Looking to upgrade to a new bike, I was pretty sold on getting a Santa Cruz Chameleon 27+ R. However, I recently discovered the Commencal Meta HT AM Race 650. I know Santa Cruz pretty well and I can go to my LBS to pick or order one (with the Commencal I will have to order online), however does any one have any opinions/experience with Commencal bikes. The Commencal is cheaper by $350, much longer travel fork (160mm), and pretty similar parts across the board. Where I ride is a mixture of flow trails to somewhat technical (pedaly) trails. Do you think the Commencal is worth it over the Santa Cruz? I’m a bit unsure about fork travel lengths, is the 160mm that the Commencal has worth it over the 120mm that the Santa Cruz has?
First of all, if you can take a chameleon for a demo ride, do it. That will definitely help you decide whether you want it or something different. You should also demo something similar in geometry and travel to the commencal, even if it’s a full-sus; this will give you a good idea of how the commencal will handle on your local trails. It sounds like the commencal might be overkill for the trails that you ride, but it might be useful if you start riding more technical trails. More important than the travel is the geometry, like the head tube angle, bottom bracket height, wheelbase, reach, etc. I’m going to suggest you look at the Orange Clockwork 137 , unless you specifically want a plus bike. I would say that it has better drivetrain components and similar suspension components to your other choices, and looks like it is a good balance between the two others. It’s geometry is a little closer to the commencal’s, while the fork has just a little bit more travel than the chameleon’s. The Clockwork should be pretty lively on flow trails and hold it’s own in the more technical stuff. As for components, I have an Orange Crush with virtually the same spec as the clockwork (except for the dropper) and it has all proven very reliable, plus I prefer shimano over sram for drivetrain stuff.
If you live in the U.S. orange bikes can be kind of hard to get, but you can order them from here or talk to someone at your LBS, as they may be able to order one for you (which is what I did.)
Whichever bike you decide on, good luck! Here’s hoping it’s a fun one!
I owned an older Santa Cruz Chameleon and the bike was really fun…I ended up over-forking it though to 140mm.
My current hardtail is a Ritchey Timberwolf , custom build with a 150mm fork, and I would highly recommend looking at that. A steel hardtail frame has a much more forgiving ride than an aluminum frame and the geometry is middle-of-the-road, great for most trails. The Meta has a pretty slack geo which can be really fun on fast steep stuff but feel a little sluggish on mellower trails where you’re pedaling a lot.
They are selling the Timberwolf’s on the Ritchey site for $1900 right now (clearance price marked down from $3600!) and they come with a great build kit. If you end up buying a hardtail that doesn’t come spec’d with a dropper post, I suggest that be your first upgrade.
Good luck! Regardless of bike, I’m sure you’ll have fun!
I currently have a customer built Kona Honzo ST. If you like the steel game, then it is a win win. I went with it because of the incredible geometry, and it fits my 6’4″ body really well since its a pretty long bike. I threw Xt M8000 drivetrain and brakes and a fox 34 factory fork on there, and I bought every component myself with the exception for the tires which I stole off of my old bike. All in all it ran me about $2200 ($2400 once I add the OneUp Dropper next month). I’ve taken it on some pretty crazy trails and taken on everything the guys with FS bikes are doing. I love this bike.
Just another you could look into: Guerrilla Gravity Pedalhead. I just ordered one and cannot wait for it to arrive!! It’s also a steel hardtail with all mountain geometry. And the cool factor is very high.
My vote goes for the the Kona Honzo AL/DR. Take the money you saved and bump the fork travel up to 140mm (maybe a $50 job) and ride the hell out of it. The Honzo is OG 29er trail/AM hardtail and they simply rip. I personally think this bike blows the Chameleon outta the water and while the Meta is the most aggressive I’d rather have the 29er wheels. Beyond this I’d tell you to figure out what size you’s want and buy a used steel one. I have ’15 steel model built as a single speed that I adore.
I picked up a 2018 Commencal Meta HT frame in the winter and built it up. Loving the bike. Boost spacing and I’m running a 140mm Pike on the front, but will take a 160mm fork. 2.8 Maxxis Minions on it. My other choices were the SC Chamelon and the Kona Honzo but I went with the cheapest route and picked up the Meta HT frame, new for $400. I’m guessing the Chameleon and Honzo are great but I’m loving the Meta and have no complaints with it. I’ve actually been using it more than my expensive full suspension bike.
Commencal is big in Europe from what i understand, I would not hesitate to consider it. Great value, big on racing. Kind of a cult favorite with the hard tail loyalists. (of which I was until shop mechanic talked me into trying full suspension).
Hey bvcarpenter, I have been strongly considering building a steel Honzo, but I haven’t gotten a chance to demo a Honzo yet. What size do you have? I’m 6’5”, so I was thinking XL, but the reach and stack numbers of the L are really similar to my current XC bike which seems to fit fairly well. I appreciate any insights. Thanks.
Anyone else have sizing advice regarding the Kona Honzo. I was able to ride a Large around a parking lot, and I would say the fit was pretty good (reach and stack numbers are about the same as my current 23” Trek XC hardtail). According to Kona’s sizing charts, at my height (6’5”), they would suggest an XL, but I haven’t been able to find one to test ride. I’m curious, does anyone else have an experience choosing between two sizes when it comes to the Honzo?