2017 Commencal Meta AM V4.2 Race Eagle 650B

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Review - 2017 Commencal Meta AM V4.2 from Vital MTB Test Sessions

This black beauty is a speed before comfort machine that thrives on steep mountain terrain.

Rating: Vital Review
Review - 2017 Commencal Meta AM V4.2 from Vital MTB Test Sessions

"[The wilderness] had caressed him, and-lo!-he had withered; it had taken him, loved him, embraced him, got into his veins, consumed his flesh and sealed his soul to his own by the inconceivable ceremonies of some devilish initiation." - Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness

The boys from the mountain country of Andorra have created something dark indeed. The Commencal Meta AM V4.2 looks like the graphic stylings of Dead Kennedys and Metallica's hate child, but would it ride like one? We set out to see during this year's Vital MTB Test Sessions. The long, low, slack beast checks all the boxes of a modern enduro bike. The real Read More »

"[The wilderness] had caressed him, and-lo!-he had withered; it had taken him, loved him, embraced him, got into his veins, consumed his flesh and sealed his soul to his own by the inconceivable ceremonies of some devilish initiation." - Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness

The boys from the mountain country of Andorra have created something dark indeed. The Commencal Meta AM V4.2 looks like the graphic stylings of Dead Kennedys and Metallica's hate child, but would it ride like one? We set out to see during this year's Vital MTB Test Sessions. The long, low, slack beast checks all the boxes of a modern enduro bike. The real surprise and seduction comes when you look at the price point and spec sheet. For $4,449 (or $3,999 if you're quick) the Race Eagle build comes with an enviable component spec, a responsive frame with modern geometry, and enough suspension to get footy for the boys in the bike park. Can you feel the caress and pull into the heart of darkness?

Highlights

  • NEC + ULTRA SL 6066 aluminum frame
  • 27.5-inch wheels
  • 160mm (6.3-inches) of rear wheel travel // 170mm (6.7-inches) fork travel
  • V4 Contact System suspension design
  • Tapered headtube
  • Internal cable routing
  • Integrated downtube and chainstay protection
  • 230x60mm metric shock spacing
  • Piggyback shock compatible
  • Press Fit 92mm bottom bracket shell with ISCG05 mounts
  • Boost 148mm rear spacing with 12mm through axle
  • Measured weight (size XL, no pedals): 32.0 pounds (14.53kg)
  • MSRP $4,449 USD

You can be forgiven for thinking very little has changed – according to Conrad, nothing ever really changes – from the Meta V.4, this bike's predecessor. At its dark little heart they both share a linkage driven single pivot suspension design, are visually similar, and are based around an aluminum frame. Where the ".2" comes into play is nearly everywhere else. Little refinements cover the frame, improving both aesthetic and performance.

Aesthetically, Commencal now hydroforms the top tube, bringing the number of pieces down to two and losing an unsightly weld and some weight in the process. A new downtube guard ensures it'll retain that stealthy black look for a longer period of time.

Performance wise, the suspension gets tweaked by moving the pivot down slightly, giving a more progressive leverage curve, improved sensitivity, and 10mm more travel. The linkage is now paired with a longer eye-to-eye shock in the form of the new Metric-sized 230x60mm RockShox Super Deluxe RC3. Commencal also tossed a 10mm longer travel 170mm RockShox Lyrik RCT3 into the batter of the refinement pie.

Boost axle spacing takes over the front and rear wheels. There's also added brake caliper clearance for the post mount rear brake, though it maxes at a 180mm rotor.

The frame uses internal cable routing for everything, which looks oh so good but can be troublesome when it comes to maintenance. Despite the use of rubber inserts at the cable entry and exit ports there's a slight hint of cable rattle inside the frame. Dropper post routing is made simpler as it comes out of the frame before heading up into the seat tube.

Additional details on this 1X drivetrain specific ride include a water bottle mount inside front triangle, Press Fit 92mm bottom bracket, ISCG05 tabs to mount a chainguide or bash, and a decent 8mm of mud clearance with the stock 2.3-inch Maxxis rear tire.

