It's been a gaping hole in Canyon's mountain bike range for some time, but now the German direct-sales giant has finally launched a Canyon Spectral 29.
The 27.5in Spectral was a stand-out trail bike, but the lack of a 29er version was a major omission. Now there’s a brand new Canyon Spectral 29 that’s longer and slacker than the enduro-rated Strive, but still manages to remain true to its trail bike roots.
Canyon Spectral 29 need to know
- Canyon adds a 29er Spectral to its popular 27.5in trail bike range
- Four models, two Fox/Shimano builds, two RockShox/SRAM builds, all using the same 150mm travel carbon frame
- Fox bikes get 160mm 36 forks, RockShox bikes have 150mm Pikes
- Frames now feature tube-in-tube internal cable routing and threaded BBs
- Four frame sizes available, where the reach has increased substantially from the 27.5in bike.
- The addition of a flip-chip offers two geometry settings, where the bike is designed around, and ships in, the low position
- Prices start at £3,449 for the RockShox-equipped Spectral 29 CF 7.0
As winner of our Trail Bike of the Year test two years in a row (where we test the best full-suspension bikes on the market), the Canyon Spectral was the 27.5in bike against which all others were measured. Then, rightly or wrongly, we took the tough decision to make our 2020 Trail Bike test exclusively 29in. With no 29er trail bike in its line-up, this left Canyon out in the cold and instantly scuppered any chance of the Spectral making it three Trail Bike titles in a row.
One year on and Canyon is back and it’s come out swinging. The new Spectral 29 isn’t simply the old bike reborn in 29in, it’s matured considerably during its gap year. Yes, travel on the CF 8.0 is still the same, so you get a 160mm Fox 36 fork married to 150mm frame travel, but when you drill down into the geometry it’s clear that the Spectral 29 has also undergone a growth spurt. The reach increases across all four frame sizes, and with the slack 63.6º head angle in the low geometry setting (the Spectral 29 has a flip chip) the front centre on the CF 8.0 is almost 40mm longer than the 27.5in bike we tested in 2018. It’s also longer and slacker than the current Canyon Strive 29er enduro bike, and has the same amount of travel. Is the new Canyon Spectral just another enduro bike? In short, no and I’ll explain why in just a minute.
Divide and conquer
Before I do that however, let’s take a closer look at the range. There are four models in total, all with carbon frames. The range is split evenly between two SRAM/RockShox equipped bikes and two Fox/Shimano models, alternating as you move up through the line. And it’s not just the build kits that change. By using 150mm travel RockShox Pike forks on the RockShox bikes, and 160mm Fox 36 forks on the Fox models, the geometry changes slightly too. As such, the head and seat angles on the RockShox bikes are roughly 0.5º steeper than the Fox bikes. And to reflect the more trail-focused geometry, the RockShox bikes also get faster rolling Maxxis Dissector rear tyres instead of the Maxxis Minion DHR II tyres found on the Fox/Shimano bikes.
Servicing with a smile
There’s currently no alloy Spectral 29 and the carbon frame now has tube-in-tube internal cable routing. The frame retains the double sealing on all pivot bearings, where the second seal is now completely hidden under the pivot hardware. And in a nod to home maintenance, all of the pivot hardware, bar the drive side Horst-link pivot can be removed from the non-drive side of the bike, just like on Canyon’s Sender DH rig. Worried about stripping threads in your new carbon frame? Don’t be, as all of the bolts screw into replaceable inserts, in the same way as the rear axle threads into a replaceable derailleur hanger. On the Spectral it’s the new SRAM Universal Derailleur Hanger, or UDH for short. And continuing with the safety first approach, the threaded BB shell has a mount for an ISCG adapter if you want to fit a full-blown chain guide – the adapter is sold separately. All in, it’s a beautifully finished frame with some really neat features.
How it rides
I was pretty lucky with the size L Spectral CF 8.0, because with the 170mm dropper post slammed in the frame it gave me my perfect saddle height with no room to manoeuvre. So if you’re shorter than 5ft 11in, or have short legs and a longer torso, you’ll need to fit a shorter dropper post. With that single caveat, the fit and sizing of the size L Spectral 29 felt perfect for me.
The steep 76.7º seat angle keeps your weight forward for climbing while the generous 1,262mm wheelbase gives you the confidence to release the brakes and really let the bike fly on the descents. Unfortunately, as soon as you open the taps, your tranquility and flow is interrupted by the incessant rattling of the cooling fin pads in the Shimano XT brakes. It’s doubly frustrating as Canyon has gone to great lengths to reduce chain rattle with the ribbed chainstay protector and rubber faceplates inside the chain guide. The fix? Replace the brake pads with standard ones, which will also work out cheaper in the long run.
Why isn’t the Spectral 29 a full-on enduro bike? It has a lot to do with the suspension and specifically how well this bike pedals. Without the Strive’s ShapeShifter tech, that lets you toggle between two distinct suspension/geometry characteristics, a compromise needs to be struck, where that pitter-patter plushness is traded for increased efficiency. And Canyon has balanced this trade-off perfectly on the Spectral 29, retaining trail bike directness for long days in the saddle and grinding up steep technical climbs – that would have you off and pushing on most enduro bikes – while retaining the ability to charge hard on every descent. In that respect, it really reminds me of the Yeti SB150 both in terms of fit and handling, which is impressive, given that it’s basically half the price.
Is there anything I’d change? Nothing significant, but given how quickly I was up to speed on the Spectral 29 I’d probably swap the EXO casing rear tyre for the tougher EXO+ version, just to better protect the DT Swiss rims and reduce the risk of my ride being interrupted by pinch flats. And for someone that’s not a fan of riding with a pack, it’s cool to see Canyon adding a custom storage mount under the top tube.
Having not ridden the RockShox equipped bike, it’s hard to say if the ride quality I experienced on the Spectral 29 CF 8.0 will be the same across both platforms, but I was super happy with the 160mm Fox build, where the 143.3mm of vertical fork travel is almost identical to the 145mm rear travel that I measured in the workshop. More importantly, the suspension felt every bit as balanced out on the trail.
2021 Canyon Spectral 29 models
Spectral 29 CF 7.0 – £3,449
Spectral 29 CF 8.0 – £4,149
Spectral 29 CF 9.0 – £5,199
Spectral 29 CF LTD – £6,199
Canyon finally has a 29er trail bike and it ticks all the boxes. And unlike the Spectral no one can accuse it of being conservative this time round. Yes, it’s a long-legged trail bike in every regard, but that was the design remit and Canyon has nailed it. And while we’re not even in 2021 yet, it looks like the Spectral 29 is going to pick up exactly where the 27.5in bike left off.