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.

Canyon Spectral CFR 9.0 SL | 27.5″ | 160/150 mm | 12.88 kg | € 5,499 | manufacturer website

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

€ 5,499

Specifications

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

Technical Data

Size S M L XL
Weight 12,88 kg
Wheelsize 27,5"
Travel (f/r) 160/150 mm

Poor choice?
With its wild character, the Spectral is aimed at experienced trail riders and they, in particular, would likely appreciate the added performance of a GRIP2 damper.
Get low!
Because of the long head tube, we recommend removing all spacers under the stem immediately.
Fancy, but unnecessary
The DT Swiss XMC 1200 wheels look nice and are super high-end, but their durability proved to be limited – this bike demands more robust wheels.
Nice clamp, but far too long
The seat post clamp in the Spectral is designed to protect the post by clamping a large surface area. However, at 480 mm the seat tube is far too long for a size L bike. Riders with short legs will be limited in their choice of dropper post length and upsizing for more reach isn’t an option.
Assault
Saddles are always a matter of personal preference, but we can confidently say that the SDG won’t suit anyone.
Added protection
The linkage bearings are covered by an additional seal to protect them from dirt and weather ingress, which also gives the bike a cleaner look.

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!

Size S M L XL
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
Head angle 66° 66° 66° 66°
Seat angle 74.5° 74.5° 74.5° 74.5°
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!

Helmet Giro Tyrant MIPS | Glasses Oakley Anorak | Jersey Fox Ranger Jersey | Pants Fox Ranger Shorts | Kneepads Fox Enduro Pro

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.

Riding Characteristics

12

Uphill

1
  1. sluggish
  2. efficient

Agility

2
  1. cumbersome
  2. playful

Stability

3
  1. nervous
  2. confident

Handling

4
  1. demanding
  2. balanced

Suspension

5
  1. harsh
  2. plush

Fun Factor

6
  1. planted
  2. poppy

Value for money

7
  1. terrible
  2. very good

Intended Use

XC

8

Trail

9

Enduro

10

Downhill

11

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.

Tops

  • fun and precise handling
  • capable rear suspension
  • quiet

Flops

  • 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)

Words & Photos: Christoph Bayer Translation: Christoph Bayer, Finlay Anderson, Markus Frühmann, Jonas Müssig

About the author

Christoph Bayer

When work doesn't feel like work, then you've probably done everything right. Luckily, that’s exactly what Christoph did. He loves biking and the tech talk surrounding it (to the detriment of his girlfriend Toni), photography and travelling the world. He has been with ENDURO almost from the start and as editor-in-chief, he's responsible for making ENDURO the most progressive and exciting magazine in the industry. Of course, he still writes a lot of content himself, reviews almost 100 bikes a year and rides his bike almost every day. The alpine trails around his hometown serve as the perfect testing grounds. He doesn't have a classic 9 to 5 routine – sometimes he's in the office, sometimes he'll take his laptop to sit in the garden and sometimes you'll even find him working remotely from his van parked at one the best riding spots in the world. For Christoph, work-life boundaries are fluid and he likes it that way.