Remember 10 years ago when online grocery shopping was first rolled out, how everyone predicted the end was nigh for traditional supermarkets? It hasn't happened (yet) obviously, but on the flipside you can't miss the number of Coles, Woolworths and other delivery vehicles on the roads today. People are increasingly comfortable with the notion of making purchases sight unseen and having it conveniently delivered to their door.
The not-so-minor details
Canyon Spectral CF 9.0 EX
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Tyres won't last long.
Bicycle retail is following the same pattern in part; online purchasing has grabbed an increasing share of sales through both overseas and local operations, but traditional bike shops certainly aren’t going to disappear. What is interesting about online sales is the shift from purely low-cost parts and accessories sales, to complete and increasingly high-end bikes too. The arrival of Canyon to Australia last year was a big shift in gear for online bike sales in Australia. Canyon’s direct sales operation is huge in Europe, and few people doubted that Canyon would have an impact on the local market.
When we lined up a new test bike with Canyon, the Spectral CF 9.0 EX, we thought it’d be good to drop by their local Melbourne HQ and get a better idea of how their operation actually worked – what happens when you push the ‘buy’ button on their website, and who is on the ground in Australia helping things go smoothly? It was also a good opportunity to take the Spectral for a razz on the Canyon crew’s home turf at the Red Hill trails on the Mornington Peninsula.
What we found out was that Canyon Australia in many respects operates pretty similarly to a conventional bike shop, the fundamental difference of course is that they don’t carry the stock (when you make a purchase it come direct from Germany, for now, local warehousing is in the pipeline) and you don’t have to wear pants to shop there. Let us explain; On the wall of the office, the Canyon team have a screen with live analytics from their website running constantly, it tells them straight away how many people are ‘in the shop’. Just like a normal bike shop, the staff can see who is looking at which bike and how long they’ve been there too. They can also see where the potential customer is located, and how they’ve ended up on the Canyon store (for instance, from a Facebook link or via a bike review).
If a customer has a question about a bike, to get the attention of a staff member they can pick up the phone, or more commonly they’ll click the ‘chat’ button on the side of the web page and that’ll put them through directly to a member of the Canyon team in Australia. This is how most questions are answered, and the Canyon crew can be helping out many customers at once this way. What’s funny to see is how many people are clearly browsing and asking questions while they’re meant to be at work, often a chat will break off inexplicably for a while, before coming back online 15 minutes later with the explanation that the boss just walked by!
If a customer decides to make a purchase, they’re able to see straight away if the bike they’re after is in stock (in which case it ships within 10 days from Germany and then usually takes another 10-14 days to arrive at your door), or they’re able to see the window in which the bike will ship in the future if the model, size or colour you want isn’t in stock at that moment. While this delay might be a deal breaker for some potential purchasers, Darryl from Canyon points out that having to wait for a high-end bike is pretty standard fare.
Just like any bike shop, the workshop is crucial too. Canyon carry all the spares needed to keep a customer’s bike running, and they have a full-time mechanic in house to handle any servicing, or Canyon can send any spares to your local workshop of choice too. But that’s enough about that, let’s take a look at the bike!
Our test bike, the Spectral CF 9.0 EX, came directly from Germany just as would any customer’s bike. All Canyons are are assembled in their German factory, and every bike is actually physically test ridden before being boxed and shipped. A little sticker on the box promises the bike has been Umgebaut (rebuilt or converted) which means the brakes are already setup for Australian riders, handy. Getting the bike rolling is really just a matter of putting the bars and front wheel on, inserting the seat post, inflating the tyres and suspension and hitting the trail. If you find yourself struggling with any part of the process, the War and Peace sized manual should be able to help!
So far our experience with Canyon bikes has been limited to the Strive CF, an all-out Enduro bike with EWS pedigree and a design team which includes former World Champion Fabien Barel. You can read our impressions of the Strive here. It’s a real weapon, with the fastest descents in mind, and for most trails and riders it’s going to be overkill. The Spectral on the other hand sits right in the trail bike category; the EX version we’re reviewing has 140mm rear travel and 150mm up front, while the standard or non-EX versions come with a 140mm fork too. Our test bike weighs in just over 12kg setup tubeless, which is an all-day friendly figure indeed.
The geometry is on the slack side of the trail segment, new-school: a 67-degree head angle and 425mm stays, and a generous reach that facilitates a 50mm stem without it getting all cramped. The frame has a compact look to it, with masses of standover height as well. You can’t fail to mention the colour either, it’s one of those finishes that’s hard to define – kind of a greeny, goldy, yellow? In some situations it’s just about fluro, in others it comes across almost olive.
Almost devoid of logos and with full internal cabling, it’s certainly a sleek frame. One frame feature that grabbed our eye immediately is the integrated bump-stop/headset assembly which prevents your bars from spinning in a crash, potentially saving your top tube and your brake lines too.
Canyon’s direct model of course lets them keep the prices down, and for $6299 the Spectral is kitted out magnificently with a SRAM X01 drivetrain and RockShox’s top-end Pike RTC3. Mavic’s CrossMax XL Pro wheelset is the kind of item you don’t often find on many stock bikes, adding a real bit of flash to the build. The tyres are Mavic’s ultra-sticky Quest rubber as well.
Canyon supply a card with a recommended baseline tune for the Cane Creek DB In-Line rear shock, to help you navigate the myriad settings available. We’ve found ourselves frustrated with this shock in the past, so we’re hoping for a good experience this time around as the bike clearly has some serious potential to shred. A full review will be coming your way soon!