REVIEW: Commencal Meta HT AM Essential

Dru just spent a couple of months on the Commencal Meta HT AM ‘Essential’, a £1300 hardtail that’s designed to prove the point that a good hardtail beats a bad full suspension.

Review by James Farrow, photos by Callum Philpott


Just landed

The Commencal Meta HT AM is Commencal’s €1599 hardtail. It’s built with a triple-butted 6061 alloy frame, 650b wheels, 2.8″ tyres and a RockShox Yari to absorb the bumps.

The bike is available online from Commencal’s website and is currently on pre-order, with bikes available June 2018.

At €1599 (around £1300) it’s one of the lowest priced bikes we’ve tested here at Wideopenmag and, Commencal say, has been designed to prove that ‘a good hardtail is better than a bad full suspension’. No arguments from us!

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Key features

  • 27.5″+ wheels.
  • Room for 2.8″ tyres.
  • Takes 29″ wheels.
  • Rockshox Yari RC fork.
  • SRAM NX 11-speed drive train.
  • SPANK Oozy rims.
  • €1599


Out of the box

The bike arrived in mid-winter and was subjected to an almost constant pasting of wet, muddy and often snowy trails. I put in plenty of Cornish local laps and strayed a bit further afield to Bike Park Wales and the Forest of Dean.

Despite being one of the most affordable bikes we’ve seen here at Wideopen I wasn’t going to give it an easy ride.

Pulling the bike out of the box and building it up was easy. You buy your bike online from Commencal (it’s also available elsewhere though), it arrives in a big cardboard box and all you need to do is straighten the bars and you’re good to go.

The kit

The kit list on the bike fits the price nicely.

You’ve got SRAM’s NX 11 speed groupset, a 160mm Yari RC fork and SRAM Level brakes with big 120/180mm rotors. There’s also 2.8″ Maxxis tyres and Commencal bits filling in the gaps.

The Spank ​Oozy Trail 395+ rims are tubeless ready, but like many, the bike comes with tubes fitted. There wasn’t any tape or valves in the box, but a couple of wraps of Gorilla Tape, some valves and a splash of sealant later they went up tubeless no issues.

As you’ve probably noticed, there’s no dropper post so you’ll find yourself having to stop and adjust saddle height like it’s 2001. You can upgrade when you buy from Commencal with a choice of a €100 125mm Kind Shock Dropzone  (with no remote) or a Reverb for €300. The added cost of a Reverb, does start to chip away at the bike’s price advantage.

Last but not least, it’s a very personal point but I love the look of the bike and was stoked on the Shiny Gun Metal finish from the get-go. I really like how the colour seems to shift and change as the light hits it.

Riding the Meta

I spent most of my time on the Meta at a local spot in deepest, darkest Cornwall and true to form, the British winter threw some challenging conditions at the bike.

On the loose, natural and  muddy trails the plus sized Rekon tyres struggled for grip floating over the mud, rather than digging in. If you’re looking at the Meta as a winter-whip and ride lots natural trails you’d be better off with a narrower choice of rims and tyres.

The Meta was great fun to chuck around on tight, steep, techy trails and the 65° head angle is bang on the money. The Yari RC fork is also damn good and was easy to setup, ride and maintain. Seeing that fork on a bike of this price is awesome.

When the speed increases and the trails open up the bike does feel a little sketchier. I put this down to the pretty short 420mm reach/602mm effective top tube combo on my size medium. The bike is fun to ride but, I’d love to see the medium stretched out a bit or the stand-over reduced on the larger size.  The SRAM Level brakes didn’t help at speed either and despite the big rotors they struggled to scrub speed on any surface.

It’s not all bad though. I took the Meta to Bikepark Wales and the Forest of Dean and the bike flew. It’s totally at home on hard packed, surfaced trails and loves slashing berms on the red and blue graded loops. As a trail centre bike, the Meta is cracking.

Things I liked

  • It’s a great looking bike
  • The Yari RC fork is great – simple and effective

Things that could be better

  • No dropper post
  • The reach could be a little longer

What did we think?

So, should you buy one?

I wouldn’t buy the Meta HT AM Essential as my only bike. The plus size tyres and the short reach don’t suite the riding that I tend to do and I find it a little unsteady on faster trails. Once you’ve added a dropper post, the price does also push the Meta outside of that ‘cheap second bike’ category.

For riders that are new to the sport or on a limited budget it’s a really solid choice. It’d be a brilliant value first mountain bike that you could upgrade later when you decide you need a dropper and, in the mean time, would be an absolute blast to ride. There’s similar bikes for similar money, but few of them look as good as the Meta.

You can find out the full details on the Meta HT AM Essential over on Commencal’s website.