Mountain Bike Action Bike Test: Canfield Balance All-Mountain Machine
Canfield has a reputation for designing raw yet refined mountain bikes, built to take abuse and deliver top performance. The Balance is the brand’s all-mountain/enduro machine designed to charge at full speed down the most demanding trails. The Balance became longer and slacker after its latest updates, providing increased high-speed stability and control.
Additionally, the bike received an ever-so-slight increase in travel, further improving its big-hit performance and small-bump compliance. Our test riders had their hands full this month, putting the all-new Balance up against the toughest trails we could find.
Canfield’s Balance is built from a sturdy 7005 aluminum frame with CNC-machined links. The cables are routed externally across the top side of the downtube, and the front triangle is occupied by a long-travel coil shock. Underneath, the bike offers a space to mount a bottle cage.
Canfield’s patented Canfield Balance Formula (CBF) suspension system features 169mm of travel and pairs it in front with a 170mm-travel fork. Canfield gave this bike a relaxed 64-degree head tube angle and longer front center for high-speed stability. The rear end remains short and snappy, with 16.5-inch chainstays. Included with each bike is a spare derailleur hanger, as well as an additional set of frame decals to keep your bike looking fresh or to simply mix up its look.
These bikes can be purchased in a variety of builds, including the build kit seen here, or as two different frame kit options. A frame and DVO coil-shock option is available for $2100. Additionally, Canfield sells a frame with a DVO fork and shock for $2750. Our complete build with MRP coil suspension front and rear, along with SRAM’s GX 12-speed groupset, sells for $4400. Other components include Industry 9’s 1/1 Enduro wheels, SRAM G2 brakes, a custom SDG seat, and a handlebar and stem from Spank. Put it all together and you have a pretty sweet bike for the price.
CBF suspension was created in the late ’90s and drew inspiration from the trailing arms of trophy trucks. Over the years Canfield has worked to redefine its suspension system to strike a balance between smooth, small-bump compliance and firm pedaling efficiency. For those of you looking for all the nitty-gritty details on the technical side of CBF suspension, we highly recommend reading up on it on Canfield’s website. There you will find a detailed writeup comparing CBF suspension to other types of linkage systems.
DOWN AND DIRTY
The combination of long-travel coil suspension and a rough-and-ready frame gives the Balance an edge during descents; however, this enduro ripper is also made to earn its turns. Canfield’s latest edition of the Balance rightfully earns its name as a bike that can balance an enduro rider’s needs.
Considering this Canfield packs a heavy punch with 169mm of travel, you can’t expect to effortlessly fly up the mountain. That said, with the MRP shock in the locked-out position, riders can expect a solid platform for working their way up the trails. On technical sections, riders can get away with the shock in the open position for added traction over rocks and roots.
From a geometry standpoint, the Balance offers a comfortable fit that places riders right over the center of the bike, thanks to its 75.7-degree effective seat-tube angle. A long front center also helps keep the front wheel planted when tackling steep terrain. Riders looking to spin multiple laps around their local enduro tracks will find Canfield’s Balance is up for the task.
Heading down the trails and ripping through turns is what the Balance loves to do most. This downhill bruiser is built tough and uses its long-travel coil suspension to provide a traction-filled, ultra-plush ride down the trails. Our test riders found the Balance to be highly predictable and playful as they charged down singletrack. This bike is far from the lightest enduro bike on the market, yet it feels surprisingly nimble leaning in and out of turns. On fast straightaways, the Balance remains poised and ready to take on more speed. One of its only downfalls was the cable noise coming from the downtube area. Although the cables are nicely tucked away, a few more points of security would have helped tame unwanted clatter. Regardless, Canfield’s Balance is ready to tame the roughest downhill tracks you can find.
The build kit offers quality components that deliver great value and performance. SRAM’s GX 12-speed drivetrain with the new 52-tooth cassette provided an ultra-low range for crawling up steep mountains. Meanwhile, Industry 9 1/1 Enduro wheels provided stiffness in corners, and MRP’s coil suspension kept things rolling smoothly. The Spank cockpit was also well-liked by our test crew.
One slight modification we would recommend is adding protection or a frame wrap to keep the bike looking fresh and scratch-free. Riders planning to shuttle this bike may want to consider protective material on the upper part of the downtube to prevent unwanted wear from a shuttle pad.
Canfield set out to redefine its best-selling enduro bike with the all-new Balance, and we have to give them props for doing just that. The bike is enduro-tough and could provide as much fun shredding bike-park laps as it does attacking aggressive singletrack; however, the Balance is considered a big mountain bike, and its rider should keep that in mind. Riding the Balance on smooth trails doesn’t do its abilities justice. Canfield’s Balance is aimed at those looking to push the limits on a bike sturdy enough to handle their every demand.
Mountain Bike Action is a monthly magazine devoted to all things mountain biking (yes, that’s 12 times a year because we never take a month off of mountain biking). It has been around since 1986 and we’re still having fun.