Mountain Bike Action Bike Test: Canyon Neuron CF SLX 9.0 Trail Bike
Suspension front/rear: 130 / 130mm
Tire Size: 29″
Canyon took a different approach from today’s long, slack and low bikes to offer something with a sportier feel that less aggressive riders will feel at home on. This isn’t to say that Canyon’s Neuron is a less capable bike on descents; however, the Neuron is based on conservative numbers compared to bikes in its same travel category. At 130mm of travel, most would label the Neuron a light-duty trail bike, but many of our test riders began calling it a long-travel cross-country machine. This month the wrecking crew got a hold of Canyon’s Neuron, a bike that sits between the race-ready Lux and the relaxed all-mountain bike, the Spectral, to test it on our local courses.
A steering stop ensures the handlebars will never come in contact with the top tube.
The Canyon direct-to-consumer model makes purchasing a complete bike as easy as lifting the lid on your laptop, plugging in your credit card number and patiently waiting at your front door for your new bike to arrive. The Neuron model can be purchased for as little as $1,599 for a complete aluminum-framed bike and works its way up to $6499 for the Elite Carbon frame build. These value-driven prices are achieved by cutting out the middleman, also known as your local bike shop, so don’t expect your local shop’s mechanic to be thrilled if he has to work on your new purchase. That said, Canyon has a great team standing by the phone waiting to answer your questions.
The Neuron’s frame boasts quite a few unique features, with the standout being its clever internal cable routing. What’s so clever about it? Well, when you remove the plastic guards that run the length of the downtube and bottom bracket, the cables become quickly accessible. In fact, the only cable that can be a little tricky to route is the one headed to your dropper post. If you want to swap your brakes, you can do it without disconnecting the hydraulic lines.
Additional frame features include a steering stop to prevent the handlebar controls from contacting your top tube during a crash. The bike is made weatherproof by placing caps over already sealed bearings, ensuring no dirt or grit will get inside. Last but not least, Canyon allows room for a water bottle inside the frame and offers a clever tool-free rear axle design.
A variety of components are available across Canyon’s lineup, so we’ll spare you the details of going through each and every part on this bike. That said, there were a few components on our bike that stood out. The first was a 12-speed XTR drivetrain. Shimano stepped up to the plate and hit the ball out of the park with its 12-speed systems that provide excellent range and shifting feel. The next thing to capture our attention was the Fox suspension and dropper post, which featured factory-level Kashima coating.
Looking at the entry-level model, Canyon managed to pack amazing value into that bike. Featuring a SRAM NX 12-speed drivetrain, a dropper post and a RockShox Recon fork, the Neuron is a good buy across its lineup.
The Neuron is designed around climbing performance, inspiring you to ride farther than you initially planned. The bike is built with Canyon’s Triple Phase suspension system and runs the shock horizontally, whereas the aluminum bikes have a vertical orientation. Canyon suggests between 27- and 30-percent sag with around 20 percent in its fork. We opted for more sag, closer to 30 percent in the rear shock, for a softer and more comfortable ride. Even with a plusher setup, our test riders found the Neuron sat right in the sweet spot during climbs, whether we were seated or out of the saddle.
DOWN AND DIRTY
The Neuron’s fairly conservative geometry offers sporty handling that novice riders will enjoy. More experienced riders may get along with this bike if they prefer a classic geometry compared to the overly aggressive, long, slack and low geometries we see today. Rolling terrain through the woods is the Neuron’s ideal trail setting.
Today’s mountain bikes, especially in the trail market, tend to focus on descending performance over climbing efficiency. The Neuron flips that around by placing climbing prowess at the top of its list. It didn’t matter if we were finding our way up a rock garden or climbing a singletrack out of the saddle, the Neuron rewarded our efforts equally. Riders looking to rack up the elevation will find the Neuron is always happy to climb.
On descents, the Neuron tends to have a nervous feel due to a steeper head tube angle and its undergunned front tire. Compared to light-duty trail bikes, such as the Intense Sniper or Norco’s Optic, the Neuron falls short in providing downhill confidence. At slower speeds, the Neuron is peppy and ready to play on the trails, but as speeds increase, its handling becomes less stable than that of the previously mentioned bikes. Overall, the Neuron is well-suited for rolling hills or tight forest trails where it can use its snappy handling to its advantage.
The first upgrade we would make to our Neuron would be a beefier front tire to improve confidence during descents. Something in the 2.4-inch range or even wider would help riders have better control when trail speeds increase. Another upgrade would be a trail-oriented cockpit. The 760mm handlebars and 60mm stem scream cross-country for today’s standards. Many of our test riders would have preferred a wider handlebar in the 780mm range. The stem, on the other hand, would be hard to shorten due to the already short reach measurement.
Last, we had to make some minor derailleur adjustments, more specifically to our limit screws. In previous Canyon tests, we’ve been quite pleased with the attention to detail these bikes receive before being shipped; however, our bike required some mechanical knowledge to get it to optimal performance.
The Neuron is far more comfortable than the race-ready Lux while remanning lighter and peppier than Canyon’s Spectral. This 130mm-travel trail bike would ideally suit a rider looking for a do-it-all bike that isn’t a pure downhill shred machine. Canyon designed the Neuron to take on long adventure rides using descents as a means to the next location. Sure, you can toss the Neuron around the trails and have fun with it, but highspeed confidence just wasn’t there for us. All things considered, the Neuron would be a great bike for wooded trails with rolling elevation.
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