Commencal Meta 5.5.1 Review

Commencal Meta 5.5.1

Commencal Meta 5.5.1

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!

21 Responses

  1. Darren says:

    Your right about it being very green!

  2. Alan says:

    I’ve now adjusted the rear hub. It was indeed too tight and now the rear wheel spins like a dream…. Aaaaahh!

    Al.

  3. Alan says:

    Bike is going well and now that I’ve got used to the full-suspension the benefits over the rocky, bumpy stuff are even greater. I’m getting used to the fact that I can just ride over stuff that I had to go around before.

    So far I have nothing bad to say about the bike, except the fact that the paintwork seems to chip really easily… There are already 5 or 6 chips on the bottom of the downtube, one fairly big one on the rear swingarm, and a few on the bottom bracket shell… Looks like I’ll have to look out for some fluorescent green touch up paint.

    Al.

  4. William says:

    I too have a rockhopper 2008 disc but its upgraded with rebas. I am contemplating getting one of these. Just wondering what i’d get for the spec – plus i have a brand new set of avid codes sitting there that i was going to fit, but dont think i will bother if im gonna get this commencal. what are the Formula Oro K24’s like?

    • Alan says:

      The K24’s seem fine to me, I can’t compare them to Avid Codes, but they are definitely better than the Avid Juicy 3’s on my Rockhopper. They look nicer as well.

      Specs wise, it is difficult to decide which is the best value for money between the 5.5.1 and 5.5.2. You get better shifters and mechs, a better crankset and better brakes on the more expensive model and it is a little lighter, but the most important things, the frame itself, the shocks and the wheels are the same.

      Let us know what you decide to get and what you think of it once you’ve had chance to ride it… I’m still loving mine.

      Al.

  5. William says:

    Well bought one and love it. Tried the formula brakes and they were good, but then put the avid codes on to try them and they are just awesome. Unfortunatley, my frame is creaking really really badly and so it is back in the workshop – apprentley one of the beraings was stiff and misaligned and needs to be replaced. We’ll see. But the ride is amazing, and it feels like its glued to the trail.

    I cant imagine finding a beteer bike than the meta 5.5.1 for the £1700 i paid for it.

  6. Alan says:

    Glad to hear you’re enjoying it William. Haven’t been out on mine for a while due to illness, but can’t wait to get back out there.

    Al.

  7. William says:

    just a quick update – the bike went back into the workshop and after a week i got it back with an entierly new contact system. I rode it once and the creking returned within an hour. Its now back with the shop who have agreed to replace it with a new bike – so i am happy, just hope the previous problem was a one off. Still strongly vouch for the bike though, the ride is amazing – get out on a trail and you feel like your riding a trails motorbike.

  8. cherouvim says:

    Got the 5.5.1 (2009 model) and it rocks! These days I’m in the process of getting used to it and tunning the suspensions properly for my riding style.

    Go Commencal!

  9. Alan says:

    Glad you;re enjoying it… Mine needs a bit of a service. There is some play in the rear suspension again so I think I need to replace the bushes – 2nd time in a year.

    Otherwise it is still going well and I’m loving it.

    Al.

  10. Alan says:

    Thought I should add a link to my blog post about the latest with my Commencal Meta 5.5 which now seems to have some cracks in the frame:

    https://www.alananna.co.uk/blog/2010/commencal-crack-paint-or-frame/

    I’m currently in communication with Commencal (via the importers Madison) about getting it inspected / replaced under warranty but in the meantime can’t ride it. I hope they sort it out soon.

    Al.

  11. Alan says:

    Looks as though it is getting sorted and I’ll be getting a 2010 frame as a replacement under the warranty.

    Al.

  12. Alan says:

    All sorted. New frame arrived and I have now rebuilt it and even ridden it.

    Feels OK and I’m sure I’ll get used to the colour.

    Al.

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Alan Cole

Alan is a Freelance Website Designer, Sports & Exercise Science Lab Technician and full time Dad & husband with far too many hobbies: Triathlete, Swimming, Cycling, Running, MTBing, Surfing, Windsurfing, SUPing, Gardening, Photography.... The list goes on.

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