The French aren’t so much known for building mountain bikes, though there have been several Frenchman who have been ultra-successful at both XC and DH disciplines. When I think of France and bikes, I think of bikes of the skinny tire variety. Contrary to that stereotype, Commencal has been building a handful of downhill and freeride-type mountain bikes since 2000.
I didn’t really notice Commencal until freeride and DH phenom Cedric Gracia jumped from Cannondale to Commencal a couple of years ago. I haven’t seen much of Gracia lately, so I’m not sure if he’s settled into the European spotlight and dropped of the US radar or not. However, at the Interbike Outdoor Demo, I was determined to at least swing a leg over one of their rides to get a first-hand feel for how they perform.
About the Commencal Meta 666
Billed as a lightweight freeride machine, the Commencal Meta 666 has great specs with 6.2 inches of travel front and rear while still only tipping the scales at around 30.5 lbs. Rear shock is the venerable Fox RP2 and the squish upfront is delivered by the RockShox Lyrik 2-step Air (115-160mm), which is one of the best long-travel single-crown forks on the market. The remainder of the parts mix is a smart selection of SRAM X.9, X.0, Shimano Deore XT and the like with a solid set of wheels and tires to handle all-day abuse.
Commencal has yet to gain much traction in the USA, but this year, BTI USA has signed up as the distributor and is aggressively seeking new retail outlets. I know that PricePoint had some amazing deals on last years closeout models, but other than that I haven’t seen them in many stores. While at Go-Ride.com’s retail store, I did see a single Commencal frame, so they are available, but still hard to find. Look for their DH rigs in shops that carry plenty of those types of sleds.
Commencal Meta 666 Review
I’ve seen Commencal bikes for several years now and have been interested to see how they ride. They look great and have great parts specs, so when I saw the Meta 666 sitting there all alone, I had to take it for a spin. After getting the shock dialed for my weight, I took it for a long lap on the lower trails.
The initial geometry and fit seemed great, with a comfortable riding position and good angles. The continuous seat tube is always a plus for those times when you need to drop the saddle during the downhill portion of the show.
Heading out on the trails, I immediately noticed that it wasn’t going to win any climbing competitions. At 6.2-inches of travel, it’s definitely not an XC machine, but I expected a little more uphill efficiency. I couldn’t tell if it was just blowing right through the pedaling platform or not, but it just felt sluggish.
When the trails turned downhill and were filled with twisting singletrack and rock gardens, the Meta666 began to show it’s DH pedigree because this is where it shined. I felt very smooth and very fast and had a blast while it lasted. The unfortunate thing about the loop we chose to take was that once the downhill ended, it was a long slog back to the demo area. This return trail has a slight uphill to it, but is mostly flat with some ups and downs.
That type of terrain amplified the inefficient pedaling of the Meta666 as I honestly couldn’t wait to drop it back to the BTI tent. Sometimes, bikes don’t get set up properly for the rider’s weight at these kinds of demos, but the technician took extra care to get the right pressure in the shock. All I can say is to expect this bike to be somewhat of a slug going uphill, but once you start going down, you will likely forget the pain of the climb.
The Bottom Line on the Commencal Meta666
This bike has a smart parts spec and comes from some uber-successful DH lineage, but there are better all-mountain bikes out there–specifically the Yeti 575 and even the sleeper Transition Covert. If you value the downhill more than the up, then the Meta666 could be your steed. But, as an all-around performer, I can’t completely recommend it. I’m sure their DH rigs are stellar, but the Meta666 doesn’t hit the all-mountain mark I’d look for in a do-it-all rig.