Thanks to a direct to consumer sales model, Commencal is able to offer the Meta AM V4.2 at very good prices. The lineup includes the Origin, Ride, Essential, Race, Race Eagle, and World Cup complete builds ranging from $2,449 to $5,199 USD. At the time of writing the bikes are on sale for $2,199 to $4,599 in the USA. We tested the Meta AM V4.2 Race Eagle.

Geometry

Numbers don’t lie, so it's said. Though modern in the geometry department and clearly meant for going downhill fast over rough terrain, this bike doesn’t push into the freak circus sideshow. The size XL we tested has a 65.5-degree head tube angle (half a degree slacker than the previous version), a 1,231mm wheelbase, 471mm reach, 437mm chainstays, and a measured bottom bracket height of 341mm. While slacker than before, many of the other numbers remain consistent with the Meta AM V4.

Suspension Analysis

Using the bike industry's leading linkage analysis software, André Santos, the Youtube suspension whiz, was able to determine a close approximation of the Meta AM V4.2's kinematics for the purpose of this review. These charts provide great insight into several key factors that impact how it rides. Those unfamiliar with these types of graphs should watch André's excellent series of suspension fundamentals videos. The results of his analysis are as follows:

Observations:

  • The Commencal Meta AM V4.2 is a slightly progressive enduro bike at 17%.
  • Great pedaling efficiency with anti-squat values from 100-120% on a single ring setup. Anti-squat values remain quite constant over the travel since the Meta AM V4.2 works as a single pivot regarding pedaling characteristics.
  • Due to the relatively high anti-squat values on the whole travel, the pedal kickback is also relatively high.
  • Anti-rise of 90% at sag, meaning that the geometry of the bike is preserved under braking.
  • Overall, the Meta AM V4.2 has a slightly progressive suspension design and good pedaling efficiency for an enduro bike.

How does science meet the dirt? Did our real life ride time confirm the analysis? It's back to Vital's testers to hear how the new Meta AM performed on trail.

On The Trail

Starting in the snow and pine we dropped into Tucson, Arizona's Aspen Draw and Incinerator Ridge trails. These two offered fast flow, roots, pointed rock, and steep, technical moves. Technical and tight switchbacks both up and down brought our speed to a crawl at times for a bit of variety. The awkward game of on the bike twister would let up momentarily on Green Mountain trail with more bits of high speed chunk. A hike-a-bike to the top of Bug Springs trail brought familiar terrain. Bugs has a touch of it all, including challenging climbs that lead to fast thundering downhills with banger corners and ledgy committed rock gardens.

Black beauty. The dark horse. The Andorran assassin. The bike sat in the corner with its intimidating looks daring someone to ride it. When the time finally arrived, we knew things were about to get real just by sitting on the saddle. The generous top tube length and wide bars meant this bike was likely going to take lots of body english and speed to ride well. The in-house stem/bar/grip combination was comfortable, and the 150mm Reverb dropper post on the large and XL meant dropping the seat would allow for plenty of movement. Opening the 170mm Lyrik fork, we added two additional Bottomless Tokens to bring the total to three. Setting the rear sag at 30%, we told ourselves we were ready to ride into the darkness.

The Meta AM, along with the Devinci Django and Pivot Firebird, had the most neutral and comfortable feel in the test for both our 6'0" (1.83m) tall and 6'5" (1.96m) gangly moose tester. The geometry soup combination of angles and lengths come together to make a bike that is simply comfortable right out of the parking lot. A generous reach that doesn't extend too far means that the bike is meant to be driven with fairly even weight distribution. It isn’t like trying to steer the bus from the back seat, nor is it like driving a Miata with the seat slammed forward – this is a happy medium. Similarly, this bike comes into its element in steep terrain or with some serious pace. While it doesn’t shutdown on flat and twisty or flat and technical riding, it won’t be as much fun as a bike with less of a serious demeanor.

This bike comes into its element in steep terrain or with some serious pace. While it doesn’t shutdown on flat and twisty or flat and technical riding, it won’t be as much fun as a bike with less of a serious demeanor.

