What happens when you get Fabien Barel, Joe Barnes and a room full of Canyon’s brainiest engineers working on a new bike for over 2 years?
Introducing the all-new Canyon Spectral, a hard-hitting 27.5” trail bike combining a 140mm rear end with 150mm of travel up front, a whole host of changes from the previous model, and excellent value.
We’ve just spent a few days on the island of Madeira off the coast of Portugal riding the new bike, and here’s what we thought!
Just about everything! Starting with the frame, the linkage system has seen a complete overhaul, with new pivot placements and a horizontal shock orientation that puts the Spectral in line with a new ‘family’ of Canyon bikes.
There is a trick new cable housing system we’ve not seen before, a new rear hub axle concept, a funky storage system, great water carrying facilities and a wallet-friendly aluminium versions too.
We’ll go into this new ‘family’ of bikes in an upcoming article, but essentially the Spectral’s linkage design has been altered to allow for what they call ‘Triple Phase’ suspension kinematics, a system that was initially derived from the development of their Sender downhill bike.
Triple Phase suspension kinematics, according to Canyon, is the combination of a sensitive initial stroke for small bump sensitivity, a stable mid stroke for support and a progressive end stroke to provide a bottomless feel.
The redesigned linkage and kinematics also provides high levels of anti-squat and anti-rise, meaning pedal bob is controlled and brake jack is minimised, a double win for Canyon on this one!
As a side benefit, standover clearance has been increased in every size due to the horizontal shock mounting.
In terms of standards, the Spectral is equipped with a metric shock, and boost spacing front and rear.
27.5” wheels and 2.6” tyres?
Bucking the trend of longer travel 29” bikes of late, Canyon decided on 27.5” wheels and ‘almost’ plus 2.6” tyres for the new Spectral.
The 27.5” wheels contribute to the spritely handling Canyon wanted to achieve with this bike, and Canyon found 2.6” rubber to be the right balance between traction and avoiding the squirminess that can sometimes occur with plus-sized rubber.
A new era for cable integration, frame and bearing protection
As well as overhauling the Spectral’s linkage design and suspension kinematics, there are a number of small but impressive details featured on the new bike.
Canyon’s impact protection unit makes a return, a system that prevents your controls from mashing into your top tube in the event of a crash by locking out the steering before the handlebar overlaps the top tube.
The integration cable channel is a new idea that’s so simple it makes you wonder why nobody’s done it before. Canyon’s solution to the debate between internal and external cable routing, the cable integration channel combines the simplicity of external cables with the clean aesthetic of internal routing.
Canyon’s solution to the debate between internal and external cable routing.
This is done via a cover running the whole way along the downtube, with individual cable channels that house the dropper post, rear derailleur and brake cables. There’s also a channel for a front derailleur cable if you’re planning on summiting Everest aboard the Spectral. As a secondary feature, the channel also doubles as downtube protection.
The integration seat tube clamp reminds us of a similar system used by Whyte, where the clamp bolt is also integrated into the frame, allowing for a rubber grommet to be placed over where the seatpost enters the seat tube to prevent water ingress. Pulling off the grommet at the end of one of the muddiest days on the bike we’ve ever had revealed no moisture.
Another very intelligent feature of the new Spectral is the bearing caps used for the main pivot bearings, and additional bearings seals throughout.
Joe Barnes was critical in the development of this feature, and he trialled running one side of his bike with a standard bearing cap, and another with the bolted-on cover, and the result was that the covered bearing still spun after months of abuse in the brutal Scottish mud, whilst the exposed bearing had almost completely seized.
The Eject ‘system’ and Frame Case:
Whilst there’s a lot of taking the mickey when it comes to haphazardly taping everything you need for a ride onto your bike, there are many riders out there who don’t want to go for a ride with the kitchen sink hanging off their back.
Canyon has listened to those riders, and the Spectral is compatible with their new ‘Eject’ water bottle system. Whilst at first, we thought the labelling of a water bottle as a ‘system’ was somewhat amusing, the Eject really is another innovative idea from the crafty Germans.
The Eject is a bottle cage holder that has two offset cages holding two 400ml water bottles. The system was originally developed so that extra small and small frames could fit a water bottle, but testers loved the fact that you could run two bottles with two separate liquids, as well as take 800ml of fluid out on a ride, so Canyon will be offering the system with all Spectral purchases, as well as separately in the near future.
