There can be few bikes that solidified themselves onto the trail riding scene as quickly as the Canyon Spectral, the very definition of a trail bike. Now it’s finally time for an update and we’ve had the chance to ride the brand new Canyon Spectral 2018, the king is dead, long live the king.

For four years the Canyon Spectral has always been the bike to beat in our trail bike group tests, offering great balance and an ethos that puts the emphasis purely on fun. Like any good trail bike, the Spectral delivered thrills at any speeds, making you feel like a superhero through every turn, but after four years in our last review we stated “the Spectral is certainly the godfather of trail, but is it starting to show its age?” Well Canyon have finally dropped the new Spectral 2018 and it’s a beauty.

The top of the range €6,999 Canyon Spectral CF 9.0 LTD, the flagship of the new 2018 lineup showing the optional frame case.

Canyon Spectral 2018 gets a new design and linkage

What makes a good trail bike? Traction, control, fun and above all, playfulness. While components help, most of these properties stem from the heart of the bike, its suspension kinematics. The biggest change in the Canyon Spectral 2018 is the new suspension layout. While it retains its 150/140 mm of travel, the new linkage repositions the shock horizontally. The old linear rocker kinematics have been revised to give increased support in the mid-to-end stroke, so important when looking for a more playful and engaging ride. When talking about their new Spectral, Canyon keep reinforcing the same mantra ‘balance’, and that also shows in their kinematics, anti-squat has been optimised to give a balance between good acceleration and pedal kickback, avoiding the extremes, and a healthy dose of anti-rise stops your fillings falling out under hard braking. The new linkage is also claimed to reduce side loading on the shock and bearings, improving longevity and reliability.

The new suspension linkage brings more support and feedback from the trail.

The Geometry of the Canyon Spectral 2018

The Spectral is a do-it-all trail bike, so we cannot expect Canyon to push the geometry numbers to extreme proportions, this is a bike that needs to make you feel like a superhero without having to push your nerves to the limit at high speeds, again, balanced. As such, the new Canyon Spectral 2018 is an exercise in restraint, not radicalism. Reach has been increased between 2 – 20 mm depending on size (the smallest sizes see the biggest increase) but the compact 430 mm chainstays and 74.5° seat tube angle is unchanged. While the rear travel has remained unchanged at 140 mm, internally Canyon have pitched the Spectral one level higher in their own classifications, to match the Strive when it comes to intended capability, thus we see the head angle decrease by 0.4° to 66° for increased composure and around a 20 mm wheelbase increase for more stability over rough ground. The stack has increased by around 10 mm in most sizes, and even though the BB height is unchanged at -22 mm (in M – XL, -27 in the smaller sizes) the taller stack make you feel lower into the bike. Overall, the changes are not crazy, just a sensible update to an already well loved bike.

Size XS S M L XL
Seat tube 385 mm 425 mm 440 mm 480 mm 520 mm
Top tube (effective) 559 mm 579 mm 605 mm 633 mm 661 mm
Head tube 88 mm 92 mm 116 mm 147 mm 170 mm
Head angle 66° 66° 66° 66° 66°
Seat angle 74.5° 74.5° 74.5° 74.5° 74.5°
Chainstay 430 mm 430 mm 430 mm 430 mm 430 mm
BB Dropt 27 mm 27 mm 22 mm 22 mm 22 mm
Wheelbase 1122 mm 1141 mm 1172 mm 1204 mm 1235 mm
Reach 400 mm 419 mm 440 mm 460 mm 482 mm
Stack 588 mm 588 mm 605 mm 634 mm 655 mm
Canyon now consider the Spectral at the same classification as the Strive, and their testing has been more demanding.

New features of the Canyon Spectral 2018

While the geometry has not radically changed, the same cannot be said of the design. Not only does the new Spectral look iconically Canyon with the distinctive design sweeping line from the top tube to the seat stay – which we think looks stunning – but the Spectral 2018 is bristling with innovative new features. What at first looks like internal routing is actually external, but brilliantly done. Cables fit externally in a channel on the underside of the frame and are held firm by a protective cover that sandwiches the cables and ensures they are 100% silent on the trail. This system gives the clean lines of internal routing with the practicality of external and is the best system we have seen so far. The cover also adds frame protection too. Chapeau Canyon, chapeau. The seat clamp has also been internalised for cleaner lines, a secure internal clamp grips the 30.9 mm post with more surface area to reduce creaks, and gives the bike a perfectly clean aesthetic. The Impact Protection Unit has been carried over from the previous bike, providing some top-tube protection from the brake levers should you get too crazy and take a spill.

The new integrated cable channel and cover is a thing of pure beauty, all the benefits of internal cables with none of the disadvantages.

Reliability is key

As bikes increasingly grow more capable and the benefits between them diminish, reliability and durability take a larger proportion of the joy of ownership. Nobody likes changing frame bearings so it’s good to see Canyon have invested some of their considerable R&D to improve their bearing life. Not only does the new linkage put less torsional forces on the shock mounts, but the bearings feature new X-ring seals, like those found in suspension forks. The X-ring seals help minimise water and dirt ingress, very important for riders who live in mud prone locations. The main pivot also features a larger axle and twin bearings on the drive side to spread the load.

Bearings now feature improved sealing and new X-rings to stop water ingress.

What, no Canyon Spectral 29?

Many will be surprised to see that the new Spectral is 27.5” only. When questioned about the lack of 29″ wheels in the line-up, Canyon were keen to point out that the purpose of the Spectral is all about fun, and the most fun wheels in their eyes is the 27.5 wheel wrapped in 2.6” rubber. Keeping to the smaller wheel format, Canyon claim they have kept the rear ends compact, for maximum pump and railing fun. Pushing the rim width to 30 mm in most models and fitting 2.6 inch tires gives a huge contact patch without the skinny sidewalls that plague larger 2.8” plus tires.