Commencal set Pinkbike up on its Meta AM last Crankworx and after a day playing on the Lost Lake trails, and another spent shredding Whistler's mid-mountain descents, it was love at first ride. This Crankworx, Commencal tricked us out with the Meta SL - a lighter weight, reduced-travel version of the Meta AM designed to fill the aggressive trailbike role. We spent the morning again riding the Lost Lake matrix to make a direct comparison with the AM version and then switched to a new 2013 addition to the Commencal lineup - the 180-millimeter-travel Supreme FR park playbike. By the end of the day, we had covered a healthy portion of Whistler's best and were ready to post a couple of first-ride impressions on two shredders from the Andorra bike brand.
Commencal Supreme FR II
The Supreme FR was inspired after Commencal's marketing and design team spent a week riding big bikes at Whistler. Commencal's downhiller, the Supreme DH V3, is a proven capable racer, but its purposeful handling and dedicated suspension was a bit much for a bike park setting. The guys went home and immediately started to design a more playful gravity bike that would enhance the bike park experience, with a shorter wheelbase, a tad steeper head angle and a little less suspension travel. One year later Commencal's staff returned to ride Whistler with the Supreme FR. If you ride park, you will like this bike.Supreme FR 2 Highlights:
- New Supreme FR frame
- Fox Van R shock
- Fox Van 180 R O/B fork
- Sram X9 drivetrain
- Formula RX disc brakes
- Maxxis Minon DHF 26x2.5 tires, 2-ply
- Color: Cool matte grey
- Weight: 38 pounds (17.6kg)
- Price: TBD
Supreme FR Construction
The Supreme FR frame uses the same 'Contact System' suspension configuration Commencal developed for its World Cup DH V3 frame. The Fox DHX VAN shock is compressed through a seat tube tunnel between the swingarm and the rocker link. This reportedly removes stress from the main frame. The wide stance of the two struts that form the shock tunnel also boosts stiffness at the Supreme's 83mm press-fit bottom bracket shell. To make room for the rear tire at full compression, the Supreme FR's seat tube is offset forward about an inch and a half (30mm), and its raked-back, 62-degree angle reminds us that Commencal designed this bike for serious gravity work. On that happy note, there is also no provision for a front derailleur, and the bottom bracket is low (only 4 millimeters above the axle line).
A look downwards at the Contact System suspension reveals that the shock is compressed in two directions by the swingarm and the upper rocker link. The twin struts form a sturdy mount for the swingarm pivot. Commencal will ship the bikes with a rear-facing neoprene mud guard that protects the shock and suspension.
The 180-millimeter-travel chassis is balanced by a 180mm Fox 36 VAN R fork and sports a 64-degree head angle - quick by today's DH racing standards. Commencal chose that number to keep the Supreme FR pinned in the corners and nimble enough so that park rider could enjoy the narrower singletracks and tighter jump trails that are common at lift-access playgrounds. The shorter wheelbase created by the one-degree steeper steering angle and its tighter, 437mm chainstay length, gives the Supreme FR a measure of agility compared to a dedicated DH racing sled, and its shorter travel provides more pop on the jumps.
Internal cables and brake hoses are routed through the hollow bottom bracket forging (right) on their way to the rear brake and derailleur.
Commencal states the weight of its new freerider at 38 pounds, which is on the upper end of the DH spectrum these days. The good news is that the low and centered suspension configuration keeps the heavier bits of the chassis from adversely affecting the bike's ride qualities. Other chassis highlights are its internal cable and hose routing, and some massively strong clevis-type pivots at each end of the seat stays. Word is that the 2013 frame is now 25-percent stiffer in all directions. Commencal sells the Supreme FR in small, medium and large sizes and offers the lower-priced dash-2 model in 'cool grey' and the higher-spec dash-1 version in bright yellow.Supreme FR II Component Check
Commencal states in its spec sheet that the Supreme FR II uses an FSA Gap DH crankset, but the bikes at Crankworx sported e*thirteen cranks to match the LG1 chainguide (we hope they keep that combination), driving a SRAM X.9 rear derailleur. Tires are perfect-for-park, Maxxis Minion DHF two-ply 2.5-inch sticky rubber monsters, while the wheels are built up from Alex rims and Commencal house-brand hubs. Brakes are Formula's powerful RX, with flush reach-adjusters in the levers and full-size, 203mm rotors. Up top, the Supreme sports 760-millimeter-wide Commencal-branded low-rise bars and 50mm stem. Out back, the comfortable saddle and sturdy, zero-offset seat post are both house-brand items.
Supreme FR II Ride Impression
Our test bike was upgraded with an e*thirteen crankset (left) although its matching LG1 chainguide is standard equipment. SRAM's positive-feeling X.9 shifting is well suited for gravity riding, as is Formula's precise and powerful RX brake (right)
Commencal's new freerider is one of those rare machines that feels as if you've owned it for a season on the first ride. The plan was to motor around Whistler's mid-mountain trails and get used to the bike, but a surprise invitation to ride the new Top of the World Trail cranked up the volume. One can learn a lot about a bike in a top-to-bottom ride at Whistler. Turns out that Commencal's Supreme FR chassis delivers as promised - smooth and easy to manage on narrow singletrack, and quite capable down the steeps and jumps that put the world's most popular bike park on the map. The Supreme FR can be snatched over drainage ditches and small gaps with an easy pop on the pedals, and with its grabby tires and shorter wheelbase, the Supreme FR gets around the berms on A-line like a moto. Brrraaaaap!
