The Canyon Spectral CFR has gone through quite the makeover in recent years. From good-natured, almost boring trail bike with 2.6” tires to an overwhelmingly fun bike that constantly begs to be ridden harder. How did it do it?
Click here for an overview of the best trail bike in test.
The Canyon Spectral is a perennial favourite in the Canyon lineup and is now available in three different frame options: an aluminium frame, the CF version with a carbon front triangle and aluminium rear end and the CFR model made entirely of carbon. Priced at € 5,499, our test bike is the second most expensive Spectral in the range and leaves little to be desired in terms of spec. The Shimano XTR 12-speed drivetrain and the XTR brakes perform just as convincingly as Canyon’s G5 cockpit and the grippy MAXXIS tires which come with the extra soft MaxxGrip compound upfront. At first glance, the FOX Factory suspension looks just as good but we would have preferred the GRIP2 damper instead of the FIT4 model it comes with. The DT Swiss XMC 1200 wheelset is light and makes a high-quality impression, but it’s unlikely to last long with an aggressive riding style – one of the spokes on our test bike failed after a few rides. A XM1501 wheelset wouldn’t just save money but would likely have proven to be more durable.
Canyon Spectral CFR 9.0 SL
Fork FOX 36 FLOAT Factory FIT4
Rear Shock FOX DPX2 Factory
Seatpost FOX Transfer Performance Elite 150 mm
Brakes Shimano XTR M9120 200/180 mm
Drivetrain Shimano XTR / Race Face Next SL 32/10-51
Stem Canyon G5 50
Handlebar Canyon G5 Carbon 780 mm
Wheelset DT Swiss XMC1200
Tires MAXXIS MINION DHR II EXO 2,4
Size S M L XL
Weight 12,88 kg
Travel (f/r) 160/150 mm
Geometry of the Canyon Spectral CFR 9.0
In terms of geometry, two values should immediately jump out at you. Both the long 480 mm seat tube and the extremely long 147 mm head tube. The chainstays are rather short at 430 mm, while the reach, as well as the head and seat tube angles, are average.
The small 27.5” wheels underline the fun character of the Spectral but they also come with some disadvantages!
|Seat tube||425 mm||440 mm||480 mm||520 mm|
|Top tube||579 mm||605 mm||633 mm||661 mm|
|Head tube||92 mm||116 mm||147 mm||170 mm|
|Chainstays||430 mm||430 mm||430 mm||430 mm|
|BB drop||27 mm||22 mm||22 mm||22 mm|
|Wheelbase||1141 mm||1172 mm||1204 mm||1235 mm|
|Reach||419 mm||440 mm||460 mm||482 mm|
|Stack||588 mm||605 mm||634 mm||655 mm|
The Spectral CFR on test
Before you climb aboard the Canyon Spectral, you should take five minutes to remove all the spacers under the stem. While we generally like tall front ends, you can have too much of a good thing. Without the spacers, the riding position is central and upright but it’s worth pushing the saddle forward if you’re going to be tackling steep climbs. On technical climbs, the front end of the Spectral tends to lift off the ground relatively quickly and you’ll notice the disadvantages of the small 27.5” wheels, which get hung up on obstacles more easily. Having said that, the Spectral masters relaxed climbs on forest service roads with ease, not least thanks to the efficiency of the rear suspension.
If your buddies challenge you to a race uphill, you better just give them the finger and let them win – the Spectral isn’t the fastest climber.
The Spectral truly comes into its own on the descents! It constantly goads you to ride it harder and be more assertive with your line choice. The tall front end instils you with confidence, while the small 27.5” wheels make quick direction changes a lot of fun. Take the high line or drift into the corner instead? The Spectral does either with ease! The performance of the rear suspension is sensitive yet very defined, which means that the bike not only generates a lot of grip but is also easy to get airborne off the tiniest of lips. Despite the small wheels, you can just keep off the brakes on steep terrain and lean back. In contrast, flat trails require you to actively work the front of the bike to avoid understeer.
Tuning tip: sell the carbon wheels and get a sturdy aluminium wheelset!
How does the Canyon Spectral CFR 9.0 SL compare to the competition?
The Canyon Spectral CFR 9.0 SL and the YT JEFFSY are very similar in character. While the Spectral has the more defined feeling rear suspension, the JEFFSY scores with significantly better climbing capabilities, more freedom of movement on the bike and 29″ wheels. At the moment, if we had to choose we would take the JEFFSY.
Conclusion of the Canyon Spectral CFR 9.0 SL
Let’s get loose! The Canyon Spectral CFR 9.0 SL is a bike for everyone who’s after maximum downhill fun. In demanding terrain, the bike instils you with confidence and offers super agile handling. Slight inconsistencies in the spec and its somewhat lacking climbing capabilities cloud the overall impression.
- fun and precise handling
- capable rear suspension
- seat and head tube are too long
- climbing is only a means to an end
- the FIT4 damper isn't up to par with the new GRIP2
For more information head to canyon.com
The test field
Click here for an overview of the best trail bike in test.
All bikes in review: Cannondale Habit Carbon 1 (Click for review) | Giant Trance Advanced Pro 29 (Click for review) | Ibis Ripmo AXS (Click for review) | Nukeproof Reactor 290 (Click for review) | Norco Optic C1 (Click for review) | Orbea Occam M-LTD (Click for review) | Radon Slide Trail 10 (Click for review) | Santa Cruz Hightower CC X01 Reserve (Click for review) | Scott Genius 900 Tuned AXS (Click for review) | Specialized Levo SL Expert Carbon (Click for review) | Specialized S-Works Stumpjumper SRAM AXS 29 (Click for review) | Trek Fuel EX 9.9 X01 AXS Project ONE (Click for review) | Yeti SB130 TLR (Click for review) | YT JEFFSY CF PRO (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 & Photos: Christoph Bayer Translation: Christoph Bayer, Finlay Anderson, Markus Frühmann, Jonas Müssig