Bike categories are a thing of the past! The best mountain bikes of 2021 are extremely versatile and thus impossible to pigeonhole: they’re comfortable on long rides yet fun on fast bike park tracks. But what does that mean for a bike that was specifically developed for touring a few years back? Can the Canyon Neuron CF SLX 9 hold its own against the latest and greatest mountain bikes and keep up with the fierce competition on long rides?

For an overview of the test fleet head to the group test: The best mountainbike of 2021 – 22 models in review

Canyon Neuron CF SLX 9 | 130/130 mm (f/r)
12.58 kg (size L) | € 5,599 | Manufacturer-website

Since its launch in 2018, the Neuron has been one of the top sellers in Canyon’s portfolio. With the affordable alloy models, the German direct-sale brand wants to offer a fair and affordable gateway to mountain biking. In this year’s group test, the top-end Canyon Neuron CF SLX 9 model had to prove itself against the greatest mountain bikes of 2021. Consequently, Canyon entered the race with their lightest Neuron SLX-grade carbon frame built. Thanks to the relatively low weight (12.58 kg in size L), Canyon expect the Neuron to get a head start over the latest mountain bikes – at least uphill. Despite its discreet looking matte-black finish and subtle yet eye-catching colour accents, the Neuron can no longer hide its age: the cables run through an integrated and removable cable channel on the downtube, which prevents them from ripping and ensures a discreet look and quiet ride. However, around the cockpit, bottom bracket and shock, the cables create an unsightly loop, which causes them to rub against each other and on the frame. The Impact Protection Unit prevents the bars from rotating and damaging the frame but also spoils the elegant look of the Neuron. Other manufacturers, like Trek, offer more elegant solutions here. Nevertheless, the Neuron is also packed with smart details such as the fully-sealed pivot bearings, which Canyon employs to ensure longer service life, and the rear thru-axle, which cleverly tucks the lever away inside, protecting it from impacts when not in use.

Affordable price + expensive components = top price-performance ratio?

At € 5,599, the CF SLX 9 is the top-end model in Canyon’s Neuron range. If you look at the spec list of our test bike, you’ll be amazed at what you get for the price. Unfortunately, not all components make sense on the trail. The Shimano XTR four-piston brakes are amongst the best brakes you can buy, but generate too little braking power in combination with small 180 mm rotors front and rear, especially for heavy riders. While the FOX Transfer dropper perfectly matches the FOX Factory suspension, the super-long seat tube (480 mm in L) only allows for a meagre 150 mm drop. The suspension consists of a 34 Factory fork with a FIT4 damper and DPS Factory shock, both offering 130 mm travel. Canyon also rely on carbon for crucial components such as the 760 mm narrow RaceFace Next handlebars, Next SL cranks and DT Swiss XMC 1200 wheelset. While the cranks and 12-speed Shimano XTR drivetrain combine top shifting performance with a low weight, the tire-rim combination is precarious: with their hard rubber compound and flat profile, the 29 x 2.35″ Schwalbe Nobby Nic tires don’t generate enough traction while the thin Super Ground casing offers little puncture protection and leaves the carbon rims vulnerable to damage.

The spec list of the Neuron CF SLX 9 is impressive given its price. But what’s the point in having a bling spec if the basic concept doesn’t work on the trail?

Home mechanic’s delight!
Instead of running the cables inside the frame, Canyon rely on an external cable channel on the down tube. While this makes it easier to service or replace the cables, it’s not the tidiest solution out there – especially in the cockpit and bottom bracket areas.
Wrong, twice!
Canyon use Schwalbe Nobby Nic tires with the weak Super Ground casing and hard ADDIX Speedgrip compound front and rear. At the front, they generate too little grip while at the rear they’re not robust enough.
As tightly-sealed as Fort Knox
The extra seals in the pivot bearings protect them from grit and water, ensuring longer service life. Cool!

