​Words by Johan Hjord // Photos by Nico Brizin and Johan Hjord

Commencal’s Meta v4 was well received when it launched 2 years ago, offering up a hard-hitting mix of climbing and descending capabilities that is well suited to the enduro-influenced riding style that also goes under the name of mountain biking. Never ones to rest easy, Commencal kept a weather eye on the horizon and another one on their designs, and they saw some room for improvement, notably following the introduction of a certain new rear shock “standard”. The result is the Meta AM V4.2, and we headed out to Andorra to give it a spin.

2017 Commencal Meta AM V4.2 Highlights

  • 160-mm travel (rear)
  • 170-mm travel (front)
  • Aluminum frame
  • Internal cable routing, stealth dropper post compatible
  • Downtube and chainstay protectors
  • Boost rear axle spacing
  • 230x60mm metric shock spacing
  • Pressfit BB92 bottom bracket
  • 31.6mm seattube
  • 25 to 30-mm internal width rims
  • New glossy paint finish
  • Refined matte black options
  • New brushed finish on high end bikes
  • 6 build kit levels from $2199 to $4499 USD
  • Availability: Nov 2016 (preorders possible as of today)

Introduction

“The only thing that’s changed is everything.” That’s what Apple said about the iPhone 6, and that’s what Commencal told us about the Meta AM V4.2. It’s easy to dismiss this statement as empty hype, and after seeing the new bike for the first time, that’s what we were inclined to think. How could a bike that looks so very similar to its predecessor be that different? Well, the first thing WE said after riding the bike was “how are we going to explain this to our readers?”

To understand the Meta V4.2, we need to go back in a time a few years. Commencal’s Meta V3 was widely appreciated for its descending prowess, but it was never much fun on the climbs. When the team took to the drawing board to produce the V4, this was one of the chief issues they were looking to address. Steeper seat tube angle, better anti-squat characteristics, lighter weight, updated geo – the V4 was a resolutely more modern design that ticked a lot of boxes, and it certainly was a lot easier to live with on the uphills as a result. It also sported a very linear suspension design, and the trademark Commencal frame “flex” that both conspire to create a bike that is confidence inspiring in the rough and produces a lot of grip. However, it lacked a bit of progressiveness which made it tricky to set up right: not enough air in the shock, and the bike would bottom out too easily, too much and the bike had a tendency to ride high in its travel which could leave it feeling a bit twitchy. For the V4.2, the team kept the overall frame design, but they went over every aspect of geometry and suspension characteristics to produce what is in fact a very different bike.

Visually, the most obvious change was made to the top tube, in the area that houses the rear shock. Commencal got rid of the weld in the middle of top tube that featured on the V4, and they also made the top tube wider in order to be able to accommodate bigger shocks. And on the topic of the shock, this is where we find the most significant change: a longer shock (both eye-to-eye and stroke), updated leverage ratio curve, and an extra 10 millimeters of travel.

When the industry announced the new “Metric” shock standard, the internet predictably went up in arms over what was instantly reduced to a “marketing ploy to sell us more stuff we don’t need”, which meant that the REAL news went largely unnoticed. The reason that suspension manufacturers had for wanting to introduce this new standard was not only to make life a bit easier when it comes to speccing shocks, but also to be given a bit more space to actually work with. With the evolution of bike design, especially in the trail bike segment, shorter travel shocks were coming under increasing pressure to do more with less. Shorter eye-to-eye, shorter stroke, yet more aggressive riding styles to cater to – something had to give, and the new shock standard recognizes this. By making shocks a bit longer, the suspension manufacturers gain valuable space inside the shock to do things like increase the bushing overlap, make more consistent air springs, and design damping circuits that offer more control. For Commencal, redesigning the Meta V4 was a great opportunity to get onboard the metric train and take full advantage of the new RockShox Super Deluxe shocks.

Change the shock length, increase travel, move a pivot a bit – seemingly small stuff can have a big impact on how a bike rides. The new leverage ratio curve certainly looked like it would address the shortcomings we previously discussed, but there were more changes to discover on the new bike: a 0.5-degree slacker head angle and a move to a 170-mm travel fork up front. Not that we ever felt undergunned with the previous version of the Meta, but with the boundaries of what’s doable on an enduro bike constantly being challenged, it would also be interesting to see if this bigger bike would remain a good climber and still be fun on flatter trails.

Aesthetically, Commencal also decided it was time for something different. Whilst there are still some pretty flashy, Commencal-like colors in the lineup, the standout model for us is the new “brushed” finish. More than just a new look, it actually knocks a couple of hundred grams off the frame weight, while protecting the graphics with a clear coat finish. It is certainly different and absolutely beautiful to look at in real life, showing off the welds and giving the bike a very purposeful appearance. There’s also now a stealthy black if that rocks your boat.

