Reviewed by Evan Turpen, John Hauer and Brandon Turman // Photos by Shawn Spomer and Lear Miller
A new bike with 26-inch wheels?! In 2014? Gasp. Clearly Commencal isn’t afraid to have some fun.
The Meta Hip Hop is made for those looking to jump, rally bermed turns, drag bar (or at least attempt to), and just have a good time. They say it has “the responsiveness and performance of a trail bike combined with the aggressiveness, ease of jumping, and downhill abilities of an enduro bike.” By combining 120mm of rear travel with a 140mm fork and a slack 66-degree headtube angle, it’s certainly an interesting ride. Curious to see just how much fun could be had on this rig we pedaled it up and pointed it down some of Sedona, Arizona’s best rides during the 2014 Vital MTB Test Sessions.
Meta Hip Hop Highlights
- 6066 aluminum alloy frame
- 26-inch wheels
- 4.7-inches (120mm) rear wheel travel
- 5.5-inches (140mm) front travel
- Tapered headtube
- 66-degree headtube angle
- 73-degree seat angle
- 0.4 inch (10mm) bottom bracket rise
- 16.9-inch (430mm) chainstays
- Press-fit 92 bottom bracket with ISCG05 mounts
- 142x12mm rear axle
- Measured weight (size Large, no pedals): 32.06 pounds (14.54kg)
- $5,149 MSRP
The Meta Hip Hop uses the same suspension design developed in conjunction with the Athertons during their time with the brand. You may recall the "Contact System EVO" linkage first appearing on the Supreme DH V3 frame. Aided by oversized bearings and large pivot axles, the seatstays drive the single-pivot faux bar linkage. The FOX Float CTD rear shock is driven by both the rocker link and swingarm, also known commonly referred to as a floating shock mount, 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.
This suspension design fully exposes the rear shock to roost and mud flung from the rear tire, but Commencal includes a neoprene shock guard to help keep the majority of crud off the shock. A removable molded guard protects the chainstay.
Internal cable routing through the headtube eliminates any chance of cable rub. Cables enter the frame through a thick rubber grommet which keeps things nice and quiet, as well as sealing the holes to help prevent water and grime from entering the frame. Routing follows the downtube and top tube with large exit points making it easier to route the cables compared to some other internal designs. Though the cables at the front of the bike are a bit of a mess out of the box, it’s nothing you couldn’t tidy up with a bit of time and some electrical tape or zip ties.
The frame design doesn’t leave much room for mud clearance with just 0.5cm of space with the stock 2.25-inch Maxxis tire. We were also a little put off by the 12x142mm rear axle which is difficult to use due to a strange design. Additionally, though there appears to be space inside the frame, the bike doesn’t have water bottle mounts.
Given the bike’s 4.7-inches of rear travel, it has surprisingly aggressive geometry that separates it from the rest of the 5-inch travel crowd. It’s longer, slacker and lower than most. Our size Large ran a 66-degree head angle, 46.3-inch wheelbase, 12.8-inch bottom bracket height, 24.2-inch top tube, and 16.9-inch chainstay length.
The Meta Hip Hop is available in two models. We tested the Hip Hop 1 which comes in at $5,149. There is also a Hip Hop 2 build available for $3,849.
On The Trail
Where does one ride a bike like this? What types of trails is it best suited to? From the high speed berms, jumps, and rock launches on Slim Shady, Pigtail, and Ridge to the technical and precise High on the Hogs, Munds, and Hangover, we tried the Meta Hip Hop on the full gamut of trail styles available in Sedona.
We were pleased to find the bike spec’d with a wide 31-inch (780mm) handlebar and 50mm stem. Unfortunately we felt it was a bit too low. The steerer tube on the Meta range comes cut very short, and in the case of the Hip Hop, it’ll be too short for many. The bike has a short headtube already, and with just one spacer under the stem we would have liked the bars to be higher or taller. The stock setup had us leaning too far over the front of the bike while standing, especially on steep sections. Swapping (or trimming) the bars for a higher rise 750mm option improved the overall feel of the bike. Commencal offers their Alpha bars in higher rise versions for those that experience the same feeling, though they may need to be purchased separately.
Weighting the front end properly and maintaining front to back balance is hard to do. Fortunately the head angle, low bottom bracket height, good tires, and suspension performance help keep things pretty controlled and stable. With just 120mm of travel to work with it could sometimes be tough to keep on line when things got loose and sketchy, but it also carried speed through the rough like it had another inch of travel. In the rockiest sections the low BB was a handful, constantly threatening to hit rocks. This could be improved with something shorter than the stock 175mm cranks. While Commencal claims the Hip Hop has the downhill abilities of an Enduro race bike, we never felt as though we could rally steep, rough terrain very well.
At speed on flowy terrain the bike becomes quite playful, and this is where it shines. The frame is very stiff and offers precise handling as long as the rider is on it. It's easy to jump and whip around, just like any good 26-inch ride should be, and reminded us of the fun that can be had on a slalom bike. At times the front end was difficult to pull up because of the long wheelbase, average chainstay length, and skewed weight bias.
