2013 Commencal Part 1: Meta SL

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Jon reports on the 2013 Commencal range:

If riders are a product of the terrain they live in, then it’s small wonder that some of the world’s best enduro racers come from a small but mountainous region of Eastern France called the Vosges. Multiple time Megavalanche winner and Commencal rider Rémy Absalon and his equally handy Olympic gold medallist brother Julien hail from the area, as does Jérôme Clementz.

Commencal Meta SL (7)
The Commencal Meta SL - 120mm of fun. Photo by Samuel Decout

With sharp, steep climbs and tight technical singletrack scattered across the hills and the Lac Blanc Bike Park within spitting distance, it was perfect place for Commencal to launch their new bike range.

They’ve been busy adapting the ‘Contact System EVO’ suspension design first seen on the Supreme V3 downhill bike and then the 150mm travel Meta AM to other niches. It’s a single pivot design, rotating about a point reasonably high and slightly forward of the BB, optimised to work with 2×10 setups.

The shock itself is slung low in the frame, ‘floating’ between the chainstays and a linkage arrangement. All this means that it’s relatively easy to tune to give the shock ratio characteristics needed for different bikes and Commencal say this setup reduces stress on the tubing too, allowing thinner and lighter material to be used.

While the current Meta AM is billed as a downhill bike that climbs (the “fun AM bike”) with a shock rate that ramps up progressively, the harder hitting, slacker Meta SX (the “enduro weapon”) ramps up even harder. That left a trail/XC orientated and big wheeled gap in the range – which brings us neatly onto the new bikes…

Commencal Meta SL (3)
Low slung suspension and BB mean solid cornering performance. Photo by Samuel Decout

Meta SL

With 120mm of rear wheel travel you might be fooled into thinking the SL should be an out and out cross country machine, but that’s not the way they’ve gone about designing the bike. At the back end it uses the same 142x12mm Maxle and 180mm Post Mount brake as the bigger bikes and the triple butted 6066 alloy tubing has full internal routing for a dropper post as well as gear and brake lines.

It’s all mod cons too; you get an integrated (and Angleset compatible) tapered headtube up front, Press Fit bottom bracket with ISCG05 tabs and Direct Mount front derailleur. There’s masses on standover height even on the larger frames thanks to the heavily dropped toptube and the angles are decidedly on trend with a 68° head and 73.5° seat angle.

The Ride

The Meta AM that we current be on test in Issue 74 (out shortly) is a low slung bike with a +3mm BB drop, but the SL makes it look positively lofty thanks to a -10mm drop. Out on the trail, that converts into utterly stable cornering performance and a poppy, lively character. The fact that it has more linear suspension feel from the low ratio 190x51mm Fox Float shock than any of the other Meta bikes also contributes to that feel, as does the relatively short top tube (584mm effective for a medium as opposed to 595mm on the AM).

Designer Nicolas Menard puts the finshing touches to the SL

On steeper uphills I found the medium sized bike a little cramped length-wise for my tastes, but the front end remained firmly planted as the gradient sharpened. The bike is active but not overly bobby and pedal feedback is minimal. Given time I’d have been interested to find out how the large frame size felt, but it goes to show that some other (taller than my 5’8″) riders on the launch found the large too big and the medium absolutely spot on. As with sizing the world over, it’s horses for courses.

Point the bike downwards however and you’re rewarded with something that can be hustled, popped and shoved about at will. The suspension has the feel you’d expect from a Commencal, with supple traction yet plenty of feedback from the more linear suspension design. Flex in the the back end is conspicuous by its absence, tracking crisply through rough terrain.

Nico Menard, Commencal’s R&D man, said that the aim with the Meta SL was to create a super fun and lively short travel bike for thrashing about rather than an out and out mile munching machine. They’ve certainly succeeded there; the word playful sums up the character of the SL. It’s a highly enjoyable tool for woodsy thrashing, being able to cope with terrain much more challenging than the simple figures for travel would suggest.

Pricing and availability

You’ll be able to get your hands on a 2012 Meta SL VIP frameset from distributor Decade Europe from the end of June onwards. That’ll set you back £1,649.99 with Fox Float shock. There will also be a complete 2012 bike available which will cost £3,699.99, in stock at around the same time.

Complete 2013 bikes will be available from the start of September, ranging from £3,699.99 for the top end SL1 down to £2,299.99 for the SL4.

Check back shortly for a look at Commencal’s first big wheeled suspension bike, the AM29, plus a look at the hard hitting Supreme series.

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