Canyon's Spectral trail bike now includes a mullet version promising business at the front and a party at the back. Can it back up that claim on the trails?
Canyon’s Spectral is serious contender in the trail bike market. It’s proven to be one of the best full suspension bikes for 2022. So how does this new mullet version, with mixed wheel diameters and a coil shock, fit into the range? We go on an all-night bender to find out.
Need to know
- Mullet version of Canyon’s Spectral trail bike
- Black sheep of the Spectral family gets a Fox DHX coil shock to crank the fun factor up to 11
- Three different weight springs included to dial your set-up
- 160mm fork paired with 150mm rear travel
- Adjustable geometry via flip chip
- Full carbon frame available in four sizes
With its new Spectral CF8 CLLCTV, Canyon joins the short but growing list of brands with a dedicated analogue mullet bike. Brands like Specialized with its Status and Santa Cruz with its Bronson. Canyon even throws the horns and rocks its locks by keeping the term mullet, rather than going for the safer and more boring MX label adopted by most other brands.
Yet, aside from an apologetically miniscule mullet logo on the top tube, this primer grey CF8 CLLCTV looks totally corporate. Where’s the purple paint and skinwall tyres? If ever there was an opportunity for Canyon to put its tie around its head and dance on the hot desks, this is it. But on looks alone, it’s resisted the temptation. So has business got the better of partying? Is this Spectral more Chris Waddle singing ‘Diamond Lights’ (Google it) on Top of the Pops, or is it Mel Gibson with a crazed look in his eye in Lethal Weapon? Let’s find out.
First thing to get out of the way is that, while the wheel size mash-up is new for 2022, the Spectral chassis was refreshed last year, so if you’re familiar with that bike, you’ll have a head start understanding the new CF8 CLLCTV. For those of you playing catch-up, I’ll summarise the updates. Front and centre were changes to the geometry and sizing, with a longer reach, slacker head angle and steeper seat angle. The kinematics were also revised to give more support and improved pedalling performance. Finally time and effort was spent increasing stiffness across the carbon front and rear triangles to give riders more accuracy and confidence.
Scratch below the surface and Canyon also took learnings from its Sender DH bike to make servicing and maintenance less of a headache. Replaceable captive nuts, steel pivot inserts, threaded BB shell, tube-in-tube internal cable routing, double-sealed bearings and SRAM UDH mech hanger should mean you can enjoy more time partying than wrenching.
To create this bastard love-child Spectral, Canyon has mated the front end of the 29er with the rear end of the 27.5in frame. What that means is there are no quirky compromises made with BB heights or seat tube angles and the principle difference between the mullet CF8 and the pedigree 29er is a 5mm shorter chainstay. What’s left is just as progressive as its 29er counterpart that we reviewed in the Trail Bike of the Year test. I measured the head angle, for example, at 63.4º in the slack setting. That’s enduro slack, and part of the reason Dimitri Tordo from the Canyon Factory Enduro Team chose to race the Spectral at certain rounds of the EWS. Elsewhere the numbers are healthy but not excessive; 77º effective seat angle, 336mm BB height, 1,258mm wheelbase, 477mm reach. Across the other sizes the reach runs from 435mm on the S, to 460mm on the M and 510mm on the XL. Where Canyon has arguably messed up is the seat tube lengths, which are too long on the L and XL and restrict the ability to size up should you want to ride a longer bike. Lopping 20mm off the largest two seat tubes would have given riders more options.
Just like Don Johnson in Miami Vice, this Spectral CF8 CLLCTV is a one well dressed mullet. Suspension duties are handled by Fox’s excellent 36 Performance Elite fork, with four-way adjustable damping, paired with the DHX Performance Elite shock. Effectively it’s the top of the range Fox 36 minus the fancy gold legs. That affords you total control over the spring curve and damping, plus you get the oil-circulating channels up the back of the lower legs and the bleed buttons to allow excess pressure to be released after a long descent.
The DHX shock has rebound and compression control as well as a pedal platform switch that’s within easy reach while riding. Kudos to Canyon for supplying three different weight springs with every bike, too, meaning that you’re basically guaranteed to find your perfect set-up.
Wheels are sourced from the DT Swiss range – the durable XM1700s – and shod with our favourite tyre combo – a Maxxis Assegai up front and Minion DHR out back, both in MaxxTerra compound and a tougher Exo+ casing for the rear.
We’ve had consistency issues with Shimano’s XT brakes in the past, but the four-piston set fitted to our Spectral CF8 worked perfectly and delivered stacks of power. Sure, they come on a bit strong in the initial phase for some people, but there’s no doubting the power on tap. The only thing we’d change are the rattly and unnecessary (in the UK) finned Ice Tech brake pads.
