pro 0 (Click for review) | Ibis Ripmo V2 (Click for review) | Nukeproof Mega 290 Alloy Pro (Click for review) | Propain Spindrift CF Mix Custom (Click for review) | Rocky Mountain Altitude Carbon 90 Rally Edition (Click for review) | Santa Cruz Megatower CC X01 Coil RSV (Click for review) | Santa Cruz Nomad CC X01 RSV (Click for review) | Specialized Enduro Expert (Click for review) | Specialized S-Works Stumpjumper EVO (Click for review) | Transition Sentinel XT (Click for review) | Trek Slash 9.8 XT (Click for review)
This scale indicates how efficiently the bike climbs. It refers to both simple and technical climbs. Along with the suspension, the riding position and the weight of the bike all play a crucial role.↩
How does the bike ride and descend? How spritely is the bike, how agile is it through corners, how much fun is it in tight sections and how quickly can it change direction?↩
Is the bike stable at high speeds? Is it easy to stay in control in demanding terrain? How composed is it on rough trails? Stability is a combination of balanced geometry, good suspension and the right spec.↩
This is all about how balanced the bike is and particularly about how well it corners. Balanced bikes require little physical effort from the rider and are very predictable. If a bike is unbalanced, the rider has to work hard to weight the front wheel to generate enough grip. However, experienced riders can have a lot of fun even with unbalanced bikes.↩
How sensitive is the suspension over small bumps? Can it absorb hard impacts and does it soak up repeated hits? Plush suspension not only provides comfort and makes a bike more capable, but it also generates traction. The rating includes the fork and the rear suspension.↩
This aspect mainly comes down to the suspension. How much pop does it have, does it suck up the rider’s input or is it supportive, and how agile and direct is the bike?↩
We don’t calculate value for money in an excel spreadsheet or based on how high-end a bike is specced. We are more concerned with how a bike performs on the trail and how the bike benefits the rider. What good are the best components if the bike doesn’t perform well on the trail? Expensive bikes with a lower-end spec can offer very good value for money – provided they excel where it matters. Just as supposedly cheap bikes with good components can get a bad rating if they don’t deliver on the trail.↩
No, it’s not about racing, it’s about efficiency. Fast, fleet-footed and efficient – those who want to speed along flowy singletrack and gravel roads need a defined and spritely bike that accelerates with ease and efficiency. Nevertheless, reliable components are important too. We interpret XC more like the Americans do: big back-country rides instead of a marathon or XC World Cup with the ultimate in lightweight construction! Uphill-downhill ratio: 80:30 (not everything has to be 100%!)↩
...also known as mountain biking. Classic singletrack with roots, rocks and ledges – sometimes flowy, sometimes rough. For this, you need a bike with good all-round qualities, whether climbing or descending. Uphill-downhill ratio: 50:50↩
Even more extreme and challenging compared to Trail riding, riddled with every kind of obstacle: jumps, gaps, nasty rock gardens, ruts and roots. For this, you need (race)proven equipment that forgives mistakes and wouldn’t look out of place on a stage of the Enduro World Series. Climbing is just a means to an end. Uphill-downhill ratio: 30:70↩
Strictly speaking, a 200 mm travel downhill bike is the best choice for merciless tracks with big jumps, drops and the roughest terrain. Those would be the black or double-black-diamond tracks in a bike park. But as some of the EWS pros (including Sam Hill) have proven, it’s the riding skills and not the bike that define what you can ride with it. Climbing? On foot or with a shuttle, please! Uphill-downhill ratio: 10:90↩
Words: Christoph Bayer Photos: Christoph Bayer, Valentin Rühl, Markus Frühmann