With a lineage that can be traced right back to Canyon's first full-suspension mountain bike, the new Neuron has a lot to live up to.
The affordably-priced Canyon Neuron is a versatile, back-to-basics mountain bike, designed to be as adept as clocking up the miles as delivering the smiles on fun singletrack. So does it deliver against those promises?
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Need to know
- Entry-level trail bike with 130mm travel
- 11 bike range, offering both carbon and alloy-framed options starts at £1,849
- Small frame sizes come with 27.5in wheels, larger sizes get 29in wheels
- Updates include more progressive geometry, integrated protection and a focus on low maintenance
The Canyon Neuron was only launched in 2017, but its roots can be traced right back to the brand’s very inception. It was the replacement for the full-suspension Nerve; a bike that was born all the way back in 2002. And it happened to be the first Canyon model we ever tested here at MBR. That bike was the 2011 Nerve XC 5.0, and it featured an alloy frame with 120mm of travel and 26in wheels. It also weighed 12.9kg and cost £1,188 excluding the box and shipping.
This new Canyon Neuron might have radically different geometry to its forebear, wheels that are 3in bigger in diameter, and a price and weight that have succumbed a little to middle-aged spread, but it’s still intended to be an affordable, versatile, friendly trail bike that is as approachable for beginners as it is thrilling to experienced riders. Unfortunately the first generation Neuron (at least in my opinion) fell wide of its intended mark.
Canyon chose to take a very cautious approach at a time when geometry and sizing was settling down after a period of rapid evolution. Which meant that the head angle was too steep, the seat angle was too slack, the wheelbase was dinky, and the seat tube too long. As a result, the bike was twitchy and unstable on descents, and the steering too light when climbing. Ultimately, the 2017 Canyon Neuron was out of date from the moment it hit the market. Which was a huge shame, because the suspension was excellent, with a smooth, supple response to small bumps while never being overwhelmed by rougher terrain.
Canyon Neuron frame
So does this updated version correct the mistakes of its predecessor? It’s obvious that the latest bike is an entirely different proposition just by comparing the old and new side-profiles. The seat angle is visibly steeper, the head angle obviously slacker and the reach appreciably longer. To put numbers on these changes, the seat angle is 1.5º steeper, the head angle a similar amount slacker, the seat tubes are around 20mm lower, and the reach has grown by between 10mm and 40mm depending on the frame size. And TLDR; these changes to the geometry transform the Neuron for the better.
But before I get to the ride, let’s run through the basics of the range. Available in either carbon or alloy, the Neuron frame delivers 130mm of travel matched with a 140mm travel fork. Those carbon frames save a claimed 660g over their alloy counterparts, with a medium alloy frame tipping the scales at a claimed 3.1kg without shock. The carbon frame is also around 200g lighter compared to its predecessor, thanks to details such as the straight seat tube and redesigned internal cable routing.
Visually, the carbon frame looks more aggressive than its metallic counterpart, mostly thanks to that straight seat tube. It also gets fully concealed cables that are routed through the headset, which may trigger you if value DIY simplicity over clean aesthetics. There are also bolt-on frame protectors, an integrated chain guide, mounts for frame storage, and a UDH hanger.
In contrast, the alloy frame is more workmanlike. It gets a bent seat tube that looks a touch less modern, and misses out on the down tube protector. But many riders, including me, won’t lose any sleep over the more conventional internal cable routing. Canyon also emphasises the lengths it has gone to ensure durability and reliability, with robust bolts, wide pivots, and comprehensive pivot sealing whatever material the frame’s made out of.
Canyon Neuron range
There are four carbon models and four alloy to choose from, with prices starting from £1,849 for the Neuron 5 and going up to £5,749 for the Neuron CF LTD. There’s also a kids’ Young Hero model with an XS frame and 27.5in wheels for £1,499, and women’s versions of the Neuron 6, Neuron 7 and Neuron CF8 available at no extra cost.
As with the previous bike, all XS and S frames come with 27.5in wheels, while the M upwards come with 29in wheels. As with most Canyons, you’ll need to factor in a bike box at £18.99 and delivery at £37.99 to all of the headline prices.
As Canyon’s Spectral and Spectral 125 are the go-to models for experienced riders hitting more aggressive terrain, the Neuron’s more versatile remit and affordable pricing will be attractive to riders coming into the sport. Which is why I chose to try out the more down-to-earth Neuron 6 back in the UK on familiar home trails, after spending two days lording it up on the fancy CF 9 SL model at the bike’s global launch in southern Spain.
Canyon Neuron 6 components
Priced at £2,249, it comes with a 140mm-travel Fox 34 Rhythm fork and Float DPS shock, a 12-speed Shimano SLX drivetrain, DT Swiss wheels, Schwalbe tyres and in-house Iridium components including a dropper post. It’s a spec packed with big names and quality parts. Sweeping the blue dial atop the Fox fork to the right firms up the compression damping and adds some support, which is recommended to keep the front end from diving. As is over-inflating the fork by about 5%. Fox also offers a compression switch on the DPS shock. It’s useful for long, smooth climbs and gravel roads, and being located just under the top tube means it’s always within easy reach.
