If you flick through Canyon’s portfolio, the newly released 2021 Canyon Spectral 29 LTD positions itself right between Canyon’s touring and enduro models, the Neuron and Strive. However, our test shows that the Spectral 29 can do a lot more than just fill a gap in a catalogue. On the trail, it doesn’t just smoke the in-house competition but also holds its own against the best bikes of 2021. Is this what a winner looks like?
For an overview of the test fleet head to the group test: The best mountainbike of 2021 – 22 models in review
For 2021, the carbon frame of the Spectral 29 has been redeveloped from scratch. Apart from the name and the Horst-link suspension, Canyon’s 29” trail bike has very little in common with its predecessor. The paint job of the € 6,299 Spectral 29 LTD top-of-the-range model is truly striking, with the loud lime-green sections shining in different tones depending on the sunlight – awesome! Just as striking are the pronounced kink in the seat tube and the extra-wide chainstays, which stand in contrast with the otherwise harmonious lines of the frame. A burly chainstay protector and soft rubber strip on the seat stay prevent chain slap and, together with the elaborate internal cable routing, ensure a quiet ride. The front triangle of the Spectral offers enough room for a medium-sized water bottle and features an additional mounting point for Canyon’s optional tool strap (available summer 2021), which allows you to carry an inner tube and/or multi-tool without having to carry a backpack. While the system might not be as ingenious as Specialized’s or Trek’s storage solutions, it’s still very handy – cool! As we all know, shredding calls for maintenance! The people at Canyon are well aware of this and rely on SRAM’s universal derailleur hanger. Moreover, the pivot bolts and flip-chip are easy to access and thread into replaceable aluminium inserts rather than directly into the carbon frame.
Are top components always the most sensible choice? The spec of the Canyon Spectral 29 LTD in detail
For the Spectral 29, Canyon have redeveloped not only the frame but also the G5 cockpit with 780 mm carbon bars, which ensures tidy looks and top ergonomics – not least because of the I-SPEC clamps. Just as impressive is the FOX Factory suspension, with a 36 Factory GRIP2 fork and DPX2 Factory shock controlling 160 and 150 mm of front and rear travel respectively. The burly fork and piggyback shock hint at the fact that the 13.28 kg flagship Spectral 29 LTD wasn’t specced to be as light as possible but to deliver uncompromised trail performance. Well, except for the DT Swiss XMC 1200 carbon wheelset paired with thin-walled MAXXIS Minion tires and flimsy MAXXIS EXO (front) and EXO+ (rear) casings. Particularly on the rear wheel, we recommend using tire inserts or, even better, replacing the standard tires with a more robust model to avoid the unnecessary pain of replacing a broken carbon rim. Shifting is taken care of by a 12-speed XTR drivetrain paired with a lightweight RaceFace Next SL crankset. Shimano also supply the four-piston XTR brakes combined with a 200 mm rotor up front and smaller 180 mm disc at the rear.
Canyon Spectral 29 LTD
Fork FOX 36 Factory 160 mm
Rear Shock FOX DPX2 Factory 150 mm
Seatpost OneUp Dropper V2 180 mm
Brakes Shimano XTR M9120 200/180 mm
Drivetrain Shimano XTR 1x12
Stem Canyon G5 40 mm
Handlebar Canyon G5 Carbon Riser 780 mm
Wheelset DT Swiss XMC 1200 29"
Tires MAXXIS Minion DHF EXO 3C MaxxTerra/DHRII EXO MaxxTerra 2.5/2.4
Size S M L XL
Weight 13.28 kg
The geometry of the Canyon Spectral 29 LTD in detail
The Spectral 29 is available in four sizes and features progressive, trail-oriented geometry. With its 485 mm reach (size L) and high front, the frame offers sufficient freedom of movement despite the long 460 mm seat tube. Luckily, the compact design of the OneUp V2 dropper makes up for the short insertion depth of the seat tube and allows Canyon to run a post with a generous 180 mm travel. As a result, the long seat tube only really becomes an issue if you want to size up to a larger frame. The riding position of the Spectral 29 is nicely balanced. The relatively steep seat angle positions the rider centrally on the bike, making it easy to negotiate climbs and steep ramps. Nevertheless, the Spectral is also comfortable on long rides, where it doesn’t give anything away to Canyon’s touring specialist, the Neuron.
