The heart of the new Meta AM is the Contact System EVO suspension. Commençal is still using a single pivot design with a linkage-actuated shock, but instead of having small compact links with tiny bearings the seat stays and rocker link now drive the rear shock from above, while the swingarm compressed it from below.
Actuating the shock from both ends does not make it independent from pedal forces, like some manufacturers claim, but it does offer some key advantages for Commençal. First and foremost it allows it to maintain the Contact System leverage rate, which gives Commençal suspension bikes their amazing grip and control, without adding complexity and weight. By moving the mounting point for the rear shock onto the chain stay yoke, Commençal can also use much thinner gauge tubing for the front triangle to reduce weight. In fact, when you ping the top tube of the new Meta AM it strikes a high-pitched note, not something you’d associate with the heavy gauge Meta tubing of old.
Commençal’s engineer was keen to stress that even with the lighter tubing the new Meta AM frame easily exceeds the fatigue tests required by EU legislation, so reliability shouldn’t be an issue.
But it’s not just the layout of the new Meta that is shared with the downhill bike — both use exactly the same oversized alloy pivot hardware. Yes, this makes it cheaper for Commençal to produce the frames, but getting spares should also be easy and any step toward standardisation in the bike industry, no matter how small, can only be a good thing.
We got to ride a pre-production version of the Meta AM in La Bresse, France. It’s Enduo DH racer Remy Absalon’s stomping ground and perfect terrain for putting a 150mm travel bike through its paces.
After trying both the large and medium sizes, we opting for a large with a 55mm stem. The riding position and reach felt perfect, but when you stood back to admire the bike it looked really big — in part due to the dramatically sloping top tube exaggerating the height of the seat mast. All of the Commençal staff were of the same opinion and already had a solution: the front end on the medium and large frames would be 12mm longer for production, allowing us to downsize to a medium and run a 65mm stem to achieve the same reach as the pre-production large. Perfect.
We also got the opportunity to sample the Meta AM with two different shock tunes. The Fox RP23 Adaptive Logic shock with higher Boost Valve pressure made the Meta AM pedal really well but stopped it sitting into its travel easily, forcing us to run a lot more sag than normal. Swapping to the lower Boost Valve shock instantly made the bike feel more responsive while improving rear wheel grip. It also made the Meta AM feel more in keeping with traditional Commençal ride quality, so hopefully the stock bike will come with the lower Boost Valve tune. Either way, the most noticeable difference in the new Meta AM is the increase in frame stiffness.
With oversized pivots, new suspension lay-out and genuine bolt-through rear dropouts, rather than the bolt-on ones of old, the Meta AM is bomber solid. Solid enough in fact for a 160mm travel fork and DH casing tyres — which is exactly how Remy’s bike was decked out. The only downside we could find with the new suspension layout is that it’s a bit of a stretch to reach the Pro Pedal lever when the saddle is at full height. Other than that, all of the changes are positive.
At present Commençal has no plans to introduce a carbon version of the Meta AM, and looking at the three bikes in the new Meta AM range, the AM 2 seems like the one to go for. We’ll bring you a first ride as soon as a production Meta AM becomes available and expect to see the AM 2 making an appearance in next year’s Trail Bike of the Year test.
Meta AM3 £2,499.99
Meta AM2 £2,849.99
Meta AM1 £3,799.99