Reviewed by Matt Thompson and Jess Pedersen // Written by Brandon Turman // Photos by Shawn Spomer and Brandon Turman
When Commencal first reintroduced the Meta range in 2011, they did so with the aggressive rider in mind. Slack head angles, low bottom brackets, roomier top tubes and a fresh suspension linkage system made the bikes stand out. One year later Commencal pushed things even further down the aggressive path with the Meta SX. Now for 2013, they've refined the bike's parts list once more, making it ready to tackle the gnarliest of descents right out of the box. In fact, with its 66-degree head angle and 160mm of travel, it's the most aggressive bike in the Meta lineup. The overall look of the bike just screams fun, which is why we were pumped to give it a go during our 2013 Test Sessions in Southern Utah.
Meta SX 1 Highlights
- 6066 triple-butted aluminum frame
- 26-inch wheels
- 160mm (6.3-inches) of rear wheel travel
- Tapered headtube
- 66-degree head angle
- 73-degree seat tube angle
- +3mm bottom bracket height
- 430mm chainstays
- Press-fit BB92 bottom bracket with ISCG05 mounts
- 12x142mm rear axle
- Measured weight (size large, no pedals): 33-pounds, 5-ounces (15.11kg)
- $5049 MSRP
Dubbed the "Contact System EVO," the Meta SX uses the same suspension linkage design developed in conjunction with the Athertons during their time with the brand. You may recall it first appearing on the Supreme DH V3 frame. Aided by oversized bearings and large pivot axles, apair of sizable seatstays drive the single-pivot faux bar linkage. The FOX Float CTD rear shock is driven by both the rocker link and swingarm, which Commencal says removes excess stresses from the downtube. Everything is neatly tucked as low as they could get it, helping to keep the bike's center of gravity close to the ground for improved handling. Following some feedback from riders in 2012, they've also added a nifty neoprene mud guard that protects the shock from anything flung up by the rear wheel.
Suspension duties are handled by FOX's 2013 CTD line, including the 34mm Float CTD fork. While slightly less burly than last year's FOX 36, the 34 is certainly up to the task for most riders and saves a bit of weight. Both the front and rear suspension can be adjusted on the fly using a bar-mounted remote.
Everything about this bike looks robust, from the broad tubing to the wide linkage, press-fit BB92 bottom bracket, 12x142mm rear axle, tapered headtube, e*thirteen chain guide, and massive Onza front tire.
Internal cable routing helps clean up the front end a bit, but may prove to be a pain when it comes to replacing them. Note that while the seatpost routing is internal, it follows the toptube and therefore isn't Stealth compatible. The rear derailleur cable is routed through the asymmetrically offset chainstays, keeping it out of harms way.
So then… It's big. It's burly. It's aggressive. How does it ride?
On The Trail
The rowdiest, roughest trail we could find near Hurricane, Utah that was suitable for all-mountain and enduro bikes was Grafton Mesa. Littered with sizable rocks, calculated maneuvers, and speeds that will make you pucker, it's a perfect trail for a bike like this. Both Matt and Jess had the honor of rallying it several times to the best of their abilities. Jess also took it down the smooth but still challenging Nephi's Twist trail for good measure.
Grabbing ahold of the bars, the bike just felt right. It was balanced, centered, and there was a proper sense of being "in" the bike. All qualities we like. Add to that a smartly spec'd 760mm wide bar and short 50mm stem and Commencal is well on their way to a winner.
The bike's geometry was good for all aspects of trail riding and felt exactly the way we like our bikes to feel. Sure, the bottom bracket was a little low for techy climbing spots, but that's not a concern we think most people will have. Though climbing was limited while testing this bike, the rider position seemed to be good for most climbs without compromising great position for attacking steep descents, railing turns, or letting it loose on high-speed sections.
Downhill performance was most definitely confidence inspiring, and the Meta SX was a real joy to ride when pointed down. This bike could be casually ridden but really shined when it was pushed. It took a little added effort to get the bike to respond and make moves, but in general it was quite easy to change lines at speed. Getting up over obstacles, popping up into manuals, and snapping through corners was easy to do. Jumping and pumping were a breeze and we had a blast launching off of little hits on the side of the track - it's that kind of bike. Due to the relatively slack head angle and low bottom bracket, the Meta SX was also very stable at speed.
