The new V2 Meta AM — with its low centre of gravity, slack angles and suspension design derived straight from the Supreme DH V3 – is clearly targeted at hammering the descents. Commençal, however, was keen to add that it’s versatile enough to prevent hyperventilating on the way to the top, too.
Commençal’s head engineer, Nico Menard, acknowledges that the Meta 55 had some durability issues, and wanted to be supremely confident about the latest Meta AM’s strength. It’s hard to doubt him — the 6066 T4/ T6 triple-butted aluminium frame is built like a brick outhouse, and looks fantastic, too.
Unsurprisingly, this second-generation Meta has all the latest tech: 142x12mm Maxle dropouts, 180mm rear brake post-mount, Pressfit BB92, integrated ISCG05 tabs and some of the slickest oversized pivot hardware we’ve seen. As UK riders, though, one thing we spotted at first glance is that the rear shock is bang in the firing line of rear wheel cack.
The Meta AM is a single-pivot design with huge sealed bearing pivots and a stiff oversized linkage, making the Fox Float RL look diminutive in the chassis cavity that houses it. This shock comes with a full on/off lockout (rather than the ProPedal low-speed compression platform) and unfortunately it spikes fiercely if you give it any hard work to do. We’ve never been massive Float RL shock fans, and it appears that the slightly progressive suspension rate of the Meta doesn’t suit this shock one bit.
Up front, the Fox open bath Evolution series 32 Float fork suffers the same problems as on the Orbea Rallon — not enough small bump sensitivity with the air spring set at a suitable pressure to prevent the fork from diving.
Overall, there is a slightly weightier, lower spec here than with the competition. SRAM S1000 cranks are a tad flimsy — especially noticeable when paired with such a solid chassis, and the X5/X7 gear combo has a much heavier and crunchier action than SRAM’s X9 kit found elsewhere. Rolling stock isn’t geared towards an all-mountain rig, with a skinny Rocket Ron rear that suffered multiple punctures on the first ride. Worse still, the wheels are the heaviest on test – pinned, rather than welded, Mavic XM119 rims are entry-level kit we’re used to seeing on much cheaper bikes.
It’s hard not to like the new Meta AM from the outset: as soon as you sling a leg over the bike, it feels just right. On the long, low chassis, the riding position is near perfect and even tooling around in the car park, you get a sense of the bike’s potential.
This makes it even more of a disappointment when you actually get the Meta AM3 off-road. Straight away it feels a bit sluggish when climbing, and when you hit your first descent the rear suspension just doesn’t deliver. You could forgive the pedalling issue on a 150mm bike, but you can’t overlook that rear end — it was so harsh one tester complained of pain in his feet after a long technical descent. Basically, the Float RL rear shock struggles to overcome the initial resistance and then gets stuck in the stroke when worked hard. Sadly, this overshadows all the hard work Commençal has done on the frame design.
Convinced that the shock was to blame, we sourced a Fox RP2 from the Meta AM2 and the bike was transformed. As suspected, it’s clearly geared to going downhill fast and accurately, yet it pedalled neutrally and felt fun and capable. Unfortunately, with the stock wheels and parts, it’s still too heavy to be zippy, or as efficient at climbing as the Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Comp Evo. But it did open our minds to the vast possibilities for this V2 Meta platform.
The geometry, frame stiffness and riding position on the Commençal Meta AM3 couldn’t be better — the bike screams ‘DH potential’. Unfortunately, the stock build and Float RL shock aren’t capable of taking full advantage of the design.
After unlocking its potential with a pricier Fox RP2 shock, our advice has to be skip the Meta AM3 if you want serious performance and look up the range to the two more expensive Meta AMs. You might also consider the £1,149.99 frame-only deal and do a custom build… or simply wait until next year and hope for a better shock spec.
MBR rating: 6