Commencal Meta HT AM Essential Review
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Commencal Meta HT AM Essential
|Price||$1,999 List||$2,150 List||$1,899 List||$2,099 List||$2,499 List|
|Pros||Solid value, mostly well spec'd, versatile geometry, 27.5-inch wheels help keep it maneuverable and playful||High value, fun on a wide range of terrain, dialed geometry||Aggressive geometry, built to last, killer tires||Aggressive geometry, fast and stable, Deore 12-speed drivetrain||Easy-going geometry, exceptionally versatile, killer drivetrain|
|Cons||A little bland on mellow trails, SRAM SX Eagle drivetrain||Poor fork specification, less compliant frame compared to outgoing model||May be overkill for riders/trails, sluggish in tight spaces||Several notable weak points of the build, aggressive geometry feels a little out of place on mellow terrain||Heavy, weak tire specification|
|Bottom Line||An aggressive yet unapologetically fun and playful 27.5+ hardtail that is a blast to ride on a huge range of terrain||A stellar hardtail that is tremendously fun, versatile, and a solid value||An aggressive hardtail with the DNA of an enduro bike that comes alive as speeds increase||A hardcore hardtail that craves speed and aggressive terrain but is held back by some weak parts of its build||A supremely versatile hardtail that serves as a killer adventure rig and decent trail bike|
|Rating Categories||Commencal Meta HT A...||Specialized Fuse Ex...||Rocky Mountain Grow...||Norco Torrent A1 HT||Marin Pine Mountain 2|
|Fun Factor (25%)|
|Specs||Commencal Meta HT A...||Specialized Fuse Ex...||Rocky Mountain Grow...||Norco Torrent A1 HT||Marin Pine Mountain 2|
|Weight (w/o pedals)||30 lbs 4 oz||29 lbs 14 oz||31 lbs 3 oz||31 lbs||33 lbs 15 oz|
|Frame Size Tested||Large||Large||Large||Large||Large|
|Available Sizes||S, M, L, XL||XS, S, M, L, XL||S, M, L, XL||S, M, L, XL||S, M, L, XL|
|Fork||RockShox Yari RC, 160mm||RockShox 35 Gold RL, 130mm||RockShox 35 Gold RL||RockShox 35 Gold RL||RockShox FS 35 120mm|
|Wheelset||Spank Oozy 395+ rims with Formula hubs||Specialized Stout Alloy SL, 29mm ID||WTB ST i30 TCS 2.0 rims with Shimano MT400 hubs||Stans Flow D rims with Shimano hubs||Alloy Doublewall rims w/ Shimano and Alloy hubs, 32mm ID|
|Front Tire||Maxxis High Roller II EXO, 27.5" x 2.8"||Specialized Butcher Grid, Gripton, 2.6"||WTB Vigilante TCS Light High Grip 2.6"||Schwalbe Hans Dampf 2.35"||Vee Tire Flow Snap 2.6"|
|Rear Tire||Maxxis Rekon EXO, 27.5 x 2.8"||Specialized Purgatory Grid, Gripton, 2.6"||WTB TrailBoss TCS Light Fast Rolling 2.6"||Schwalbe Hans Dampf 2.35"||Vee Tire Co Flow Snap 2.6"|
|Shifters||SRAM SX Eagke||SRAM NX Eagle||SRAM NX Eagle||Shimano Deore M6100 12-speed||Shimano SLX 12-speed|
|Rear Derailleur||SRAM SX Eagle||SRAM NX Eagle||SRAM GX Eagle 12-speed||Shimano Deore M6100 12-speed||Shimano SLX 12-speed|
|Crankset||SRAM X1 1000 Eagle, 170mm||SRAM NX Eagle DUB||SRAM SX Eagle 30T||Shimano Deore 32T||FSA Grid 32T|
|Bottom Bracket||SRAM DUB Threaded||SRAM DUB Threaded||SRAM BSA DUB||Shimano BSA Threaded||FSA Outboard|
|Cassette||SRAM PG-1210 11-50T||SRAM NX 11-50T||SRAM PG-1210 11-50T||Shimano Deore 12-speed 10-51T||Shimano SLX M7100 12-speed, 10-51T|
|Saddle||Fabric Scoop Flat Sport||Specialized Bridge Comp||WTB Volt Race 142||Fi:zi'k Taiga||Marin Pine Mountain Trail|
|Seatpost||KS Rage-I||TranzX dropper 150mm travel 34.9mm diameter||Rocky Mountain Toonie Drop||Tranz-X YSP18 150mm||TranzX Dropper, 150mm|
|Handlebar||Ride Alpha R27||Specialized Stout Riser 780mm||Rocky Mountain AM 780mm||6061 Alloy, 800mm, 18mm rise||Marin Pine Mountain Trail Bar, 50mm rise, 780mm width|
|Stem||Ride Alpha Freeride 40||Specialized Stout||Rocky Mountain 35 AM||6061 Alloy, 50mm, 35mm clamp||Marin 3D Forged Alloy|
|Brakes||SRAM Guide T 4-piston||SRAM Level TRL||Shimano MT420 4-piston front, MT400 2-piston rear||Shimano MT420 4-piston||Shimano MT520 4-piston front/MT500 2-piston rear|
|Grips||Ride Alpha DH||Specialized Trail||Rocky Mountain Lock-on Light||VP Lock-on||Marin Bear Paw Locking|
|Warranty||Five Years||Lifetime||Five Years||Five Year Limited||Lifetime|
Our Analysis and Test Results
Like virtually all bikes in the current market, the price of the Commencal Meta HT AM Essential has gone up a bit since testing. The build remains nearly identical, although it now comes with Maxxis Dissector tires front and rear and the retail price is now $2,400. -June 2022
Should I Buy This Bike?