Suspension wise, the Hip Hop does quite well. Small bumps are absorbed easily and it takes square edge hits much better than its 4.7-inches of travel would have you think. Small chatter was also absorbed very efficiently because the suspension action is nice and supple off the top. G-outs, drops, and jumps had the back end reaching bottom-out a tad easier than we’d like to see. This could be remedied with the installation of an air volume reducer to the rear shock for more progression. Overall the suspension seemed to excel over small to medium hits and only started to falter on the really high g-force impacts or maneuvers where you really push into the suspension. Those riding smoother terrain could also run slightly less sag on the FOX Float CTD Boost Valve shock.
The FOX 34 Float CTD FIT fork complemented the rear end well with extremely smooth action and a nice progressive feel to the air spring. We were pleased to see the use of the stout 34mm chassis despite only having 140mm of travel - this isn’t something many bikes in this range have.
The bike’s stout feel is in part due to its weight. At just over 32 pounds it was the heaviest of the 25 bikes we tested and the added heft could be felt on the flatter portions of trail. Despite the weight it was decently snappy due to its stiff chassis, but rolling speed was slower than most bikes. Casually pedaling in anything but the shock’s Climb mode felt sluggish. Standing for a sprint the bike accelerates decently well with minimal bob, and pedaling was best when putting in short bursts of power out of corners to maintain speed. We wouldn’t choose it to win a drag race, though.
Climbing was less efficient than its competitors, but techy climbs weren’t bad as longs as we’d stand and power up them. The rear end stayed planted with plenty of traction. You just had to be very mindful of pedal timing due to the low BB height.
The thick rubber chainstay protector, clutched rear derailleur, rubber gaskets on the internal cable routing, stout frame and components make it a very quiet ride.
Commencal’s choice of components for the Hip Hop 1 include parts from FOX, SRAM, KS, Maxxis, MRP, Race Face, Formula, Jalco, Joytech, and some in-house bits. It’s a no frills build and some cost saving measures were taken, which is surprising given the $5,149 price tag - namely the steel backed MRP chainguide, SRAM X5 front derailleur, steel cassette, steel cassette body, Performance Series FOX suspension, and aluminum frame. Though heavy, we experienced no reliability issues.
The 125mm KS LEV Integra dropper post worked flawlessly, providing an effortless transition between seated climbs and bombing hills.
A 2.4-inch High Roller II EXO front and Ardent 2.25-inch rear tire proved to be a good combination with enough braking and cornering traction in all conditions. The only negative of this setup was the relatively slow rolling speed of the High Roller II.
The Hip Hop makes use of 32-hole Jalco sleeved double-wall rims paired with Joytech hubs. This combo adds considerable weight to the bike, but they’re stiff and strong. Switching to a tubeless setup would lighten things a bit. The hubs engaged quickly and had a smooth feel. The inner rim width was also spot on creating a good tire profile.
Formula’s RX brakes had plenty of power with the dual 180mm rotors provided you pulled hard, but they had a poor lever feel, were hard to modulate, and may be too grabby for some. No fade was experienced. The levers are SRAM Matchmaker compatible which clean up the cockpit a little.
The SRAM X5/X9 drivetrain with MRP 2X guide had no real issues, but we would have preferred a 1x10 arrangement on this style of bike in favor of saving weight and complexity. Once in a gear the drivetrain was very smooth with little to no drag or noise, but switching between them wasn’t super crisp. We never dropped a chain.
Long Term Durability
Excluding the rear axle, this frame looks like it is built to last. It has large bearings and oversized hardware at all the pivot points. The tubing is also oversized, stiff, and stout. Just be sure the neoprene shock guard stays in place. If it were to go missing the shock would likely wear prematurely.Commencal covers the Hip Hop with a five year warranty.
What's The Bottom Line?
The Commencal Meta Hip Hop is one of just a few remaining aggressive 26-inch bikes. This new-school twist on a classic ride requires precise lines and skill to get the most out of it. With the stock setup it excels on fast, flowy, smooth trails - much those like you'd expect a slalom bike to excel on. Trails can be rough with rocks and roots thrown in for spice, but not too rough as you‘ll soon reach the bike's comfortable limits. Those looking to play may enjoy it, but those looking for a performance advantage likely won’t.
About The Reviewers
John Hauer - In 13 years of riding, John has done it all and done it well. Downhill, 4X, Enduro, XC, cyclocross... you name it. He spent 7 years as the head test rider for a major suspension company, averages 15-20 hours of saddle time per week, and is extremely picky when it comes to a bike's performance. And yeah, he freakin’ loves Strava.
Evan Turpen - Evan has been racing mountain bikes as a Pro for the last 8 years with his career highlight being selected to represent the U.S. in the 2006 World Championships. More recently he can be found competing in enduro races and having a blast with it. He has helped design, develop, and test products for multiple major mountain bike companies and has an attention to detail well above most.
Brandon Turman - Brandon likes to pop off the little bonus lines on the sides of the trail, get aggressive when he's in tune with a bike and talk tech. In 14 years of riding he worked his way through the Collegiate downhill ranks to the Pro level. Formerly a Mechanical Engineer, nowadays he's Vital MTB's resident product guy.