Commencal Meta 666 LTD – Review

Pro Reviews

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www.commencal.com
www.bti-usa.com

 

The Quick:

The Good:

  • Strong frame – little bb or rear flex
  • Pretty smart build kit, maybe
  • Good cock pit room
  • Easy to get around switchback
  • Great on non-tech single track
  • 160mm travel means a plush ride
  • The Bad:

  • Unstable on gnarly trails, but has 160mm travel so you want to hit them
  • Geo could have been more slack
  • A bit heavy, just under 34lbs for a Large
  • Front hub wiggled – defect or bad QA
  • embedPlayer(1504364525, “single_title_2″, 320, 260, 1667925674)

    Geo: For a Large Frame – .pdf

    Seat Tube Length Seat Tube Angle Head Tube Angle Wheelbase Top Tube Length Chain Stay Lenght BB Height
    19.7″ 69 Degrees 68 Degrees +/-.5 44.6″ 23.36″ 16.75″ ~13.5″
    Build Kit:

  • Meta 666 160mm Frame
  • Fox RP2 rear shock and removable rear hangers (one set 10mm standard and one 12mm thru-axle set) (see frame section for more details/specifications)
  • Fork – Rock Shox 2008 Lyric Solo Air IS 160mm, 20mm through-axle
  • Front Hub – Front Commencal 110hub
  • Rear Hub – Kore 135mm Hub
  • Rims – SunRingle Equalizer 27 Rim 32 Spoke
  • Tires – Maxxis Highroller 26×2.35″
  • Brakes – Avid Juicy Three
  • Shifters – Shimano XT
  • Derailleurs – Rear: Shimano XT Shadow | Front: XT
  • Chain – Shimano
  • Cranks – Truvative FireX
  • Handle Bars – Commencal 2″ rise bar
  • Stem – Race Face Evolve XC
  • Headset – Tange Fatty MX2
  • Adjustable head angle sleeves included
  • SDG Bel Air saddle, SDG I-Beam seatpost, seat clampMSRP: 3,898.00
  •  

    Intro:

    Full Bike Front aWhen I got the Commencal Meta 666 I was very excited. I’d heard countless great things about the Meta 5.5 from friends and online so I figured, being a big guy, and 160mm version of the Meta 5.5 would be just right for me. I ran to check the built kit of the bike on Commencal’s site. It looked to be a sweet ride! Formula Oro 24k brakes, Sram shifters, and X.0 rear derailleur. Nice parts, nice frame, Athertons are killing it this year on Commencal bikes, what more could I ask for.

    So when I unpacked the box I was unpleasantly surprised to see the kit on the bike didn’t match up to the kit on Commencal’s website. The BTI version of the bike had Juicy 3 brakes and XT components. Definite down grade on the brakes, but at least the XT shifters and derailleurs are nice.

    So what kind of bike is the Meta 666? Commencal markets it for the Marathon Downhill, which is… precisely what? Well, best I can tell, it is All Mountain riding without the pedal up. Or Mega Avalanche style riding. Something that gets a bit rough, but nothing to harsh or steep. I guess though, even knowing that, I was still kind of confused about the bike. 160mm travel bike, 33+ pounds, beefy fork and frame, flimsy XC bars and long XC stem, XC cranks and a not-so-downhill oriented geometry. The feeling around the office was “Does Commencal know what they want this bike to be?” The confusion lay in the fact that with 160mm of travel you would want to get into some hairy stuff, use that suspension, except the geometry and flimsy controls really didn’t seem like that is what the bike is for.

    So, is the Meta 666 LTD, right out of the box, a good All Mountain bike? Well, yes and no.

    Handling:Uphill the bike handled very well for a 160mm 33+lb bike. At least I thought so. I have read some reviews from folks who hated the way the bike performed uphill, but for a 160mm travel bike I found it did a great job. Once you learn the rhythm of the bob it was fine. The propedal on the RP2 didn’t really help the bike pedal while on dirt. In fact, over rockier or bumpier terrain the propedal seemed to cause the rear to slip out more often than with out it on. But on the road the propedal was great! On the road, that is. Meh!