In Heart of Darkness, a character named Marlow follows the river deep into the jungle in search of Kurtz. Finding him at last in a hut that is surrounded by severed heads on stakes and piles of ivory, Marlow sees that Kurtz has made himself into a demigod in tribal culture. Was the blacked-out Meta AM V4.2 Race Eagle meant to surround yourself with the heads of rivals and the prize purses of your races? Yes, if you're Cecile Ravanel with the skills to do so. Ravanel’s competitors have little chance to catch her on those technical stages of the Enduro World Series for good reason. This bike eats them up, but really rewards riders who go into full attack position like Ravanel. This bike was noticeably faster through the rough chunk and chunder, and made speed by staying out of holes.

In comparison to the Pivot Firebird monster truck, the Meta feels more like a race tuned rally car. Where the Firebird is cush and plush, the Meta gives a fair bit of trail feedback. On the Firebird you can really compress the bike in the corners, but the Meta stays high in the travel and wants to cut longer arcs. With a tester on each we found that the Commencal would regularly make up ground in corners, but required more precise setup and speed calculation.

Confidence and control are abundant on the Meta AM. Jump into the rock garden? Sure. Jump over the rock garden? Pull up harder. The medium to long-ish chainstays take a few turns and hops to get used to, but are a part of why this bike corners so well. The frame is laterally stiff but has some vertical compliance and forgiveness to smooth out chatter. This is a fun and playful bike if your idea of fun is going fast and jumping off things. This isn’t a nimble bike that reaches all of the lines on the trail, instead the Meta would be a fine ride to take to the bike park and do all the things you'd try on a downhill sled. The plus side is that the next day you can skip the bike park and pedal an awesome out of bounds trail with good dirt while others wait in lift lines.

A great deal of the Meta AM’s descending prowess is due to the rear suspension. The Super Deluxe may be the heart of the heart of darkness. It is a cruel savage mistress that will have you questioning your inner nature. Like Kurtz, it may be capable of plush civilized life, but it has given into its more basic craving: speed. It's a dangerous and powerful desire that drives the Meta AM. Skipping across holes that other bikes get sucked into, the bike gains pace where others lose it. The support in the shock is savage. Landing and cornering the bike pulls forward with an endless drive for speed. Be careful though – like Kurtz it can feel like you can do no wrong, however physics is still at play. That day in the bike park? Be prepared to go fast, be wasted tired and have some beat up hands. Holding onto to such savage support and speed takes more strength and concentration than a downhill sled.

It's a dangerous and powerful desire that drives the Meta AM. Skipping across holes that other bikes get sucked into, the bike gains pace where others lose it. The support in the shock is savage.

Perhaps there’s some magic carbon fiber dust on the Eagle drivetrain somewhere, but the rest of this bike is good old aluminum alloy. Those of you who live in rock strewn madness, rejoice. Those of you with less than $6,000 in their bank account, rejoice. Those of you who’ve been known to lay it down after making some "Q for questionable" decisions, rejoice. The hidden number on the page is 32.0-pounds (14.53kg) for the size XL. It's fairly hidden when riding too. The weight hits when lofting trail gaps at less than ideal speed and when carrying or pushing the bike, but otherwise it is pretty hard to tell that it's a hefty ride. That said, going on an all day pedal will have even Superman reaching for the EPO due to its weight.

Marlow finds that Kurtz has given into the greed and vile want of his innermost basic nature. Kurtz is a savage. We weren't surprised to find the Meta a savage on the down, but the real shock came from the savagery of its climbing capabilities. Assisted by the Eagle cassette we found ourselves clawing up things we had no expectation of cleaning. Stay seated with the rear shock's compression lever in the middle setting and you have the traction and lack of bob to really get after it. When standing things aren’t quite as efficient. Keep your ass planted and an eye on that wandering front end and you’ve got all that you need to make it to the top of a technical climb in style.

