BIKE TEST: CANYON SPECTRAL 29 CF TRAIL BIKE
Canyon Spectral 29 CF
The Spectral fits right in the middle of Canyon’s off-road lineup, making it a well-balanced trail bike suited for every occasion. Furthermore, Canyon offers the Spectral in a wide range of choices, starting with three distinct options that can be customized with various component choices. Those three options include a fast-rolling 29er Spectral, a more playful and nimble 27.5-inch Spectral, as well as the Spectral:ON. The latter bike is an electric-assist model featuring a Shimano EP8 motor. In this test, we rode the Euro-spec’d Canyon Spectral 29 CF to learn more about what this bike has to offer. Let’s dig right into this performance trail bike test and see what it’s all about.
Canyon listened to advice from its World Cup mechanics to ensure the Spectral would spend more time on the trails than back in the shop. The first solution they came up with was hassle-free cable routing, which makes swapping or servicing parts a breeze. The second solution was using replaceable threaded inserts in the frame, allowing riders to replace hardware if they are the types who strong-arm every bolt, causing potential damage to their frames. Another well-thought-out idea was placing the bolt heads all on the same side, reducing the need to flip the bike back and forth in the stand.
The Spectral received a complete redesign to accommodate its new 29er shoes; the last generation was only available in a 27.5-inch model. While this shows the continuing popularity of 29-inch wheels, it’s nice to see Canyon leave a smaller wheel option in the lineup for shorter riders or ones who prefer more nimble ride characteristics. Compared to the last iteration, the new Spectral has a longer reach, offers more travel and provides a slacker head tube angle. Furthermore, the bike has adjustable geometry, thanks to a Flip Chip in the suspension linkage. Canyon removed the steering-lock system seen on the old Spectral and integrated a chainguide.
As noted earlier, we received the European version of the Spectral, which is nearly identical to the American version other than its suspension package. Our bike came with a 150mm-travel RockShox Pike, while American models will have 160mm-travel Fox forks. The shock will also be swapped for a piggyback Fox DPX2 shock. With the American attitude being “bigger is better,” we don’t think any riders will be upset with additional fork travel.
The rest of the component package is the same, featuring a SRAM X01 Eagle 12-speed drivetrain, DT Swiss XMC1501 Carbon wheels and Canyon’s World Cupproven G5 cockpit. Ensuring riders can save energy on climbs, Canyon supplied Spectral riders with a 52-tooth gear in back matched with a 32-tooth chainring.
Featuring 150mm of travel and a triple-phase suspension system, the Spectral is ready for long climbs, fast single-track and massive drops. While our test riders would have liked the American model Spectral featuring a heavier-duty fork, we never felt outgunned out on the trails. Canyon put the Spectral to the test against its bigger brother, the Strive, and claims both bikes exceed its in-house enduro testing standards.
DOWN AND DIRTY
The Spectral is truly a quiver-killer that excels on just about every trail. Sure, it may not keep pace with a super-light cross-country bike, nor will it soak up big hits like a full-fledged downhill machine, but it manages to find the perfect balance between those two vastly different disciplines.
Canyon designed the Spectral to soak up small bumps with ease, which not only makes the downhills more comfortable, but also improves climbing traction. The subtle beginning to the shock stroke, followed by its firm mid-stroke, provides an efficient platform for pedaling up climbs. Additionally, the updates made to the Spectral’s geometry place riders in a powerful position, further aiding climbing performance. The leaned-forward seat angle pairs well with a long reach to firmly plant the front wheel to the ground when approaching steep sections. On long, sustained climbs, the huge 52-tooth cassette allowed us to spin the pedals, giving our legs some rest while our cardio carried us up the trail. Overall, Canyon did a nice job catering to trail riders’ needs while they work their way to the tops of the mountains.
When researching the Spectral on Canyon’s website, you might be misled to think the 29er model is only built for speed, while the 27.5-inch Spectral is the more playful option. While it’s likely true the smaller-wheeled bike is easier to toss around, our test riders found themselves flicking the Spectral 29 around the trails with ease. A lot of this had to do with the progressive suspension curve that ramps up quickly, keeping the bike high in its travel.
When pressing into the suspension, the bike has a natural and controlled pop out of corners and off jumps, encouraging riders to get rad. Of course, bike geometry plays a large role in the way the Spectral flows down the trails. This is why the bike offers a confidence-inspiring, relaxed geometry that plows over everything in its path.
Considering the American model receives a fork with an additional 10mm of travel, we can only predict that the American bike would be even more capable while flying down the trails. If you’re thinking the 29er model is simply a point-and-shoot bike, you couldn’t be more wrong. Sure, the smaller-wheeled bike will dance around the trails with less effort, but the speedy 29er proved to be just as fast in a straight line as it is diving in and out of twisty trails.
As far as upgrades go, it’s challenging to point fingers at any component, since components, these days all are so good. That said, we can offer some tips to help you out. Our first tip is regarding the OneUp dropper post, which provides adjustable travel to better suit your seat height. Our 5-foot-9 test rider was happy with 180mm of travel on a size medium frame. Shorter riders, however, will be able to internally shim the post to reduce travel, eliminating the need to replace the post if it’s too long. Size small frames come with a 150mm post, which can be shimmed down to a shorter length, while medium, large and extra-large frames come with a 180mm post and the same capability.
A bit of a nitpicky upgrade was that some of our glove-less riders wanted to swap out the grips for something with a waffle pattern that would prevent their hands from slipping off the grips. When riding with gloves, the grips were never an issue.
The rider most likely to fall in love with the Spectral is one who wants a highly versatile bike at a value-driven price. Canyon’s business model of bypassing the middle man (bike shop) allows them to sell bikes at exceptional prices. Along with that, Canyon’s German engineering background ensures the company builds and designs bikes relatable to high-performance sports cars. If we could only have one bike in our stable to tackle a wide range of riding, the Canyon Spectral would be on our shortlist of bikes to buy.