Pound for pound, there is no better 27.5in trail bike
MBR Editor’s Choice 2019: Canyon Spectral AL 6.0, £2,349
Canyon uses a unique numbering system to classify its bikes: 1 is for road bikes, 2 covers commuter bikes, 3 is for hardtails and XC full-suss, 4 covers Trail riding but no bike park action, that’s reserved for the gravity and DH models in category 5. There are even small graphics next to the numbers on the bikes to highlight the gradient of the intended terrain. It’s all very structured and practical even if a little, well…German.
So imagine our surprise when the Spectral broke ranks. By adding a longer stroke shock Canyon upped the travel on the 2019 Spectral by 10mm to 150mm. It also increased the fork travel by the same amount, adding a burly 160mm Fox 36 fork to slackened the head angle by one degree.
To maintain the low BB height needed for railing turns, Canyon also bucked the trend for fatter tyres downsizing from 2.6in to 2.4in.
Taken together, the all of the updates to the Spectral AL 6.0 made it more capable than ever before, but where did it sit in Canyon’s classification system? Canyon initially billed it squarely as enduro but that’s probably because it couldn’t bear the thought of half numbers on the scale. Yes, the extra travel makes the Spectral more capable than before, but it’s more of a hopped-up trail bike than full-blown enduro rig, and it’s all the better for it. Which is why it won the 27.5in class of our 2019 Trail bike of the Year test even though it was by far the cheapest bike in test.
What’s new for 2020?
Shimano had been slow to develop a 12-speed drivetrain, but now that it’s arrived uptake has been rapid – the Spectral AL 6.0 sporting SLX with a wide range 10-51t cassette. A one-stop-shop sees Shimano SLX brakes replace SRAM Guides and the cockpit had been updates too. Out goes Canyon’s G5 bar and stem, in comes a lighter Race Face Aeffect set-up. The final update sees Canyon replace the excellent Minion DHR II rear tyre with a faster rolling Maxxis Aggressor.
27.5 Trail Bike of the Year: Canyon Spectral AL 6.0
Our Trail Bike of the Year 2018, the Canyon Spectral AL is the 27.5in bike which all others are measured. It’s undergone revisions to make it more capable.
Canyon Spectral AL 6.0 review
Revisions that see the travel creep up by 10mm at both ends, transforming it into a 160/150mm bike that blurs the line between trail riding and enduro.
To maintain the desired BB height the tyre size has shrunk from 2.6in to 2.4in, which is basically the opposite of what most other brands are doing, but it works.
Two models fitted our criteria for this year’s test, the Spectral CF 7.0 at £2,699 and the AL 6.0 at £2,249. We opted the latter as it meant that all of the bikes in the 27.5in category had alloy frames. And, with Canyon being the only genuine sales direct brand in the category, it helped level the playing field at touch. Not that you could tell by looking at the specification, Canon gives nothing away to the other bands in test.
Canyon increased the amount of rear wheel travel from 140 to 150mm by adding a longer stroke shock with the same eye-to-eye length. So it’s the taller 160mm travel fork that actually make this year’s bike one full degree slacker. And because the bike has more travel, the dynamic geometry is lower and slacker too, even though the static BB height is 1mm higher.
Canyon’s triple phase suspension linkage offers good small bump sensitivity with great mid-stoke support for pedalling and cornering, but it’s also very progressive, making it harder to use the full measure of travel on rougher trails. Flat land a drop or overshoot and jump however and you’ll bottom it out, so think of the extra 10mm on the rear as insurance that you only use when you mess up.
The 36 Rhythm Grip suspension fork has a more linier progression rate as standard, so adding an extra volume reducer gives a better match to the rear suspension. Volume spacers come supplied with the bike, along with a shock pump. Bonus.
In keeping with the extra travel and more capable geometry, the Spectral AL 6.0 gets Canyon G5 cockpit from the Torque, it includes a 780mm handlebars and two-piece 50mm stem. The G5 lock-on grips extending the bar width to 790mm.
It also gets the same tyres specification as the Torque, 2.4in Maxxis Minion DHR IIs. Great tyres, apart from one problem, the super grippy, but incredibly slow rolling MaxxGrip compound up front will suck the life out of you on longer rides. It’s the only chink in an otherwise flawless build kit, and is best reserves of Alpine trail riding where you can ride the chair lift up the climbs. With our mid compound, MaxxTerra Maxxis front tyre fitted, the Canyon felt like it had been let off the leash.
Hop-up kits don’t always make a bike better, but Canyon got it just right with the latest Spectral. The extra travel makes it more capable than before, without transforming it into a full-blown enduro bike. Yes, the longer travel Fox 36 Rhythm fork has more movement when climbing, but it doesn’t impede your progress any, this bike is still fast and efficient.
Point it down hill however and extra suspension muscle lets you ride harder with less fatigue. The slacker head angle really helps in that department too.
With the 170mm crank arms the BB height ion the Spectral is spot for slashing turns, smuggling in pedal strokes and grinding up steep climbs. If you do need extra pedal clearance for more technical ascents, the compression lever on the Float DPX2 shock is within easy reach.
So the 2019 Spectral Al 6.0 is a absolute demon on the descents, balanced on flowing singletrack and incredibly efficient on climbs. It’s everything a great trail bike should be and the fact that it’s also cheaper than anything else in its class, makes it our undisputed Trail Bike of the Year two years in a row.
Pound for pound, there is no better 27.5in trail bike that the Canyon Spectral AL 6.0. It pedals with aplomb, it feels light and agile on flatter trails and when it’s time rumble it’s extra travel and dialled geometry means it every bit as comfortable going 12 rounds as delivering a knockout blow. Yes, the MaxxGrip Maxxis front tyre is overkill on a UK trail bike, but it’s the only hiccup in an otherwise flawless build. Factor in Canyon’s competitive pricing, even with shipping and a faster rolling MaxxTerra front tyre, and you’ll still have plenty of change from £2,500.