    Around switchbacks the bike was very nice. It somehow felt like a shorter wheelbase then it actually is. I had another guy ride the bike for a couple hours on day, he normally rides a Nomad, he said the Meta was much easier to get around tight switchbacks then his Nomad and the active single pivot rear felt more lively to him. Which makes sense since the single pivot design does tend to be bouncy. Up super steep uphill sections I thought the bike could have performed a bit better. Kind of the trade off for a lively rear suspension. Feels active but the rear could have stayed glued to the ground a bit better that it did.

    Image mile cDownhill the bike was a mixed bag. It was very plush, easy to maneuver, held a corner well and zipped along pretty good. Unfortunately, it only feels this way on trails that aren’t so steep or gnarly. On steep and gnarly kinds of trails, like this local trail pictured on the right for instance, the bike felt very unstable, bouncey and felt like it would send me OTB anytime. Part of this had to do with the long XC stem and XC bars. They really flopped around when the riding got rough. I found that after I put on a 50mm stem and stiffer 31.8 bars the bike felt way better on steeper, harsh trails; but not as nice as similar bikes with slacker head angles. I feel this is something that Commencal could have changed. A 67 degree head angle would have made a world of difference on hair raising trails. But if those aren’t your thing, then there are no problems. But then, why have 160mm of travel if your not going to hit a trail that warrants it? Besides the 50mm stem and 31.8 bars to sure up the front I also ran the bike with about 30+ percent sag. Definitely trying to slack out the front a bit more. Though this did disadvantage the pedaling a bit with more bob. The bike handled fairly well in the air. I never really sent it off anything other then a few small trail jumps but it felt fine in that range and held a stable landing. The Maxxis Highroller 2.35″ tires are a bit on the heavy side but they moved along just fine and helped get a grip.

    What I Liked:What I like about this bike is it offers the comfort of long travel with a geometry that is suitable to cross country. Having 160mm of travel really gives the bike more squish and comfort over the trails and throughout the ride. There is nothing jarring and the air in both the Rock Shox Lyric and Fox RP2 were very supple and easy to tune and adjust. I also liked the fact that the rear chainstays did not flex as much as I feared they would through berms and general trail riding, though over really rough stuff you could feel the rear squiggle about. The bike was easy to get up hill and around switchbacks. Also the bottom bracket didn’t noticeably flex while mashing up hill.

    In the saddle the bike was very comfortable. The SDG saddle and new SDG Mirco Head post allowed for a perfect and easy adjustable saddle position. The cockpit also had a fair amount of room in it. I never hit my knees on the bars when working a switch back. And even when I switched to a 50mm stem, shortening the reach on a frame that was already a bit small for me, I never felt crunched up. I figured as well that I would hate the Juicy 3 brakes except I actually didn’t. Of course they locked up and didn’t have great modulation but they actually didn’t feel any worse per say then Juicy 7 brakes, which also lock up and have poor modulation. The 3′s where only lacking the easy lever adjustment, so, no big deal there. Though it would be nice if the Meta 666 from BTI did come with the Formula brakes that the Euro version has.

    controls.jpg rear_suspension.jpg rear_shock_setup.jpg

    What I Didn’t:After riding this bike for a some time I still can’t get over the geometry of the bike and the 160mm of suspension. It just seems to me that the head angle, even with .5 degree +/- (which is almost too little to really make it worth the added weight of the design) is too steep to really warrant 160mm of travel. Every trail I felt the bike excelled at could have been just as fun on a Meta 5.5 or even a 100mm travel bike.

    I really don’t like the XC stem and bars that come with the bike, but at least you can switch those out for about $100 or even make some deal with your LBS to do something about it. It may also be that a big guy like me is just extra bothered by the flex from the bar/stem combo. But I don’t think that is the case. The Cannondale Rize we have in the office at the moment came with 31.8 bar/stem combo and was wicked stiff. I think some companies need to think a bit more when putting together a bike. But I would much rather have cheap bars/stem/brakes on this bike and replace those as a rider sees fit rather than have to shell out for a better fork. Commencal/BTI did make a good choice and hit a fairly inexpensive price point that provides a good frame, fork, shifters/deraileur and so-so cranks. If anyone has a similar reaction to the bars/stem, it won’t cost a hole lot to get that issue dealt with.