On flat ground the Meta AM is still a reasonably fun bike to ride. The lack of bob makes it fairly quick and responsive. While it's totally possible to sprint on this bike, you're not likely to make it through the semi-finals. Slow speed, awkward riding is not only not enjoyable, but also not enjoyable on the Meta AM. The length and stiff suspension combine to make things unwieldy in tight, twisty, slow speed scenarios.

Finally, duck-footers need not apply. With so much changing taking place to create V4.2 of the frame, it's a little dumbfounding how Commencal hasn’t cleaned up the seat stay heel clearance issue. A simple inward bend would keep them from clipping heels.

Build Kit

Dang Meta, did you wake up like this? Flawless. Commencal clearly laid down the most coin for the parts that really matter – the drivetrain and suspension – while selecting high value components elsewhere.

SRAM's X01 Eagle 12-speed drivetrain does a superlative job changing gears and offering a surprisingly large gear range thanks to the massive 10-50 tooth cassette and 34-tooth chainring. From uphills that you crane your neck to spot the top of to downhills that reach terminal velocity, you can find a gear for it. Impressive shifting performance as well as being able to backpedal in the lowest gear without the going down the cassette leads to a real win-win.

Squish is controlled by RockShox’s two beefiest offerings in the all-mountain category. The Lyrik RCT3 Solo Air fork is a high performing and easily adjustable fork with all the stiffness you could ask for. Thank you, Commencal, for not including any Dual Position silliness. We found that by running less sag in the front (~15%) we were better able to match the characteristics of the rear shock to the fork. Too little air and the Meta felt like it was constantly see-sawing with its firm backend. Speed over comfort is simply a ride characteristic of the whole bike. Overall the fork still performed as we expected.

The RockShox Super Deluxe RC3 rear shock has the support, plushness, and settings we want without any knob twirling necessary. The added piggyback in the Super Deluxe means that operating temperature should be lower and the amount of oil the shock has to circulate is greater, culminating in a shock that performs as intended for longer descents as well as between service intervals. Riders used to the Monarch Plus will be in for delightful surprise by the level of performance and dependability of the Super Deluxe. This shock does an impressive job of doing what you want when you want it.

SRAM’s Guide RS brakes take on the slowing and stopping work. They do a fine job of modulating things thanks to an improved lever design. Power is in no short supply with the 200mm front and 180mm rear rotors.

The in-house Ride Alpha components form a perfectly functional cockpit, despite the fact that they may look like they were repurposed from a 1990 BMX bike. The 30mm rise x 780mm wide alloy bars are comfortable and have several indicator lines to find a precise setup. The 50mm stem is decent and has an unusual 8mm top cap bolt that seems solid. Commencal's new grips have a nice rubber compound but lack much texture, and along with the Ride Alpha seat riders will either be reaching for their credit cards or stating that they are okay at best. The seat is a touch rubbery and can get caught on your shorts in the most awkward of fashions.

Mavic's wheels are sheathed in nice Maxxis rubber with a 2.4-inch Highroller II up front and 2.3-inch Minion DHR II out back, both in the EXO and Tubeless Ready casing. Some riders make the Highroller II look like it's a portable traction factory, but the DHR II on the back is truly awesome. The deep knob pattern provided a great feel for the trail even in loads of decomposing granite. Who knows what exactly happened, but three holes were put into the EXO casing DHR II within the first few rides. The sheer number of pointy rocks in Tucson, the highly supported suspension, and the love of speed did the tire in. If you find yourself in the Neanderthal category and live in a sharp environment, consider a back tire with a heavier casing.

The wheels themselves are a touch unusual for those of us stateside. It seems these could be Mavic’s first reasonable offering width-wise with the hookless Mavic 427 rims having a 27mm internal width. The 32-spoked rims are centered around Formula hubs with sealed bearings. While tubeless ready, you'll have to do the dirty work to make the conversion. Because the 50-tooth cassette is ridiculously big, when the engagement of your hubs isn’t spectacular there is a pawl crushing amount of force generated under sudden load. This particular cassette/freehub combination made the sound of metallic death twice but showed no sign of change and may have simply needed to bed-in. With a bike that likes to get driven like the Meta and the terrain it likes to feed on, it's likely these wheels will have more flat spots than a pancake breakfast in less than a year’s time. With the longer chainstays the back wheel takes the brunt of the rider's weight. Our test wheels showed some solid dings and were in need of a true after just a few rides.

