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Commencal Meta AM 29 2019 Frame (discontinued)

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Discontinued
2019 Meta AM 29 - Brushed
 Commencal Meta AM 29 2019 Frame  Commencal Meta AM 29 2019 Frame  Commencal Meta AM 29 2019 Frame  Commencal Meta AM 29 2019 Frame  Commencal Meta AM 29 2019 Frame  Commencal Meta AM 29 2019 Frame
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Spectacular enduro/all-mountain frame that's built to last

Rating: Featured Member Review
Spectacular enduro/all-mountain frame that's built to last
The Good:
-Strong and sturdy frame and hardware made to last
-Superb suspension action in both climbing and descending
-Geometry numbers that suit many kinds of riders
-No Trunnion shock mount (even on the 2021 version)
-Many color ways in small batches
-Awesome customer support from Commencal
The Bad:
-Geometry could be a bit more "modern" (updated on 2021 version)
-A few quality control issues
Overall Review:

This Meta AM isn’t my first build from the frame up, but it is definitely the one I’ve lusted over the most prior to purchasing. Back at the end of 2017, there were rumors about the upcoming Meta 29 but there was no clear release date yet. When the Meta AM 29 became a real thing a few months after, I knew I had to have one, but since I had just bought another bike, I patiently waited another 2 years.

After so many days of reading and analyzing every other frame on the market, I had 3 contenders left in my price range: the Commencal Meta AM 29, the Ibis Ripmo AF and the Privateer 161. They were all 29ers, made of aluminum, had similar travel and riding intentions but a few geometry differences. Had the Privateer been on the market for a bit longer, it might been to the top of my list, but the Trunnion mount itself was enough to make me pass. The Ripmo AF had a bit less travel, similar geometry and seemed strong and durable, but while it was a good rational choice, it just didn’t have the I-don’t-know-what that makes you fall in love with a bike. Good thing because I was already in love with the Meta!

There were 3 different color ways to choose from when I ordered my frame, but I went with the Team beige-grey.

Ordering and receiving the frame

When ordering a frame to build up, one needs to be an experienced mechanic or have a good bike shop nearby. Luckily, having worked in a shop before and wrenched on my own bikes for so many years, I had quite a few bike builds under my belt and all the necessary tools at home. The frame arrived very well wrapped, with a plastic spacer taking place of the rear axle to keep it from being crushed during transport and an aluminium tube holding the front and rear triangles together.

One thing to note for potential buyers when ordering the frame: the Meta requires Commencal’s own lower shock eyelet spacer that isn’t included with the frame. I’ve heard of quite a few people who had to order them afterwards seeing that their shock didn’t fit. I’d suggest calling your country’s Commencal store before ordering to make sure of what is included or not to have everything ready when building the bike.

For people who like to have a unique bike, Commencal come out with new color ways for most models throughout the year and they don’t do huge batches of each of them, so you probably won’t see anyone with the same color as yours in your neighborhood. And if the color ways don’t suit your tastes, the next batch might do it!

The 2020 Commencal Meta AM 29 in the Team beige-grey color fresh out of the box.

Frame specs, dimensions and measurements

With a 571mm axle-to-crown fork (+/- 160mm fork), the Meta has a 65,5 degree head angle and a 76,5 seat tube angle. Those numbers are not breaking new ground, but those measurements suited my uses very well. The reach on the large is 468mm, which I thought would be close to the limit for my 5’8” size, but with a virtual top tube of 620mm, it was right into what I am comfortable for pedaling. The relatively steep head angle (by today’s enduro bike standards) and short chainstays (433mm) keep the wheelbase very manageable on all kinds of trails at 1233mm. My idea was to eventually install a -2 degrees Works angleset, which would bring all the numbers exactly how I’d have drawn them, but after a season of riding it, I think that it suits me very well for now (and I don’t like removing and installing multiple headsets in a frame). Most people would complain about the long seat tube (465mm on my large), but even I could comfortably fit my 150mm One Up dropper with another 20-25mm on insertion left to spare.

Frame quality and finishing touches

Opening up the box and seeing the frame in the flesh for the first time, I was positively surprised of the burliness of the frame. The Meta has big and thick tubing, burly pivot hardware, nice welds, and the whole frame seems made to last under riders who send it. The general quality of the frame is pretty good for what is expected in that price range, but I think I should be honest and mention that the quality control at the factory could be a bit tighter.