Canyon Neuron CF SLX 9

€ 5,599


Fork FOX 34 Factory 130 mm
Rear Shock FOX DPS Factory 130 mm
Seatpost FOX Transfer Factory 150 mm
Brakes Shimano XTR M9120 180/180 mm
Drivetrain Shimano XTR 1x12
Stem Race Face Turbine 35 60 mm
Handlebar Race Face Next 35 760 mm
Wheelset DT Swiss XMC 1200 29"
Tires Schwalbe Nobby Nic Speedgrip Evo Super Ground 2.35

Technical Data

Size M L XL
Weight 12.58 kg

Long, low, narrow, stiff
No, we’re not talking about a tuned Honda Civic but the ergonomics of the RaceFace cockpit, which is no less old school with its 60 mm stem and narrow 760 mm carbon bars. On top of that, it’s very stiff, causing your hands to get tired very quickly on descents.
Lightweight construction without performance loss
Shimano’s 12-speed XTR drivetrain runs on lightweight RaceFace Next SL carbon cranks and delivers outstanding shifting performance, even on rough terrain – and is very light too!
Relics of a long-forgotten world
The down tube of the Neuron reveals the age of the frame platform. Alongside the cage mounts, there’s still a cable port for a front derailleur (that thing grandpa had on his bike to shift gears at the front).
Protects the chainstays but not your eardrums
The bolted chainstay protector made of hard plastic doesn’t prevent the chain from slapping loudly. We recommend complementing the extensive protector with some soft mastic tape.

The geometry of the Canyon Neuron CF SLX 9 in detail

Unfortunately, short riders walk away empty-handed with the Neuron CF SLX 9.0 LTD. In the smallest XS and S sizes, the standard Neuron rolls exclusively on smaller 27.5″ wheels. However, the SLX-grade frame is only available in sizes M, L and XL and with big 29” wheels. Now, if you’re hoping that the compact reach (453 mm in L) lets you size up, we’ve got bad news. At 480 mm in size L and 520 mm in XL, the seat tube is excessively long, significantly restricting the freedom of movement. That’s a real shame, especially given that the steep head angle (67.5 °) invites you to pick a bigger size for more composure. On the other hand, the seat tube angle is quite slack and effectively slackens out even further as you extend the dropper post due to the pronounced kink in the seat tube. In combination with the long stem, this forces you into a stretched and very sporty pedalling position when riding on flat terrain: with the seatpost fully extended, the Neuron provides a real race feel rather than long-distance comfort. On forest paths, it motivates you to push harder, rewarding your efforts with outstanding acceleration, not least because of the low weight. However, this only happens if you activate the climb switch. When climbing with the shock fully open, the Neuron sinks into its travel, making it hard to control the front end. This becomes particularly evident on steep and technical climbs, where you’ll have to actively load the front wheel to keep it tracking. On root carpets and ledges, the suspension doesn’t generate enough traction, causing the rear tire with its hard rubber compound to spin out of control. By contrast, the Spectral negotiates steep and technical climbs with a lot more confidence and provides more comfort on long rides. Surprisingly, it can even keep up with the lighter Neuron when racing on forest paths.

Size M L XL
Seat tube 445 mm 480 mm 520 mm
Top tube 603 mm 626 mm 654 mm
Head tube 102 mm 112 mm 143 mm
Head angle 67.5° 67.5° 67.5°
Seat angle 74.5° 74.5° 74.5°
Chainstays 440 mm 440 mm 440 mm
BB Drop 38 mm 38 mm 38 mm
Wheelbase 1,167 mm 1,190 mm 1,222 mm
Reach 433 mm 453 mm 473 mm
Stack 614 mm 623 mm 651 mm
Helmet Smith Session | Glasses Scott Shield | Hippack Bontrager Rapid | Shirt Vans Checkerboard
Shorts Specialized Pro Shorts | Shoes Five Ten Kestrel Lace MTB SPD | Socks Stance

