Canyon Spec­tral CF 9.0 SL



Canyon has cer­tainly gained at­ten­tion in the last few years with their di­rect to con­sumer model, dis­tinctly Ger­man de­sign, road han­dle bars that re­sem­ble a bi­plane and sign­ing two of Aus­tralia’s young down­hill tal­ent. As Ger­mans are quite lit­eral and to the point, we will get straight into the good stuff. The Spec­tral is Canyon’s take on what a trail bike should be, sit­ting un­der the En­duro race ma­chine the Strive, the Spec­tral has 140mm of pro­gres­sive travel on the rear bal­anced by a 150mm travel fork. The Ger­man brand claims that the Spec­tral brings “the right mix­ture of trac­tion, con­trol, han­dling and play­ful­ness into a ro­bust trail-tamer” and has been dubbed MBR’s 27.5 Trail Bike of the year. The trail bike cat­e­gory is one of the most sat­u­rated and con­stantly evolv­ing, Gi­ant’s Trance, Spe­cial­ized’s lat­est Stumpjumper, Norco Sight, Merida One-Forty, the Santa Cruz 5010... the list goes on.


The new Spec­tral is built tough, it has been con­sid­er­ably beefed up com­pared to its pre­de­ces­sor that has the same travel both front and rear. There are vis­ual cues from the Sender DH bike yet the Spec­tral re­tains a slen­der and whippy trail bike look. There are five car­bon mod­els, the top two be­ing equipped with full car­bon swing arms to match, three al­loy mod­els and what is im­pres­sive to see, three car­bon and two al­loy women’s mod­els. We had the CF 9.0 SL on test and it cer­tainly turned heads ev­ery­where we went. It has to be one of the neat­est trail bikes on the mar­ket through very clever fea­tures and fin­ish­ing touches that look so sim­ple yet have been painstak­ingly con­ceived. The list of these sleek fea­tures is huge so we are go­ing to cut it to our favourites. The frame uses nei­ther in­ter­nal or ex­ter­nal ca­ble rout­ing but a hous­ing sys­tem bolted to and run­ning the en­tire length of the downtube. Not only is it neat, it is easy to ac­cess for me­chan­ics and when emergency field re­pairs are required but its also a downtube pro­tec­tor, ab­so­lute ge­nius. Canyon have built in a steer­ing lock which pro­tects the top tube from lever/shifter dam­age on smaller sizes when the bars spin all the way around, which can cause ride end­ing dam­age to hy­draulic lines and frames. There are other brands like Trek do­ing this with Knock Block and its great to see this “En­duro” fea­ture trickle own to the trail bike space. Even Canyon’s Ex­ceed hard­tail has this fea­ture. The Spec­tral has a weather proofed frame. The seat tube has a neat rub­ber cap sit­ting snug­gly where the seat post in­serts into the frame keeping wa­ter and mud from en­ter­ing the frame. Main pivot bear­ings are com­pletely cov­ered with a weather proof cap, stop­ping mud and driv­e­train slop from get­ting any­where near the bear­ings. Team rider Joe Barns re­port­edly ran one side cov­ered and one side un­cov­ered (like a nor­mal bike) for a few months rid­ing on his home town sloppy trails in Scotland with the cov­ered sur­viv­ing and the un­cov­ered be­ing com­pletely seized. Check out @Top_chief and the Dudes of Haz­ard for an idea on how bru­tal the test con­di­tions were. In the back, the rear through axle has a hid­den quick re­lease lever that stows away in­side the axle like the 2001 Rock­Shox Psylo’s Tul­lio axle, but much eas­ier to use. There is pp­tional frame stor­age, the fits into the main triangle and a new wa­ter bot­tle stor­age con­cept us­ing two 400ml bot­tles run­ning in par­al­lel, which works es­pe­cially well for smaller frames. The Rock­Shox 1 x Re­verb lever fit­ted as stan­dard which is a way bet­ter

op­tion for er­gonomics. If you have a Re­verb, this has to be an up­grade at your next ser­vice. Canyons are as­sem­bled metic­u­lously as they are be­ing sent di­rectly to the con­sumer rather than a skilled me­chanic at your lo­cal bike shop. I first saw this phe­nom­e­non when Joe Barnes’ Strive was lost by an air­line be­fore Trans Provence and Canyon sent him another bike, we all thought it was his spare bike but in fact it was a brand new one from the fac­tory. He as­sem­bled that Strive in camp be­fore set­ting off for a 6 day en­duro. He did it all so ca­su­ally and be­ing able to ride and race a bike right from the box is very im­pres­sive. Set up for us was as ex­pected then, very sim­ple stuff. We did in­stall a Cush­core in the rear of our test bike, we spent some big days out in the raw moun­tains in New Zea­land’ South Is­land. The con­firmed weight was 12.6kgs plus 250g for the rear Cush­Core. We do have a few long term con­cerns that we will watch closely. How will the steer­ing lock will last over time as the bars turn and the stop is con­tacted re­peat­edly? How will the seat post clamp­ing mech­a­nism and pivot bear­ings last in foul weather even with the ad­di­tional seals?


