The Commençal Meta 666 has been designed from the ground up as a lightweight 160mm-travel all-mountain rig, with more big-hitting potential than the popular Meta 5.5, without the added weight of the 160mm-travel Supreme Mini DH range.
On our workshop scales the stock 666 weighs 31.9lb without pedals, putting it on a level playing field with the competition, that is if you rule out the sub-30lb carbon Specialized Enduro SLs. At present Commençal will only offer two models of 666, both of which are at higher price points to keep them within fighting weight. In addition to the regular 666 there’s a money-no-object Commençal Meta 666 Team, which comes in neon green and retails for £3,299. If the build kits on the 666 and 666Team aren’t to your liking Commençal also offers a frame only for £999 with a Fox RP23 shock.
The spec sheet on the 666 reads like an all-mountain rider’s wish list — RockShox Lyrik Solo Air fork; Race Face Deus XC cranks; white Formula Oro 24k brakes with 180mm rotors front and rear. At 27in the Commençal riser bar is the perfect width for an all-mountain rig, but we’re still not convinced that 70mm stems are short enough for 160mm-travel bikes. Tyre wise the 666 has 2.35in Maxxis High Rollers front and rear. The firmer 60a Maxx Pro compound is fast rolling; the side knobs are ultra predictable, and the single ply casing reduces rotating weight. To improve pinch flat protection, mid-weight inner tubes are fitted as standard.
While the profile of the swingarms on all of the Meta bikes has changed for 2008, Commençal has stuck with Contact System suspension. It’s a single-pivot design where the shock is driven by a series of links, rather than directly by the swingarm, so Commençal can tailor the compression ratio to better suit the intended application of the bike and shock used.
The replaceable dropouts on the elevated swingarm are fitted with regular 10mm hangers as standard, but the bike is also supplied with 12mm dropout hangers. Obviously you’ll need a rear wheel with 135x12mm rear hub to make use of the oversized dropouts, but for heavier riders the extra stiffness could be worth the extra.
With such a wide variety of riding styles to cover, the 666 uses head tube inserts, also found on the DH bikes, to offer three head angle settings. The matt grey offset sleeve gives a 67.5 or 68.5-degree head angle depending on its orientation and you also have the option of replacing it with the straight silver insert to get a 68-degree head angle. Even in the slackest setting we found the head angle on the 666 a little bit steep and you have to ask if anyone would really use the two steeper settings. Fortunately the sleeves fitted to the DH bikes also fit the 666 and they offer a full degree of offset from centre, so we’re going to try one to see if it improves high-speed handling.
On the upside the Meta 666 pedals pretty well even without the use of the ProPedal lever on the Fox RP2 shock, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t useful.
We ran quite a lot of sag on the 666 to slacken out the head angle a touch and, as a result, the rear suspension is more active than normal when you stomp on the pedals. Flipping the easy to reach ProPedal lever to the ‘On’ position meant that the bike would sit higher in its travel and not bob as much. Then all you have to do is remember to flip it open again for the descents.
Having ridden the Meta 666 at Kinlochleven in Scotland, “Even in the slackest setting we found the head angle a little bit steep and you have to ask if anyone would use the steeper settings” on what is quite possibly the perfect challenge for any all-mountain bike, we were left a little miffed by its performance. Yes the 666 has more travel than the 2007 Meta 5.5, but we ended up running almost 50 per cent sag to slacken out the head angle, which then reduces the amount of available travel, and we were back to where we started – albeit with a heavier bike! We’re going to try a shorter stem and fit the head tube insert from a Supreme DH to the 666 for a slacker head angle to see if we can improve its handling. We’ll keep you posted.
FRAME: Meta 160mm with new swingarm
SUSPENSION: RockShox Lyrik Solo Air, Fox Float RP2 rear shock
WHEELS: Commençal Lite front hub with DT Swiss rear, Mavic X321 rims with black stainless spokes. Maxxis 2.35in High Roller tyres
GROUPSET: Race Face Deus XC crank, SRAM X9 shifters, XO rear mech and XT front mech. Formula Oro 24K disc brakes.
COMPONENTS: Race Face Deus XC stem, Commençal Riser bar, SDG I-Beam post and Bel Air SL saddle
SIZES: S, M, L, XL