There are some bikes that just seem to leave a mark burned in your brain, even years after riding them. That was the case for the Commencal Meta when I rode it back in 2017. I know what you’re thinking: How can a 5-year-old bike influence what you want to ride today? Well, it was silver, and super shiny, and sexy. I’m kidding—kind of.
The Meta I rode back in ’17 had an unforgettable personality. It felt burly but rode precisely, and seemed downright indestructible. I only had a week on that bike, and from the first drop-in, it felt like ‘my bike’—I was instantly up to speed. There was no learning curve or getting-to-know-you period, just full gas from the word go. And did I mention it was silver?
Fast-forward to 2021, the massive pandemic parts shortage seemed to shift my thinking of what kind of bike made sense in this moment. I’ve ridden more bikes than I can count over the last couple years that could easily be on my Dream Build short list. But I kept coming back to that feeling of an indestructible trail weapon that could weather the storm. One small problem: I hadn’t ridden the new Commencal Meta TR. I was pulling the trigger on a feeling that this legacy model left on me nearly five years ago. Talk about making a lasting impression, eh?
I wasn’t going in totally blind though. The geometry on the new Commencal Meta TR is right in the sweet spot of what I’ve gravitated toward over the last year, with a roomy reach of 490mm on a size large. A steep 78.6-degree seat tube angle and relatively short 435mm chainstays, coupled with the 64.5-degree head angle, gives the bike that familiar feeling I was looking for: That full-gas-from-the-first-ride kind of feeling.
For the spec, there are some tried-and-true parts that were no-brainer for me. Of all the wheels I’ve ridden over the last number of years, Industry Nine’s have been at the top of the heap when it comes to reliability. I spent the three previous years on a set of Enduro 305 aluminum wheels. Three years! Let me be clear, I’m a middle-aged hack when it comes to line choice. Wheels just don’t seem to last under me. Those wheels, though, we’re impressively bombproof, so a fresh set of Enduro 305 rims laced to Hydra hubs was an obvious choice.
The Cane Creek eeWings may seem a little excessive in the midst of a global supply chain crisis, until you hear that these are the same set of cranks I put on my Transition Patrol Dream Build for Bike mag back in 2017. We polished them up and they look as good as new. It’s remarkable what this set of eeWings has been through, and even after five hard seasons of riding I can’t see them skipping a beat for years to come. Could these be the last cranks I ever run on a personal bike? At this rate, it’s not impossible.
The goal for the remaining drivetrain parts on this bike was simplicity. Skeptics may argue that SRAM’s AXS system adds complexity, but I manage to get out the door for every ride with a charged phone and Air Pods, so you’ll never convince me that a couple more batteries in my life are going to cause any grief. Perfect shifts every time and a speedy dropper return are all I want on any bike, and AXS has yet to skip a beat. An XO cassette and XX1 chain round out the shifty bits.
I’m a sucker for coil-sprung trail bikes. It’s not that I’m opposed to running an air shock, but on a shorter-travel trail bike, the coil shock just has a way of unlocking the secret codes on the trail for me. The EXT Storia Lok V3 has been magic on this 140mm travel frame. It will admit that it took me a bit longer to find the sweet spot with my settings, and yes having to use a 12 mm wrench to adjust the high-speed compression was not ideal, but once you nail the set-up, the performance is so worth it. The rear wheel traction is remarkable and completely unmatched.
And up front, the EXT Era has, not surprisingly, been a perfect match. The Era has two separate positive air spring chambers for much better spring curve control than tokens, without the pain of needing to have tokens. And there’s not another fork that feels so simultaneously supportive and supple. It’s a feeling I didn’t know existed until riding the Era. The Meta TR can run either a 150 or 160mm fork, and for my riding style, I opted for 160.
I’m enamored with the TRP EVO DH brakes. They have the light lever touch I love about Shimano brakes with the modulation of the SRAM Codes. And the power is second to none. 203mm rotors front and rear are probably more than I need, but back to the point of being a middle-aged hack, I wouldn’t say braking is always the most precise and calculated exercise. Sometimes I just need to grab a buttload of brake, and these stoppers never let me down.
Bits and Bobs
The Chromag OSX bars and Ranger stem are a classic pairing. I’ve run this combo on so many different bikes over the years and it never disappoints. The 31.8 clamp diameter takes the edge off and has a touch more compliance that the 35mm offerings. The polished look was really the only choice for this build.
No matter what era of my riding career we’re talking about a Chris King headset has been a no hassle high performer. Parts that you never have to think about are best. Much like the eeWings from my previous bike the King headset on that rig was only at the beginning of its life. Five years in and it felt as smooth as the day I installed it. If doing it right, once, is the goal I’m always going to choose a King headset for any fresh build.
Rounding things out for touchpoints, I chose a Chromag Trailmaster LTD leather seat because it’s incredibly comfortable and durable, DMR Deathgrips because they do a pretty good job of matching the seat, and I love the feel of them, Crankbrothers Stamp pedals because they’re my favorite, and a Lezyne sliver CNC Cage AL bottle cage because it perfectly matches the bike’s aesthetic. Finally, the whole thing is rolling on Schwalbe Nobby Nic rubber. Normally I’d go for something a bit more burly, but since this is still a trail bike, I chose the middle ground on tires, hoping they’d complement the Meta TR’s quicker, snappier nature.
I’m now a solid seven months into my time on this alloy Dream Build and my hopes about it’s burly-yet-precise personality have delivered on every front. It’s quick and efficient enough that I can pick my way through technical trail, but rugged enough to let it loose to smash rowdy descents. The fact that I have zero carbon fiber on it makes it a tough workhorse that I don’t have to baby, and the blindingly polished finish makes it perhaps the most gorgeous bike I’ve owned.
For more, watch Beta’s own Ryan Palmer meticulously build my dream machine here.
Watch the full build come together HERE.
Photos: Anthony Smith