One of the best handling bikes in the 27.5in category
Commencal Meta TR V4.2 Essential: €2,999
We crowned the Commencal Meta TR our 2017 27.5in Trail Bike of the Year. A lot has changed in a year so has Commencal done enough to retain its crown?
Commencal Meta TR V4.2 Essential review
Actually, it’s done very little. The bike now gets a 12-speed SRAM GX Eagle drivetrain but the price has also crept up by €100 to reflect the change. Interestingly, Commencal hasn’t used the massive 50t Eagle cog to give the Meta more RPMs for attacking the climbs. Instead, it’s upped the chain ring size from 32t to 34t, giving the bike more grunt for bombing the descents.
It’s also moved to slightly wider rims, even if the 24.5mm internal width isn’t particularly wide by modern standards. The tyre specification has also changed slightly. The Meta is still rolling on Maxxis tyres, but the High Holler front tyre has been replaced by a 2.3in Minion DHF, while the Ardent rear makes way for an even less versatile Minion SS. Last year we swapped the front tyre for a softer 3C compound, but given the Meta’s attitude we were hoping this would now come as standard. It hasn’t.
The Meta TR V4.2 pumps out 130mm of very effective suspension. It’s a single pivot design with a progressive linkage, and unlike some designs, the progression isn’t so fierce as to limit the suspension the before bottoming out the Metric-size Monarch Deluxe RT shock. The rear end is super sensitive too, thanks in part to the shock yoke eliminating the bushing in the lower shock eyelet. As such, we ran a little more rebound damping on the Deluxe RT than some of the other bikes in test with the same shock.
Like all of the bikes in this category the Meta gets 10mm more travel up front, a top quality 140mm RockShox Pike RC to be precise. And while it’s a big step up over the Revelation in terms of performance, the new sportier tune of the Charger II damper gives more rider feedback than the old Pike or the current RockShox Lyrik so it doesn’t sync as harmoniously with the Meta’s pitter-patter rear suspension.
Commencal’s Essential component selection means that the specification leaves nothing wanting. It’s one a handful of bikes in this test to come with a full width 780mm handlebar, while the 50mm stem matches the reach measurement perfectly. And unlike most of the 29er bikes in this test, the seat tube on the size L Commencal is short enough to allow riders of average height to take full advantage of the RockShox Reverb’s 150mm drop. Even Commencal’s Ride Alpha saddle is comfortable, it’s flatter profile taking the weight of your soft tissue, placing it on your sit bones instead.
Throwing a leg over the Meta quickly reminded us why we fell head over heals in love with it 12 months ago. It just feels right. This time round though we had noticeably less heel rub, so either Commencal has switched to a wider chainset, or the Bontrager shoe we’re running have a narrower profile.
There’s been a lot of discussion in this test about feeling in the bike, and one way to do that is to boost standover clearance. Commencal achieves this with a cut away in the underside to the top tube to house the shock. It goes one step further though, and by bucking the trend for super short chain stays Commencal has also centred rider weight perfectly between the contact patches of the tyres. Which makes it doubly frustrating that the TR V4.2 Essential doesn’t come with a tyre combo that really allows you to load up the side knobs and rail every turn. The slightly longer chain stay also ensures the front wheel remains planted on even the steepest climbs. And it’s why the Commencal Meta TR V4.2 is still our first choice for anyone needing a size XL. With better tyres, the Meta would still be in the running for the win, but with Canyon ticking every box, Commencal can’t afford to get complacent.
It’s telling that the Commencal and Canyon are the best handling bikes in the 27.5in category and both share very similar geometry and sizing. Their specifications are similar too and there’s very little separating them in terms of price - the Commencal costing £2,645 at the current exchange rate. Yes, the carbon-framed Canyon is almost 1kg lighter but you don’t notice this out on the trail. What you do notice is that the skinny harder compound tyres on the Commencal Meta TR4.2 Essential don’t offer as much grip or control as the 2.6in rubber on the Canyon. And that’s a deal breaker.