Commencal’s Meta Power range gets a new internal battery, new geometry, and even suspension redesign. This isn’t an update, it’s an evolution.
Andorran mountain bike brand, Commencal is often one of the first names to adopt new technology and design. The brand was one of the first to release a downhill bike with high-pivot point and idler, they were the first to release a 29er DH bike, and they were an early adopter of the Shimano STEPS drive system for its full-suspension and hardtail e-MTB’s.
The Commencal Meta Power range consists of both 27.5 and 29er e-Bikes based on the full-suspension Meta enduro bike (the MaxMax hardtail replaced the Meta Power HT for 2019). The original bike sported a similar suspension design, kinematic and geometry as the non-assist bike, but for 2020 the Meta Power has undergone a major rework.
The new Meta Power with it’s updated battery pack and modern geometry is going toe to toe with similar big travel e-Bikes from Intense, Orange, YT, Focus and others but with 29in wheels, front and rear and a new suspension kinematic does the Andorran AMP-cycle have the edge?
Video: Commencal Meta Power Team 29 first ride
The most obvious update to the Meta Power is the move from a partially integrated Shimano battery to a fully integrated Shimano BT-E8035 power unit. There are obvious aesthetic benefits to the internal battery, but the new unit also allowed Commencal’s designers to adjust the centre of gravity for handling improvements, revamp the suspension linkage and free up enough room in the frame for a bottle cage and bottle.
Shimano’s BT-E8035 battery lives in an oversized downtube and is easily removable from the bike with the use of a 4mm Allen key. Commencal didn’t want to use a locking battery mechanism, so instead moved to the Allen key latch. When you want to remove the battery the internal bolt only needs to be turned 1/4 of a turn to unlatch the battery unit for fast, hassle-free battery changes/removal. The removable battery also gives access to internal cable and hose routing for easier maintenance and serving.
Users can choose to either charge the battery inside the bike, via a charging port located on the seat tube, or remove the battery for charging in another location. The large downtube is home to a power button on the left side and the above-mentioned bottle cage mounts. The other bolt head visible on the downtube are for internal battery mounts and can’t actually be removed.
When designing the new Meta Power, Commencal paid a lot of attention to the location of the battery in the frame and actually tested prototype bikes with an original external battery zip tied into place so that they could easily adjust the battery height and position to enhance handling.
A move to this new battery would have been enough for some brands to call it a day, but Commencal also took the opportunity to redesign the rear suspension and update the geometry.
The linkage of the 2019 Commencal Meta Power AM is very different from the previous bike and the non-assist bikes. This has been done to give the e-Bike a more linear suspension curve to improve contact between the tyre and the ground. The design team claims the move to a more linear kinematic means that the new bike is more dynamic than before and offers a more comfortable range of travel.
Suspension travel is 160mm on the front with 150mm out back. That’s a lot of travel or a 29er, but the Commencal handles the travel well, retaining direct handling and a chassis that tells the rider what the wheels are doing. If you fancy more of a winch and plummet type of e-Bike then the new Commencal Meta Power SX might be more up your street with 180mm of front travel, a coil shock, and 27.5in wheels.
The changes continue with some major geometry updates making the new Meta Power, yup you guessed it, longer, lower and slacker. At 178cm tall, I chose to test the large model with a reach of 475mm, 64.5° head angle, and 77° seat tube angle, putting the rider in a very comfortable seated position to make the most of the 70NM of power available from the Shimano Steps E8000 motor.
Speaking of which, every model in the Meta Power range will receive the E8000 which are all attached to the new frame via an alloy clamshell chassis structure and protected by a plastic motor bash guard. In the case of the Meta Power, this is an actual bash guard, featuring rails to help you slide off and over rocks without damaging anything important.
A neat little touch that you might not notice on first glance is the updated magnet and sensor mounts. Commencal has moved the magnet to the disc brake which means misaligned magnets and broken spokes won’t upset the electronics. A Commencal designed mount holds the motor sensor in position as well as keeping those powerful 4 pot brakes in place.
Rather than going for a mix and match wheel approach as we’ve seen on the Intense Tazer and YT Decoy, Commencal chose 29in wheels front and rear. Apparently mixed wheel sizes were tested, and in theory, you could swap the rear for a plus wheel, but Commencal’s R&D team found that 29ers offered the best all-around performance so that’s what they went for.
The bike that I rode in Andorra was the Team Edition of the Meta Power which is one of the higher spec bikes and comes with a mostly SRAM build kit, bar the Shimano E8000 motor, E8000 display, E7000 mode control, and BT-E8035 battery.
Rockshox is given suspension and dropper post duties with the incredible Lyrik Ultimate making mincemeat out of my poor line choice. A Kindshock Lev dropper post and 1x remote kept the saddle where it needed to be at any given time while a 1×12 SRAM Eagle drivetrain meant the only excuse for me not getting up a climb was poor skill. Brakes are powerful 4 pot Codes with large 200mm discs front and rear.
I spent 2 days riding the Commencal Meta Power Team 29 in Andorra and not once did we touch the Vallnord Bike Park. Instead, we rode in remote, natural and rugged conditions and on trails that hadn’t been ridden before until the Commencal team had discovered them on the first generation Meta Power e-Bikes.