Plenty of brands save cash by skimping on less obvious parts, but I couldn’t find any skeletons in the Neuron’s closet. As well as an Acros headset and Race Face bottom bracket, there’s a genuine Shimano chain. Something that may seem insignificant, but I know from experience that the real deal will provide far superior shifting than a third party option when conditions are wet and gritty, and it will last longer to boot. Another smart spec choice are the Schwalbe tyres. Ridiculously fast rolling, they give the bike a pace that minimises the monotony of fire-roads and forest tracks and intensifies the excitement of flowing singletrack.
Remember that Nerve Al we tested back in 2011? Well, according to the Bank of England inflation calculator, something that cost £1,188 back then should set you back £1,608 in 2023. Which doesn’t make the Neuron 6 look like great value, but what the bankers don’t take into account are the huge leaps in tech and performance in the last 12 years. Can you imagine trying to ride your local trails as fast as you do now with 26in wheels, an 1,100mm wheelbase, 690mm wide handlebars and a 3×10 transmission with the chain constantly falling off?
Plus you didn’t get a dropper post back in 2011. And there was no Brexit to worry about, something that affects Canyon more than a brand that ships direct to the UK from Asia. In 2020, the old Neuron 7 with a similar spec would have cost you £2,049. Plug those numbers into the inflation calculator and it says you should be paying £2,382 for the same bike. Which makes the latest Neuron 6 look like a total bargain, especially given that the new bike is so much better than its predecessor. All things considered, for just over £2k I think Canyon has done a great job with the spec of the Neuron 6. In fact the only thing I’d ditch is the Selle Italia saddle – it’s just too narrow and firm for my tastes.
Canyon Neuron 6: How it rides
These days it’s pretty rare to ride a new bike and be really disappointed. Sure, you get plenty of competent bikes that are a little dull and easily forgotten, but I seldom ride a bike that feels fundamentally flawed. Unfortunately the last Neuron was one such bike. It felt like a missed opportunity, where the excellent suspension was undermined by antiquated geometry and sizing. The new bike, however, is a completely different animal, and one that I totally fell for.
The first thing that hit me about this bike is its raw speed. It takes very little energy to accelerate – always feeling lighter than its true weight suggests – and once up to speed it carries an eye-watering pace with minimal effort. Distances shrink when linking trails on boring fire roads, and familiar singletrack requires recalibration, because you’re just going so much faster. On numerous occasions I would sit down and coast, shaking my head at how little effort I was using to buzz along a forest road. And that helped me save energy and maximise fun, as much on Canyon’s two-day Spanish launch, as it did on a wet December lap of Swinley Forest.
Due credit goes to Schwalbe for the Nobby Nic and Wicked Will tyres and their curling stone levels of rolling resistance. Even if there’s little in the way of an edge to lean on in the corners, I got used to – and even started to enjoy – the early, predictable slides on hardpack ground.
On the previous Neuron, those fast-rolling, drifty tyres would have been like pouring petrol on a bonfire of handling issues, but with its new sizing and more controllable geometry, it’s not a problem. By stretching out the reach and reclining the head angle, the Neuron is settled at speed rather than edgy. Corrections come naturally, maintaining the flow of a trail, rather than feeling like a series of narrowly averted disasters. In fact you can ride the Neuron shockingly hard, even in terrain many would class as ‘enduro’, as it responds fluidly and immediately to rider inputs. Watching my fellow journalists absolutely shredding the Spanish trails during the launch event was a great insight into how the Neuron universally inspires confidence and pushes people to ride harder and faster.
The suspension was never a problem on the old bike, in fact it was an asset, and Canyon hasn’t mucked around with its winning formula. That supple beginning stroke, supportive mid stroke and gradual progression let you take full advantage of those improvements to the geometry. It’s everything you’d hope for from a short travel trail bike; encouraging and trustworthy for beginners, playful and rewarding for experts.
Less glamorous but equally significant is the way the steeper seat angle makes the Neuron a better climber. Now you don’t sit so deep into the travel, which keeps the suspension more stable and the steering better weighted. But it’s not so steep that the Neuron feels too upright and cramped when sitting down pedalling across flat ground, either.
In terms of ride feel, the CF 9 SL delivers a much firmer ride than the alloy Neuron 6. On the entry level bike there’s an obvious element of flex to the chassis that aids comfort without compromising control. Helped by alloy rims and a smaller diameter handlebar, the difference in harshness is significant. I actually preferred the feel of the alloy bike, and I think it would reduce fatigue over long distances, but I concede that taller or heavier riders might appreciate the extra stiffness of the carbon frame. And it definitely looks sexier.
Canyon has performed an impressive U-turn with the new Neuron. From a bike that I couldn’t wait to give back, to one that I couldn’t stop riding. The latest Neuron is versatile, affordable and a total blast to ride, as happy hitting enduro tracks and sending jumps as racking up the miles on a multi-day ride.