The Meta is back where it needs to be. A total trailblazer.
Commençal Meta TR V4.2 Essential: €2,899
Over 10 years ago, the Commençal Meta was one of a handful of bikes that helped define the modern trail bike category. It was slack, at least by the standards of the day, the suspension felt amazing and you could ride it flat out everywhere.
Commençal Meta TR V4.2 Essential
Then Commençal seemed to drop off the map, but it appears to have found its bearings again as the Meta is back and it looks better than ever. Available in two distinct flavours, there’s the AM version with 160mm travel, or the TR with 130mm out back. It’s the latter that we’re testing here.
Both platforms share a similar frame layout, where the underside of the top tube has a cut away to house the shock. Not only does this look sleek, it allows Commençal to lower the top tube to improve standover clearance without compromising the suspension layout. It also means there’s plenty of space for a water bottle on the down tube.
The area around the shock linkage looks straightforward, but hidden behind the seat stays are two short links that connect the stays to the rocker link. By beefing up the rocker link and stays, Commençal has also eliminated the seat stay bridge to give amazing tyre clearance. It similar the ManFu link found on the Specialized Stumpy and Enduro.
Commençal may have changed the layout of its current suspension platform beyond recognition, but the concept remains the same as the original Meta: a single pivot with a progressive-rate linkage. As such, it’s got stacks of traction, without ever feeling too soft or lethargic. And, unlike some designs, the progression isn’t so fierce as to feel like hitting a wall before bottoming out the Metric-size Monarch Deluxe RT shock. So you still get the full measure of the 130mm travel, but only when you need it.
The RockShox Pike RC gives the Meta 10mm more firepower up front, but it’s actually the Charger damper that lets you shoot down the roughest trails faster and with less kickback than the Yari. Yep, this bike’s a weapon, and it effortlessly switches from a point and shoot scattergun to the pinpoint accuracy of a riffle depending on how you ride it.
SRAM 1×11 GX drivetrain, check. RockShox Reverb Stealth with 150mm drop and under bar remote on the left, check. High-rise 780mm handlebar and 50mm stem, check. Comfy grips and saddle, check. SRAM Level disc brakes with 180mm rotors, check. This bike isn’t called the Essential model of nothing.
In fact, the only aspect of the specification that we’d change is we’d swap the 60a Maxxis DHR II front tyre for the gripper 3C version. But that’s about it.
Testing the Commençal was more like catching up with an old friend, than trying to suss out a new acquaintance. No polite pleasantries were exchanged and there were no uncomfortable pauses in proceedings; we just picked up were we left off over a decade ago and let ‘er rip.
The shape of the bike is nigh on perfect and with a 460mm Reach on the size L, combined with sensible 437mm chainstays, you always feel perfectly centred on the bike.
We set the suspension up in the car park and the only adjustment we made after that was to lower the stem by 5mm to better load up the front tyre on flat turns. With so little set-up we where somewhat surprised that the rear end never bounced, even when we wrote cheques that our skill levels couldn’t cash. It really is that good. It’s silent too, so the only sound you hear is that of the tyres on the trail.
Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? And as always there’s a catch. In this case it’s your heels catching the stays. Basically the 148mm rear end and inboard location of the rear brake calliper makes for a pretty wide back end. With size 9 feet you’ll clip them occasionally and it is easy to live with given how good the Meta TR V4.2 is. If, however, you have size 10 feet or bigger, this bike probably isn’t for you… Sorry.
Back in black, the Commençal Meta TR V4.2 Essential is anything but dull. With a sharp profile, killer angles and suspension that can handle anything, it’s a total trailblazer. Commençal’s Essential component selection means that the specification leaves nothing wanting either. The sizing is comprehensive and the suspension is a breeze to set-up. It’s everything a great 130mm bike should be: it’s tight, it’s reactive and it’s very effective. It’s no slouch on the climbs either, so you never feel like you’re over-biked. It’s been a long time coming but the Commençal Meta is back where it needs to be and it’s taking no prisoners.