There’s nothing better than throwing your leg over a new bike and it seems that there’s always room in the stable for a hardtail. We grabbed a 2021 Commencal Meta AM HT frame and built it up, putting it to the test over the last 8 months it’s fair to say it has seen it’s fair share of dirt. Here’s the long term review on Commencal’s aggressive hardtail….
By Mike Branch
Product: Commencal Meta AM HT 2021
Available at: Commencal Bikes
The Nitty Gritty
We built the bike from frame up using a variety of parts available at the time, all of them new and most of them were a great fit. Here’s the spec list.
Frame: 2021 Commencal Meta AM 2021 Sand
Fork: Rockshox 35 Gold 150mm
Stem: Ride Alpha 40mm
Bar: Joystick Builder 31.8 cut to 780mm
Grips: Ride Alpha grips
Brakes: Magura MT5 4 piston
Shifters: SRAM GX 12 Speed
Chain Guide: Nil
Rear Mech: SRAM GX 12 Speed
Bottom Bracket: SRAM DUB Threaded BB
Wheelset: E13 Enduro Alloy 27.5 / STANS Flow 29er
Tires: Maxxis DHF / DHR
Saddle: Fabric Scoop Elite
Pedals: Time ATAC MX4 Clipless pedals
As with most new bike frames the first impressions are always good, they look great out of the box and the colours from Commencal are always on point. The build took a little longer than expected due to stock shortages but once built, the bike looked great and ready to rock. If we were basing this review just on how banger the bike looked then there would definitely by high points scored on aesthetics alone.
There were a few things we noted during the build that we found interesting on Commencal’s part. The frame mounts for the rear brake caliper are IS standard mounts, something that is uncommon these days and seemed a little outdated in our opinion. We would have expected post mounts like most other modern bikes but it didn’t effect the performance. Another thing to note is the absence of ISCG05 mounts for a chain guide, which in our opinion seemed a little odd for a bike touted as an aggressive enduro hardtail.
The first impressions on the trail were a little different and some of this can be put down to the parts list, particularly the front fork. The bike itself rode well, but it did take us some time to get the front fork feeling okay and ride-able, something that is uncommon for a modern fork from Rockshox. Even then the fork felt harsh but it was impossible to get it feeling plush without it diving through it’s travel and bottoming out, our review on the Rockshox 35 Gold is online for the full details.
Despite our issues with the fork, initially we found the bike rode well, far better than we thought it would. It had been a while since I rode a hard tail and the last one was in fact a cross country bike that was far and away from the Commencal Meta AM HT. So once we had dialed in the setup it was time to spend some time on this rig and put it to the test over a long term. We tested the bike for 8 months for this review and can certainly say it’s seen it’s fair share of trail in a variety of conditions.
Fast and Fun
Who knew a hard tail could be so much fun? The Meta HT is certainly a bike that likes to get up and party and it certainly likes to charge when you point it downhill. The ease at which it picks up speed, charges rocky features and rails corners can be put down to the geometry alone. We tested the bike in a variety of wheel setups, including full 27.5, full 29 and mullet mode; each of which having benefits over the other.
In full 29er this bike really plows, it is responsive, feels big, long and really does the job of an enduro bike without the rear suspension. It’s confidence inspiring, surprisingly flick-able and doesn’t mind a decent huck or two. We really enjoyed the 29er setup, particularity on rocky natural trails. It did feel a little less nimble in the air with the full 29er setup, something that is expected with any 29er when comparing to a smaller wheel size.
In full 27.5 mode this bike is real weapon. It’s low to the ground, feels superbly responsive, is super light, nimble and flicks around the trail with ease. This is the setup that we found that the Meta HT is really playful and arguably our favourite setup (the bike is currently still in this configuration right now). We spent a load of time with the bike in this setup and for everyday trail riding it’s a great bike, the increased handling is really noticeable and the bike climbs equally as well as the 29er mode in our opinion.
When the bike went to mullet mode we saw some interesting changes and something that has been echoed in the past when taking bikes not designed to go 29 / 27.5. The responsiveness of the bike was great and rode well downhill or when the trail gradient promoted speed. The 29er front made light work of any obstacles in the way and the benefits of both worlds were being yielded. It was when the bike pointed uphill that the other changes were noted.
When we changed configurations between 27.5 and 29er the bike tended to climb just as well in either setup; when we went to mullet mode this was not the case. The slackened seat angle really played havoc on bike’s ability to climb and whilst it still climbed okay it was completely different to the Meta we saw in the other setups.
Interestingly the lack of a chain guide really didn’t effect things too much and during the test period we didn’t drop a chain once, something the hardtail rear and clutch derailleur would be assisting with.
Pros and Cons
The Commencal Meta AM 29 2021 is a bike that loves to play and a bike that loves to be ridden hard, even for a hardtail. Here’s the Pros and Cons we nutted out during our test time on the bike:
The Commencal Meta AM HT is a bike that has grown on us and is a bike that really has warmed a place in this rider’s heart. It surprised us with it’s ability, it’s versatility, it’s capability and how much fun it truly is on the trail. For those among you that are not hardtail lovers, the Commencal Meta AM HT is a bike that may well convert you.
The playful nature of a well designed bike that has the ability to run both 29er and 27.5 wheels is something that is not lost on us. Like any bike it has it’s downfalls and there are some small quirks in it’s design. The Meta HT is still a hardtail and like all hardtails they lack rear suspension, so they really rely on the rider’s ability and line choice to dictate their speed and traction.
Commencal have built and designed another great frame and bike that not only looks good but is fun to ride. After it’s all said and done, it’s how much fun a bike is to ride that really dictates its value to the rider… the Meta AM HT is one that is certainly valued high. We have found our time aboard this beast of a bike to be great and it’s been a real pleasure to test and review.
If you are looking for a hardtail to add to your quiver then the Commencal Meta Hardtail is a bike worth considering. As always keep the brakes wide open and see you on the trails….