Keep in mind that I am a very demanding customer and that my standards might be higher than the average rider, but my particular frame had a few issues worth mentioning. First, the frame was slightly misaligned, the main pivot’s axle hole wasn’t properly finished (which damaged the axle) and the clearcoat was peeling off a bit in one spot. Commencal promptly exchanged my frame without any fuss, and they went above and beyond to make me happy and proud of my new bike. They were super kind and understanding, which proved that they really stand behind their products and customers. This is a bike that I have dreamt of getting for a while and that I will hopefully keep for a few years, so I wanted to make sure that everything was right from the get-go. With that said, those things can happen with any company and it’s hard to beat the service that I have received. I am super happy of my purchase and in the end, this has only strengthened my appreciation for Commencal.

It took me a while to settle on which parts I'd use, but the result is pretty close to my ideal build.

As I have noted during my pre-build inspection, the frame arrived with Enduro bearings, the pivot hardware was well greased, bolt threads had Loctite on them, and everything was well torqued. I carefully measured all the press-fit interfaces (BB and headset) to conclude that all tube inner diameters were round and had the exact measurements needed for the perfect press-fit interference specs. This is reassuring when installing expensive headsets and BBs, and makes for strong, creak-free and stable installations.

Having installed a paint protection film right after taking it out of the box, I can’t comment on long-term paint durability, but areas not covered with film still look new. In addition to a plastic downtube/bb junction protectorand the small rear linkage fender, the Meta comes with molded chain stay and seat stay protection to keep chain slap and paint use to a minimum. Both have held up very well after 6 months, did their job and don’t show any signs of use.

Cable routing is pretty well sorted in general, and the supplied foam cable sleeves work well for muting cable slap inside the frame. I didn’t hear any cable rattle at all, and this is a good thing as I find this really irritating when it happens. The internal dropper post cable was a bit more work to pass through, but removing the downtube/bb guard reveals a bigger hole through which the housing is easily routed up the seat tube and around the internal pivot hardware. The rear derailleur routing has been updated on the 2021 model to forego the plastic cable guides nested in the pivot axle, but it was never a problem on my 2020 version. There was a bit of shifter cable rub on my OneUp V2 guide, but this was sorted by installing the guide outwards a bit more and didn’t impact shifting performance.

Building it up

As I previously mentioned, I had measured the BB and head tube bores, which were both round, had the perfect internal diameter for the ideal interference fit, and they were well faced and square. Installing both my Wolf Tooth Premium headset and Hope PF41 press-fit BB was a breeze, and both components have remained silent since day one. I’d gladly pay a few more bucks for a threaded BB frame and screw in a 40$ part instead of having to buy a 100$ high-end pressfit BB and 50$ special installation tool to make sure that it’s reliable and stays creak-free. We’ll see how the bb92 holds up and who knows, I might be surprised. Using a Shimano XT M8120 crankset with a 24mm spindle, I am running the HOPE PF41 version which has thicker and stiffer cups than its 30mm brother and a threaded center tube that keeps both cups from moving.

A nice frame deserves a nice headset, and Wolf Tooth product are hard to beat for precision and quality of manufacturing.

Every part of this build was chosen with three things in mind: durability, performance/price ratio and the brands’ philosophies which I value a lot. I have tried to support smaller companies as much as I could afford, and ended up with a Wolf Tooth headset and seat post collar, One Up dropper post and chain guide, HOPE bottom bracket, Deity bars and grips, E13 pedals, DVO suspension, WTB seat and rims, DT hubs, Schwalbe tires and a Shimano XT/SLX drivetrain.

With approximately 20% progression of the leverage curve, I knew that a coil shock would work well. Some testers of the 2019-2020 Meta AM said that they had trouble finding the sweet spot with an air shock, and others said that they were bottoming out their coil shocks a few times per ride. To make sure I’d have (more than) enough progression, I went with a 450-550lbs Cane Creek Valt Progressive spring. I haven’t tried a linear rate spring yet, but the progressive spring worked perfectly for me and I have never felt it bottom out while still keeping great small bump absorption. I might try the new 425-500 DVO progressive spring next summer to see if I could gain a bit more small chatter smoothness.

