Commencal is an Andorran bike brand set up by Max Commencal (of Sunn Bicycles fame). He has designed bikes that have been ridden to glory by the likes of Nicolas Vouilloz and Anne-Caroline Chausson, as well as Cedric Gracia and the Athertons in the modern era. The bikes are still pretty underground in New Zealand and if you don’t happen to be in one of the locations where they’re held as floor stock there’s a good chance that you may never have seen one. I have spent the last eight weeks on the Meta 6, Commencal’s take on an all-mountain rig. It looks very similar to its slightly smaller brother, the Meta 5 (very much a trail bike), but obviously with a step up to six inches of frame and fork travel. The Meta 6 sits pretty much in the middle of quite a large Commencal range, from cross-country hardtails to World Cup winning downhill rigs. The next step up, the Furious, lives up to its name with more travel and a more compact cockpit––more your cup of tea if you frequently use words like ‘huck’ in a sentence. Commencal don’t just sell full bikes. They also sell the backbone of a new bike, including frame, fork and other bits and pieces like headset, stem, handlebar and seatpost. They call this the Factory Frame Set. It appears to be the build philosophy for Commencal: everything else is disposable or upgradeable, so get the core of your bike right and any compromises you make now can be easily resolved later. I like this attitude. Tyres and cassettes are temporary. Frames and forks last (relatively) forever. With that thinking in mind my Meta 6 has an unusual build. No expense was spared on the frame, which has a new Fox Boost Valve RP23, Fox 36 Talas fork and a Crank Brothers Joplin seatpost. There are a few other quality components too, such as Race Face cranks, Formula brakes, an X9 derailleur and High Roller tyres, but the rims, hubs, cassette, handlebars, shifters and stem seem little more than afterthoughts. The single-pivot frame has a single swingarm and a linkage-actuated shock. I have long been a fan of the simplicity of the single-pivot, and when done well it can be indistinguishable from any acronym-filled suspension design. The Meta 6 fits this category. The frame also has an adjustable head angle that will give you a choice of 68.5° and 67.5°. Overall, the bike looks good, with a traditional front triangle, full-length seat tube, chain guide mounts and reasonable graphics. I was at home on the Meta 6 from my very first ride. It was stable, inspired confidence and I had no issues trusting it straight out of the box, which is not something that can be said for many bikes. The rear suspension was smooth and supple with not even a hint of bottom out. As a climber, the Meta 6 was satisfactory. I handled some long rides with no issues but have been on more inspired climbers with similar travel. Ironically, it felt sluggish on the road but became more playful as soon as we hit dirt, as though we were coming home. The Fox 36 Talas forks do help with the climbing position but the compromise was the lowered bottom bracket height. Due to constant pedal strike on rougher climbs I tended to leave it in the 160 mm setting. The flickable ProPedal switch on the rear shock certainly made a difference and I found myself turning to it often. I was concerned that there may be a bit of flex at the rear with its unusually shaped swingarm but didn’t notice anything on the ride––the bike tracked strong and true. A 12 mm Maxle should help stiffen things up but mine continuously came loose, which became a little frustrating. The bike handled steep descents well (even better with the slacker head angle), took bermed corners with ease and was balanced in the air. The fact that Commencal bikes are still rare in these parts gave me some extra cred in the car park, with more than a few admiring glances. This bike ain’t cheap, but it’s very competent and will do just about anything you want, within reason, and could easily perform more specialist duties with the right build. MARK DANGERFIELD
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We take a look at Whyte’s short travel 130mm 27.5 trail which has all the hallmarks of their bigger rigs. This bike questions the big travel trends and makes us take a look at what we actually require out of a bike. Is big actually better?