If you're looking for a playful yet hard-charging hardtail to add to your bike quiver, or a low-maintenance daily driver, the Commencal Meta HT AM Essential is a great option to consider. Our testers agreed, this bike is a ripper that charges hard in aggressive terrain, yet feels sporty and nimble when you want it to. A modern 65-degree head tube angle provides stability at speed and confidence in steep and rough terrain. A moderate-length wheelbase, reach, and chainstays combine with 27.5-inch wheels to keep the bike easily maneuverable, flickable, and fun-loving. Girthy 2.8-inch wide tires help to dampen the ride and provide loads of climbing and cornering traction. The 74-degree seat tube angle is steep enough for a hardtail, and this bike is a comfortable and relatively efficient climber that seems to encourage you to get out of the saddle and give it. Given its somewhat aggressive geometry, 27.5-inch wheels with wide tires, and moderately heavy weight, it's not the zippiest bike and it feels a little boring on mellow terrain. That said, we were usually having too much fun to care, and this definitely isn't an XC hardtail. For the price, the Essential build we tested is mostly great and helps give this bike a solid and confidence-inspiring feel, and the Gun Metal color we tested is an absolute stunner. It also comes in a few different builds for those looking to go a little lower or higher end.
If you're looking for a hardcore hardtail, we've tested a couple other bikes that fall into that category. Both the Rocky Mountain Growler 50 and the Norco Torrent A1 are aggressive hardtails with enduro bike geometry. Both bikes roll on 29-inch wheels and are significantly longer, 30+ mm in reach and wheelbase, and slacker, by a full degree, than the Meta HT AM in the same frame size. In fact, you'd need to size up the frame in the Commencal to match the length of the Torrent or Growler. Both the Rocky Mountain and Norco are a blast to ride, and they cater to aggressive riders who want to go fast and tackle rowdy descents. Neither bike can quite match the playfulness and agility of the smaller wheeled Meta, but they handle speed and steeps a bit better. Another difference is in price, as the consumer-direct Commencal costs slightly less and comes with nicer components.
The Meta HT AM frame is crafted from triple-butted 6061 alloy tubes. It has clean lines and we think the polished Gun Metal finish of our test bike looks absolutely fantastic. It has internal cable routing, molded chainstay protection, and one bottle cage mount within the front triangle. It comes with a threaded bottom bracket for simplicity, and the rear axle has boost spacing. The frame has ample clearance, with room to spare, for the 2.8-inch wide tires that come spec'd on the bike. It comes in 4 sizes, small to extra large.
Commencal includes their Meta HT AM models in their range of enduro bikes, and they've given it a moderate yet slightly aggressive geometry. A few years ago, this geometry was more groundbreaking, but now it seems almost tame compared to some of the more extreme hardcore hardtails on the market. That said, we feel it occupies a comfortable middle ground where it still slays the descents and maintains a playful and nimble character. We measured our size large test bike and found it had a 65-degree head tube angle and a 74-degree seat tube angle. The effective top tube length was 628mm with a moderate 445mm reach and a 1,205mm long wheelbase. The chainstays/rear center measured 432mm long with a 315mm bottom bracket height. Our test bike weighed 30 lbs and 3 oz set up tubeless without pedals. For riders who prefer a longer reach and wheelbase, comparable to the Rocky Mountain Growler or the Norco Torrent, we'd recommend moving up a frame size.
- Aluminum frame
- 27.5-inch wheels and plus-sized tires
- 160mm travel fork
- Internal cable routing
- Molded chainstay protection
- Comes in 4 builds with 27.5-inch wheels from $1,299 to $1,999.
- Race build comes with 29-inch wheels for $2,299
The Meta HT AM is a standout on the descents. Commencal has successfully created a hardtail bike with 160mm of front suspension that can charge hard in virtually any terrain, yet it remains agile with a playful demeanor. This bike loves pumping whoops and popping side hits, is relatively comfortable at speed, and charges down terrain that would be terrifying on most other hardtails. The Essential build we tested is mostly dialed and helps give this bike a sturdy and confidence-inspiring feel.