Thanks to the rubber chainstay guard and the excellent retention of Eagle, this a quiet ride. We suggest adding a bit of mastic tape to the inside of the seatstay for bonus protection from chainslap.

Overall the value of the Meta AM V4.2 Race Eagle build is very impressive. Most riders could run this completely stock and be happy, although those on small or medium sizes may want more than 125mm of dropper post travel. Despite the relatively high bottom bracket height of 341mm, the beauty of the Eagle chainring and the cost of replacing it mean this bike would still be a good candidate for a bashguard.

Long Term Durability

The current generation of the RockShox Reverb seatpost seems to be hit or miss in terms of longevity. The post on this bike came to us already making a dry suction noise we hadn’t heard from a Reverb before and was very slow at full speed. There were no kinks visible in the line, but the frame could have been hiding some influence.

With the abuse a bike like this likes to dish out, the rear wheel won’t last forever. With no obvious flaws and plenty of spokes, chalk it up to part of the game.

A few rides in we noted a large amount of lateral play in the back wheel, which we then discovered to be the result of loose pivot hardware. With nearly all the frame flex coming from linkage and pivot hardware it's likely to be a common affair. In order to tighten the inner bolts with a regular 8mm hex key, the rear wheel needs to be taken off which isn't very convenient. Be sure to check the bolts often and use the specified torque specs.

The bike is devoid of gadgetry and there are no shiny features with long lists of patents stamped on it. No proprietary parts means that it should last and everything should be replaceable. Commencal backs the frame with a five year warranty.

What's The Bottom Line?

The Commencal Meta AM V4.2 is a bike created with the privateer racer and serious fun getter in mind. The black beauty is a speed before comfort machine that needs some real mountains and pace to get it going. Once on its preferred terrain it needs to be driven hard, so casual riders need not apply. Take it to the bike park or take it to the trail, however only the strongest will want to take it on all-day pedal excursions. Those who live to go fast and want a bike they can pick up and ride without thought after a crash will be rewarded. At full speed, staring down some steep, twisted, raw trail, you’ll realize that it has gotten in your blood and all you want is more. The new Meta AM is a devilish initiation indeed.

Visit www.commencal.com for more details.

Vital MTB Rating

  • Climbing: 4 stars - Excellent
  • Descending: 4.5 stars - Outstanding
  • Fun Factor: 4 stars - Excellent
  • Value: 4.5 stars - Outstanding
  • Overall Impression: 4 stars - Excellent

Bonus Gallery: 24 photos of the 2017 Commencal Meta AM V4.2 Race Eagle 650B up close and in action


About The Reviewers

Dylan Stucki - Age: 28 // Years Riding MTB: 17 // Height: 6'5" (1.96m) // Weight: 195-pounds (88.5kg)

"I'm a fun-haver, always looking for new ways to interpret the trail. Gettin' sidewayze and balls out fast is rad too!" Dylan brings some serious speed to the Vital test crew, a heavy dose of hijinks, and routinely breaks things you think can't be broken. He's been testing mountain bikes and parts for several years which gives him good perspective on the full spectrum of what's on the market.

Mint Henk - Age: 32 // Years Riding MTB: 18 // Height: 6'0" (1.83m) // Weight: 180-pounds (81.6kg)

"Ragged, with a hint of Neanderthal." We decided to bring Mint onboard after watching him absolutely rocket up and down Colorado's high country like it was no big deal. Meanwhile, we were huffing and puffing trying to keep up. Mint is the real deal, and he brings a fresh eye to the Vital MTB testing game backed with years of relevant experience.

Which reviewer resembles you the most? Don't miss our Q&A with the testers for more insight about their styles and preferences.