The Eject is a bottle cage holder that has two offset cages holding two 400ml water bottles.
The frame case is reminiscent of the external SWAT box found on some Specialized models, however, Canyon’s equivalent is mounted in the junction between the top and down tube, and has enough space for a spare tube, C02 cartridge and tyre levers.
What model did we ride?
We tested the Spectral CF 9.0 SL model on the simply stunning Madeiran singletrack.
This is a bike absolutely dripping with bling, and as such our bike hit the scales at just over 12kg for an XL without pedals, an impressive figure considering the frame’s beefy chassis and 2.6” rubber.
This model is one of two models featuring the SLX frameset, Canyon’s full carbon offering. A further three models pair a carbon front end with an aluminium rear, and there are also three aluminium models on offer.
Our bike hit the scales at just over 12kg for an XL without pedals.
So, how does it ride?
Our six foot one tester found himself in between a large and extra-large frameset, and on the advice of one Fabien Barel went with the larger frame for the increased stability when tackling the long and rough Madeiran descents.
Similar to our Canyon Strive long term test bike, the Spectral features a fairly long front centre combined with a compact rear end, which according to Canyon offers straight-line stability whilst still retaining the ability to pop onto the rear wheel for a manual, or whip the rear end through a set of turns.
We found their rationale to be pretty much spot on. On an XL frame with a 482mm reach and 430mm chainstays, we were able to point and shoot through some pretty nasty sections, but through the back-to-back rutted corners on offer high in the Madeiran mountains, the bike didn’t feel too lengthy.
We did switch to the large sized frame during testing to compare the sizing, and whilst the shorter reach and wheelbase meant we could change direction a little easier in some situations, the overall capabilities of this bike would have us reaching for the larger size every time if we were in between sizes.
The overall capabilities of this bike would have us reaching for the larger size every time if we were in between sizes.
Who is this bike for?
Whilst we only had a couple of days on the bike, we were able to smash out run after run of almost every type of trail thanks to the crew at Freeride Madeira (if you’re planning a trip to Madeira, these are the guys that build, maintain and shuttle the trails every day – be sure to get in touch), and it became clear this bike is a potential quiver killer for many riders.
‘Fun’ was the word thrown around a lot, that is for certain.
Running 30% sag in the rear and the shock completely open, the bike tracked the ground impressively, with comfortable small bump sensitivity.
‘Fun’ was the word thrown around a lot, that is for certain.
The middle portion of the travel provided a firmer platform to push against when changing lines on the trail, preloading the bike for a jump or keeping the bike from diving through chunky rock gardens.
As Canyon had told us, the end stroke was indeed progressive, as usually 30 percent sag in the rear on a 140mm bike would see us bottoming out on bigger hits, but we had some horrible flat landings aboard the Spectral that didn’t push through all of the travel, so the bottom out resistance is indeed exceptional.
This was also with the standard amount of volume spacers in the Fox Float shock, so for heavier riders, or those with a particularly rough riding style, adding an additional volume spacer should prevent bottoming even further whilst still being able to run the optimal amount of sag.
On the geometry side of things, while a 66-degree head angle is on the slacker side if you’re after a bike to do a bit of everything, the 74.5-degree seat tube angle keeps you in a fairly upright position for seated pedalling, and the smaller wheels are able to be whipped through tighter trails with a bit of body language, as well as accelerating quickly.
While we were riding a higher end model with a lightweight parts kit, the geometry and kinematics of the Spectral were impressive for a broad spectrum of riding, and it wouldn’t be a too sluggish a bike on less demanding trails.
Whilst at the end of our two days aboard the Spectral we formed the opinion this is a bike that could easily serve as a do it all trail rig, we’re also aware not everyone’s pockets are deep enough to afford the SLX frameset adorned with top of the line componentry. We’ll be trying to get our hands on a more budget-friendly model in the near future to see if the added weight takes anything away from this impressive machine.
For fans of lively bikes with character, agility and confidence we think the new Spectral re-affirms its place again for 2018.
One thing that we would love to see is a 29” model, but we’ll have to wait and see if that’s coming down the pipeline, and we think Canyon’s single-minded focus on the 27.5” wheel size for the Spectral allowed them to really nail the design brief.
It’s time to get on the blower to Canyon Australia and secure one of these on home soil we reckon!
For the complete range, pricing and availability head to the Canyon site for more – www.canyon.com