Shimano also supplies the drivetrain. There’s a mix of SLX (cranks and cassette) and XT (r-mech and shifter), but it’s a solid and effective combination with a shifter that lets you dump several gears at once on the way into a descent. Canyon also fits a small but useful chain guide for extra security. The rubber layer, fitted inside the guide to reduce noise, had split on my test sample, but it still worked fine.
The rest of the parts are in-house G5 components, which might sound boring but are actually well-designed and boast some neat features. The grips use a file tread that offers stacks of purchase with or without gloves and enough padding to make them comfortable without feeling bulky. The G5 stem is chunky and stylish and clamped to a G5 780mm bar with a decent rise and sweep. Out back, the Ergon saddle is fixed to a G5 dropper post with a clever internal travel adjustment similar to the system used by PNW Components. Simply loosen the seatpost collar by hand and rotate the stepped spacer inside to customise the drop in 5mm increments. The only thing that lets the post down is excessive play between the shaft and the lower tube.
How it rides
Despite the hyena wheels, the Spectral is undeniably a handsome machine. The muscular, sculpted tubes and sharp details make this a bike you look over your shoulder at as you’re walking out of the shed. Fortunately it’s also a bike you want to shred as hard and often as possible.
Setting the sag is more difficult with a coil shock, so I enlisted a helping hand to measure mine with the stock 450lb spring fitted. First we measured the shock eye-to-eye fully extended (230mm). Then we measured it again with me sitting in the saddle. The difference in these two measurements was then used to find a percentage of the total shock stroke (60mm). As my sag was 15mm, this gave me exactly 25% sag, which at 76kg made sense compared to Canyon’s average rider weight estimates for a size large frame. The DHX shock now has spring preload detents to give you a tuning guide, and I ran my Spectral with 13. Less than 8 or more than 26 clicks and you’ll need to fit a lighter or heavier spring, which may require a bushing tool if your bike is brand new, or not if you’ve ridden it already.
Let’s get the boring, but unexpected part out of the way first – the Spectral CF8 CLLCTV is a very effective climber. Any preconceptions that a coil shock would rob you of energy and bob uncontrollably when pedalling proved completely unfounded as the Spectral rose uphill with almost swan-like serenity. There’s such a stable pedal platform that I eschewed the actual pedal platform on the shock as it actually felt too firm and took away some of the extra grip provided by the coil spring’s suppleness. A trait that helped generate impressive levels of traction on technical rises.
Likewise, hard bursts of acceleration were matched by unflinching stability and drive. All this can be traced back to the Spectral’s high levels of anti-squat at, and above, the sag point. But equally Canyon has nailed the riding position too, so that you’re well placed to balance weight through the wheels on steep climbs but don’t feel too far forward on rolling singletrack and mellower fireroad ascents.
Remember though, that this was running 25% sag. Set the Spectral up softer, with 30% or more, and those characteristics will change. And because you can’t just attach a shock pump to get the sag where you want it, you may need to spend a little more time setting up this bike than others.
For me, running less sag seemed to suit the bike perfectly, as it provided plenty of support, just the right amount of bottom out events and a stable pedal platform but I still got to enjoy the extra sensitivity of the coil shock.
And on the descents it really came alive, giving that ground-tracing ride that makes coil shocks so irresistible. Because Canyon has tuned the anti-squat to fall away as you move deeper into the travel, pedal kickback is totally acceptable too. I noticed the pedals tugging at my soles a couple of times during testing, but nothing that really jarred.
One thing I couldn’t get to the bottom of was a rattle coming from the rear end while coasting down certain trails. Considering the Spectral is well-wrapped in rubber protection tape, this was surprising. Further investigation is required to trace the cause, but I’ll update you if we find out more.
The Spectral CF8 has loads of pump and ample support too, so you can use the terrain to gain speed, and while it’s harder to check maximum travel on a coil shock, by looking at the grease marks on the shaft after every trail it was plain that I was only getting near the bottom out bumper on hefty landings.
The Spectral CF8 CLLCTV goads you into going big, too, as the frame is rock solid in the rough. It’s never harsh or brittle, but slam it into a berm or rut and it doesn’t flinch. That 27.5in rear wheel definitely assists you when trying to hit an inside line or tuck into a turn.
With superb, highly-tunable suspension, a burly, chiselled chassis and fun-loving wheel mix, the Spectral CF8 CLLCTV is a thrilling bike to ride at a decent price. But it’s no one-dimensional party animal that gives you a hangover when dancing has stopped – as much as it loves to go nuts on the descents, it’s also a reliable partner for getting the job done on the way back up.
With superb, highly-tunable suspension, a burly, chiselled chassis and fun-loving wheel combo, the Spectral CF8 CLLCTV is a thrilling bike to ride at a decent price. But it’s no one-dimensional party animal that gives you a hangover when dancing has stopped – as much as it loves to go nuts on the descents, it’s also a reliable partner for getting the job done on the way back up.