Commencal Meta TR 29 2019 Review
Cons: NX Eagle, Semi-slick rear tire, very heavy
Our Analysis and Test Results
Should I Buy This Bike?
The Meta TR 29 is a stout and capable trail bike that delivers impressive performance and stellar components at a respectable price point. In other words, it has a whole lot going for it. There are certainly lighter frames and more sophisticated suspension designs available. That said, aluminum is making a comeback in recent years due to its durable nature and its ability to be recycled. The Commencal is a perfect bike for the trail rider seeking a mid-travel bike with an aggressive attitude. This bicycle can be ridden harder than you'd expect from a 130mm travel bike and is clearly influenced by its big brother, the Meta AM 29. Those who prioritize effortless climbing and huge rides should look elsewhere. While the Meta TR sets you up in an excellent climbing position, it is heavy and it can wear you down over several hours.
Like the idea of a ripping consumer-direct bike but don't want to spend that much? The YT Jeffsy Base is a 150mm trail shredder. The Jeffsy offers a somewhat lighter climbing feel and more well-rounded performance. Downhill performance is a touch less aggressive compared to the Meta TR 29 due to its more aggressive geometry and burlier shock. The Jeffsy is a touch heavier, although it sells for $1500 less with a retail price of $2299. This is an incredible value for a versatile and well-rounded trail bike.
Got a little extra cash laying around? The all-new Yeti SB130 is one of the best trail bikes available. This 130mm 29er has reasonably close geometry numbers compared to the Commencal, but weighs about three pounds less and has an incredible climbing motion. The Yeti is a tremendous climber making it a great option for long days in the saddle. Downhill performance is also impressive and it can thrash hard on a lot of trails. Does this sound perfect? Are you thinking there must be a catch? Well, our test bike retails for $7,199 and the entry-level builds for $5,199. Yes, it is expensive. If you're really hard on bikes and don't need the best-of-the-best, the aluminum Meta TR 29 can take a beating better than the carbon Yeti and still delivers excellent performance.
The Meta TR 29 features an entirely different frame design from the 27.5-inch Meta TR 27. This squishy bicycle uses the tried and true four-bar suspension design. The four-bar system is simple, reliable, and effective and boasts excellent bump compliance and high levels of design freedom. The main downside of four-bars suspension is its reliance on the shock's climb switch for bob-free climbing.
As soon as we removed the Meta TR from its box, we were struck by the construction of the frame. This aluminum bruiser is built to last. The top tube is super broad and burly and the oversized welds look tough and durable. In addition, the suspension linkage is quite hefty. All of this certainly adds some weight, but there is no doubt this frame can withstand some hard riding. This is a high compliment.
We measured our large test bike and found a 632mm effective top tube and 471mm reach. The chainstays measure 436mm and the bottom bracket is 327mm off the ground. The 65.9-degree head tube angle works to create a 1220mm wheelbase. The seat tube angle is 76.2-degrees. Our bike hit the scales at 32 lbs 9 oz set up tubeless without pedals.
-130mm of rear wheel travel, designed around 140mm fork
-British Edition features 150mm fork
-29-inch wheels only
-Press fit bottom bracket
-Available in aluminum only.
-Available in Small-Extra Large frames.
The Meta TR 29 shreds harder than 130mm trail bikes in the days of yore. This aluminum bicycle has dialed geometry that is long and slack enough to feel stable without feeling too bulky and clumsy on tame trails. In other words, this bike works well on a ton of trails. It is not a point-and-shoot enduro bike that plows through chunder, but it is surprisingly confident when the going gets rough. The component grouping has some highlights but the narrow rubber leaves something to be desired.
The measured 65.9-degree head tube angle and 1222mm wheelbase is on the longer and slacker side of the spectrum for a 130mm 29er. That said, this semi-aggressive geometry is becoming more and more prevalent and it works well. You can be confident aiming this bike down some substantial chunk if you use a touch of finesse. The TR is also comfortable thrashing and carvings its way down fast flow trails. Moral of the story? This bike slays a big range of downhills save for true enduro-worthy gnar.
The four-bar rear suspension paired with the RockShox Super Deluxe RCT works well. It sucks up the small bumps with composure and stands up well to the bigg(er) hits. The rear end is plush and one tester described the Meta TR 29 as having "big bike DNA". Riders who are looking for a trail bike to ride rougher trails, but don't want a full-blown enduro bike, will love the Commencal. This term may be overused and played out, but the Meta TR 29 feels like a downhiller's trail bike. While this bike slays fast and flowy trails, riders who ride a lot of smooth, rolling, and meandering downhills may want to look elsewhere. The sheer mass of this portly bicycle and slacker geometry can feel like overkill on tame trails.
The Meta TR has an obvious preference for high speeds and handling only improves the faster you go. Given its nearly 33 pounds of bulk and longer wheelbase, slow speed handling can feel a little cumbersome. Once you have a head of steam, handling is crisp and this bicycle responds to minimal rider input. It is hard to describe this bike as especially playful, but it does what it's told. The combination of the 2.35 Schwalbe Hans Dampf front tire and 2.35 Rock Razor rear is a bit of a head-scratcher. While they hooked up well enough, it's 2019 and this bike would only benefit from wider rubber to enhance traction and add some damping.