    Cable RoutingBesides some of the component choice and steep geometry, which is sort of just a preference issue, the only other part of the bike I don’t like is the way the cables are run. Running the shifter cables down the frame and under the bottom bracket allows for more dirt and crime to get in those cables. The solid shifting of the XT set up will help put off the inevitable replacement of the housing and cables, but, I would have figured a Commencal wouldn’t make such a design choice.

    Lastly, the hub on the front wheel of this test bike didn’t fit in the fork securely and would wiggle about, basically, a loose hub. But in this case, the hub couldn’t be tightened, so, it was a hub that was machined wrong and was not 110mm wide. You might think, well, tighten it, no big deal. I couldn’t. The hub had two end caps, two sealed bearings, and then a hollow axle. There was nothing to tighten, it was just not good. But at least it was a sealed bearing hub. I did test the wheel out on another fork and it was also loose. Then I tried and rode with a different front wheel in the Lyric that came on the Meta 666. This would be something I would hope an LBS would catch before the bike ever reached the sales floor, but it makes me wonder about Commencal’s quality on their OEM parts.

     

    Conclusion:

    The Commencal/BTI Meta 666 LTD is a bit of a toss up. It seems it will be a bike that Meta 5.5 owners will love to have, and people looking for a XC style geometry with a bit more travel will also really enjoy this bike. Heck, even a weekend warrior will love riding this bike, our IT guy did. It is plush, fairly good component selection, easy enough to pedal and looks nice. Though at 33+lbs, lighter, similar bikes can be found. For someone looking for a bit more of a downhill oriented All Mountain bike you might want to really think it over and consider the geometry of this bike compared to others of similar style. The 68 degree head angle is really not anything too steep when you compare it to a Gaint Reign with a 69 degree head angle, but, for some reason, it just didn’t work for me. The 67 degree head angle of a Santa Cruz Nomad, Gaint Reign XO, or Norco Six One (66.9 degrees) is really where the Meta 666 should be at. Though, conversely, pedaling the bike uphill is very dang easy for a 160mm travel 33+ pound bike and if your trails consist of nice, more smooth than gnar single track, you’d love this bike on the way down as well.

    Value Rating:

    4 out of 5 Stars

    I give the Meta 666 4 of 5 stars for value.

    Overall Rating:

    3.5 out of 5 Stars

    3.5 stars for overall, because I just feel Commencal didn’t think too much about the design of the bike. Rather it seems they just increased the travel of the Meta 5.5, a great bike in itself (4.79 out of 5 with 38 reviews on MTBR) but at 160mm the suspension can handle so much more if the geometry was just slacked out a bit.

    Leave a comment below – ask a question – what is your Meta 666 story?

     

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    • eauxgod says:

      A $4k Trek VRX; nice.

    • Mt.Brider says:

      Interesting review, as a 666 owner I have a few questions.
      First of all, it looks like you were sent a completely differently model then the one that you saw on the Commencal website. It seems odd to complain about the parts on a completely different bike that sells for a completely different price? It even looks like it is a different color?
      The head tube angle? You thought that a 67-degree head angle may have been better? I was wondering if you tried that? The Commencal has an adjustable angle +/- 1/2 degree and they sell another sleeve that is +/-1degree. That bike could have had a 69-degree like the Giant Reign, or the 67-degree of the Santa Cruz Nomad or the half degrees in-between.
      As for the bars, I completely agree, it looks like Commencal did too; the 2009 range is showing a 31.8 bar/stem.
      The bike has been great for me, I use it is an enduro bike that can go up, but loves to be let loose on the downhill. It sounds like you might have had a weird setup with the air pressure in the rear shock. I would be happy to offer my advice, or maybe we can ask Remy Abslon. He is the European Marathon Downhill Champion as well as the Mega Avalanche champion, and what is that? Think Downieville Classic on steroids.
      (http://www.downievilleclassic.com/)

    • adam says:

      Hey Mt. Brider,

      You raise a couple good points so let me answer for you. Oh, and thanks for reading my review and taking time to respond.

