Doesn't conform to our definition of a modern trail bike, but that doesn't mean that it won't fit yours
Canyon Neuron AL range consists of two models – the £1,699 AL 6.0 and the £2,049 AL 7.0. There’s a women-specific version of each, with gender-specific contact points.
Additionally there’s a kid’s model – the YoungHero at £1,399 – but it’s only available in one frame size (2XS). The women-specific versions run 27.5in wheels with the largest frame size on offer being a medium, while the smallest is XXS. The unisex versions have a size range from XS to XL with the smaller frames running 27.5in wheels and medium and above getting 29in wheels.
Canyon Neuron AL need to know
- Aluminium trail bike with 130mm travel
- 2XS – S frames run 27.5in wheels, M – XL get 29in wheels
- Triple phase suspension kinematics basically gives a progressive feel
- Also available as a kids bike – the YoungHero
Positioning a trail bike to hit the right consumer is a delicate business. The term ‘trail bike’ covers such a sweep of travel, geometry, wheel size, terrain and riding style that even the most sophisticated dating app would struggle to find the perfect match between man or woman and machine. Throw in the subtleties of international markets and you have an even trickier proposition. Do you turn your back on more traditional deomgraphic in countries such as Germany, Spain and Italy or try to ensnare the more progressive customers in places like North America and the UK? On the launch of this bike in Barcelona, for instance, the only other riders we saw were of, shall we say, a more mature demographic, riding e-bikes or XC hardtails up and down fire roads, ignoring the excellent network of singletrack spreading through the hills. But, I bet if you asked those people what they were doing, they’d answer ‘mountain biking’.
I say this to add some context to the bike I’m about to introduce; the Canyon Neuron AL. Because, while it doesn’t conform to my personal definition of a modern trail bike, doesn’t mean that it won’t fit someone else’s. Who knows, you could be that person…
The Neuron, of course, is not new. A carbon-framed Canyon Neuron CF was launched last year, but this cheaper alloy version brings the entry point to the range down significantly. As we’ve already pointed out, the two models on offer split their wheel diameters across different frame sizes, so the smallest bikes have 27.5in wheels and the larger bikes have 29in wheels. To try and keep the handling consistent, there are slightly different head angles, top tube lengths and chainstay measurements depending on the wheel size fitted. Specifically the 27.5in bikes get 0.5º slacker head angles and 5mm shorter chainstays than the 29in versions.
Just like its composite cousin, the Neuron AL boasts a pin-sharp frame design with attractive detailing and an overall proportion that looks just right in profile. The high tech construction and refined features ensures this is an affordable bike that cuts no corners – with internal cable routing (foam tubes eliminate rattle), integrated frame protection, retractable ‘Quixle’ quick release and highly sealed bearings, Canyon hasn’t skimped on any aspect of the chassis design.
Like the Canyon Spectral and Canyon Torque, the shock is driven by the seatstays via an extender yoke. It’s a popular configuration that’s used by multiple brands, and has the advantage of minimising stiction (shock rotation is handled by the seatstay pivot bearings) and maximising standover height as well as increasing space within the front triangle to accommodate a bottle cage (a large 750ml bottle can be fitted to the medium and large frame). Out back, there’s a pivot on the chainstay in front of the dropouts, making the Neuron a true four-bar design.
How it rides
Remember when we talked about market positioning? Well, if we take the contemporary trail bike spectrum, and place aggressive shredders like the Specialized Stumpjumper Evo and Santa Cruz Tallboy at one end of it, the Neuron sits socially distant at the opposite side. Put another way, the Canyon Neuron AL ‘s comfort zone encompasses long rides on sedate terrain. It will cover ground off-the-beaten track with efficiency and comfort. Mountain bike touring, you could call it. But, despite boasting in the press release that it’s happy on ‘technical descents’ in the hands of ‘seasoned riders, pushing their limits’, we’d argue that this is not its natural habitat, and aspects of the geometry and spec limit its performance in these situations.
