Increasingly more manufacturers promise to combine the best of both worlds in one bike. Canyon hop on the bandwagon, combining a progressive geometry and little suspension travel with their Spectral 125 CF 9. But how does the concept work on the trail? And can the bike keep up with its bigger brother, the Spectral CFR?
For an overview of the test fleet head to the group test: The best trail bike of 2022 – 14 models in review
With the Canyon Spectral 125 CF 9, the German direct-sales rely on a rather unusual concept, combining a downhill-oriented geometry with just 125 mm travel at the rear and 140 mm up front. Not only does Canyon’s progressive 13.8 kg trail bike share the same name with its award-winning sibling, the Spectral CFR, but also relies on a confusingly similar look and detail solutions. For the € 5,799 CF model in this test, Canyon combine several high-end components with some of their own parts, like the cockpit and dropper post.
The spec of the Canyon Spectral 125 CF 9
The cables of the Canyon Spectral 125 CF 9 disappear into the frame at the intersection of the top and downtube and are neatly clamped at the cable ports. A generously sized TPU protector guards the seat and chainstays but doesn’t stretch over the front section of the swingarm, resulting in chainslap and paint chips on our test bike. That being said, you can prevent this from happening by using just a small strip of mastic tape on your bike. There’s also a TPU plate on the down tube, albeit very small. The tool mount on the top tube is compatible with all conventional tool straps as well as Canyon’s own-brand LOAD frame bag, which is the one we have used on our test bike and is optionally available for € 34.95 from their online shop.
Canyon Spectral 125 CF 9
Fork FOX 36 Factory GRIP2 140 mm
Rear Shock FOX FLOAT X Factory 125 mm
Seatpost Canyon G5 Dropper Post 200 mm
Brakes SRAM CODE RSC 200/180 mm
Drivetrain SRAM GX AXS Eagle 1x12
Stem Canyon G5 45 mm
Handlebar Canyon G5 CF 780 mm
Wheelset DT Swiss XMC 1501 29"
Tires MAXXIS Minion DHR II, 3C, MaxxTerra, EXO/MAXXIS DISSECTOR ,3C, MaxxTerra, EXO 2.4/2.4
Size S M L XL
Weight 13.8 kg
Tuning Tip: mastic tape on the front section of the chainstay | mastic tape on the front section of the chainstay
The Canyon Spectral 125 CF relies on a high-end FOX suspension consisting of a 36 mm Factory GRIP2 fork and matching FLOAT X Factory shock. The superior GRIP2 damper of the former offers countless adjustment options, allowing you to fine tune your fork to your needs and riding style, while the shock features external low-speed rebound and compression adjustments as well as a climb switch. Canyon´s in-house cockpit consists of a 40 mm stem and 780 mm carbon handlebars. Braking is taken care of by SRAM CODE RSC brakes. The high-end RSC variant features tool-free reach and bite point adjustments and SRAM’s SwingLink lever, which was designed to minimise deadband and thus improve modulation. The brakes are paired with SRAM’s new HS2 brake rotors, which are thicker than conventional Centerline rotors and thus dissipate heat much more effectively. However at 200 mm at the front and 180 mm at the rear, they’re still slightly undersized for such a potent trail bike. Shifting is taken care of by a wireless SRAM GX AXS 12-speed drivetrain, which is only marginally heavier than its high-end X01 counterpart and delivers the same excellent shifting performance. We’re big fans of Canyon’s own long travel 200 mm G5 dropper post, which has the most travel in the entire test field and can be inserted all the way into the frame. Moreover, the dropper travel can be reduced by up to 25 mm in 5 mm increments quickly and without using tools, allowing you to adapt the maximum extension of the dropper to your anatomy and make full use of the travel available.
DT Swiss supply the XMC 1501 carbon wheelset while MAXXIS take care of the tires, combining a Minion DHR II at the front and the DISSECTOR at the rear, both in EXO casing and hard MaxxTerra rubber compound. At the front, we would prefer a grippier tire with soft MaxxGrip compound for better cornering traction. In addition, we’d like a more robust tire casing, like MAXXIS’ DoubleDown, which helps protect the carbon rims from impacts and allows you to run lower tire pressures for more traction, thus doing more justice to the potential of the bike.
The geometry of the Canyon Spectral 125 CF 9
The Canyon Spectral 125 CF 9 is available in 4 sizes, S to XL, offering a suitable option for all riders between 163 cm and 203 cm tall. Except for the hardtail contestant in this group test, the Canyon is the bike with the least travel in the entire group test and also the one with the slackest head angle at 64.1°. A flip chip in the shock mount allows you to alter the head and seat tube angles by 0.5°, and the bottom bracket height by 8 mm. Our size L test bike combines 486 mm reach and a very short 435 mm seat tube, which ensures excellent freedom of movement in combination with the long travel dropper post that can be inserted all the way into the frame.
|Seat tube||395 mm||420 mm||435 mm||460 mm|
|Top tube||587 mm||615 mm||642 mm||669mm|
|Head tube||110 mm||120 mm||130 mm||140 mm|
|Chainstays||437 mm||437 mm||437 mm||437 mm|
|BB Drop||35 mm||35 mm||35 mm||35 mm|
|Wheelbase||1.200 mm||1.230 mm||1.259 mm||1.288 mm|
|Reach||435 mm||460 mm||486 mm||511 mm|
|Stack||613 mm||622 mm||632 mm||641 mm|
The Canyon Spectral 125 CF 9 on the trail
On level ground, the pedalling position is comfortable and upright, albeit slightly stretched and front-heavy. The suspension is pleasantly stiff and bobs only slightly when pedalling – we never had to reach for the climb switch when making our way to the trailhead. Uphill, the front wheel remains planted on the ground and keeps tracking even on steep technical climbing sections.