Old school – The Canyon Neuron CF 2019 on the trail

Downhill, the Canyon Neuron CF SLX 9 confirms what the geometry already suggests. Despite the relatively low bottom bracket, you sit on top of the bike rather than feeling integrated between the big 29” wheels. With the long 60 mm stem and flat handlebars pulling your weight far forward, you’re constantly faced with a chilling OTB fear on steep terrain. Unfortunately, the excessively long seat tube restricts freedom of motion and prevents you from compensating by shifting your weight low. As a result, the Neuron forces you in a very passive and rather extreme position, with your hips hanging far back above the rear wheel and your arms fully stretched.

Light bikes climb well: the Canyon Neuron CF SLX 9 is proof to the contrary, having to admit defeat to many significantly heavier bikes uphill despite its strong performance on the scales.

Tuning-tip: both trail riders and tourers will find a better more modern bike with the new Canyon Spectral

Moreover, the Neuron lacks traction in corners and under braking. On the one hand, this is due to the weak Super Ground casing of the tires which requires high pressures, and on the other, to the fact that the suspension is quite stiff off the top of its stroke. However, it blows through its travel and bottoms out abruptly in response to roots and small bumps, forcing you to hit the brakes early. Whether you’re on a manicured flow trail or easy natural dirt, the Neuron isn’t really much fun compared to the latest generation mountain bikes.

Riding Characteristics



  1. sluggish
  2. efficient


  1. cumbersome
  2. playful


  1. nervous
  2. confident


  1. demanding
  2. balanced


  1. harsh
  2. plush

Fun Factor

  1. planted
  2. poppy

Value for money

  1. terrible
  2. very good

Intended Use










Compared to the greatest mountain bikes of 2021, the Neuron CF SLX 9 is getting long in the tooth: the frame details, geometry and concept are simply outdated. This becomes particularly evident on the trail, where the more capable and downhill-oriented Spectral easily outperforms the Neuron, even in terms of climbing performance and long-distance comfort. Despite the attractive price and impressive spec list, the Neuron CF SLX 9 doesn’t offer a good price-performance ratio. Unfortunately, all of the above is also true for touring riders. If you want to get a Canyon, let it be a Spectral!


  • fully-sealed linkage bearings


  • weak performance uphill despite the focus on tours
  • permanently overwhelmed downhill
  • despite the attractive price and high-quality components, only poor value for money

Find more information here:

The testfield

Get an overview of the grouptest here: The best mountainbike of 2021 – 22 models in review

All Bikes in this group test: Canyon Neuron CF SLX 9 | Canyon Spectral 29 LTD (Click for review) | Canyon Stoic 4 (Click for review) | FOCUS THRON 6.9 (Click for review) | Ibis Ripmo V2 (Click for review) | MERIDA eONE-SIXTY 10K (Click for review) | MERIDA NINETY-SIX 8000 (Click for review) | Nukeproof Reactor 290C (Click for review) | Orbea Rise M-Team (Click for review) | Propain Hugene (Click for review) | RAAW Jibb XTR Build (Click for review) | Rocky Mountain Instinct C70 (Click for review) | Santa Cruz 5010 X01 (Click for review) | Santa Cruz Tallboy CC X01 (Click for review) | SCOTT Ransom 900 Tuned AXS (Click for review) | Specialized S-Works Stumpjumper (Click for review) | Specialized S-Works Stumpjumper EVO (Click for review) | Specialized S-Works Turbo Levo SL (Click for review) | Trek Fuel EX 9.8 GX (Click for review) | Trek Top Fuel 9.9 X01 (Click for review) | Yeti SB115 TURQ3 (Click for review) | YT IZZO BLAZE 29 (Click for review)

Did you enjoy this article? If so, we would be stoked if you decide to support us with a monthly contribution. By becoming a supporter of ENDURO, you will help secure a sustainable future for high-quality mountain bike journalism. Click here to learn more.

Words: Photos: diverse