Bike Test: Commencal Meta Power 650b+
By Alex Boyce
Back in the mid-’90s, Max Commencal was the man behind the Sunn-Chipie brand of bikes that became a worldwide force in the “French Wave” in mountain bike racing circles. The bikes and riders he brought to the races were rarely short of dominant and set a high bar for performance oriented pedaling.
“The Meta is a fun machine to whip it
from one feature to the next, play with
on the trail and chuck it around.”
Commencal has remained a popular brand with a lineup of bikes that focus on performance. Considering the mountainous location of Andorra where the company is based, this gives the frame designers an incredible opportunity to test every single design element they come up with in a huge range of conditions. The same approach has been taken with the Meta Power.
Let’s be clear, a $5599 bike really can’t be considered “low-priced,” but the Meta’s spec list and price are really good value, especially when compared to many other bikes on the market. The suspension package is top-notch and highly tunable, with an impressive supporting cast found in the wheels, brakes and the EX drive package. This really is one of the most complete bike packages for an aluminum bike we have ridden recently.
No, it’s not carbon, and, according to company founder Max Commencal, there is a reason for that. Back in 2014 at a buffet table in a hotel in Taichung, Taiwan, we bumped into Max as he was sampling the various odd things to eat. What we learned in that moment was that, in his opinion, the production of cost-effective, carbon frames was not up to his standards, so he preferred to keep his company’s products made with aluminum.
Shimano’s E8000 motor is one we consider to be a solid product. Most often, though, it is paired with a Shimano drivetrain, so we were surprised to find the Meta using instead a SRAM EX1 drivetrain. The motor’s power is well-balanced and gives riders a very versatile ride feel. If you want to boost along in turbo you can, but if you want that positive, relative support their new trail mode options offer, then it is there and will give the rider a natural ride feel, which is one of the main characteristics that Shimano always tries to give their products.
The battery is an interchangeable 500-watt-hour unit that performs very well. Charging and drain over the lifetime of the battery are consistent and predictable in our experience. Also, it’s great for those who need a removable battery unit to charge easily; if one can’t put the bike next to a plug socket to charge, then it’s a no-brainer.
We are big fans of the Shimano power control switch that is robust and up to the rigors of being abused. The unit is sealed from the elements, and the mechanical part is there for feel, moving a magnet against the sealed electronics, thus the lifetime durability with regards to water ingress is assured.
Commencal took a while to get the Meta Power to market with rumors that they were tweaking the frame geometry to a point where it provided the best balance. The wheelbase is a good compromise between stability and maneuverability. The seat tube angle gives the rider a good balance point when climbing, while the front wheel stays down and allows the rear to grip when it is very steep. We found with these numbers that we could be on board the Meta Power all day very comfortably.
WHO IT’S MADE FOR
The Meta Power is made for serious, experienced mountain bike riders who are aggressive all-mountain riders. Even enduro riders will do well on this bike.
Our test unit was set up with a full complement of Fox suspension with what we consider one of the best forks on the market—the Fox 36. The fork is a joy to ride, as it’s supple, reliable, stiff, takes big hits well and tunable. It’s probably our favorite big-hit fork at the moment.
Putting this fork and the Fox shock combination together gives the bike a balanced feel when riding along. The short climbs we encountered with rough, rocky moments are glided over, and the bike stands up and drives forward. The suspension kinematics make sure that when the power is on, then it’s not used up compressing the suspension.
Hit some flowing trail and this bike lights up. The Meta is a fun machine to whip it from one feature to the next, play with on the trail and chuck it around. In short, it is really a lot of fun to ride. It has a reactive, stable feel, helped by the balanced geometry, which gives the rider a good sense of where they are and what is going to happen on different trail features. It is not going to be the type of bike for the sofa riders that just want to blast; you can blast, but you can play with it too.
The fun we had while riding trails transfers directly into the descents. The 66-degree head angle helps balance steep performance with flat trail maneuverability. Throw the Meta into a corner with your weight over the front wheel, and the bike drives hard through the corner. Optimal body position is easy to find, as the large-size bike’s top tube is longer than a well-balanced Turbo Levo and is just right in our opinion for a tall rider. We found ourselves easily able to balance the bike in all circumstances.
When the trails get steep, it’s brilliant to just let go of the brakes and power through everything. The 2.5-inch tire size is great with this bike style and geometry. It allows the rider to still feel what’s going on, yet is resistant enough to get you out of most situations with no fuss. The extra weight of full-suspension e-bikes has meant the use of plus-size tires. We have always preferred tires in the 2.5–2.8-inch range that are resistant and with aggressive treads. The Commencal Meta Power on this front delivers well.
And last, on one of our test rides, we were happy to discover how well the bike handles the repeatedly really steep, rough conditions that risk packing down a suspension system. The shock tune is as great as the Code R brakes, which absolutely stop you no matter how fast you are riding, with each component working harmoniously together. Are there any weak points? Honestly, we have ridden a lot of bikes and, despite this not being as expensive as some other bikes on the market, it’s very hard to find any. In all the trail conditions we threw at it, the Meta Power performed brilliantly.
The Meta Power has become of our favorite aluminum e-bikes right now. When we first tried it a while ago, we were surprised at the silent competitor from Andorra. Now we are convinced by our first real test experiences. The bike is robust in build quality, it handles all the trails we threw at it, it’s really fun to ride, and it’s still a lot of bike for the money. Commencal operates a consumer-direct sales model globally with regional local support on offer.
SPECS: COMMENCAL META POWER 650B+
Motor:Shimano STEPS E8000
Battery: Shimano, 500 Wh
Charge time: 4 hours
Top speed: 15.5 mph/25 km/h
Range: 25–45 miles (40–70 km)
Drive:SRAM EX1, 1×8, e-bike specific
Brakes:SRAM Code R, 200mm f/r
Controls: Shimano STEPS
Frame: Meta V4.2 Power 650b+ 150mm NEC + Ultra SL (aluminum 6066 triple-butted)
Fork:Fox Factory 36 Float, e-bike-specific, 160mm, Boost 110×15, 3 positions, rebound
Rear shock: Fox Factory DPX2, 210 x 55, Lockout, Rebound
Tires Front: Maxxis HRII 650 x 2.5 WT, 3C/DD/TR. Rear: Maxxis Aggressor 650 x 2.5 WT, 2C/DD/TR
Weight:49.3 pounds (22.4 kilograms)
Color choices: N/A
Sizes: S, M, L, XL
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