The Meta HT AM has an interesting geometry that ticks some of the modern geometry boxes but is kinda short in terms of reach and wheelbase by today's standards, especially compared to a bike like the Norco Torrent, for example. That said, this bike's moderate reach and wheelbase are the main reason why it's so maneuverable and playful. It may sacrifice a little stability and all-out speed as a result, but with 27.5-inch wheels and plus-sized tires, this bike clearly isn't intended to be a speed machine anyway. For the most part, the Meta HT felt stable enough, but the reach did feel a tad short once up to eye-watering speeds. The 65-degree head tube angle is adequately slack to provide a confident front end when dropping into steep and rough terrain, yet isn't so slack that handling feels sluggish at lower speeds or in mellower terrain. The 27.5-inch wheels and moderate-length chainstays help to keep things feeling sporty, and it was easy to get the front wheel off the ground, whip the rear end around, or slap the rear wheel into corners. So, while it may not be the fastest on the descents, we feel Commencal did a fine job of balancing aggressiveness and playfulness to make this such a versatile bike.
One of the main factors that helped the Meta HT AM stand out on the descents was the Essential build we tested. While it's far from top-of-the-line, most of the important components are a little burlier than what you'll find on other bikes in this price range. The RockShox Yari fork has a beefy chassis, stanchions, and crown, and helps give the front end a sturdy feel, especially compared to the RockShox 35 forks found on several of the other bikes we tested. The Yari isn't the most tuneable fork out there, but you can actually make it feel pretty good. The 4-piston SRAM Guide T brakes leave a bit to be desired, but with a 200mm rotor up front and 180mm rotor in the rear, they actually handled the braking duties surprisingly well. The cockpit consists of a nice wide Ride Alpha alloy handlebar and short, stout Ride Alpha stem that provide responsive handling and plenty of steering leverage. The KS Rage-I dropper is nothing special, but it works well enough and the 170mm length on our Large bike was a nice touch. Spank's Oozy 395+ wheels have a 35mm inner width to work with plus-sized tires, and a comfortable, damp ride quality that helps balance the rigidity of a hardtail. The 2.8-inch wide Maxxis High Roller II in the front and the Maxxis Rekon in the rear is a versatile combo that works well in a range of conditions and provides even more damping to the ride. While these tires work just fine, we'd be inclined to swap them out for something a little narrower with a more aggressive tread. We didn't experiment with it, but both of our testers agreed that they'd like to try this bike in a mullet setup with a 29-inch wheel up front.
The Meta HT AM isn't the fastest or the most efficient climber, but it's still a hardtail, so it climbs pretty darn well. For whatever reason, our testers found they enjoyed attacking the climbs standing, but the seat tube angle felt perfect for grinding away the vert from the saddle too. The component specification comes together pretty well and helps to make the Meta HT a comfortable and capable climber.
At 30 lbs and 3 oz, the Meta HT AM is no featherweight, but it's far from being too heavy. The weight of this bike isn't particularly noticeable while climbing, but it certainly doesn't feel like a zippy, lightweight XC racer underneath you. That said, the 74-degree seat tube angle lines the rider up comfortably above the bottom bracket, and power transfer feels direct and efficient. With a moderate 445mm reach, the seated pedaling position is relatively upright and comfortable for grinding out the climbs. With a moderate length 1,205mm wheelbase and 432mm chainstays, the Meta HT doesn't feel like a monster truck. Instead, it's quite maneuverable, and tight, technical sections and uphill switchbacks are a breeze. We also found it can scramble up some pretty absurd inclines, and the front end didn't feel prone to wandering like it often does on longer and slacker bikes. In fact, one of our testers cleaned a steep technical section of trail that he'd never even considered attempting before.
With 27.5-inch wheels and girthy, plus-sized tires, the Meta HT AM inherently doesn't roll quite as swiftly as bikes with larger wheels. Those big ol' tires create a bit of drag, but they also have a huge contact patch and can be run at lower pressures to get heaps of climbing traction. The Maxxis Rekon that comes on the rear wheel has relatively low rolling resistance and hooks up well on firm dirt and rock, but falters a little in super loose conditions. The Fabric Scoop Flat Sport saddle proved to be surprisingly comfortable and pleasant for those long seated climbs. The SRAM SX Eagle 12-speed drivetrain is the least impressive aspect of the Essential build, but it provides a huge range and it worked better than SX has worked for us on other bikes.
We feel the Meta HT AM is a great value. Not only is this bike an absolute blast to ride, but Commencal's consumer-direct sales model means you get more bike for your money. The Essential build isn't perfect, but it's much nicer than what you'll find on comparably priced bikes from mainstream brands, and there's nothing that needs to be upgraded or replaced to go out and rip on this bike the way it was intended.
Whether you're looking to add to your quiver or you're searching for a playful and hard-charging hardtail, the Meta HT AM is one of the best we've tested. It sacrifices a bit in the efficiency department, but it more than makes up for it with its versatility and fun-loving attitude. While it wouldn't be our first choice for mellow trails or terrain, there was virtually no other situation where this bike didn't shine. Whether charging down steep and rough terrain or ripping a flow trail, the Meta HT AM didn't skip a beat and always brought a big old smile to our faces.
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