The Canyon Spec­tral’s fit is right on the money by to­day’s stan­dard, with an in­crease in tope tube length, a short back end and lower stand over height. It is ex­tremely play­ful while re­main­ing sta­ble at speed. We had a size large on test and at 178cm tall it felt spot on equipped with a Ren­thal Apex 35 stem and with a 633mm top tube. Be­ing equipped with pre­mium of­fer­ings from Ren­thal and Er­gon all touch points felt very nat­u­ral from the start. Canyon should be com­mended for choos­ing the best prod­ucts on of­fer for their high end mod­els, with­out in-house short­cuts any­where. There’s no part we’d be left want­ing to up­grade. This trail-tamer comes into its own when let loose in the turns and there are many rea­son why. We put it through its paces on some se­ri­ously steep and root in­fested trails around Craigieburn on the South Is­land on New Zea­land to see how it han­dled and we were im­pressed at how quickly it changes di­rec­tion and re­sponds to rider in­put all do­ing so with­out be­ing twitchy or ner­vous on the chal­leng­ing ter­rain. With a 66 de­gree head an­gle and 430mm chain­stay length the Spec­tral loves to change di­rec­tion fast! Canyon have paired this with a pro­gres­sive rear link­age, so the bike ac­cel­er­ates out of turns in al­most a spring like ac­tion. Set the cor­ner up, push through the turn and sure enough as you near the end of the turn the bike picks up speed again, re­sist­ing that bog­ging down feel­ing that plagues many mid-long travel du­al­lies. This was cer­tainly helped by the 2.6” 3C com­pound Maxxis tyres and the ever pop­u­lar DT Swiss XMC 1200 Car­bon wheels with 30mm in­ter­nal width - the bike has more grip than a goat on a scree slope. We found the Spec­tral per­formed well in most ter­rain that we rode, es­pe­cially the tight and tech­ni­cal sin­gle­track it was ul­ti­mately de­signed for. It is also a com­pe­tent climber with its steep seat tube an­gle, clever link­age and pivot place­ment and large tyre con­tact patches. It ticks all the boxes for a mod­ern trail bike with a 27.5” wheel. As beefed up as the Spec­tral is, and pro­gres­sive

and hard hit­ting as it feels there was no deny­ing that hard all day bike park ridding was a stretch. The 150mm Fox 34 and the light and whippy rear of the bike felt like they were a lit­tle vague and in­di­rect at times. It al­ways felt well man­nered and in con­trol but just at the edge of com­fort, which is com­pletely ac­cept­able for a bike that weighs only 12.6kgs. Over our 10 days of ride tests, we were faced with some ad­verse con­di­tions, dry and dusty, sharp rock, heavy rain and mud and even snow. The only is­sue that arose on the Spec­tral was a loose Jockey wheel, which is hardly worth the men­tion. Has­sle free rid­ing in all con­di­tions. We did have to tighten the rear thru axle a cou­ple of times over the first few days, maybe it was the freez­ing cold con­di­tions and our numb fin­gers, as it didn’t hap­pen again to­ward the end of the trip. Some­thing to keen an eye on.


Canyon stated they have built the ul­ti­mate trail­tamer and we tend to agree, you will be hard pressed to find another more ca­pa­ble and well rounded 140/150mm 27.5” trail bike. The Spec­tral is a highly com­pe­tent all round trail bike that per­forms well on all types of ter­rain. For the con­fi­dence the Spec­tral in­spired, it was a tad on the light side for bike park rid­ing and heavy hit­ting rid­ers – and that’s where the Torque fits in the Canyon range. We are con­fi­dent that the ex­tra weather proof­ing mea­sure that Canyon have taken over its pre­de­ces­sor will re­sult in trou­ble free rid­ing for many sea­sons. The Canyon Spec­tral is the per­fect bike for any­one want­ing a do all trial bike, and while it’s not cheap by any stretch of the imag­i­na­tion, the Spec­tral FC 9.0 SL is a lot of bike for $7199, and the Spec­tral is com­pet­i­tive at all price points


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