The Canyon Spectral 125 is a short-travel 29er trail bike that's perfect for spicing up your local trails - but is it too niche?
Take a cursory glance at the new Spectral 125 and you could easily mistake it for the full-blown 150mm Spectral. Make no mistake though, the Spectral 125 is a unique bike in its own right. And not just unique; the performance is impressive to count it among some of the best mountain bikes we’ve tested this year.
Need to know:
- A 125mm travel 29er designed to tackle big terrain
- CF models use a full carbon frame with tube-in-tube internal cable routing
- All models use 140mm travel forks with a 64º head angle in slack/low setting
- G5 dropper post can be adjusted internally in 5mm increments, with a 25mm adjustment range
- Alloy Spectral 125 bikes available from £2,449
Canyon Spectral 125 frame and geometry
The most telling difference is that the head tube is 15mm taller on the 125, it also has a 20mm shorter seat tube and the seat stay assembly is longer too. Other than that, the geometry is nigh on identical. In fact, the 125 CF carbon frame is only 100g lighter and meets the exact same safety standards, so you know it is designed for hard charging.
Canyon offers three carbon versions, where the Spectral 125 CF 9 tested here is the top-end bike. There are also two alloy bikes, the entry-level AL 5 costing £2,399. The carbon bike gets a hi/low flip-chip that adjusts the BB by 8mm and the head angle by 0.5º. The alloy version forgoes the geometry adjustment and combines the slacker head angle with the steeper seat angle for a best of both worlds approach.
Other neat features on the CF 9 include tube-in-tube cable routing and extra seals on the pivot bearings to ensure that the bike spends the minimum amount of time in the workstand. It also has mounts under the top tube for attaching tools or Canyon’s Load frame bag.
Canyon has missed a trick with its chainstay protector though, because chips in the carbon swingarm right beside the chain ring indicate that the rubber protection falls just short.
Canyon Spectral 125 suspension
With 125mm of rear travel but geometry fitting of a 150mm bike, it makes sense that the shorter travel Spectral has more progressive suspension than its big brother. It also has more anti-squat, which combined with the reduced travel makes the bike feel tighter and more reactive when you get on the gas.
Yes, the rear suspension can feel a little too progressive at times, so we found that running the bike in the high geometry setting, with a lower spring pressure gave us the best response. Another option would be to remove the biggest of the two volume spacers from the Fox Float X shock and keep it in the low setting.
To balance vertical wheel travel front and rear, Canyon fits a 140mm Fox 36 Factory fork. The Grip 2 damper provides plenty of support, and riding the Spectral 125 back-to-back with the longer travel version really highlighted just how stable the geometry is on steeper trails with 20mm less travel up front.
Canyon Spectral 125 components
Because the Spectral 125 arrives in a sensible-size box, you need to fit the handlebar yourself. To make that as easy as possible the G5 stem is a top-loading design. The matching G5 carbon bar has a good profile and we loved the extra rubber and tapered design of the Ergon grips. It’s handy too that the 200mm G5 dropper can be stepped down internally by up to 25mm, in 5mm increments, for the perfect fit.
Arguably the standout component on the Canyon were the SRAM Code RSC brakes. With the thicker rotors you have less dead lever travel than before, better heat management and the power is still first rate. A good thing too, given how fast you can ride the Spectral 125.
Canyon Spectral 125 performance
We spent more time on the Canyon than any other bike in this test of short-travel 29ers. Why? Simply because it was hard to figure out who exactly it was for. Given how stout the frame is we could see slopestyle riders, four-cross riders and jibbers flocking to it, jackets flapping in the breeze. It’s ideal for heavier riders too, or anyone looking for a closer connection to the trail, but still wants to ride as hard as humanly possible.
It’s the mountain bike equivalent of barefoot shoes, just way cooler.
The Spectral 125 still needs more rubber under foot though, so the first and only upgrade we’d suggest is swapping out the EXO casing Maxxis Dissector rear tyre for something tougher. Because the pressure needed to prevent pinch flats with the stock tyre makes the ride of the Spectral 125 harsher than it needs to be.
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The Spectral 125 CF 9 is difficult to pigeonhole. In terms of travel it’s at the short end of the trail bike spectrum. Switch your attention to handling however, and it’s much closer to a traditional 150mm trail bike. So context is key. If you already own a heavy-hitting enduro rig, or even an e-bike, the Spectral 125 will complement it beautifly – the reduced travel breathing life into dull trails, while the progresive geometry gives you the confidence to ride on the limit when things get wild. And things will get wild. So make sure you fit a sturdy rear tyre from the off.