As a two time winner of our Trail Bike of the Year award the Canyon Spectral CF 7 has always been the bike to beat.
In 2019, when we switched the best full suspension mountain bikes (AKA Trail Bike of the Year) to a 29er-only format, Canyon was left high and dry as it didn’t have a bike that fitted the bill. That all changed 12 months ago when it finally launched the Spectral 29. A 150mm travel trail bike with a full carbon frame, clean lines and equally keen pricing.
Canyon Spectral CF 7 review
And the arrival of the Spectral 29 certainly turned heads, not least because it had more progressive geometry and sizing than Canyon’s Strive enduro bike. And while the slack 64.1° head angle and generous wheelbase wouldn’t look out of place on an EWS winning bike, the suspension response of the Spectral is configured more towards improved pedaling efficiency, not smashing down the roughest race tracks.
And with the 2022 bikes launching just weeks ago, our Spectral CF 7 gets the new Fox Float X shock. Numbers on the rebound adjuster make it easy to set up, but as we quickly discovered, we couldn’t get the rebound fast enough for our liking. We even had to slow down the rebound on the fork to better balance the bike, so there’s work to be done on the shock tune, especially if you’re
a lighter rider running lower shock pressures. Ride the Spectral harder and it feels better, so if you’re a bigger, heavier rider that can smash it, you really can get the 150mm rear suspension to sing along.
See any black Fox fork with 36 on the lowers and it would be easy to assume that they were all created equally. Sadly they were not. The 36 Rhythm on the Spectral CF 7 doesn’t get the the self-aligning axle and lubrication channels found on the other forks in this category, and as such, front end traction isn’t as effective as it could be.
We initially thought it was the Minion DHR II tyre that was causing the front end to step out abruptly, but given that we used the exact same tyre on the other bikes, we’re confident it’s not the rubber. On a positive note, last year Canyon split fork travel between 150mm on the RockShox equipped bikes and 160mm on the Fox bikes, but for 2022 it has simplified things with 160mm travel forks across the Spectral 29 range.
While the suspension left some gains on the table, the build kit on the Spectral CF 7 leaves little room for improvement. The Maxxis Minion DHR II 3C EXO/ EXO+ tyre combo is first rate. The full Shimano SLX drivetrain and four-piston brakes take some beating, but we’d ditch the cooling fin pads as they rattle incessantly. Even the 170mm Canyon G5 dropper post can be stepped down by 25mm if you’ve upsized to a larger frame to accommodate a longer torso, but don’t quite have the leg length to run the dropper at full extension.
As the entry-level bike in the Spectral CF range, Canyon has done an amazing job bringing the 7 in at such a competitive price. Something always has to give though and the rear suspension didn’t feel as plush or as taut as last year’s Spectral CF 8.0 with with Float DPX2 shock. The Float X feels like it could do with less high speed and more low speed compression damping, which could explain why we had to run the rebound adjuster fully open.
But we’re not comparing this year’s Spectral CF 7 to last year’s 8.0, and compared to the competition in this test it’s still one of the standout bikes. Not least because the boutique carbon frame looks every bit as sleek as the Specialized Stumpy Evo in the shop bought category.
And just like the Specialized, the upper run of the chain sits really close to the chainstay, so there’s some chain slap – actually it’s more of a dull thud, as the chainstay protection is really effective.
Canyon has absolutely nailed the carbon Spectral 29 frame. The sizing and geometry are on the money and the bike belies its price tag. And even though we weren’t blown away by the suspension response of the Fox Rhythm fork and basic Float X damper, you can still ride the Spectral to the absolute limits when it actually feels most comfortable. But we know there’s untapped suspension potential. Simply upgrading to the Spectral CF 8 should bring a step change in performance and ultimately be cheaper than updating the suspension components on the Spectral CF 7 at a later date.