The range of applications for the Canyon Spectral 29 LTD is huge! Whether it’s a challenging alpine crossing, a fun bike park session or everything in between, the Canyon masters it with flying colours!
On the whole, the Spectral is the better climber: the active rear-end smoothes out edges and steps, generates good traction on loose terrain and always remains composed without bobbing. Nevertheless, the Spectral is also comfortable on long rides, where it doesn’t give anything away to Canyon’s touring specialist, the Neuron. On the whole, the Spectral is the better climber: the active rear-end smoothes out edges and steps, generates good traction on loose terrain and always remains composed without bobbing.
|Seat tube||395 mm||430 mm||460 mm||490 mm|
|Top tube||582 mm||609 mm||636 mm||663 mm|
|Head tube||95 mm||105 mm||115 mm||125 mm|
|Chainstays||437 mm||437 mm||437 mm||437 mm|
|BB Drop||36 mm||36 mm||36 mm||36 mm|
|Wheelbase||1,193 mm||1,222 mm||1,251 mm||1,281 mm|
|Reach||435 mm||460 mm||485 mm||510 mm|
|Stack||611 mm||620 mm||629 mm||638 mm|
The faster, the better – The Canyon Spectral 29 LTD on the trail
“If you want a comfortable bike that also climbs well, you’ll have to accept substantial compromises downhill.” Quite clearly, the Canyon Spectral 29 doesn’t care about cliches, outshining its already impressive climbing qualities with even more magnificent downhill capabilities. As if driven by an incessant desire for speed, the Spectral begs you to keep your fingers off the brakes just a bit longer – on any trail and in every situation. The high front end and well-integrated riding position make this possible. Whether you’re a fast and active rider or a newbie, the Spectral conveys huge amounts of confidence and offers tons of reserves, taking the fear out of steep, techy singletrack and nasty rock gardens. In fast berms, the Canyon loves to be thrown around mercilessly, flying past the competition with a celebrative “braap”. Only in flat open corners do you have to work harder to keep the front wheel tracking.
Why would you still buy a Neuron? The Spectral climbs better, is more comfortable and an entirely different beast downhill.
Tuning-tips: tires with more robust casing(e.g. MAXXIS DoubleDown) | bargain hunters should take a closer look at the Spectral 29 CF 8, which offers comparable trail performance but comes with an alloy wheelset and, most importantly, costs € 2,000 less than the top-of-the-range model.
In all other situations, the Spectral is just as predictable as it is fun, regardless of your riding style. At the same time, the suspension offers sufficient reserves and composure to bail out on dodgy lines and messy landings. With 150 mm travel at the rear, the Canyon generates plenty of traction but still provides enough support to pump through the trail and pull off ledges, while the suspension never bottoms out abruptly, even with hard landings and big obstacles. Downhill, the Spectral is a strong all-rounder that refuses to stick to just one discipline. Provided you upgrade the puncture-prone rear tire, it can take on almost any trail, from natural singletracks to jump lines and flowing bike park tracks, or even full-on enduro stages.
The Canyon Spectral 29 LTD is the ultimate do-it-all weapon and a perfect all-rounder for (almost) any type of rider! On climbs and long rides, it annihilates its sibling for long rides, the Neuron, while downhill it turns a day out in the mountains into a savage shred party. Whether you’re a newbie or a seasoned trail veteran, the composed character of the Spectral allows you to ride fast and tackle all sorts of trails and have plenty of fun in the process, provided you’re running a more robust set of tires – the standard ones are easily overwhelmed on challenging terrain! The spec and build quality of the Canyon are just as awesome as its price! As the bike with the broadest application range in the entire test field, the Spectral 29 LTD secures the coveted Best in Test in this group test.
- intuitive and confidence-inspiring handling
- very capable yet comfortable on long rides
- excellent value for money
- high-quality build & finish
- tires are too weak and puncture-prone for costly carbon rims
- long seat tube limits the choice of size
Find more information here: canyon.com
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 (Click for review) | Canyon Spectral 29 LTD | 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)
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↩
Words: Felix Stix Photos: diverse