About Test Sessions

For five years a dedicated crew of Vital MTB testers have been bringing you the most honest, unbiased reviews you'll find anywhere. This time around we rode 2017's most exciting trail, all-mountain, and enduro bikes on a wide variety of rowdy trails in Tucson, Arizona. Reviews can be accessed 24/7 in our Product Guide. Test Sessions was made possible with the help of Arizona Cyclist. Tester gear provided by Troy Lee Designs, Specialized, Five Ten, ZOIC, Sombrio, Race Face, and EVOC. All photos by Lear Miller.

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Specifications

Product Commencal Meta AM V4.2 Race Eagle 650B
Model Year 2017
Riding Type Trail
Rider Unisex
Sizes and Geometry
S, M, L, XL View Geometry
Size S M L XL
Top Tube Length 570mm 593mm 618mm 643mm
Head Tube Angle 65.5° 65.5° 65.5° 65.5°
Head Tube Length 110mm 115mm 120mm 125mm
Seat Tube Angle 74º 74º 74º 74º
Seat Tube Length 400mm 440mm 490mm 520mm
Bottom Bracket Height -12mm Drop -12mm Drop -12mm Drop -12mm Drop
Chainstay Length 437 mm 437mm 437mm 437mm
Wheelbase 1156mm 1180mm 1205mm 1231mm
Standover 705mm 715mm 743mm 750mm
Reach 403mm 425mm 448mm 471mm
Stack 602mm 608mm 612mm 616mm
Frame Material Aluminum
Frame Material Details NEC + ULTRA SL (Aluminium 6066 Triple Butted)
Rear Travel 160mm
Rear Shock RockShox Super Deluxe RC3, 230x60, 3 Positions
Fork RockShox Lyrik RCT3, Solo Air, Boost
Fork Travel 170mm
Head Tube Diameter Tapered 1-1/8" / 1-1/2"
Headset Cane Creek 40 Series Tapered ZS44/ZS56, Semi-Integrated
Handlebar Ride Alpha, Alloy 7075, Double Butted, 30mm Rise x 780mm x 31.8mm
Stem Ride Alpha, Alloy 2014 Forged, 50mm x 0º Angle x 31.8 mm
Grips New Ride Alpha, Ergonomic Grips, One Lock, Super Soft Compound
Brakes SRAM Guide RS, 200mm / 180mm
Brake Levers SRAM
Drivetrain 1x
Shifters SRAM X01 Eagle, 1x12 Speed
Front Derailleur N/A
Rear Derailleur SRAM X01 Eagle, 12-Speed
ISCG Tabs ISCG05
Chainguide N/A
Cranks SRAM X1 1400 Eagle, Boost 170mm on S/M, 175mm on L/XL
Chainrings 34 Tooth
Bottom Bracket SRAM GXP Press Fit BB92
Pedals N/A
Chain SRAM X01 Eagle
Cassette SRAM XG 1295, 10–50 Tooth, 12-Speed
Wheel Size 27.5" (650b)
Rims Mavic 427, 32 Holes, Hookless, Tubeless Ready, 27mm Inner
Hubs Formula, 32 Holes, Sealed Bearings
Spokes Pillar Spokes, Stainless Steel, 2mm, Black, Nylock
Tires Front: Maxxis HRII 27.5" x 2.4" EXO Tubeless Ready
Rear: Maxxis DHRII 27.5" x 2.3" EXO Tubeless Ready
Saddle Ride Alpha, SuperLight Foam, CrMo Rails
Seatpost RockShox Reverb Stealth, 125mm on S/M, 150mm on L/XL
Seatpost Diameter 31.6mm
Seatpost Clamp Standard
Rear Dropout / Hub Dimensions 148mm x 12mm Boost
Max. Tire Size 57mm
Bottle Cage Mounts Yes
Colors Black, Brushed
Warranty 5 Years
Weight 32 lb 0.5 oz (14530 g)
Miscellaneous Piggy Back Shock Compatible
Price
  • $4,449
  • $4,599
More Info

​Commencal Website