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Commencal Meta HT AM Essential Review

An aggressive yet unapologetically fun and playful 27.5+ hardtail that is a blast to ride on a huge range of terrain
Commencal Meta HT AM Essential
Photo: Laura Casner
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $1,999 List
Pros:  Solid value, mostly well spec'd, versatile geometry, 27.5-inch wheels help keep it maneuverable and playful
Cons:  A little bland on mellow trails, SRAM SX Eagle drivetrain
Manufacturer:   Commencal
By Jeremy Benson, Joshua Hutchens  ⋅  Apr 21, 2021
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84
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#2 of 8
  • Fun Factor - 25% 9
  • Downhill - 30% 9
  • Climbing - 30% 7
  • Build - 15% 9

Our Verdict

The Commencal Meta HT AM Essential is one of the most fun hardtails we've ever tested. This bike handles whatever you throw at it, and is a blast to ride on flow trails and aggressive terrain. Its geometry is modern yet moderate, and its 27.5+ wheels and tires help to keep things lively and maneuverable. It clearly isn't an ultra-fast XC bike, but it still feels plenty efficient on the climbs. Commencal's consumer-direct sales model brings lots of value to the table and the Essential build we tested is pretty well dialed for the price. If you're looking for a fun-loving and hard-charging hardtail that'll put a smile on your face, check out the Meta HT AM.

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Awards Top Pick Award Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Top Pick Award  
Price $1,999 List$2,150 List$1,899 List$2,579 List$2,099 List
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Pros Solid value, mostly well spec'd, versatile geometry, 27.5-inch wheels help keep it maneuverable and playfulHigh value, fun on a wide range of terrain, dialed geometryAggressive geometry, built to last, killer tiresSwift climbing, sharp handling, excellent valueAggressive geometry, fast and stable, Deore 12-speed drivetrain
Cons A little bland on mellow trails, SRAM SX Eagle drivetrainPoor fork specification, less compliant frame compared to outgoing modelMay be overkill for riders/trails, sluggish in tight spacesNot as fun on rough trails, 11-speed drivetrainSeveral notable weak points of the build, aggressive geometry feels a little out of place on mellow terrain
Bottom Line With 27.5"+ tires and a moderately aggressive modern geometry, this bike is a total fun hogA well-rounded hardtail that blends solid value with stellar performance in most situationsA mean and aggressive hardtail with an appetite for high speeds and steep trailsA slick-climbing hardtail mountain bike that is ready for a cross country race but is happy thrashing flow trailsA hardcore hardtail made for aggressive riders and terrain that is slightly hamstrung by several weak points of its build
Rating Categories Meta HT AM Essential Specialized Fuse Expert 29 Rocky Mountain Growler 50 Ibis DV9 NX Norco Torrent A1 HT
Fun Factor (25%)
9
9
8
8
8
Downhill (30%)
9
9
10
7
9
Climbing (30%)
7
8
7
9
7
Build (15%)
9
8
7
8
7
Specs Meta HT AM Essential Specialized Fuse... Rocky Mountain... Ibis DV9 NX Norco Torrent A1 HT
Wheel Size 27.5"+ 29" 29" 29" 29"
Weight (w/o pedals) 30 lbs 4 oz 29 lbs 14 oz 31 lbs 3 oz 26 lbs 8 oz 31 lbs
Frame Material Aluminum Aluminum Aluminum Carbon Aluminum
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 Fox Float Rhythm 34 RockShox 35 Gold RL
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 Ibis Hubs, Ibis 938 Alloy rims Stans Flow D rims with Shimano hubs
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 2.6" Schwalbe Hans Dampf 2.35"
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 Nobby Nic 2.6" Schwalbe Hans Dampf 2.35"
Shifters SRAM SX Eagke SRAM NX Eagle SRAM NX Eagle SRAM NX 11-speed Shimano Deore M6100 12-speed
Rear Derailleur SRAM SX Eagle SRAM NX Eagle SRAM GX Eagle 12-speed SRAM NX 11-Speed Shimano Deore M6100 12-speed
Crankset SRAM X1 1000 Eagle, 170mm SRAM NX Eagle DUB SRAM SX Eagle 30T SRAM NX 30T Shimano Deore 32T
Bottom Bracket SRAM DUB Threaded SRAM DUB Threaded SRAM BSA DUB SRAM GXP XR Shimano BSA Threaded
Cassette SRAM PG-1210 11-50T SRAM NX 11-50T SRAM PG-1210 11-50T SRAM PG 1130 11-42T Shimano Deore 12-speed 10-51T
Saddle Fabric Scoop Flat Sport Specialized Bridge Comp WTB Volt Race 142 WTB Silverado 142 Fi:zi'k Taiga
Seatpost KS Rage-I TranzX dropper 150mm travel 34.9mm diameter Rocky Mountain Toonie Drop KS E30i Dropper Tranz-X YSP18 150mm
Handlebar Ride Alpha R27 Specialized Stout Riser 780mm Rocky Mountain AM 780mm Ibis 780mm Alloy 6061 Alloy, 800mm, 18mm rise
Stem Ride Alpha Freeride 40 Specialized Stout Rocky Mountain 35 AM Ibis 6061 Alloy, 50mm, 35mm clamp
Brakes SRAM Guide T 4-piston SRAM Level TRL Shimano MT420 4-piston front, MT400 2-piston rear SRAM Level Shimano MT420 4-piston
Grips Ride Alpha DH Specialized Trail Rocky Mountain Lock-on Light Lizard Skins Charger Evo VP Lock-on
Warranty Five Years Lifetime Five Years Seven Years Five Year Limited

