Canyon and Syntace join forces in order to fight the flop, with an innovative steering stabilser called K.I.S.

Product Overview

Canyon Spectral 29 CF 8 K.I.S.


  • Steering is less fidgety on climbs. Can reduce deflections. Lets you relax the reins through constant turns. Neatly integrated and adjustable. 


  • Expensive. Benefits may not be obvious from the get go. Can feel strange in certain situations.


Canyon Spectral CF 8 K.I.S. first ride review



Price as reviewed:


This new steering stabiliser was conceived by Syntace, developed in conjunction with Canyon and is fitted to one of the brand’s best trail bikes. It aims to improve control and reduce fatigue, but how does it work and does it actually bring any benefits? We take it for a ride to try and find out.

Need to know

  • Carbon trail bike with 150mm travel
  • Integrated K.I.S. steering stabiliser in the top tube developed in partnership with Syntace
  • Adjustable spring tension lets you tune the self-centring effect
  • £350 upcharge over a regular Spectral CF 8
  • Only model in the Canyon range to get this tech, although bikes also available from Liteville and more models will follow
Canyon Spectral CF 8 K.I.S.

K.I.S. is integrated into the top tube and head tube, but all you can see is the sliding anchor point for the springs. Slide it back to increase tension, forward to reduce tension.

What the hell is K.I.S.? That’s the question I’m asking myself as its inventor, Joe Klieber from Syntace components, stands in front of 13 representatives of the world’s mountain bike press, holding an upturned broom like a handlebar, with a partially eaten bread roll attached to the other end, while prodding it up against the torso of a volunteer lying on the floor. In over 20 years in this job, it’s the most consistently thought-provoking, occasionally insightful, frequently baffling, and utterly bizarre presentation I’ve ever witnessed.

Canyon K.I.S. x-ray view

This X-ray rendering reveals how the system is configured. The cam is clamped around the steerer tube and connected to the two springs by straps. As the bars are turned, the springs expand. Sliding the anchor point back increases the tension and the self-centring effect.

So far, so surreal, but back to my original question, and K.I.S., or Keep It Stable, is a self-centring mechanism that aims to stabilise the steering and improve rider control. It consists of a cam ring that clamps to the fork steerer, attached by straps to two springs housed within the top tube. As you turn the bars, the strap wraps around the cam and pulls on one of the springs, altering the amount of torque required to add more steering angle. With the steering centred, the spring forces equalise. The cam ensures that there is a nonlinear relationship between the force required to turn the bars and the steering angle. In other words, the torque required to turn the bars increases rapidly between 0º and 15º, after which there’s a much more gradual increase in force needed to get from 15º to 50º

Canyon KIS Torque Curve Graph

In this graph you can see that a lot of torque is required to steer away from the centre point, but as you turn the bars beyond 15º the rate of increase flattens off.

It is not, and this is important, a steering damper – typically used to prevent tank slappers on motorcycles – as there is virtually no friction in the system. The system is also apparently maintenance-free, tunable by changing the position of the springs’ anchor point – which is very neatly integrated into the frame – and adds a meagre 110g to the weight of the bike.

Canyon Spectral CF 8 K.I.S.

Canyon has fitted K.I.S. to one of its most popular trail bikes; Spectral CF 8. It’s a brilliant foundation for the system.

To begin with, Canyon is offering it on just one bike – the Spectral CF 8 ridden here – at a hefty £350 premium over the standard model. But expect it to be introduced on additional bikes across the range down the line – indeed Canyon has been testing it on everything from its DH race bike to e-bikes like the Spectral:ON. Alternatively, you can also buy a K.I.S.-equipped bike through the Liteville range, which is part of the Syntace family.

Canyon Spectral CF 8 K.I.S.

The position of the cam can be adjusted by this little port in the head tube. If it gets knocked in a crash, you can realign it here.

If you’ve ever delved into the murky waters of steering dynamics for a single-track two wheel vehicle, you’ll know that there’s a lot of very complex physics involved. Throw in the many variables encountered within an off-road environment and it gets even more impenetrable. Suffice to say it’s not a rabbit hole I’m going to poke my head down here. However, I will mention a couple of points that may help understand how K.I.S. came about and how it aims to help us as riders.