The Spectral 125 passes on vibrations and hits directly onto the rider, which makes it less forgiving of riding mistakes and requires an experienced rider.
When you point its nose downhill, the Canyon integrates you between its 29” wheels and inspires huge amounts of confidence. Handling is direct and, as a result, the Spectral 125 CF 9 responds to steering input at the bat of an eyelid, which can be a little demanding in the long run but suits the character of a potent trail bike perfectly. Overall, the Canyon Spectral 125 CF 9 strikes an excellent balance between agility and composure.
The firm suspension offers bags of pop and support, making it the perfect toy for riders who want to convert every trail into a playground and the smallest obstacle into airtime love. At the same time, the suspension offers sufficient reserves for rowdy maneuvers and to bail you out with botched landings. However, steep technical trails with nasty rock gardens and root carpets expose the dark side of its character, where the rear suspension of the Spectral 125 lacks traction. Compared to its bigger sibling, the Spectral 125 CF 9 is clearly more agile but also less composed, thus requiring more physical effort.
The rear suspension of the Canyon Spectral 125 CF 9 is stiff but makes you feel as if you were riding a bike with more travel.
Canyon’s concept works a treat and the Spectral 125 CF 9 really has what it takes to be a potent trail bike: the geometry, handling and suspension do justice to its character but the rotors and tires don’t. The Canyon is an excellent climber, especially on steep uphills and makes you feel as if you’re sitting on a bike with more travel when riding downhill, thus inspiring huge amounts of confidence. However, the direct handling borders on harsh, requiring good riding skills.
- feels as if it had more travel and thus inspires confidence
- direct handling and firm suspension
- pedal-neutral rear suspension uphill
- tires don’t do justice to the potential of the bike
- requires an experienced rider
You can find out more about at canyon.com
The test field
For an overview of the test fleet head to the group test: The best trail bike of 2022 – 14 models in review
All bikes in test: Atherton AM.150 (Click for review) | Bold Linkin 135 Ultimate (Click for review) | Canyon Spectral 125 CF 9 (Click for review) | Canyon Spectral CFR (Click for review) | FOCUS JAM 8.9 (Click for review) | Mondraker Raze RR SL (Click for review) | Propain Hugene (Click for review) | Rocky Mountain Instinct C70 (Click for review) | ROSE BONERO 3 (Click for review) | Santa Cruz Bronson CC X01 AXS (Click for review) | SCOR 4060 ST GX (Click for review) | Specialized Stumpjumper EVO S-Works (Click for review) | Specialized Stumpjumper EVO Elite Alloy (Click for review) | YT JEFFSY UNCAGED 6 (Click for review)
This scale indicates how efficiently the bike climbs. It refers to both simple and technical climbs. Along with the suspension, the riding position and the weight of the bike all play a crucial role.↩
How does the bike ride and descend? How spritely is the bike, how agile is it through corners, how much fun is it in tight sections and how quickly can it change direction?↩
Is the bike stable at high speeds? Is it easy to stay in control in demanding terrain? How composed is it on rough trails? Stability is a combination of balanced geometry, good suspension and the right spec.↩
This is all about how balanced the bike is and particularly about how well it corners. Balanced bikes require little physical effort from the rider and are very predictable. If a bike is unbalanced, the rider has to work hard to weight the front wheel to generate enough grip. However, experienced riders can have a lot of fun even with unbalanced bikes.↩
How sensitive is the suspension over small bumps? Can it absorb hard impacts and does it soak up repeated hits? Plush suspension not only provides comfort and makes a bike more capable, but it also generates traction. The rating includes the fork and the rear suspension.↩
This aspect mainly comes down to the suspension. How much pop does it have, does it suck up the rider’s input or is it supportive, and how agile and direct is the bike?↩
We don’t calculate value for money in an excel spreadsheet or based on how high-end a bike is specced. We are more concerned with how a bike performs on the trail and how the bike benefits the rider. What good are the best components if the bike doesn’t perform well on the trail? Expensive bikes with a lower-end spec can offer very good value for money – provided they excel where it matters. Just as supposedly cheap bikes with good components can get a bad rating if they don’t deliver on the trail.↩
No, it’s not about racing, it’s about efficiency. Fast, fleet-footed and efficient – those who want to speed along flowy singletrack and gravel roads need a defined and spritely bike that accelerates with ease and efficiency. Nevertheless, reliable components are important too. We interpret XC more like the Americans do: big back-country rides instead of a marathon or XC World Cup with the ultimate in lightweight construction! Uphill-downhill ratio: 80:30 (not everything has to be 100%!)↩
...also known as mountain biking. Classic singletrack with roots, rocks and ledges – sometimes flowy, sometimes rough. For this, you need a bike with good all-round qualities, whether climbing or descending. Uphill-downhill ratio: 50:50↩
Even more extreme and challenging compared to Trail riding, riddled with every kind of obstacle: jumps, gaps, nasty rock gardens, ruts and roots. For this, you need (race)proven equipment that forgives mistakes and wouldn’t look out of place on a stage of the Enduro World Series. Climbing is just a means to an end. Uphill-downhill ratio: 30:70↩
Strictly speaking, a 200 mm travel downhill bike is the best choice for merciless tracks with big jumps, drops and the roughest terrain. Those would be the black or double-black-diamond tracks in a bike park. But as some of the EWS pros (including Sam Hill) have proven, it’s the riding skills and not the bike that define what you can ride with it. Climbing? On foot or with a shuttle, please! Uphill-downhill ratio: 10:90↩
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Words: Simon Kohler Photos: Peter Walker, Mike Hunger