PINKBIKE FIELD TEST
Commencal Meta SX
Words by Alicia Leggett; photography by Dave Trumpore
It's big, it's metal, and it's the least expensive bike we tested. The Commencal Meta SX looks pretty interesting on paper, with its mixed wheel sizes, 1286 mm wheelbase, and robust frame. So what does the new Meta SX have to say for itself?
This updated Meta has the reach dialed back from the previous version by a centimeter, but that centimeter is added to the chainstays to lengthen the rear end, despite the change to a 27.5" rear wheel. Commencal was ahead of the trend when its downhill racers started winning races on mullet setups, but this is the first time the Andorran brand has ventured to make a trail or enduro bike with mismatched wheel sizes. Still, with updated geometry and an almost refined look, it's clear that Commencal means business here.
Meta SX Details
• Travel: 160 mm rear / 170 mm fork
• Aluminum frame
• Wheel size: Mixed
• 63.6º - 64.0º head angle
• 78.1º-78.5º seat tube angle
• 448mm chainstays
• Sizes: S, M, L (tested), XL
• Weight: 35.9 lb / 16.3 kg
• Price: $5,800 USD as tested, $3,200 - $6,500 USD
The Meta SX sports a flip chip, which gives riders the option to run the head angle between 64º and 63.6º, and Commencal says the kinematics have been tweaked to make the bike more versatile and agile than its predecessor, the Meta AM 29. Otherwise, the frame details are similar to what we've seen on Commencal's other bikes: it's aluminum, the cables are internally routed through ports that keep dirt out and keep the housing from rattling, there are ISCG-05 tabs, and the frame is protected by rubber padding.
The Meta SX is available in a range of build options, from the most basic 'Essential' build to the fanciest 'Signature' kit. All the builds come in under $6,500 USD, and though that's a lot of money, it's almost a steal in today's bike market. Thanks to worldwide supply chain issues, Commencal also offers 'A La Carte' configuration, allowing customers to cherry-pick parts to build complete or incomplete bikes to order based on what Commencal has in stock. Our test bike had parts similar to the 'Team' build kit with just a few minor differences, and it would come in at $5,800 USD if purchased using the A La Carte tool.Climbing
The Commencal Meta SX is a slow and steady climber. It feels pretty efficient, with very minimal bobbing or sagging under the pedals, but it's hard to escape the weight (35.9 lb / 16.3 kg) and length (1286 mm wheelbase) of the bike, and it's just a lot of bike to move up the hill, especially through corners.
It's by no means an especially poor climber. In fact, we were all impressed by its traction and ability to churn up the climbs, even if the weight made us less than excited to sprint uphill. The bike is quite balanced over roots and rocks, making it easy to spin up the techy spots, and the steep seat tube angle helped keep us up over the front of the bike to prevent the front wheel from wandering ahead of us due to the slack head angle. With the long rear end, the front of the bike never felt prone to lifting, and it was easy to transfer power right into the rear wheel.
It's a bike made to get up to get down, so don't expect to set any uphill speed records on this one, but it'll make the ascent comfortable if you don't rush it.Descending
The main words I keep returning to when describing the Meta SX are long and stable. Hopping on it after some laps on the Deviate and Transition, I was surprised at how much input it took to turn the bike. But after a few laps, I started feeling how well the bike could keep traction when leaned over, and playing with that feeling of carving became very fun.
It rained hard for almost the entire test period, so each bike's ability to stick to the wet roots and slick ground became increasingly important. The Meta SX has impressive traction on off-camber sections, which I attribute to just how stable it feels and how well it carries momentum forward in straight lines. (Of course, that means quick turns are not its specialty.) It's one of those bikes that loves rough terrain and feels best when pointed down something gnarly.
The centered body position while climbing carries over to descending, with the long rear end balancing out the slack front of the bike. At times it felt tough to manage both ends of the bike at once - while the reach isn't that
long, the slack head angle and fairly long chainstays can make it feel like a lot to handle. That feeling was less apparent at higher speeds and on trails where the bike felt more in its element: the straight, steep rough stuff. There is that flip chip that can be used to speed up the handling a touch, but that amounts to more of a small attitude adjustment rather than a wholesale transformation.
The Meta SX would make an excellent bike park rig, as the burly bike would almost definitely hold up well over time and the stable, dampened ride feels great on chunky trails and steep, rocky tech. It's also a fair option for someone who wants to race enduro, as long as climbing and agility aren't priorities, and would work best for riders who live near steep, rough terrain.