Canyon Spectral CF 8 K.I.S.

Scale on the side lets you find your preferred setting. We ran it in the middle for our test ride.

Ironically, considering the brain-melting interplay of forces involved, the idea for K.I.S. was seeded from a problem that’s very easy to understand. One of Joe’s designs for Syntace is a quick-release stem that can be rotated 90º by pushing a lever. It allows people to easily flatten their bikes for storage. But with the bars turned the bikes became difficult to wheel around in a straight line – the front wheel would flop to one side. So Joe started thinking about a way to keep the wheels aligned while pushing them with the saddle.

Canyon Spectral CF 8 K.I.S.

Fox Float X shock controls the 150mm of travel.

The reason that this was a problem is that mountain bikes have become a lot more stable at speed over the last decade or so. We’ve seen head angles get slacker, wheel diameters get larger and fork trail get longer (with the trend for shorter offsets). All this has had the effect of making the steering of the bike more stable at higher speeds – say above 10mph. On the other hand, this has caused the steering to get more ‘floppy’ at lower speeds, which requires stronger and more frequent corrections from the rider to counteract. It’s partly the reason why seat tubes have got steeper in recent years, and longer chainstays have become more popular, but it’s also why Joe started thinking about ways to fight the flop.

Canyon Spectral CF 8 K.I.S.

The CF 8 comes with a Shimano XT 12-speed drivetrain.

As riders, that steering flop is most obvious to us when we’re climbing, but also when we hit a loose turn, or a tight corner on a steep descent, as the front wheel starts to lose grip and we can’t apply enough correcting torque. In corners we get understeer, where the front wheel pushes on, and on climbs we end up sawing at the bar, fighting to hold a line.

Canyon Spectral CF 8 K.I.S.

Canyon’s G5 dropper post can be adjusted by 25mm in 5mm increments, but it does suffer from a bit of rotational waggle.

When we negotiate a turn, we all do something called counter-steering. We rarely notice it, as it’s something that we do instinctively from the moment we learn to ride a bike, but we briefly turn the bars in the opposite direction on the approach to a corner, which initiates a weight transfer in the direction of the corner. We then steer the bars in the direction of travel and the bike leans over. After that, we use varying degrees of steer and counter-steer to keep the bike balanced in the corner.

Canyon Spectral CF 8 K.I.S.

The sleek carbon frame is definitely a looker.

As we turn the bars, the contact patch moves forward and the front axle gets closer to the ground – effectively reducing the stack and lowering the bars. At slow speeds and large steering angles the effect is much more pronounced than the typical mid-speeds we often ride at (say 15-20mph), where the variation is only around 1cm. But, 30-40kg of combined rider and bike mass still needs to be lifted hundreds of times during a ride. Fortunately that load is spread across the width of the bar, so we don’t really notice it, but it does contribute to fatigue on long rides.

Canyon Spectral CF 8 K.I.S.

Flip chip gives 0.5º head angle change and 8mm of BB height adjustment. The BB is low enough that we’d consider 165mm cranks for added clearance.

In K.I.S. then, we have a system that is trying to cut fatigue by reducing the effort you need to hold a line. It aims to lessen deflections that might be generated by hitting such things as a rock garden, a patch of roots or a loose corner, all of which should help you keeping pointed forward and improve control. Finally, it claims to alleviate wheel flop on climbs, reducing the energy and concentration required to go where you want to.

Canyon Spectral CF 8 K.I.S.

The Canyon Spectral CF 8 K.I.S. is a trail bike that feels just as happy in enduro-rated terrain.

How it rides

That’s the theory, but what about the reality? Before we get into that, a quick word about the Spectral CF 8 that K.I.S. has been fitted to. It’s been a few months since I’ve ridden a Spectral 29 and it was a pleasure to get back on one. As a trail bike it ticks all the boxes – efficient at climbing, agile and rewarding on descents. The suspension feels calm and composed, delivers good levels of grip and loads of progression, so it’s easy to ride fast and there’s plenty of pop to hop over obstacles. Being picky, the only two improvements I’d like to see are the adoption of the shorter seat tubes and increased standover clearance from the Spectral 125. This would make the saddle on the standard Spectral less intrusive on steep terrain.

