-160mm rear travel
-170mm front travel
-Simple, clean design
-Exceptionally confident descender
-Not as hovery through high-speed chunk as a modern high-pivot
-No carbon option
-Rear brake line exits chainstay close to rear rotor, increasing chance of melting the hose on the rotor (which happened on this bike)
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If you’re looking for an unpretentious, no-nonsense enduro basher, look no further than the Commencal Meta AM 29. On the other hand, if what you’re after is an efficient climber and balanced all-rounder, well, you’re also in the right place.
The Meta AM 29 does not employ fancy linkages, high pivots, or idler pulleys, yet this bike and its modest modified single pivot suspension somehow deliver a remarkably modern and sophisticated ride quality. It’s so good everywhere that it really begs the question: Are all these other bikes way over-engineered? After having spent some time on the Meta AM 29, I think my answer would be: Yes. Yes they are. What this bike does with such an elegantly uncomplicated design is pretty mind boggling. Its functional simplicity shouts directly in the face of the current trend of re-clusterfucking bike design like the 37-pound, all-metal middle finger it is.
You wouldn’t expect a big aluminum single pivot 160/170mm-travel 29er to defy gravity very well, but the Meta AM 29 is a surprisingly charismatic climber. These days, the list of bikes that absolutely require a shock lockout is pretty small, and the Meta AM isn’t on it. Sure, the shock’s pedaling platform helps on long climbs and prevents squatting on super steep pitches, but pedaling with the shock open, running 30 percent sag, is really quite efficient. The steep 78.5 degree seat tube angle keeps the rider’s weight far enough forward and there’s enough anti-squat built into the system to make this big beast of a bike manage tough climbs with relative ease.
Under heavy acceleration, the Commencal won’t lurch forward quite like a Pivot or Yeti, but it’s still very responsive. The rear wheel digs in and finds traction when pedaling up and over sketchy root mounds or ledgy rock faces, without the inefficient, boggy feeling I honestly expected it to have. This is by no means the lightest or most efficient bike at my disposal, but I don’t hesitate bringing on rides that include long, steep slogs. Especially when those slogs wind up at the top of a ripping descent.
If the Meta AM 29 seems good at the thing it doesn’t specialize in, you should see it do the thing it does.
It’s so natural, so easy to control, and so composed when devouring rowdy terrain that it instantly boosted my confidence level. It has a way of making tough terrain look easy to me, and has me constantly finding those lines that are more direct and faster, but way sketchier, that I don’t seek out on other bikes. I’m a much more cautious rider than I used to be, but the Meta AM 29 gives me the confidence to push a little harder on terrain I’ve ridden a thousand times, find speed in places I haven’t before, and gap into chunder with the sort of reckless abandon I used to have 15 years ago.
It’s planted and unflappable but also easy to maneuver given its relative heft. It’s ultra plush and forgiving, but ramps up with plenty of support deeper in the travel. I’m a fan of big bikes with short chainstays, and the Meta AM 29’s 433mm don’t disappoint. I love the rear wheel control that they provide, making what might normally be a heavy-handed rig feel downright easy to bob and weave. Even with the bike’s slack 63.6 degree head angle and long 495mm reach (size large), it still manages to maneuver with ease. You tell the bike where to go and it’ll get there. But, it’s still a big, relatively not light bike that takes a lot more effort to coax up and over rollers or into a bunnyhop than a lighter-weight trail bike. When I say this bike is remarkably maneuverable and agile, I’m not saying that it reaches outside the enduro category it definitively sits in. This is not a category-blurring bike, and that’s okay because it knows what it is. There are no identity-doubting flip-chips, because the Meta AM is purpose built and it delivers on its purpose.
And, while the Meta AM 29 is no doubt a big, terrain crushing, bruiser of a bike, it’s far too good at not being a bruiser to be pigeonholed simply as one.
Plus, it’s priced well, too. The bike I’m on is the “Team 2021” build, which comes in at $4,800 and is dressed with top-notch RockShox Zeb and Super Deluxe Ultimate fork and shock, a SRAM GX Eagle drivetrain, DT Swiss EX511 rims laced to DT 350 hubs and wrapped in soft, grippy, Schwalbe rubber. SRAM Code RSC brakes with 200mm rotors bring the beast to a halt, and the dropper is a 34.9mm KS Lev Integra. There’s really nothing to argue with on this build, and frankly, not a ton of reason to go much higher in spec, though Commencal does offer some super interesting build kits on its site. Even the house brand Ride Alpha stem has a nice refined look and features zero-gap bar clamps.
The Commencal Meta AM 29 has an elegant and unassuming simplicity that delivers unexpected panache, attitude and confidence with such ease that it makes this high-pivot idler pulley trend seem downright silly. Don’t overlook the Meta AM because it lacks new trendy things. The Meta AM 29 doesn’t just get the job done, it’s good enough that it can stand there and laugh at the current state of enduro bikes.
Photos: Ryan Palmer