Setting off from the valley floor, I was soon thrown into some of the most challenging and technical climbing conditions I have ever encountered. These loose rocky climbs were a grueling test of the 70NM Shimano STEPS motor, and of my technical climbing skills. These were the type of steep climbs that e-MTB’s were designed for, non-assist bikes need not apply, honestly, I challenge anyone to ride up those trails without a motor and have a good time.
Once the initial steep climb was over, we moved to flowing singletrack that changed direction faster than a hyperactive toddler. One moment you might be cruising along an exposed section only to round a tree and be confronted with a loose rocky sprint up a seemingly impossible climb. I’ve actually discovered that on an e-Bike most of those ‘impossible’ climbs you encounter aren’t any easier once you have a motor until you change your frame of mind and method. Ride these climbs as you would on a non-ebike and you’ll fail, but once you get the hang of it you’ll be constantly shocked at what you can actually achieve.
While the motor is giving you a major boost up any climb. the updated geometry of the Meta Power Team really comes into its own too. That steeper seat angle is greatly appreciated, as is the extra space up front, allowing you to really get over the front of your saddle and not feel cramped for those wall rides, nope not the 50:01 kind of wall ride, I mean riding up hills that look like the side of your local pub.
With all that climbing out of the way, you’ll be surprised to learn that you’ve still worked up quite a sweat, the good news is you now have a serious amount of non-stop descending ahead of you. This is where the Commencal Meta Power Team shows you that it isn’t just a one trick pony.
I already love descending on the non-motorised Meta AM 29, and it’s hardly surprising that the Power version has the same balanced position, poise, and eagerness to accelerate, only with that added weight and low-center of gravity your confidence levels rise pretty rapidly until your carving turns quicker than a pro, no not really, but that’s how this bike makes you feel.
The lower center of gravity keeps your weight centered, and although it is a heavy bike it never rides like one. In lose, rocky, rooty downhill chutes, the linear suspension does exactly what Commencal said it would, and helps to ensure your tyre tracks the group and maintain grip. This does mean you’ll be having to hoist the bike with more effort when it comes to a bunny hop or popping over obstacles, but it’s still possible to take flight.
This test consisted of 2 days of riding in Andorra with one ride consisting of a 2000m decent from the snow-capped mountains. Although I had no issues what-so-ever, not even a puncture, my time on the bike isn’t enough to determine the durability of the bike accurately.
From what I’ve experienced from other Commencal bikes though, plus the components that Commencal uses to build the Meta Power 29, there aren’t any areas that cause me any concern.
Things That Could Be Improved
- Chainstay rub, due to the inboard rear caliper, is common on Commencal frames. It’s not really a point that needs to be improved, but something you should be aware of so that you can protect your frame.
- I wonder if offering battery covers that match the colour or livery of a frame might be a nice idea? Again not a major point, but perhaps something worth considering?
- The Team Edition bike won’t be available until later in the year, and if you want a more affordable model you’ll have an even longer wait.
Three Things We Loved
- The move to an internal BT-E8035 battery hasn’t just improved the aesthetics of the Commencal META AM Power 29, but the handling.
- You can now fit a bottle cage on the bike.
- The attention to detail, no-nonsense specification and the range of options mean that there should be a Commencal META AM Power 29 to suit everyone if you don’t mind waiting for them to launch.
The Commencal Meta Power Team 29 embodies a huge number of major changes while still retaining that familiar Meta look. The new bike has changed in every aspect from the move to an internal battery which improves handling, looks and adds versatility, to the updated geometry and moves to a more linear suspension platform. It’s a lot to take in, but they’re all significant improvements which have turned an already capable e-MTB to an even better one.
Just as I have found with the non-assist Meta AM 29, the Power with its immense amount of travel, large wheels, and chunky rubber, remains surprisingly agile, eager, and willing. It rolls fast and free, and you’ll be happy that Commencal has equipped it with powerful brakes and reliable wheels because speeds get to ‘eye-watering’ territory faster and more often than you might be used to.
The 160mm travel 29er makes for a good all-rounder, happy to explore, cover miles, shred the woods and singletrack or just cruise the canal path to work. I didn’t get to try the bike in a bike park setting, but I expect it excels as a shuttle and plummet machine too.
2020 Commencal Meta Power Team 29 Specifications
- Frame // 2020 Meta Power 29. 150mm travel.
- Fork // RockShox Lyrik Ulitmate 160mm
- Shock // RockShox Super Deluxe Ultimate 230 x 65mm.
- Motor // Shimano STEPS E8000 70nm
- Battery // Shimano BT-E8035 504wh
- Wheels // DT SWISS H1700 Spline, 29er, 30mm width
- Tyres // Schwalbe Magic Mary 29 x 2.35, Super Gravity, ADDIX Soft front and rear.
- Chainset // Shimano E8000
- Rear Mech // SRAM X01 Eagle 12-speed
- Shifters // SRAM GX Eagle, E-Click, 12-speed
- Cassette // SRAM NX Eagle, 11-50t, 12-speed
- Brakes // SRAM Code RSC 200mm rotors front and rear.
- Stem // Ride Alpha 50mm
- Bars // Ride Alpha, 27mm rise, 780mm wide.
- Grips // Ride Alpha, DH single clamp, ultra soft compound
- Seatpost // Kindshock LEV Integra, 31.6, 150mm drop.
- Saddle // WTB SL8 Race, with cromo rails.
- Size Tested // L
- Sizes available // S/M/L/XL
- From // Commencal