Commencal's Contact System EVO suspension made for a bike that tracked very well. Suspension action was predictable, and pivot placement enabled the bike to handle square edges and successive hits with grace. After experimenting with a few sag settings, we'd suggest running the bike in the 20-25% range. Anything more and the bike felt mildly sluggish in big chunder, almost like it was riding off the bottom end of the travel. Increasing the air pressure improved to the bike's suspension for attacking the trail when things got rough.
The rear end on the Meta SX is plenty stiff, which, when combined with the suspension characteristics, helped it turn very predictably and authoritatively. There’s enough of a suspension platform to really lean it over.
When the downhill fun was over and we had to point it back uphill, the weight of the bike became more apparent. It's heavy for an all-mountain/enduro bike. Once up to speed, it was easy to change direction and accelerate, but it didn't like to go slow. By no means was this a deal breaker. The Meta SX did well for the type of bike and its downhill capabilities.
Out of the saddle sprints felt sluggish due to the slow rolling tires and slightly heavy build. It pedaled well with no excessive bobbing in the rear, but took some effort to get up to speed because of the heft. While an effective climber, we wouldn't say this was the bike's strong point, and it certainly wouldn't be our choice for an all-day sufferfest.
Commencal bills this bike as a "trail-legal race-specific" bike. With that in mind, are the components up to the task? For the most part we were pretty pleased.
As previously mentioned, the Commencal branded bar and stem were dialed. FSA's GAP Mega Exo cranks look up to the task, especially when mated with the e*thirteen LG1 chainguide. There's a 36 tooth ring up front, so keep that in mind if the climbs you'll be facing are steep. Mavic's EN321 rims can withstand some good abuse and the RockShox Reverb seatpost ensures you'll be in the right position when things get crazy. A bell on the bars tops things off nicely since you'll be screaming down the descents.
Shifting left something to be desired. The SRAM X7 shifter/X9 rear derailleur were vague, spongy, and changed gears poorly. This may be due in part to the tight housing bend coming out of the chainstay, so be sure to dial the length in perfectly before heading out on the trails. The X9 also lacked SRAM's Type II clutch - while the molded chainstay guard helped a lot with chain slap noise, it'd still be a welcome upgrade to help with more consistent shifting.
Once properly bedded in, the Formula RX 12 disc brakes with dual 180mm rotors had enough power for long, steep descents with no noticeable fade or arm pump. The lever feel and modulation is an acquired taste and may feel odd to new Formula users.
Onza's Ibex tires were new to us but they performed with gusto. The 2.4-inch DH up front combined with the 2.25-inch FR rear provided ample traction in corners thanks to a great open transition area to let the side knobs dig in and find grip. They performed capably in all conditions but rolled very slowly.
Our biggest complaint about the bike's build kit revolves around FOX's CTD remote. Put simply, we don't think it's necessary. It adds clutter to the bar area and two additional cables. We spent the entirety of our time in the middle 'Trail' setting and would gladly trade it for the upgraded adjustable Trail compression settings that FOX offers.
Long Term Durability
A bombproof frame and proven components left no doubts in our minds - this bike will last for a long time.
What's The Bottom Line?
The Commencal Meta SX 1 is flat out rad - for the right purpose. It's very stable, likes to go fast, shred corners, fly down the steeps, and is just plain fun when going downhill. We're of the opinion that it's a little on the heavy side for all day adventures though, including multi-stage enduro races that require a solid pedal up. With a few component changes it could prove to be a versatile climber as well, but out of the box we think it's best suited for bike park use or at big mountain enduro events where getting to the top on time isn't a concern.
For more details, visit www.commencal-america.com.
About The Reviewers
Matt Thompson - Humble enough not to claim his Master's Downhill World Champ status when we asked him what his accomplishments were, Matt has over 20 years on a bike and likes to go fast. Really fast. At 210 pounds of trail building muscle, he can put the hurt on a bike in little to no time.
Jess Pedersen - Jess is one of those guys that can hop on a bike after a snowy winter and instantly kill it. He's deceptively quick, smooth, and always has good style. He's also known to tinker with bikes 'til they're perfect, creating custom additions and fixes along the way. Maybe it's that engineering background...