The component grouping delivers largely impressive downhill performance. The 140mm RockShox Pike works very well. While a Pike may not be as flashy as a Fox 36, it is impressive and reliable. The Super Deluxe RCT was a very pleasant surprise. Testing bikes can require a lot of tweaking of suspension settings, the Super Deluxe has extremely easy to use rebound and low-speed compression dials that don't require tools. The SRAM Guide R brakes get the job done. The 150mm KS Lev dropper post stays out of your way, but it would be nice to see a longer travel post on this bike. It should be noted that the extra large frame size comes with a 170mm dropper.
The Meta TR 29 is a surprisingly capable climber despite its weight and burly design. The suspension design benefits greatly from the use of the climb switch where it delivers the smoothest and calmest feel. The geometry sets you up in a nice position to grind it out while the NX Eagle drivetrain gives you a nice 50-tooth granny gear and shifting is okay.
The Commencal sets you up in an efficient position to work your way up the hill. The measured 76.2-degree seat tube angle follows the industry trend of steepening seat tubes. This puts the rider in a nice position on top of the bottom bracket which improves pedaling efficiency. Having your hips straight on top of the cranks allows you deliver power more effectively. Previously, aggressive and semi-aggressive bikes had far slacker seat tube angles that position you behind the bottom bracket and make it feel like your cranks are out in front of your hips. The 471mm reach measurement is nice, but not quite as spacious as one might think. The steeper seat tube angle makes the effective reach feel smaller as the rider is shifted closer to the bottom bracket. Conversely, slacker seat tube angles make bikes feel more spacious. Still, the Meta TR has a comfortable cockpit. Riders taller than 6'1" might want to consider the extra large frame.
As with many four-bar suspension designs, the Commencal relies on the shock's climb switch for its efficiency. When you leave the shock in the open position, there is noticeable suspension bob. This is especially noticeable when you are out of the saddle punching up a steep climb. Using the climb switch on the Super Deluxe RCT virtually eliminates the bob which improves pure efficiency. Things get a little muddy on technical climbs where leaving the shock open drastically improves climbing traction and the pedal bob is a worthy tradeoff.
The specification of the 2.35-inch Schwalbe Rock Razor really hurt this bike on technical or slippery climbs. The Rock Razor is a semi-slick tire that has reasonably aggressive shoulder knobs and very small, fast rolling knobs in the center of the tread. This lends itself to nice rolling speed and efficiency. The downside is that it can be crippling in slippery conditions or on technical climbs. When you are standing up to punch up and over an obstacle, this tire simply does not instill confidence that it will hook up. When leaning forward to put some power down, the Rock Razor has a tendency to spin on you, especially in wet conditions.
The Meta TR has a very stout rear end. The seat and chainstays have a wide stance and protrude outward more than most bikes. This caused testers to hit the seat and chainstays with the heels of their size 11.5 and 10.0 shoes. After a few rides, it is easy to make adjustments to avoid contact. There is a lot of discussion on internet forums about this phenomenon. We did experience this issue but it was by no means crippling and was tuned out quickly with a subconscious adjustment.
There is no question 32.5 pounds is heavy for a short-mid travel trail bike. Some of that weight can be attributed to the NX Eagle drivetrain but is counteracted by the narrow and light tires. You can feel the heft of this bicycle, particularly when accelerating or negotiating a technical pitch. The Meta TR 29 is not the best choice for riders looking to do all-day epic or marathon rides. Bikes like the Yeti SB130, Ibis Ripley or Specialized Stumpjumper ST are far better choices for huge rides. The Commencal is a capable and reasonably efficient mid-travel trail bike, but it prefers shredding downhill rather than climbing for hours on end.
The component grouping got the job done on the ascent. That said, the Schwalbe Rock Razor is a poor specification. A rear tire that delivers better traction punching up a slippery problem would go a long way to improving performance. This of course, might be a non-issue if you live in dry areas absent of loose or techy climbs. We have tested a few bikes with a SRAM NX Eagle drivetrain. It is nice to see 12-speed drivetrains on relatively affordable bikes. That said, it feels like the budget, entry-level, drivetrain that it is. The shifting was inconsistent and we found ourselves adjusting the derailleur frequently. Also, this drivetrain is very heavy. We at OutdoorGearLab are not weight-weenies, but the 615-gram cassette is 165-grams, nearly a half pound, heavier than a GX Eagle cassette. It would be interesting to see how a nicer, lighter, 11-speed drivetrain would effect this bike rather than running a cheap 12-speed setup.
At $3599, it is easy to call the Meta Trail 29 Race a strong value. This bike shreds hard downhill, delivers stellar climbing abilities and features a fork and shock typically reserved for far more expensive bicycles. In addition, the burly aluminum frame, despite its weight, is built to last.
You can spend a similar amount of money to get a lighter carbon frame with inferior components or spend twice as much for a high-end, boutique, bicycle. Or, you could just shred the Commencal into the ground and save your pennies for riding trips.
The all-new Commencal Meta TR 29 gets a big thumbs up from OutdoorGearLab. The geometry is quite similar to what you will find on a cutting-edge boutique trail bike like the Yeti SB130 but the Meta TR uses a simple and reliable suspension design and a sturdy metal frame. Oh yeah, and it costs thousands of dollars less. The Commencal delivers shreddy downhill performance and reliable climbing performance at an attractive price point.
— Pat Donahue, Joshua Hutchens