Canyon Bicycle hails from Germany, where the brand has earned a solid reputation for its range of mountain bikes among rank and file riders, and also in World Cup competition. The Spectral AL 9.0 EX is Canyon’s top all-mountain/enduro offering and its welded-aluminum chassis sports a 140-millimeter four-bar suspension design and 27.5-inch wheels. The Spectral AL is outfitted with a SRAM X01 eleven-speed drivetrain, powered by an aluminum X1 crankset. Shock and fork are RockShox items with a reservoir-type Monarch Plus damper and a 150-millimeter-stroke Revelation slider up front. The cockpit is equally impressive, with a RockShox Reverb Stealth dropper seatpost and a Renthal handlebar/stem combination. Down below, AM-width, SRAM Roam 50 wheels are mounted to chubby, 2.4-inch Continental tires. All in all, Canyon’s 2014 Spectral AL 9.0 EX has the makings of a capable trail shredder. Our medium-sized test bike weighed a very respectable, 12.28kg (27 pounds) and its MSRP is listed as 3099 Euros. Sizes are X-small, small, medium (tested), and large. Canyon sells direct to its customers and ships to most countries throughout the world. (Soon to be available in the USA, Australia and New Zealand.) (Top) The rocker link is forged in two halves.
A rubber seal guards the dropper cable entrance.
Lack of ISCG mounts was a concern among test
riders. A look at Canyon's sturdy dropout and
post-type caliper mounts.
• Purpose: All-mountain/enduro
• Wheel format: 27.5-inch
• Frame: welded aluminum, Horst-Link type four-bar rear suspension, 140-mm travel,
• Fork: RockShox Revelation RCT3, 150mm stroke
• Shock: Monarch Plus RC3
• RockShox 120mm Reverb Stealth dropper post
• SRAM X01 one-by-eleven drivetrain
• Brakes: Avid Elixir 7 levers, four-piston Trail calipers – 200mm F and 180mm R rotors.
• Weight: 27 pounds (12.28kg)
Med. size tested.
• MSRP: 3099 Euro
• Contact: Canyon Bicycle
Canyon’s Spectral AL chassis follows classic lines and employs a time-proven Horst-Link type four-bar rear suspension. Its welded aluminum frame is butted and hydroformed at key areas to eliminate complicated forgings and gussets. The result is a very clean looking and lightweight chassis. The standout example of this technology can be viewed at the seat tube, where the tube is bent into an S-profile and then bulged significantly to form a stiff box-section for the suspension’s main rocker pivot.
The shift cable housing is routed internally, while the hydraulic brake and dropper seatpost hoses are routed externally on the upper face of the down tube. The bottom bracket area is a forged aluminum part that houses a press-fit bearing arrangement for the crank axle and doubles as the main swingarm pivot location. The swingarm is asymmetrical, and terminates at forged Horst-Link dropouts that house a taper-fit 12-millimeter through-axle assembly.
Canyon integrates post-type caliper mounts to the left dropout and a sturdy derailleur hanger to the right one. The head tube is the now-standard tapered type and, while the Spectral Al is billed as an all-mountain/enduro machine, there is no ISCG-type chainguide mount on the bottom bracket shell. Curiously, in the Canyon literature, a top-mount demi-guide is shown, which is screwed to two derailleur bosses fixed to the swingarm. While the Spectral AL is spec’ed with a SRAM X01 narrow-wide chainring, enduro riders may prefer the extra security of the guide.Suspension
Canyon refers to the Spectral AL’s rear suspension as an ‘anti-squat’ configuration. By observation, the rocker-link driven shock has an initial falling leverage rate that reverses to a rising rate as the suspension approaches full compression. This is a method used successfully by contemporary designers to achieve a firm pedaling feel during the first half of the suspension’s stroke without sacrificing the suppleness of the ride through the remainder of the travel.
The swingarm’s forward pivot is low in relation to the bottom bracket. That, in conjunction with its seat stay-mounted dropout pivot, should keep the suspension moving freely over bumps and chatter while pedaling and also under braking.
RockShox suspends both ends of the Canyon, with a Monarch Plus RC3 reservoir shock at the rear and a 150-millimeter-stroke Revelation RCT3 fork. Both are proven performers and in the case of the Spectral, suited to the role of an aggressively-ridden trailbike. That said, the Revelation fork, with its 32-millimeter stanchion tubes, is a bit light for the hardest charging all-mountain riders.
|The Spectral AL 9.0 is a conservative design that blends a proven four-bar suspension and the handling traits that most riders attribute to the mid-travel 26-inch trailbikes we grew up on...|
Conservative by contemporary all-mountain standards, the Spectral’s 67-degree head angle will perform more like 66-degrees on an equivalent 26-inch wheel bike. Canyon’s choice of 27.5-inch wheels also boosts the Spectral’s handling with a 17-millimeter bottom bracket drop. With the crank axle well below the wheel axles, the Canyon should corner with greater stability and roll more smoothly over rough ground.
