Review: Commencal Meta TR 29

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Commencal’s new 29-inch version of the Meta TR trail bike wants you to get rowdy.

This mid-travel weapon is ready to take on much bigger terrain than its 130 millimetres of rear travel suggests. The bike runs a reverse mullet suspension set-up, with 150mm of front travel, an increasingly popular trend within big wheeled trail bikes. It’s easy to see why—the extra plushness up front means the bike is ready to party in terrain that would make other trail bikes feel distinctly uncomfortable.

While I had the bike I put it through its paces on the gnarliest trails I could find, including a day of shuttling the loamy goods at Mt Cheeseman in Craigieburn, and a day ploughing through the steepest and roughest tracks on offer at the Christchurch Adventure Park. The bike never missed a beat.

The TR felt remarkably composed and stable through the chunky stuff, even when riding full downhill trails. Running a single-pivot suspension layout, the bike held up well through the middle of its stroke, and when getting to the end of its travel, the bottom out never felt harsh or jarring. The suspension worked well for a point and shoot style of riding, but the bike still had a good balance of poppiness and playfulness, to give a fairly neutral feel overall.

With a 66.5-degree head tube angle, the TR isn’t the slackest around, but is a good balance for a trail bike designed to take on anything. Combined with the big hoops, I still felt stable and in no risk of going out the front door when the trail got steep and deep, but it was still responsive in mellower terrain.

So it likes to go down; but what about heading up? Climbing was easier than expected, in large part due to the steep 76.5-degree seat angle. Pedal bob was less than expected, though for gravel road grovels I was still reaching for the climb switch. It’s a comfortable climber I would be happy to pedal about on an all-day mission.

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The bike is a bit like an Instagram model peddling fitness supplements: it’s sporting a wider than average rear end. Like those Instagram models, some of you will have no problem with it, while others will find it frustrating. Anyone whose pedal stroke is slightly off-kilter is likely to find they will have some issues with heel- and possibly calf-rub on the stays. As someone with a neutral pedal-stroke, I didn’t find it to be an issue, but even for me there were occasions when I made contact.

The flipside of this width, and some hearty bracing in the rear triangle, is a stiff frame that loves it when you give it some back-wheel bully. This is no doubt helped by the short upper suspension linkages and oversized bearings in the lower pivot, which cuts down on places the frame could flex.

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With a stated frame weight of 3.6 kilograms and a sturdy build, this rig is not the lightest in its class, but out on the trail the TR carries its weight well.

Our size large test bike was on the big side for its size, featuring a roomy 475mm reach—but in use the bike never felt oversized or unwieldy (for reference, the writer is just shy of 6 foot tall, but has orangatang-length limbs).

I was riding the “Essential” build, which retails at $5499 and is the second-most expensive of the four options available in New Zealand. The spec is solid, but not flashy—there’s very little you’ll want to change straight out of the box.

Suspension duties were handled by a Fox DPS shock and 36 Float Performance fork, both basic but well-performing options. Tinkerers may be frustrated by the limited adjustability these mid-range bouncers offer, but those happy to set and forget will get on well with the platform.

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The TR rolled on hoops with 30mm wide e*thirteen TRS rims and Formula hubs. They’re a good performer for a build in this price range, with reasonable width, but not the lightest or strongest on the market.

I can see why Schwalbe Hans Dampf tyres were spec’d front and rear, but given the bike’s descending prowess, I’d personally switch to something a bit gruntier at the front end. One minor niggle was that the wheels do not come tubeless ready—a must for a bike that can take on the rough stuff with such confidence. It’s an easy fix though.

A Sram GX Eagle 12-speed drivetrain paired with Shimano SLX brakes seems like an odd mix of brands for an OEM build, but in practice they worked well together—I couldn’t fault the performance of either.

The 780mm handlebar and 50mm stem were from Commencal’s in-house components brand Ride Alpha. I liked the smaller details like good guide marks for cutting down the bars and orientation marks to line up the stem, simple details that should be standard, but unfortunately aren’t always.

As far as durability goes, a two-week test is too brief to comment definitively, but there was nothing in the design or spec that made me worry. The heavy-duty design, including oversize bearings throughout much of the suspension linkages, and solid spec left me with no reasons for concern.

Commencal is known for its straightforward, burly bikes and contempt for carbon due to environmental and ethical concerns, and this rig is a textbook example of the brand’s ethos.

The good: the TR can tackle far burlier terrain than its modest rear travel would suggest, but is just as happy on more mellow trips as well. A solid spec and simple design should mean you don’t need to upgrade much or fix much down the line. That steep seat angle gives the bike good climbing manners.

The not-as-good: that wide rear triangle won’t suit everybody, and it would have been nice to see a piggyback shock in there given the bike’s otherwise burly nature. The weight is reasonable given the alloy frame and mid-range spec, but won’t compete with high-end carbon superbikes. A tubeless ready set-up would be a nice addition.