PINKBIKE FIELD TEST
Commencal Meta Power
Words by Henry Quinney, photography by Tom Richards
Commencal is a brand based in the high mountain of Andorra and is known for their World Cup downhill exploits and their era of enduro domination under Cecile Ravanel. To many, they’re that brand that seems to sponsor half the World Cup field, but to others they’re the brainchild of Max Commencal and a continuation of much of the success he enjoyed while working for Sunn.
So, how do these racing credentials translate to their eMTB offering, the Meta Power? And can they still offer their same unique flavour of alloy, high performance and good value bikes when there is a motor bolted to the down tube?
• Travel: 160mm rear / 170mm front
• Wheel size: 29"
• Head angle: 63.5°
• Seat tube angle: 78°
• Reach: 475mm (lrg)
• Chainstay length: 453mm
• Sizes: S, M, L (tested), XL
• Weight: 54.8lb / 24.85kg
• Price: $6,999 USD
Before we get into the geometry and how this bike rode let’s just get one thing out the way - the Commencal Meta Power 29 in the Team build we had on test wipes the smiles off all the other bikes’ faces when it comes to value. This bike is $7,000 US dollars. Now, that’s still a good chunk of cash but it’s no exaggeration to say you could have two of these for the price of some of the others. That’s a big difference, and it’s not as if the Meta Power is light on spec either.
This bike is the only alloy framed bike on the field test, non e-bikes included, which is one way it keeps the cost down. The other is their direct-to-consumer sales model.
So, the price is right but what about the bike? The frame is built around the ever-more-common 78-degree seat tube angle which is matched up to an amply slack 63.5-degree head tube angle. The size large on test had 475mm of reach and sizable 453mm chainstays. The linkage-driven single pivot provides 160mm travel and it’s paired to a 170mm fork. The geometry dimension that draws your gaze, though, isn’t one of the more talked about but rather the potentially troublesome 465mm seat tube. Some people might not find this problematic, but that wasn't the case for me - more on that later.
The bike has a really solid spec, especially for the previously mentioned price. The SRAM and Rockshox build offers Utlimate level suspension components and high-end Code RSC brakes. These feature a 220mm rotor on the front, which is something I really like on most bikes, let alone with the added weight of an e-bike. This is paired to a GX drivetrain and some E13 alloy cranks. The wheels are the H1700 rims on 350 hubs from DT Swiss. There is also a KS Lev Integra 175mm seatpost.
The Shimano EP8 motor features across the entire range. It’s combined with a 630Wh battery, which is the same setup used on the Yeti. The EP8 also features on the Norco that we have on test. All bikes provide 85Nm of torque.
One thing that I didn’t like about the frame was how rough the inside of the seat tube was. It absolutely chewed the pre-installed seatpost to bits. To remove it we had to soak it in lubricant overnight and then try and twist it out. Even then, it wasn't just a few scratches but it scarred the not exactly cheap seatpost horribly. We filed down the rough parts but by that point, the damage was done.
On the test, we had the middle to high range Meta Power. The base model starts at a very reasonable $6,000 and features a solid Fox Performance and Shimano SLX/Deore mix. There are higher versions too, with the range topping $7,600 models coming with a choice of either Fox Factory or Ohlins suspension and a Shimano XT drivetrain and brakes.Climbing
The Meta Power is a bike that offers a comfortable climbing position. Although the frame stack isn’t particularly high at 620mm, the high rise 40mm bar helped me get into a window of usable range when I wanted to shift my weight around. I ended up running the stem with several spacers above it as a way to not compromise the 475mm reach and tried to recoup the bar height with the generous bar rise.
The bike, while offering plenty of traction, doesn’t offer the same platform as something like the Yeti 160E or Specialized Kinevo. It’s happy to spin out a gear and winch up climbs, but doesn’t have that same supported feeling when you have your weight hovering above the saddle on technical pitches.
The biggest inhibitor to my personal experience on the Meta Power was the overall fit of the bike. Because of the tall 465mm seat tube and steep 78 degree seat tube angle, I found that I couldn’t get the saddle low enough to be out of the way on descents. I alleviated the problem by running the saddle further rearward on its rails.
It still climbed well, but I didn’t feel my weight was as well centered on the bike and that becomes slightly problematic when dealing with the power of an eMTB. I never really felt like I was able to hit that sweet spot of centered traction as often or as immediately as I would have liked.
All in all, the Commencal feels slightly more rough around the edges than some of the other bikes and this is more apparent on the climbs than anywhere else.
For all its quirks on the climbs, can this bike make it up on the descents?
All in all, I really enjoyed riding this bike. I’m going to say it once and then not bring it up again - the seat tube is too long. Apart from that I think it’s a very capable descender. I love the 63.5-degree head angle. With the extra weight of an e-bike it’s my belief they need to be slacker to give you more stability when you’re braking hard, especially on the front brake.
The rear suspension delivers a supple feel that tracks the ground well. It hunkers to the ground when you apply the rear brake, which I really like, and helps keep all that e-bike weight nice and low. It’s a very planted bike that offers ample stability. I wouldn’t be averse to it being slightly longer in the reach especially on the smaller sizes, or have a larger amount of stack for that matter. I think the sizeable rear end and plow-like suspension feel really warrants it.
The 453mm chainstay length on this bike is the same irrespective of size. For the large and extra-large this isn’t a problem but on the smaller sizes it could be at risk of dwarfing the 430mm or 450mm reaches of the small or medium. In the version I rode, the large, I found it to be well proportioned.
When all you’ve got is a hammer then everything looks like nails and that was definitely the case with the Commencal. It’s an easy bike to ride that encourages you to treat both it and the trail with little sympathy. I really liked it and think it offers great value. That said, I think the difference between this bike being excellent and merely very good are several small but significant geometry tweaks.