PINKBIKE FIELD TRIP
COMMENCAL META TR RIDE
A Tough Trail Smasher
Words by Mike Levy, Photography by Anthony Smith
Commencal is one of four direct-to-consumer brands included in this year's Field Trip value bike reviews, with a $2,599 USD charge on your credit card being all that's needed to see the 130mm-travel Meta TR Ride arrive at your front door. The sharp-looking aluminum trail bike gets a 150mm RockShox Revelation RC fork, 29" wheels shod with aggressive, tubeless-ready Schwalbe tires, and a 12-speed drivetrain from SRAM. That adds up to a 33.5lb weight that might sound a bit chunky compared to competition costing twice as much, but that number is comparable to the other seven value bikes included in the Field Trip.
Our Meta TR test bike is a size-large with a 475mm reach, and it gets a 66.5-degree head angle, 76.5-degree seat angle, and 434mm chainstays. All that puts the axles 1,218mm apart.
Meta TR Ride Details
Fork travel: 150mm
Wheel size: 29"
Frame construction: Aluminum
Head angle: 66.5-degrees
Chainstay length: 434mm
Reach: 475mm (lrg)
Sizes: sm, med, lrg (tested), xlrg
Price: $2,599 USD
More info: www.commencalusa.com
The aluminum frame uses a single-pivot, linkage activated suspension layout to deliver its 130mm of rear-wheel travel, and it's controlled via a simple, air-sprung RockShox Deluxe Select+ shock that offers rebound and pedal-assist controls. You might think you need more dials, but you don't. There are a handful of frame details worth pointing out as well, especially given the Meta's price. This includes the nicely done internal routing that doesn't look like an afterthought, and pivot hardware that wouldn't be out of place on a much pricier carbon frame.
Commencal also gives riders two places to mount a bottle, an effective chainstay protector that's far nicer than some cheap rubber wrap job, and the cutest little fender on the back of the seat tube that's intended to keep rocks from jamming up the linkage. Small things, sure, but it's obvious that the Meta is a well-thought-out bike, regardless of its relatively low cost. After all, don't forget that the entire Meta TR Ride costs less than most carbon fiber frames. Climbing
With sturdy Schwalbe rubber, a 150mm-travel fork, and a 33.5lb weight, the grey Meta definitely sits on the burly side of the trail bike spectrum, enough so that you might expect it to be a pain in the ass when faced with a long ascent. That's not the case, however, as the Commencal proved itself to be a worthy technical climber and efficient enough for anyone's needs.
With all eight of our value bikes weighing in at well over 30lbs, none of them are ever going to feel like spritely trail bikes that jump forward at the hint of you shifting to a smaller cog. But once you get moving, none of them felt all that heavy, either, especially the Meta. The Deluxe Select+ shock was at its best when running 25-percent sag, a setting that never required either Kazimer or myself to reach for the pedal-assist switch while also giving the pedals a bit more ground clearance. The suspension also works well with a bit more sag - it's progressive enough that you can run 30 or even 35-percent without clanging off the end of the stroke all the time - but life was easier on the technical climbs when the shock had a more all-around setup.
Commencal has also done well with the geometry to keep the Meta from being a handful on steeper pitches that would trouble a slacker, longer all-mountain bike, especially the 76.5-degree effective seat tube that feels spot-on. One thing that does need mentioning is how wide the seatstays are where they attach to the linkage, so much so that some riders will brush their calves or heels while they pedal, and especially if you're using a bit of body English. Descending
The Meta isn't the longest or slackest out of our eight value test bikes, and it's not the heaviest, either, but it's the only one of the bunch that could pass as a burly all-mountain bike when faced with serious terrain. Both Kazimer and I made separate notes, without speaking to each other, about the Meta being the most solid of the group, noting that it has that "I'm going straight through the rocks'' attitude that's not common in this travel bracket.
The 150mm-travel Revelation fork relies on the Motion Control damper rather than the pricier Pike's Charger unit, and while there's certainly a difference between the two when things get fast and choppy, only those who race at a high level will feel held back. For the rest of us, the fork tracks the ground impressively well, letting you know that you're not on the best-of-the-best only when faced with extended sections of rough trail. But unlike the Recon fork that's used on less expensive bikes, the Revelation was supportive, and I'd have a hard time justifying an upgrade as long as it continued its trouble-free action.
It's more of the same with the Meta's rear-suspension, too, although to be fair, all of the full-suspension value bikes offered surprisingly well-sorted action. The gray Commencal is versatile in that it's happy to run 25, 30, or even 35-percent sag without you hitting bottom-out more than you should, and its decent on-power pedaling manners seem indifferent to how you prefer your spring rate. That's notable for a 130mm-travel trail bike, especially given that the sturdy Commencal could see anything from all-day epics to all day in the bike park.
It's a quick bike in the corners, too, especially when it was loose and marbly, which is every day in Sedona. While I felt like I had to sometimes 'catch' the other trail bikes when they'd start sliding over the cat litter-covered singletrack, the Meta has a more relaxed, "I'm gonna slide, but everything's cool, dude'' way about handling itself.
It's comparison time, and you know that the $2,599 USD Meta TR Ride has to go up against its German mailorder frenemy, the $2,299 YT Jeffsy AL Base. The YT has more rear-wheel-travel, is 5mm shorter in the reach department, half a degree slacker up front, a half-degree steeper out back, essentially the same chainstay length, and an 8mm longer wheelbase. Small differences on paper, but the two bikes are quite different on the trail.
Both Kazimer and I came to the same conclusion: The YT prefers to dance a bit and feels lighter on its wheels, despite being nearly a full pound heavier, slacker, and longer than the Commencal. And to make it even fairer, I hadn't looked at either bike's numbers until testing was nearly wrapped up, as per usual. If you're looking for more of an all-around trail bike, the YT delivers. But if you want a trail bike to chase all of your enduro friends, and don't shy away from a sender or three, you'll prefer the Meta.
Versatile rear suspension +
An all-mountain rider's trail bike +
Extremely sturdy feeling for a trail bike
Might feel like a lot of trail bike to some riders -
Wide seat stays might contact heels or calves-
Doesn't suit slow, rolling terrain
Photos: Anthony Smith
Additional footage: Lear Miller
The 2020 Pinkbike Field Trip was made possible by support from Smith, 7Mesh, and Over the Edge Sedona.