An excellent frame and dialled parts are let down by a poorly damped fork and soft shock
Canyon says its new 140mm-travel Spectral is designed to handle everyday trail riding right through to aggressive all-mountain shredding. And when Canyon’s team riders, including triple DH world champion Fabien Barel, have raced the exact same frame on the gnarly Enduro World Series stages you can’t really argue.
The 6.0 model here is the cheapest option, but there are no prizes for guessing that the German brand’s direct sales model means you still get a top-tier frame built into the lightest bike on test. High-end parts like a RockShox Reverb dropper post, Shimano SLX chainset and Mavic wheelset complement an exquisitely designed frame with clean sculpted lines and excellent finishing quality. It’s also packed with contemporary features like a tapered head tube, 142x12mm bolt-thru axle, integrated rubber chainstay protector and sleek anodised pivot hardware.
Frame sizing is a little concerning, though. Canyons tend to be on the small/short side and riders over 6ft will struggle to fit the largest Spectral
Frame sizing is a little concerning, though. Canyons tend to be on the small/short side and riders over 6ft will struggle to fit the largest Spectral tested here though moving to the XL 29er version could be an option.
An open cartridge Fox Evolution Float fork has its travel reduced internally from 150mm to 140mm to match the rear. Even with the reduction in travel the 32mm platform is pretty stretched and isn’t very stiff. Also, the fork had dry wiper seals that made them sticky to get moving.
A Fox Performance series CTD Float shock with a Boost Valve takes care of suspension duties on the rear. There’s quite a soft, deep feel to the Spectral suspension, so we fitted the largest volume reducer to the air can to tighten up the ride — this is something any rider can cheaply and easily experiment with to give a more progressive suspension feel.
The Reverb Stealth dropper post is a welcome luxury on any bike and the lightweight Mavic Crossride wheels add plenty of zip. Factor in the chain-retaining XT Shadow Plus 2×10 drivetrain and you’re looking at an excellent overall ride experience. This component package wouldn’t look out of place on a £3k bike.
The only black mark on the kit list was the inconsistent Avid Elixir 5 brakes, where the rear brake lever pulled to the bar and faded on most rides.
Once we swapped out the big, slow-rolling Conti Mountain King tyres, the Spectral felt a lot more nimble. There’s lively zip and energy once it’s up to speed, and it maintains momentum well over a variety of pitches on both loamy and rocky surfaces.
Pedalling with the stock shock creates some up and down movement on steeper climbs or sprinting hard out of the saddle, and aggressive riders might find the suspension a bit ‘floaty’ and too eager to use all of the travel too often when riding hard. All testers rated the Spectral’s trait of encouraging you to play and interact with the trail, aided by the frame feeling stiff and precise and the geometry placing rider weight down low in the frame.
The Canyon Spectral 6.0 could have walked away with this test with a few simple changes. It’s more expensive than the Vitus but the frame displays excellent construction quality, most of the parts are dialled and the direct and engaging ride offers glimpses of performance only found on far more expensive trail bikes. Bikes are sold as complete packages though, and thanks to the overly tall front-end and twisty, poorly damped fork, a slightly softer than ideal rear shock for aggressive riders and issues with the Avid rear brake, we couldn’t award higher marks.