Less-than-pro-riders will be pleased to know that, while the Commencal freerider is short-changed in the travel department by inch or so over its full-fledged DH relatives, it can cover a lot of mistakes - big ones - and keep the rubber side down. (Not that I personally
landed short on some doubles or nose-dived some drops - I'm just sayin'). With its coil-spring suspension and sweet-performing chassis, the bike takes the edge off of braking chatter and sucks up a lot more punishment that we expected from a 180mm gravity bike. The Supreme FR is more of a drifter than a slider when the bike is pressed beyond its grip in a turn, but if the cameras are rolling, dropping a foot is all it takes to toss a few shovel-fulls of dirt off the trail. There were three riders in our group riding Supreme FRs, each riding at different skill levels, and all of us were at ease on the bike - which tells us that Commencal got its numbers and spec right on the money. Hopefully, we'll have a full review up for you in the near future. Until then we can say for certain that Commencal's Supreme FR II is a hell of a lot of fun to ride at Whistler.Want More? Watch this video.
Commencal Meta SL
Responding to pressure from customers who wanted a lighter-weight version of its sweet-handling Meta AM, Commencal designed a cross-country friendly look-alike called the Meta SL. The Meta SL was a 2012 release that hovers just outside the edge of the short-travel segment of the XC/trail market that is so dominated by 29ers. Weighing a claimed, 28 pounds (12.75kg) and with only 120-millimeters of front and rear travel, Commencal's statement that the Meta SL is a lightweight Enduro/AM bike is suspect. That said, its slack-ish 68-degree head angle, low bottom bracket height and Contact System suspension hints that there may be a lot more technical performance hidden in the bike than its suspension travel suggests. The Meta SL is offered in only one model for 2012, armed with Fox suspension, a SRAM X.0/X.9 drivetrain and Formula RX brakes - but three different price points will arrive for the coming 2013 model year. North American pricing is being finalized, so check in with Commencal
for the good news if you are in the market for one. We rode the beautiful blue and mate black machine on and around last year's enduro course near the Lost Lake trails.
Commencal Meta SL Details:
- butted and tapered 7005 aluminum frame, 120mm Contact System suspension, tapered head tube
- Fox 32 Float RL Fit 120mm fork
- Fox Float RP 23 Boost Valve shock
- SRAM X.0/X.9 two-by-ten drivetrain (42 x 28 - 11 x 36)
- Formula RX brakes (180mm rotors)
- Fulcrum Red Power wheelset - Maxxis High Roller (F) and Cross Mark (R) tires
- Sizes: Small, Medium, Large, X-Large
- Weight: 28 pounds (12.75kg)
Commencal Meta SL Ride Impression
Commencal' s claim that the Meta SL would perform like a lightweight Enduro/AM bike was bolstered by the baby Meta's agility on trail. It was easy to loft the front end, or simply power over, up and down the irregular granite outcrops that lay in wait on the Lost lake trails. There is plenty of rear-wheel traction when climbing steeps, but not as much available when the grade is moderate and the rider is standing on the pedals. In such cases, care must be taken to weight the rear end, otherwise, ambitious pedalers will leave a broken line of scratch marks up rolling climbs. Commencal's official word was that a dropper seatpost would add a pound of weight and a sizeable chunk of change to the Meta SL's MSRP was not enough convincing to stave off my criticism in this regard. I stopped a number of times to adjust my saddle height, not out of necessity, as the terrain in the LL region can be shredded at XC height. That said; the Meta SL's sweet handing in the turns and technical sections begged for 'enhancement' - and I would rather obtain that enhancement with a handlebar remote switch while I was still on the bike and in the flow.
(Clockwise) Commencal chose a lightly narrower, 710mm handlebar for the Meta SL. Commencal's Contact System rear suspension has impressed us for its ability to keep the bike calm at speed. The Meta SL has internal cable and hose guides throughout - even for a dropper post, should its owner upgrade later. Care must be taken, however, to route the derailleur housings to avoid binding - we experienced slow rear shifts until a kinked housing was straightened (lower left).
While the Meta SL is going to impress a good bike-handlers with its ability to hold a precise line and negotiate steeps, it probably will not inspire them to enter any event resembling an XC race. Perhaps it was the tire combination (heavy UST tubeless casings, burdened with thick, Schrader-valve tubes), or perhaps it was my bad day to be on a bike, but the Meta SL never felt like it was rolling efficiently on the flats or hard-pack surfaces. Once up to speed, the bike held onto its momentum, it carried a lot of speed through corners and over rough terrain, but the bike did not inspire the sense of 'urgency' or 'quickness' through the crankset that is the hallmark of a good trailbike.
Before you translate that last evaluation into a permanent stain on Commencal's latest trailbike, realize that half a day on an unfamiliar bike is not always enough to dial in its performance. I would love to ride the Meta SL in tubeless configuration, because its heavier, longer-travel Meta AM brother turned in a better performance under power in similar conditions last year. As noted in the introduction to this first impression, the Meta SL is a bike intended for 26-inch wheel lovers who want the lightest possible bike with which to ride enduro-type trails. Meta excels in the technical realm, but even with lighter, faster rolling tires, it will not approach the rolling efficiency of an equivalent-travel 29er. The good news it that Commencal also offers the Meta chassis in a 29er. We are sure that you will hear more from us about both Meta models in the future.