On The Trail

We headed out to the woods and some natural trails for our first day out on the new Meta. The mountains in Andorra are steep, and provide plenty of opportunity to test the capacities of the new bike both on the way up and down. We found the Meta V4.2 has not lost much of its climbing skills, the bike still feels light and moves out with purpose under power. Some enduro bikes give you that “free-rolling” feeling where the bike seems to carry speed after each pedal stroke, and some bikes don’t – the 4.2 still falls into the former category. We tackled a 45-minute climb that offered a mix of rough fire road and steep technical singletrack, and we found the bike easy to live with – in no small part helped by the excellent SRAM Eagle 1x12 transmission with its dinner-plate 50t cog that our test bike proudly sported. The suspension offers plenty of mid-stroke support, coupled with good anti-squat numbers we never felt the need to reach for the platform selector on the shock. The suspension also remains very active while climbing, and reacts instantly to rocks, roots, and other small obstacles.

Pointing the bike down the hill, there is a lot to like about the new Meta. We’ve always enjoyed the linear mid-stroke of its predecessor, largely because of how it deals with mid-sized rough stuff at speed, but as we previously alluded to, this came with a certain lack of progressiveness. Well, Commencal have righted the ship. The RockShox Super Deluxe combined with the updated kinematics has transformed the way the bike feels. It is now much closer to the holy grail combo of small bump sensitivity and bottom out resistance, and it seems much less bothered by what you choose to do with the sag. It’s not so much the extra 10-mm of travel as it is HOW that travel is delivered, with a much more controlled and bottomless feel to it. We’ve always found that this is one of the key aspects to building confidence on a bike, not having to hold back on those bigger hits or in the really rough sections. In light of the improved capabilities out back, it quickly became apparent that speccing a Lyric at 170-mm up front was a good move. The fork offers a great combo of sensitivity and shred-worthiness, and it makes perfect sense on the V4.2.

One of the things we liked about the V4 was the ability to carry good speed across flatter terrain, as well as its playful character. Depending on how you set it up, the V4.2 might lose some “poppiness”, but most of it is still there. The bike still bunnyhops with ease, and it loves playing around on smaller trail features. As a whole, the new bike is definitely superior to the previous version.

On day 2, we headed to the bike park to get some more vert in. The Meta V4.2 proved to be an excellent companion here, which was not a big surprise given that Commencal’s offices are about a 3 minute ride from the bottom of the chairlift. From blue flow trails to the tech of the World Cup DH track, we’d have no qualms about bringing the 4.2 as our weapon of choice for a week of park shredding. Plenty of grip on offer, and plenty of travel in reserve for when things get hairy. Jumping the new Meta is devoid of drama, even when you’ve been out of park action for the whole season and can barely remember how to hit a jump trail…

Commencal doesn’t believe in making things stiff for the sake of it. Their bikes have always had a certain amount of flex built into them, and the V4.2 continues in the same vein. Commencal moved to Boost which helped them find a bit of extra space on the 4.2, but they did not go looking for a stiffness increase at the same time. The lateral compliance that we know (and appreciate) on the V4 is still there on the V4.2, and it came in handy on all those rooty off cambers and turns that Andorra seems to be littered with.

Commencal’s vision of enduro is “downhill with climbing back up”. The new Meta fits the job description perfectly, but as a “side effect”, it is still an effective trail bike too. Pretty impressive for a bike sporting 160/170-mm of travel and plenty in the tank for the rough stuff. If the previous version came with certain trade-offs, we feel the 4.2 is getting awfully close to a slam dunk. The devil was clearly hiding in the details on this one!

Commencal AM V4.2 Race Eagle Components

We rode the “Race Eagle” version, which comes equipped with a smattering of high-end SRAM parts. We have already discussed the merits of the excellent suspension components above, mated with an X01 Eagle 1x12 drivetrain and the new RockShox Reverb dropper post (now 150-mm on size L/XL) there is little to complain about on this build. 2 days is not enough riding time to form a definitive opinion, but all the parts performed flawlessly for this first experience.

Commencal also introduced us to a brand new grip from its in-house Ride Alpha component line, and we’re happy to report that these are far superior to the previous version (admittedly, this does not mean much as the old Commencal-branded grip was not a very good product). Paired up with a Ride Alpha saddle and a wide, comfortable Ride Alpha handlebar, the V4.2 Race Eagle is ready to rumble out of the box.

Geometry

Commencal updated the head angle on the 4.2, raking it out a further 0.5 degrees to 65.5. Together with a taller fork (up to 170mm from the previous 160mm), this gives the V4.2 a slightly longer wheelbase, with the remaining numbers remaining as they were on the V4 - fairly conservative.

Build Kits and Pricing

Commencal made the move to a direct sales model a year ago, and as you would expect, all the V4.2 builds offer spectacular value. The 2017 vintage has also matured nicely:

  • All the build kits are now fully SRAM-based, even the entry level models which previously used “hacked” 1x10 cassettes now come with SRAM NX 1x11 drivetrains off the shelf.
  • Commencal found new partners for wheels, moving away from its in-house Ride Alpha brand in favor of WTB, Mavic, and Formula combos (or Spank for the World Cup model). They bumped up the internal width of the rims at the same time.
  • There is now a 150-mm dropper post on size L and XL, up from 125-mm on the previous version.

The new bikes will be available as of November 2016. For more information, head on over to www.commencal.com.

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1 comment
  • yoni

    8/25/2016 8:05 AM

    Got the 'old' one and love it!
    This one looks even better.
    Damn!!!

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