Commencal Meta 5.5.1 Review
Before I start I should point out that I’m an enthusiastic amateur so this is by no means a professional test or review. Also, this is my first full-suspension mountain bike so I’m not making comparisons to any other models here.
My previous mountain bike was a hardtail, a Specialized Rockhopper, so I will be making a few comparisons with this and telling you about the transition from hardtail to full-suspension.
It took me a while to decide which new mountain bike to get. As always, I was after the holy grail that doesn’t exist of a well-specced, light-weight, do it all machine that wasn’t far too expensive. Rather than repeat my decision making process here, you can read my blog-post about which full-suspension mountain bike to get. I had planned on having some fun testing as many different bikes as possible but in the end a bargain came along that was too good to miss so I ended up with a Commencal Meta 5.5.1
Specs-wise it was perfect, SRAM X-0 rear derailleur, SRAM x-9 shifters, Race Face cranks and BB, some nice finishing kit, Formula ORO K24 brakes and Fox TALAS forks. The rear tyre was a Maxxis Larsen TT which wasn’t much good in the mud and dampness of Wales so I changed that for a Continental Mountain King and went Ghetto Tubeless at the same time. The front tyre was a Maxxis High Roller which I have left. I will convert this to the Ghetto Tubless system soon as well.
5.5 inches of front and rear travel was perfect for the trail riding and longer XC rides that I do. The overall weight (quoted by Commencal at 27.9lbs) was OK. Although a little lighter would of course have been nice I’d probably have to sacrifice on build quality and durability a little to get this, or spend a lot more money. It certainly doesn’t feel heavy and it looks and feels as though it is built to last.
So, how does it ride? I’ve now had a few rides on it and love it. With the pro-pedal on there is no obvious pedal bob when climbing fire roads. Climbing however doesn’t feel quite as easy (if it was ever easy!) as on the hardtail. I think there are a number of possible reasons for this, the first and probably most significant is that the rear hub may be a little too tight and doesn’t spin as easily as it could do. This should be easy to adjust though and if I get time I shall tinker with it today. Secondly, the bike is slightly heavier than my hardtail. Thirdly, the geometry is a little more relaxed than on my hardtail. Although the TALAS forks allow me to adjust this to a certain extent, the shorter top tube does means that I am sat upright a little more than on the stretched out Rockhopper which issn’t quite such a good climbing position for me. I’m sure I’ll get used to it though.
Once onto single track or downhill though it is just so much better than my hardtail. On flowing singletrack I have much more control, espeically in the corners. I’m able to enter them quicker, maintain my speed and exit quicker, keeping my momentum going into the next section. In some places I found myself pedalling through sections that I would normally be braking over. I also don’t have to pick my line quite so carefully as rocks and rougher bits don’t phase the bike or me at all. It takes it all in its stride, inspiring confidence and it is surprising how quickly you adapt to this new found ability. I was soon taking lines I wouldn’t normally contemplate, hitting things harder and faster and getting more air and all with more poise and control.
This confidence carried through to bigger, more technical descents too. The bike feels in control and planted to the trail, allowing me to hit things with more speed and simply float over rocks and drops that would have previously had me reaching for the brakes and teetering over them.
The extra control was especially noticeable on fast, loose sections where I was particularly slow before and always felt ‘on the edge’! With the suspension of the Commencal Meta 5.5 and the more relaxed geometry providing more control I was able to go much faster over the loose ground, which in turn smoothed out the terrain even more and made it even easier. I’ve always known that speed is your friend in such circumstances, but you need some control in the first place in order to feel safe at speed. Once you have both it becomes easy.
All in all it seems to be just right and I can now see what all the fuss about full-suspension was for. It certainly makes the fun bits easier, faster and more exciting and the slight loss of climbing performance is barely noticeable when you finish the day with a big grin on your face. There may be slightly more maintenance than with a hardtail and it is a little more difficult to clean but the advantages on the trail more than make up for that. The only other issue is that the extra speed on the trail is going to mean that it is going to hurt more when it does all go wrong!