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Meta HT AM is a do-anything hardtail that is a blast to ride in...
The Meta HT AM is a do-anything hardtail that is a blast to ride in most situations.
Photo: Laura Casner

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.

A high fun factor combined with confidence-inspiring downhill...
A high fun factor combined with confidence-inspiring downhill performance makes the Meta HT AM one of our favorite hardtails.
Photo: Laura Casner

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.

Yup, it's a hardtail. We loved the gun metal finish of our test bike.
Yup, it's a hardtail. We loved the gun metal finish of our test bike.
Photo: Laura Casner

Frame Design


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.

We took the Meta HT into terrain where you wouldn't normally want to...
We took the Meta HT into terrain where you wouldn't normally want to ride most hardtails.
Photo: Laura Casner

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.

Design Highlights

  • 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

Whether you want to play your way down the hill or charge down...
Whether you want to play your way down the hill or charge down something aggressive, the Meta HT AM has you covered.
Photo: Laura Casner

Downhill Performance


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.

It likes the fall line, but it's a highly maneuverable bike that is...
It likes the fall line, but it's a highly maneuverable bike that is easy to whip around.
Photo: Laura Casner

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 is a pretty solid climber. Not the most efficient...
The Meta HT AM is a pretty solid climber. Not the most efficient, but we doubt the potential buyers of this playful trail slayer will mind too much.
Photo: Laura Casner

Climbing Performance


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 considering attempting before.

Prepping for battle on a tough technical uphill aboard the Meta HT AM.
Prepping for battle on a tough technical uphill aboard the Meta HT AM.
Photo: Laura Casner

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.

Chunky rock gardens, flow trails, you name it and the Meta HT felt...
Chunky rock gardens, flow trails, you name it and the Meta HT felt right at home.
Photo: Laura Casner

Photo Tour


Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
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Value


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.

Conclusion


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.

Our testers fell in love with the Meta HT AM, this bike was really a...
Our testers fell in love with the Meta HT AM, this bike was really a hoot to ride just about everywhere.
Photo: Laura Casner

Other Versions


Commencal makes 4 different builds of the Meta HT AM including the Essential version we tested. The top of the line model is the Meta HT AM Race 29, $2,299, which comes with 29-inch wheels and tires. It also comes with a beefy Fox 36 Performance fork, a Shimano Deore 12-speed drivetrain and brakes, and Maxxis Dissector tires.

The Meta HT AM Ride, $1,599, is a step below the Essential build we tested, and it comes with a RockShox 35 Gold fork and e*13 wheels, but it does not come with a dropper post.

The base model is the Meta HT AM Origin, $1,299, that comes with a RockShox 35 Silver fork, a 10-speed Shimano Deore drivetrain, Tektro disc brakes, e*13 wheels, but does not come with a dropper post.

Jeremy Benson, Joshua Hutchens