Fast, fun, gives you the confidence to attack every trail
Without a shadow of a doubt, the most hotly contested event in the mbr calender is the Trail Bike of the Year test. Of the 12 contenders in this year’s test, only one bike achieved a perfect 10 rating, making it the outright winner of or 2018 Trail Bike of the Year award. That bike was the new Canyon Spectral CF 8.0. Canyon nailed the build kit too, and taken together with the new attitude and sleek lines, the Spectral CF 8.0 proved to be everything that a great trail bike should be.
Make no mistake, the new Canyon Spectral CF 8.0 isn’t just a facelift with a nip here and a tuck there to extend the shelf life of an existing platform.
Canyon’s redesign of the Spectral is so comprehensive only the model name, 140mm travel and Canyon’s competitive pricing remain unchanged. Pricing that affords a lightweight carbon front end and a parts package that wouldn’t look out of place on the £4k Plus bikes in this test.
Canyon Spectral CF 8.0
Design wise, the new Spectral marks a major shift in styling for Canyon’s longstanding trail bike, where a slightly longer and much lower top tube combine with an extend seat mast to make the fit of the Spectral less boxy than before.
A cursory glance at the Canyon Sender DH bike reveals the inspiration for the new look, but the Spectral has some cool features of its own. Like the additional weather sealing on all the pivots, thanks to feedback from Scottish based team riders Joe Barnes and the Dudes of Hazzard.
Then there’s the down tube mounted cable cover that doubles as a frame protector, no more threading cables through the frame then. The Spectral also has a steering lock to stop the handlebar controls hitting the top tube and it offers a tighter turning circle than Trek’s Knock Block design found on the Trek Fuel EX 29er.
Our main criticism with the old Spectral was that while its 140mm rear suspension was very supple it lacked the support needed to ride the bike hard. Basically it wasn’t very stable, causing the bike pitch or wallow under hard loading. Well, Canyon has addressed this and once again the inspiration comes from the Sender DH bike. Specifically its three-stage progression rate that is supple of the top for traction, offers good mid-stoke support for control, then the final rap up prevents harsh bottoming. And it does what it says on the tin.
Up front, the Spectral gets more suspension firepower with the 150mm RockShox Pike RC. And while RockShox it keen to emphasise that the RockShox Revelation is essentially a Pike chassis with a less expensive damper, it’s the Charger damper that really makes all the difference so the Pike on the Canyon is a big step up in terms of performance.
There are lots of good dropper posts to choose from, but the RockShox Reverb is still one of the very best. The new under-bar 1x remote is a joy to use and with 150mm of drop you can instantly select the perfect saddle height for every occasion. The integrate seat clamp on the Spectral frame means you need to get the correct torque setting though. Too tight and the clamp restricts the movement of the post. Too loose and the set post spins in the frame when you lean on nose of the saddle when cornering. Thankfully Canyon supplies a torque wrench with the bike to take the guesswork out of it.
From the get go the Canyon Spectral impressed. And we’re not taking about all of its neat design features. Ride quality is what testing is all about and Canyon has delivered a trail bike with good sizing and poised handling. The 10mm lower BB height and dropped top tube make the bike almost disappear beneath you and the extra length in the front end combined with the softer compound Maxxis 2.6in tyres gives you the confidence to dive headlong into any decent. So much so that we had our feet bounce of our flat pedals a couple of times. Perhaps it was the progressive nature of the rear suspension kicking in? Equally, it could just be the geometry and tyres allowing us to take the Spectral that bit closet to its limit.
And it’s not just on the downs that the Spectral displays a sense of urgency. This bike rips up hill too, thanks to the relatively steep seat angle, snappy pedalling response and low overall weight. It’s the ultimate all rounder.
What’s new for 2019?
“The new Spectral gains 10mm of travel front and rear, making it a 160/150mm bike. A longer fork slackens the head angle 0.5°, and the piggy-back shocks offer more consistency on long descents while improving adjustment and sensitivity. Narrower 2.4in Minion DHR II tyres give more precise handling. The 2019 Spectral is now more versatile as a trail bike as a 27.5in enduro option.” Daniel Oster, Product Manager, Canyon Bicycles.
With the new Spectral Canyon has built on the strength of it market leading specification while addressed the bike’s underlying weaknesses, namely geometry and suspension. As such, the Spectral CF 8.0 is now the 27.5in trail bike with no equal in this test. It’s light, fast and efficient, and the modern geometry and sizing let you push this 140mm trail bike right to the very limits of its 2.6in tyres. It’s everything a modern trail bike should be, so it should come as no surprise that’s it’s mbr’s pick for Trail Bike of the Year 2018.