      “It seems odd to complain about the parts on a completely different..”

      Yes, I see your point, but if are interested in buying a Commencal you would go to Commencal.com to check out the bike. Or if you already bought a Commencal and wanted to check something out, you more than likely still go to Commencal.com to check something out. Once there you would see that the bike you have and the bike they have have radically different components. This, I personally, would find irritating. When buying a Cannondale you go to Cannondale.com to check it out, not REI.com or some other Cannondale retailer. Commencal should have the US edition on their site or note that parts might not be the same worldwide.

      I didn’t get to try a +/- 1 degree sleeve because the bike didn’t come with one, but I would love to try it. That might be a great solution to my complaint about how it handles gnarlier downhill trails.

      I am very glad to see that Commencal is beefing up the stem/bar for 2009 – will BTI do the same? Not sure, because, the parts are so different. I hope they do, it made a world of difference.

      As far as asking Remy Abslon, I am sure he loves his bike, why ask him, it’s like asking the board of RJ Reynolds if cigs are bad for you.

      As far as the rear shock, I did try to run it sagged out pretty far to slack the head angle, and it was an improvement but at what risk of blowing the rear shock.

      I think Commencal-BTI made a good enough first go at the bike but, like the handlebars, I bet there will be tweaks to the geometry as well at some point.

    • That Guy says:

      Dude, if it’s “not quite your thing” why are you reviewing it? It’s kind of like if I had been asked to review a unicycle and bashed it for having one wheel and no brakes, it’s just not quite my thing. My intentions here are not to bash back, but merely to comment on the fact that you indeed do not know what you are talking about. I feel like you, like myself are more at home on a downhill bike, which would correspond with your longing for a slacker head tube angle and plusher rear end, but this just isn’t the bike for you man. It’s meant to be the cross over between a full suspension cross country bike and all mountain bike. It’s meant to be pedaled and handle well in the saddle. I feel like you jumped on this bike with the wrong mind set, you can not expect every bike to feel like a dh rig on the descent and a cross country bike on the climbs. But what you can do is design a bike that does it all, and does it moderately well; a jack of all trades, master of none if you will. I think this poor bike was out of context underneath you and got a bad wrap from a guy outside of his discipline. I would love to see a review about this bike with a little more vindication, and a lot more concise conclusions. You flip flopped horribly through out the entire review, I still have no idea what you think about anything, besides that this bike didn’t fit your style. Your lack of knowledge was unsettling, for instance: that shadow derailleur makes no noise because it is no were near the frame, not because it’s a cool new shadow derailleur. The readers of mtbr deserve better staff reviews, the American market for Commencal has yet to blossom, and its people like Adam who don’t understand the market that are you going to send them running back to Europe with tales of rude yankee antics. A review, especially on mtbr, should help the reader establish an opinion, you couldn’t even establish your own. Take off your full faced helmet, go grab the guy on the nomad and ask him to rewrite your review.

    • adam says:

      That Guy -

      It sounds like you understood my review perfectly. I couldn’t establish an opinion on the bike because the bike couldn’t establish what the heck kind of bike it wants to be.

      “not quiet my thing” is a polite way of saying it could be better – not that All Mtn riding isn’t my thing.
      “It’s meant to be the cross over between a full suspension cross country bike and all mountain bike.” – They have that already, it’s called the Meta 5
      “I feel like you jumped on this bike with the wrong mind set” – Sorry that came across that way – I jumped on the bike hoping to have some fun both uphill and down.
      “But what you can do is design a bike that does it all” – I’ve yet to find a perfect one of these – but I can say the Meta isn’t as close as others.
      ‘got a bad wrap from a guy outside of his discipline” – look if this bike is the best that people can expect from this style of riding then they should give it up…thankfully it is not.
      “I would love to see a review about this bike with a little more vindication” – They’re out there – google it – I did – some dude, I think in England or France, loves it, though the title fools you at first.
      ‘You flip flopped horribly through out the entire review” – This you are right about. Like I said earlier, the bike couldn’t establish its self.

