Pedaling the Meta 29 to the top of a climb is like using super fat powder skis to access a remote peak – there's more effort required initially, but it's worth it when gravity takes over. I channeled my inner Grave Digger
on countless occasions, dropping my heels and letting the Meta plow through whatever obstacles lay ahead. It has a solid yet plush feeling that makes it easy to launch into nasty looking sections of trail without needing to worry too much about the outcome. As long as you keep hanging on to those sticky grips, there's not much that'll faze this beast.
The combination of the Meta's extra heft and coil suspension does mean that getting airborne does require a little more muscle – it's more challenging to pop off natural doubles than it would be on a lighter, air-sprung machine. On bigger jumps taking flight wasn't an issue – just like a DH bike, with enough speed and a big enough lip you can launch as high as you'd like aboard the Meta. I did find the bottom of the bike's travel every once in a while, but the suspension design is progressive enough that this was a rarity rather than a regular occurrence. The Meta kept its composure on steep rock rolls as well, aided by the big rotors front and rear. That extra rear braking power does accentuate the amount that the back end squats under heavy braking, but there was always enough traction to remain in complete control.
I don't have a staunch position in the long or short chainstay debate – that number is only a part of the equation when it comes to how a bike rides, but in this case the Meta's short back end fit the overall manners of the bike very well, keeping it quick in the corners, and facilitating rapid direction changes. Once it's up to speed it's more nimble than you'd expect, and I was surprised by just how well it could bob and weave through the bermed turns on the twistier trails in the Whistler Bike Park.
Part of me does wish that Commencal had gone a little more radical with the Meta's numbers - after all, I don't think anyone's going to be taking this machine on mellow trail rides, at least not on purpose, so why not kick back that head angle a bit and stretch things even further in order to position it even further into the downhill realm? That being said, I felt totally at home dropping into the steepest, roughest trails I could find -- as it is the Meta is more than capable when the going gets gnarly.
Commencal definitely pushed the boundaries of how wide they could make the Meta's back end, and I did manage to knock the inside of my right knee (I ride left foot forward) on the seatstay a few times, and every once in a while my calves would rub it slightly while climbing, usually if I was running flat pedals and not paying much attention to my foot position. This won't be an issue for everyone, but it seemed worth at least a brief mention.