Mountain Bike Action Bike Review: Canyon Sender CFR Downhill Bike
Canyon Sender CFR
The German company known as Canyon is a premier cycling brand with a different attitude towards the consumer experience. As many of our readers are aware, you won’t be able to find these bikes in your local bike shop; instead, they must be ordered online. Although there is no person-to-person interaction when purchasing, consumers will be glad to know that Canyon is a company made up of dedicated riders and racers.
The 2021 Sender CFR is a downhill sled designed for racing. The team spent about three years formulating the updates seen on the Sender CFR. The goal was a lighter-weight bike that was more predictable and, of course, faster. The feedback on the design came from World Cup riders, such as Troy Brosnan, Mark Wallace, and Tahnée and Kaos Seagrave.
Our wrecking crew has spent quite a bit of time aboard the 2021 Sender CFRÐ from days at the bike park to all-day hike-a-bike ridgeline sessions. Now, let’s dive into our thoughts on Canyon’s mixed-wheeled, downhill race machine.
The Sender CFR is the hardware of choice for Canyon’s factory racing teams, hence the CFR in the name. The bike features a race-ready platform with a completely carbon frame. By utilizing carbon seat stays and chain stays, Canyon shaved 600 grams (1.3 pounds) off the previous Sender. The shock position was changed significantly. Instead of attaching to the top tube, the shock is now mounted to the downtube. This not only creates a lower center of gravity, it also helps the engineers save weight by not having to reinforce the top tube with shock mounts.
The small and medium frames use a mixed-wheel platform; a 27.5-inch wheel in the rear and 29-inch wheel in the front. The large and extra-large sizes use a 29-inch front and back. It can be a bit confusing, as even we thought this meant the medium size could be adapted to be a 29er front and rear. This is not the case, as the small and medium have shorter chainstays than the larger-sized Sender CFRs. Although each frame indicates that the rear shock can be mounted for a 29-inch wheel or 27.5-inch option, Canyon advises the rider to leave the bike as it comes.
The Sender CFR frame has all the features of a modern downhill race bike. This includes fully guided internal cable routing, a generous amount of rubberized protection, offset headset cups for adjustable reach by 8mm, Boost hub spacing, 10mm of chainstay length adjustment, metric shock sizing, and even replaceable/removable thread inserts throughout the frame.
There are two different builds of the Sender CFR. Both feature the full carbon frame. The build we tested comes equipped with a 7-speed SRAM X01 DH drivetrain, SRAM Code RSC brakes, a RockShox Boxxer Ultimate RC2 fork, a Rockshox Super Deluxe Ultimate DH air shock and DT Swiss wheels wrapped with Maxxis tires. The Sender CFR build we tested is available in two color options the Stealth or CFR TeamÐ and comes with a hard-to-beat price tag of $5799.
The other build option available is the Sender CFR FMD that is approved by the Seagrave siblings. The FMD racing build comes in a bright neon-green colorway for $4799. This particular option is outfitted with a 7-speed Shimano Saint drivetrain, Shimano Saint brakes, Fox DHX2 Performance Elite coil shock, Fox 40 Performance Elite fork and DT Swiss wheels encircled with Schwalbe tires. It is worth a mention that Canyon is still offering an alloy version of the earlier design starting at $3399.
As with the prior design, the Sender CFR uses the same four-bar layout that delivers 200mm of travel. As we mentioned, the shock mounting position changed on the 2021 Sender CFR to not only save weight and drop the center of gravity but to adapt the kinematics of the suspension.
Feedback from racers and mechanics played a huge role in the development of the Sender CFR’s suspension. Racers wanted a more progressive feel that would ultimately improve bottom-out control. On the old and new Senders, the leverage curve starts and finishes at the same ratio; however, unlike the previous version, the revamped Sender CFR hits the lowest leverage ratio earlier in the travel and then is linear for a portion to achieve progression a bit quicker.
Another suspension design goal was to reduce the amount of pedal kickbackÐ a measure of how much the cranks rotate backwards as the suspension compresses. To reduce pedal kickback, some brands use an idler pulley. Compared to the old Sender, the new version’s pedal kickback is reduced by 60 percent, with Canyon opting for a precisely placed main pivot without the use of an idler pulley. Eager to dominate a downhill run, our wrecking crew set the appropriate suspension sag and hit the lifts!
DOWN AND DIRTY
Beyond making the new Sender lighter, more controlled and ultimately faster, Canyon’s racers wanted a bike that was able to withstand the toughest World Cup tracks. The ability to change the bike’s reach and wheelbase length, along with mixed-wheel compatibility, makes the Sender CFR an option for athletes looking to adapt the bike to best suit their racecourse.
While this might seem obvious, we did not do a whole lot of pedaling uphill with this sled; however, let’s cover the gearing for getting after those hard pedaling sections on the track. The highest gear available is a 10-tooth on the cassette paired with a 36-tooth chainring at the cranks. Our testers found that they had to be moving in the high 20s to even begin to put power down at this high gear. A noticeable takeaway was how well an air-shock suspension setup supported our pedal efforts while minimizing pedal bob.
Once the Sender is off the lift and let loose, it instantly becomes apparent that it is designed for speed. Canyon succeeded in its goal of making a downhill race weapon. The Sender blows down steep ski-slope-like trails with control and agility. Our test riders pushed the limits, releasing the brakes and letting the suspension system crush the trail ahead. The 200mm-travel fork, combined with the 29-inch wheel up front, helped test riders navigate a path through chunky obstacles, while the 27.5-inch rear wheel gave them a snappier response in and out of turns. Furthermore, the updated shock position kept riders planted low into the corners while maintaining momentum on the way out.
Did we mention the bike wants to go fast? The overall length, even in the most compact adjustments, equated to exceptional control in a straight line at speed, but it took time to adjust to how the length caused the bike to respond in very tight (almost switchback) cornering situations. Running the bike in the shorter length wheelbase was best for the trails we rode. As our testers became accustomed to the bike, lap by lap they were able to knock time off the clock.
We recommend leaving the bike stock until something needs to be replaced. More weight could be saved at the wheel or handlebars with some proper downhill carbon upgrades. Stock, the DT Swiss rear hub has the 24-tooth star ratchet. When the time comes, we would upgrade to the 54-tooth option for quicker engagement. Overall, this is a great downhill build with top-of-the-line components at a low, direct-to-consumer price.
Because this is a downhill bike designed for World Cup athletes, the average rider will not be able to test the limits of what this bike is capable of. Still, what downhill shredder doesn’t want a faster and more capable bike? The Canyon Sender CFR is the ultimate weapon for riders who need it. The bike can be dialed in to blast down runs with precision and control, turning a ride on the gnarliest terrain into a casual jaunt through the trees.