      And your wrong about the deraileur – I’ve seen/heard/experienced several Shimano XT/LX deraileurs on similar design rears that have slapped around and made an incredible amount of noise.

      I think you said it best yourself about the bike – “a jack of all trades, master of none” – some jacks are better than others.

      And besides that – it is supposed to be a Mega Avalanche bike – If I am not wrong there is more down then up in those. This one is marketed as something blessed with a superior downhill ability, which I think it does not have. Look at the ad in Dirt mag issue 74 near the back. You’ll see an ad for the Meta 666 with a guy w/ a full face on a chair lift. Tell me where the market is in that ad. Sure doesn’t seem like it is a bike that is “meant to be pedaled” if the ad has the rider in a chair lift!

      And like you say “It’s meant to be pedaled and handle well in the saddle.” in that case – why have 160mm of travel and weight so damn much?

    • That "Smart Guy" says:

      From where I and the rest of the readers stand, your response was very unprofessional and I think you should be a little embarrassed. My comments were definitely meant to be disconcerting, but that is the point of a comment section. This is how it works, someone reviews something, and another does not agree. The discrepancies as seen by one person are addressed. The author in turn replies respectfully as to not smudge the image that people have of his employer. I was not impressed by your list showing my “incorrect statement” followed by your irreverent pro-reviewer “correct answer” format. I expect a lot more from the staff of an incredibly popular and endorsed website.
      That being said, and bicycles aside, the point of my post was to show how poorly this review was approached by mtbr. You opened your review with immediate negativity, and barely gave the bike a chance. Your negativity is not warranted by the fact that you had a misunderstanding with Commencal/BTI. An introductory paragraph always expresses the focus of the following text, and any “smart guy,” as you kindly phrased it, would assume that your stance was negative. You landed the middle of the road 666 without knowing and didn’t explain that to your audience. You blamed the middle man instead of the bike manufacturer, and you made it difficult for an up and coming company to make a name for themselves based on your poor abilities to address a review.
      For me, mtbr.com is no longer a place where I can be educated by the professional opinions of its writers. I am not alone.

    • adam says:

      That “Smart Guy” -

      Come dude, you rebutted none of my points. I’m not going to talk about it if you keep changing the argument.

      I think if you have a different opinion you should get it out. It is a benefit to all who read. There is also a link in the review to writing a review for the Meta 666 – if you have one and like it – write it! There is nothing wrong with that.

      Besides that, your starting to sound like you work for either Commencal or BTI. Come on, out with it if you do.

    • That "Smart Guy" says:

      I didn’t think a rebuttle was necessary, we both made valid points the first time. The bike was no longer the point. I am a mechanic at a bike shop in Arizona, we carry Commencal, and I have in fact built and ridden the exact model you reviewed. We all really love their stuff here, and would really like to see them become more popular in the states. We have a really hard time selling Commencals because they’re name is not recognized. So I apologize for getting a little wild, but I think its worth getting fired up over something that affects my well being. Especially if its a lame review.
      Thanks for the good times
      ~That f’in guy
      PS: I think its funny that every time you post you come back and change all the rude things you said. I wish I had that power.

    • adam says:

      I can’t understand why Commencal would have a hard time selling at this point. Gee just won Worlds on his, the Meta 5 is a great bike. The Mini DH rocks as well. The hard tail DJ bikes look dope though I’ve not had a chance to ride one, and the regular XC bikes seem fine as well. I just think the Meta 666 LTD is groing through growing pains. The geometry to suspension length just don’t work for me. Along with some other things. Some tweaks here and there and it would be a fine bike in all likelyhood.

      If you like the bike, awesome, post a review. People need to read lots of opinions on a bike. Not every bike is made for every person.

      As far as editing, I’ve changed what I said before you posted a reply. If you’d like to have something changed in your comments just email me the changes and I would be happy to change them. It’s the internet. Nothing is set in stone and nothing is one way only. I actually really like that ppl don’t see eye to eye with me on this bike. A good discussion of the bike really helps people know if it is a good bike for them. I too would like to see Commencal, or any bike company, get bigger. But, if I am not of fan of something than I’m not a fan.