I’ve been riding and loving DVO forks for two seasons and I wouldn’t get anything else than one of their shocks. The Jade X shock that I have bought had less external adjustments than the regular Jade, but I trusted DVO’s suggestion that the internals would work very well with the Meta. Two things made me go for DVO shocks: the 14mm shaft that they use helps with the added loads of the Meta’s shock yoke and the fact that I just love DVO’s customer service, attention and philosophy. My lower shock eyelet (which connects the clevis) shows a bit of surface wear/rub, which seems to be attributed to the Meta’s clevis’ rough machining finish. It didn’t cause mechanical problems so far, but I’ll keep an eye on this to make sure it doesn’t get worse. Would this be a manufacturing issue, the Meta AM is backed with a 5 year warranty so this doesn’t make me lose sleep. Enough on the technical details now, how does it ride?  

Even if it had more travel and weight than my previous bikes, the Meta AM brought me on longer rides than ever, more often, and it doesn't even have a motor. Surprising eh?

How does it ride ?

Coming from a 120mm travel non-piggyback air-shocked bike, it is hard to say exactly how the Meta compares to a similar thing, but I have to say that even if I really liked my previous bike’s performance, I was blown away by the Meta. And I constantly am. The difference was night and day. I know it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison, but still, I have never been so surprised and impressed with a bike’s performance in my 25 years of riding. It reminds me of the invincibility of my 180mm travel coil-sprung ’09 Norco Shore, but in a much more refined and contemporary package.

The frame is stiff but not excessively so, and I have never felt any flex anywhere. The strong rear stays are wide, but contrary to most reviews I have read, I did not have many foot-frame interactions. I did not experience any rear tire rub either, and the bike tracked superbly in all conditions. East coast rocks are very present around here, and the Meta makes for a solid connection to the ground even in the roughest of trails. I did not really notice the added 50mm of wheelbase length from my last bike even in the tightest switchbacks or turns, but the added stability could be felt on faster sections. That might also be due to the effect of the 2 degrees slacker head tube angle, but still, the Meta inspires confidence to go faster. I’m guessing that the new 2021 version feels even more planted with a 63,5 degrees head angle, and I’m pretty sure that if I went slacker, I wouldn’t want to go back.

The Meta has stiff and wide stays which are nicely protected for both chain slap and heel rub, which was never an issue for me.

Suspension-wise, Commencal nailed it with the Meta AM’s suspension kinematics. It eats small chatter for breakfast, absorbs big hits with confidence, and doesn’t ride deep in the travel. I thought that a coil shock could make it feel wallowy and maybe a bit sluggish, but I was so wrong. Maybe it’s helped by the DVO Jade X shock, but I liked how the bike stayed up in the travel while still feeling really cushy. I’m using it for 30-35km rides most of the time where there is quite a bit of pedaling involved, but I’ve not been any more tired than with my lighter and smaller travel 2018-19 bike. In fact, I’ve been consistently faster everywhere, even on the uphills. One thing that I have noted is that the 2 degrees steeper seat tube compared to my previous bike made long climbs much more comfortable. I’d be curious to see how even steeper seat tube angles handle on long climbs and long flatter sections, but it made quite a big positive difference. I should add that I always run my seat as forward as the rails allow me, so the bike might feel like it has a 77,5-78 degrees seat tube angle. 

The Jade X comes with a 3-position climb switch that in the closed position makes the shock feel as if I was riding a hardtail. I haven’t even used it in the middle position to climb fireroads as you just need to sit and spin and the suspension doesn’t bob. Standing pedaling activates the shock a lot more, but I found that if I sat and kept a good cadence, I preferred the feel of the open shock. Climbing into rocky sections, traction was very generous and the tires would only let go on steep slick wet rocks if I didn’t plan accordingly. With the same wheels and tires as on my previous bike, I cleared many technical uphills and tricky slow-speed sections on the Meta that I couldn’t clear last year on the same 11-46/30 gearing. And that happened on my first ride after 5 months of no riding at all.

Going downhill was the standout though. I have never felt so much in control with a bike. I could keep a lot of momentum on square-edges and successive steps, jumps were navigated with ship-like composure, and drops were absorbed with great support. That might be more attributable to my suspension setup and choice, but not once did I feel like I was going to bottom out, get bucked, or lose control in jumps or fast, steep technical lines. I knew the Meta had my back whatever the situation would bring, and I often found myself pushing harder to try to find its limits. One thing is for sure: I did not even come close to reaching them.

With the seat slid all the way to the front, the seat tube angle gets a tiny bit steeper while shortening the virtual top tube a bit. Both effects were planned and totally perfect for me.