I’ll expand on that as we go along, but for starters, let’s go through a few of the geometry numbers and how they influence the ride and handling. With a reach of just 453mm on the size large frame, this is a really compact bike. Even the size XL frame – the biggest in the range – runs a cautious 473mm reach, when many modern full-suspension bikes are offering 480-490mm on their size L frames and over 500mm on their XL or XXL frames. Why is this a problem? Well, stand up to descend and your weight is closer to the front wheel, making it harder to respond to losses of traction in time and keep your mass balanced between the axles. It also means taller riders will feel cramped when stood up, and with the range topping out at XL, there is nowhere to go if you want to upsize. On the Neuron this problem is exacerbated by the relatively steep 67.5º head angle, which reduces steering stability at the speeds we tend to reach on most modern, purpose-built mountain bike trails.
Canyon would probably argue that certain consumers demand traditional, ‘safe’ geometry because the riding they do doesn’t require anything more aggressive. But we’d argue that – without going to the extremes of a Geometron or a Pole – everyone can benefit from more progressive sizing and geometry, whatever their level. Longer reach and a steeper seat angle will give a more comfortable position for climbs and twiddling up fire roads. A slacker head angle helps stability when you’re going down the other side at high speed on that same loose, sketchy fire road. Speed, efficiency and dynamic handling don’t need to be mutually exclusive, particularly on short travel 29ers where their inherent lack of weight and stable suspension usually results in a rapid, responsive ride quality.
While the Canyon Neuron AL ‘s geometry is looking nervously over its shoulder, the suspension kinematics has its eye confidently on the horizon. In fact it’s so good we firmly believe the Neuron could be an absolute trail shredder given half the chance.
Don’t for a minute think that the triple-phase suspension has some kind of obvious steps between each zone. The reality is simply a nice, steady progression through the travel with a supple initial response to small bumps, good support when pedalling and pumping, and a resistance to harsh bottom out on big hits and heavy landings. Canyon has used it to great effect across its current range, and it works as well here on the Neuron as it does on the World Cup ready Sender downhill bike.
With plenty of anti-squat, the Neuron accelerates briskly and displays an urgency and efficiency that perfectly captures the spirit of a short travel trail bike. It takes your energy and it amplifies it, so that you always feel like the bike is giving you back more than you put in.
£2,049 gets you a some pretty good kit. The Fox 34 suspension fork is perfectly suited to this amount of travel, and paired with the DPS shock you get a harmonious package that delivers decent performance in a wide variety of situations. The dropper post is effective and the SRAM NX/GX drivetrain has a great spread of gears. From there on, though, it starts to unravel. Top of our list of complaints are the Continental Mountain King III tyres. With a hard compound, little in the way of side knobs and a small volume, they exhibit a harsh, pingy ride and limited cornering grip. If you do most of your riding on dirt roads and forest tracks, you’ll love how fast they roll, but outright traction is in short supply. The tyres are mounted on Race Face rims laced to Shimano hubs. Running on loose ball bearings, rather than easily replaced cartridge units, the hubs need regular servicing – and we mean regular – or the bearing surfaces will wear and you’ll be looking at a big bill.
Canyon has fitted Shimano 400 series disc brakes, which offer plenty of power and good modulation, but the rotors only accept resin pads, which wear out in the blink of an eye when it’s wet. Four finger levers give tons of leverage, but make it really hard to reach the shifter when you move them inboard.
We also hated the rock hard, slippery, Selle Italian X-Base saddle and got really frustrated on a couple of descents when we realised we’d knocked the compression platform lever – it sticks out of the side of the shock – with our knee, accidentally locking it out.
There's no arguing that the Canyon Neuron AL gives you a stack of bike for your money. It's an attractive, top quality frame with the fit and finish of bikes costing much, much more. The components are a mixed bag, with some questionable selections in terms of the brakes, wheels and tyres, but the suspension, both in terms of the kinematics and the choice of fork and shock, is first rate. With a safe set of angles and old-school sizing this is very much a bike aimed at the rider who knows his or her limits and wants a bike to go on journeys and adventures rather than seeking the next loam track and endorphin high.