    • Graeme says:

      I own a meta666 and have owned a meta5. I am very happy with this bike and its handling. I do certainly agree that commencal could have done a better job deciding components. My conclusions is that they expect people to customize there bikes. However I would like to see a more committed approach from commencal offering “finished bikes” with appropriate builds. In my opinion the full potential of the design is wasted with this “XC” build that you rode and competes poorly with the meta5. I have a set back seat post, bash ring, 50mm 31.8 stem (and a 70mm for uphills), 67° head angle (+1° insert). With this setup I think you have the true nature of this bike. It sits in the market with the Nomad. It’s a bike that is capable of a lot down hill but can ride comfortably up. I have done 800 meters in altitude gain, slowly, on this bike and I can also ride bike parks, with lifts. :-p
      The only thing I do not like about the bike is the rear shox. It bottoms out to easy. I’m told there is not enough space to fit a piggy back shox like the DHX air. I have also been told that the marzocchi 3PL works better on this bike and it is also possible to fit a 200×57 shox giving 184mm rear travel… that should open up the head angle

    • adam says:

      This is a Meta 6 I would love to try.

      http://www.ridemonkey.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3066211&postcount=37

      Fixes everything I had issues with.

    • mitchelsan says:

      This has been an interesting read from all of you guys it is more than evident that you share a great passion for the sport and MTB rigs. I for one was on the lookout for a commencal bike for quite sometime as everyone else I checked all that was out there on all the Meta had to offer but I could nail one specific pre-set up that would please me and the style of riding I’m into. So they have the VIP range frames in which you build your own rig and do as you please, when you are talking about the 666MetaVIP you know you are not getting in a light XC or halfway house you are getting a tank that can bomb down whatever you throw at it and still manage to pedal back for a rematch. So I did I built mine from scratch and to be honest it was a little of trials before I got the set up right but most inportantly I was in command of the whole equation from the beginning. I live in China and you want to talk about gnarly trail take a ride on this side of the world friends to see raw nature at its best. I used Lyric 09 2 Step Air, Initially Atom Lab Pimplite’s, XT drivetrain, Maxxis High Rollers LUST 2.35′s, thomsom X4 Stem, thomsom elite seatpost, selle italia saddle, RP23 fox shock. I left it initially with the original angle sleeve it came with and had the choice to switch it but to this day I have not, the only change I did was the wheelset which I swapped from the Atomlab to Spinergy Cyclone Enduro and my search was over. I have thrown the bike down what ever came my way and I have yet to bottom it out at 25% sag. I think is al about what you are going to be doing what your bike that decides what you are getting, specially with so many choices out there…

    • ERIC M says:

      I have a ’09 META 6 VIP and have to let everyone reading these posts to ignore all of this non-sense. I have had this frame since spring ’09 and have a custom build group. I live in Tennessee and do mostly rolling single track. I love everything about this bike. The geometry is spot on for technical riding and for the occasional trip to the bike park (Snowshoe Mtn.) I have to agree with (that guy)…If the bike isn’t set up to be what you want why ride it? Most mountain-bikers build their frame or they buy one complete and modify it for their riding style. How can you bash a bike that you dont even know how to route the cables on? (see the bb pic) The cables are crossing each other. You might want to take the bike to a shop that actually knows how to assemble it then you might not be so quick to bash on this excellent frame. You may want to consider all your future reviews also…The bike DOES know what it wants to be it IS a do it all bike. All-mountain/Trail-bike. Its not a weight wennie bike or a burly DH bike, its right between the two. So with all this said please consider what you right in the future about bikes and what they are designed for. The whole Commencal Meta series is an excellent design and all riders should at least test ride one before buying any other frame.

    • guest says:

      In defense of the cable routing comment above. I worked at a shop for many years and we routed our cables crossed under the downtube ALL the time. It makes for a much smoother bend of the shifter cables to have them route around the opposite side of the headtube and criss-cross on their way down the downtube.

    • Johanms1 says:

      Wait till you have to deal with customer service… Never Commencal for me again.

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