I have found the longer-than-I-was-used-to bike a bit more work to manual over stuff, but for me it was a positive tradeoff as it made the bike stable on jumps and fast sections, which is where I try to improve. Getting airborne on mid-sized jumps was effortless and confidence inspiring. Maybe it was the poppy nature of the DVO Jade X coil shock, but unlike most reviews I’ve read, I found the Meta easy to lift over small obstacles and smaller features. I’d be curious to see what a longer chain stay would do, but I think that the bike’s playfulness can be also attributed in good part to the short chain stays. The trend is to have longer, more balanced-with-the-longer-front-end chain stay lengths, but while they have updated almost every other measurement on the frame, Commencal decided to keep the 433mm chain stays on the 2021 model. If their successful enduro team riders haven’t asked for longer on the 2021 redesign, it probably means that they have found a nice balance.

I don’t ride bike parks much, but there are still a few brake-fade inducing trails around here, and there was a lot of threshold left before the Meta would be clipping the meters. Knowing that the bike has more headroom is an awesome feeling for those who want to push their skills and go faster, or just those who need a bit of a confidence boost. As I have discovered, shorter travel bikes are cool until you’re always riding at the bike’s limits, and I don’t mind pedaling a bigger bike even on longer distances if it means that I have more confidence and room for error. Especially on longer rides where one gets tired after a long day in the saddle.

47km rides on a 37lbs coil-sprung Meta AM? Sure, but maybe not everyday!

Conclusion

This bike couldn’t come at a better time in my riding, as I’ve had a few scary moments last year that dropped my riding confidence quite a bit. Everything came back up this summer and I’ve had my best riding season ever thanks in great part to the Meta AM.

Durability seems to be very good so far and it is backed with a 5-year warranty if something happens. Commencal also sell replacement axles, bolts, clevises and most other frame parts on their website should you need something. With regular maintenance, I am confident that it will last through the upcoming seasons without hiccups. I am a very meticulous mechanic and take care of my bike like if it was the last one I’d ever get, but the Meta and all its hardware are built sturdy enough to survive any kind of riders or mechanics.

All in all, I was truly amazed by the Meta AM’s performance, and I did not expect it to deliver that much even if my expectations were high. When going fast on known or unknown trails, I never felt on the edge of losing it, and I could trust the frame to have my back in the situations where I was riding a bit over my abilities. We’ll see what the market brings when I replace this frame in a few years, but Commencal seem to be on the right track to keep me as a customer with the experience I’ve had and the way their new bikes are evolving!

Thanks to Commencal for making this awesome bike!


Specifications

Product Commencal Meta AM 29 2019 Frame
Riding Type Enduro / All-Mountain
Rider Unisex
Sizes and Geometry
S, M, L, XL View Geometry
Size S M L XL
Top Tube Length 563mm 586mm 619mm 634mm
Head Tube Angle 65.5° 65.5° 65.5° 65.5°
Head Tube Length 105mm 110mm 115mm 120mm
Seat Tube Angle 66° 66° 66° 66°
Seat Tube Length 400mm 440mm 465mm 495mm
Bottom Bracket Height -25mm drop -25mm drop -25mm drop -25mm drop
Chainstay Length 432mm 432mm 432mm 432mm
Wheelbase 1173mm 1197mm 1222mm 1283mm
Standover N/A N/A N/A N/A
Reach 413mm 435mm 460mm 480mm
Stack N/A N/A N/A N/A
Wheel Size 29"
Frame Material Aluminum
Frame Material Details NEC and Ultra SL aluminium 6066 triple butted with internal cable routing and built in chainstay, downtube and seatstay protection
Rear Travel 160mm
Rear Shock Metric standard, 230mm x 60mm
Head Tube Diameter Tapered 1-1/8" / 1-1/2"
ZS44 / ZS56
Bottom Bracket Press Fit BB92
Rear Dropout / Hub Dimensions Boost, 12mm x 148mm
Front Derailleur Size None
Seatpost Diameter 31.6mm
Max Tire Size 70mm
ISCG Tabs ISCG05
Bottle Cage Mounts No
Colors 2019: Grey/Burgundy or Brushed
2020: Grey, Blue, Orange, or Worlds Edition Pearl White/Platinum Grey
Warranty 5 year
Weight N/A
Miscellaneous Model year 2019 and 2020
Internal cable routing
Piggyback shock compatible
Price $1,299
More Info

Commencal USA website

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