Canyon Spectral CF 8 K.I.S.

K.I.S. helps you hold a line on rocky straights, but this isn’t where we found its greatest strengths lie.

Back to K.I.S. and all of the test bikes at the system’s launch were set with the springs at their middle tension. This was with the aim of creating enough centring force to give an appreciation of its effects, while also giving the best chance of getting used to the system. Like the Magura/Bosch ABS brakes we rode a couple of issues back, years of established experience can make it hard to see the benefits of something new. Usually it takes extended ride time to get familiar with the behaviour of a new handling approach, and develop or adapt the techniques needed to exploit its potential. On the other hand, it forces you to focus on how you ride. In this case I definitely concentrated on trying to understand how I was steering and how the system was responding. When the trail was calm enough that I had some spare mental capacity!

Canyon Spectral CF 8 K.I.S.

When the trail demands all your concentration, K.I.S. never seems to get in the way.

Which is why the self-centring effects were most obvious when climbing. Even on gradual ascents it was clear that I needed to use fewer inputs to keep the bike pointed in the direction I wanted to go. I could let the steering settle into the straight-ahead position and relax my grip on the bars, instead of tensing my hands, wrists and forearms to counteract the bars rocking slightly with every pedal stroke. Back in the UK a few days later, I rode a standard Spectral CF 8 without K.I.S. and it was immediately obvious how much force I was applying to hold a line, particularly as the gradient steepened.

Canyon Spectral CF 8 K.I.S.

When the trail tips up, K.I.S. really lets you chill out, relax your grip and conserve your energy.

On constant radius turns, I could feel the steering straighten out after the turn had been initiated and the lean angle set, at which point I could also loosen my grip and make fewer corrections through the corner. The bike felt calmer and the front wheel less likely to push on or tuck under. By no means did I notice this on every corner, but on those that I did, it felt like an advantage. And where my concentration was focused elsewhere – rock gardens, cambers and changes in surface grip – K.I.S. didn’t seem to hinder my instinctive reactions.

Canyon Spectral CF 8 K.I.S.

K.I.S. feels largely normal in most scenarios, and it never feels like the steering is locked.

When things did get a bit wild – such as the front wheel starting to push when coming too hot into a loose turn – the resulting slide felt easier to rectify. I can’t say for certain it prevented any crashes, but it definitely seemed less sketchy.

Canyon Spectral CF 8 K.I.S.

The Spectral is a really playful bike that’s fun and engaging to ride, with or without K.I.S.

It was easy to ride with no hands and I could still make ham-fisted endo turns, but there was one situation where it felt weird. When sprinting out of the saddle along flat singletrack, normally the bars rock slightly with every pedal stroke, in tune with your body English. But with K.I.S. they remained centred unless I increased the force of my inputs, which felt strange and made it harder to follow the narrow trail. The adjustment was subtle, but it shows that K.I.S. does demand a conscious adaptation by the rider in some situations.


Early indications are that K.I.S. shows promise, and for the most part its influence feels either advantageous or neutral. But it’s going to take more time, ideally somewhere I don’t have to think about the trail ahead of me, to give any kind of definitive verdict on whether it’s worth the significant £350 premium. In that respect, this feels very much like the start of a journey rather than a destination. 


Frame:Spectral carbon with K.I.S., 150mm travel
Shock:Fox Float DPX2, Performance Elite (230x60mm)
Fork:Fox 36 Performance Elite GRIP2, 160mm travel (44mm offset)
Wheels:DT Swiss XM1700 wheels, Maxxis Minion DHR II 29x2.4in tyres
Drivetrain:Shimano XT crank 32t, 170mm, Shimano XT 12-speed shifter and r-mech
Brakes:Shimano XT M8120, four-piston, 203/203mm
Components:Canyon G5 780mm (31.8mm) bar, Canyon G5 40mm stem, Canyon G5 170mm post, Ergon saddle
Weight:14.55kg (32.08lb) (claimed)
Sizes:S, M, L, XL
Size ridden:L
Rider height:5ft 10in
Head angle:64/64.5º
Effective seat angle:76/76.5º
BB height:334mm (low)
Front centre:816mm
Down tube:753mm
Seat tube:460mm
Top tube:636mm