Less outstanding, but worth mention are the Canyon’s average-length, 16.9-inch (430mm)
chainstays and its slightly steep, 74.5 seat tube angle. For a medium-sized all-mountain frame, the Spectral AL’s 22.87-inch top tube is about a half-inch (13mm)
shorter than we would expect. This could be a concern for taller riders who expect a top tube in the neighborhood of 23 to 23.5 inches (584 to 596mm)
for a medium-sized bike.Standout Components
Canyon achieves a good balance of components for the Spectral AL 9.0, in the sense that everything chosen compliments the role of a lightweight AM/trailbike. The core of the Spectral is its SRAM X01 drivetrain, which is downgraded with an aluminum X1 crankset, presumably to reduce the cost of the bike. The 34-tooth chainring is a bit tall for riders who face steep, extended climbs every day, but within the realm of reality. We applaud the choice of a Renthal bar and stem, but question the narrow feeling 740 millimeter handlebar width.
Canyon’s shopping list left little to want for potential Spectral Al 9.0 customers. SRAM is everywhere on the Spectral and that is a good thing. Its RockShox Reverb Stealth dropper post is still the industry leader and we have been fans of SRAM’s Roam wheelset since their launch. We have not spent much time on Avid’s Elixir 7 Trail brakes, but we anticipate that the more affordable versions will put in as good a performance as the top-drawer X0 models. Review full component specifications here
|The bike's compact feel meant that we could lift the front wheel up and over almost anything in a pinch, and unweight the rear end with equal ease.|
Those expecting a foreign feeling from the Spectral AL’s 27.5-inch wheels may be pleasantly surprised that it is a seamless transition from a sharp-handling 26-inch trailbike. The Spectral’s ride is so familiar that any good bike-handler could jump on board and shred from the trail head. It has a firm-feeling suspension that pedals easily and its compact wheelbase gives the bike an energetic feel. Setup:
Getting the Spectral’s suspension dialed in was simple as it gets. With 25-percent sag on both ends, the spring pressure was balanced for descending with the suspension opened up. With the platform lever at the half-way point, all but the most aggressive pedaling and climbing efforts were met with sufficient firmness. Flipping the lever to the third, near-lockout position was only done on rare occasions. Tire pressure seemed more important to get right than dialing in the suspension, as the big, 2.4-inch Continental knobbies would deflect off of slippery surfaces when the ground was wet if the pressure was set too high and would roll sluggishly on hard surfaces if the pressure was set five psi too low. We settled on 30psi for the rear and 27psi for the front. Pedaling and climbing:
As long as there was dirt or rock beneath the tires, the Canyon pedaled efficiently and got out of the corners quickly. Its frame felt noticeably rigid under power – a common comment among test riders. On hardpack fireroads and paved sections, it was noticeably slowed by its tires and to a much lesser degree, by its steep seat angle and slightly dull suspension feel. Climbing was enhanced, however, by two of the aforementioned negatives – the Spectral AL’s active rear suspension kept the bike rolling up the many shelves and rocky climbs that characterize the Sedona trail system, and its monster tires could find traction almost anywhere. In technical climbing situations, though, the bike’s short-coupled cockpit and XC-length wheelbase would sometimes make the front end light and less controllable.
|74.5-degree seat angle was a plus when climbing technical steeps because it kept the rider naturally forward.|
After spending time aboard the Spectral on trails that the test team had experienced with 26-inch-wheel models, we can clearly state that 27.5-inch wheels provide an advantage when pedaling and climbing over technical surfaces. Their benefits are unmistakable, though, while descending steeply over irregular rock, and when rolling out at the bottom of near-vertical drops.Cornering:
When pressed at fast singletrack speeds, the Spectral AL 9.0 was a shining example of how a good trailbike should corner. It feels quick, responsive and can get from a fully committed left bank to a right-hand turn in a heartbeat. Push the pace to that of a full throttle DH type trail – where one would expect a bike that is designated for enduro racing to thrive - and it runs out of confidence quickly. The Spectral’s short-feeling chassis gets bouncy when speed and intensity exceed the realm of a trailbike and the rider is then forced to make up for the bike’s lack of stability.Technical performance:
Most test riders enjoyed the Spectral AL when the trails required equal measures of courage and skill. It was trustworthy. There was always traction on tap, and its Avid Elixir 7 Trail brakes were both powerful and easy to modulate. The bike’s compact feel meant that we could lift the front wheel up and over almost anything in a pinch, and unweight the rear end with equal ease. Those attributes, combined with the Canyon’s active rear suspension made for an easy ride on the expert-level routes we often picked for testing. The 74.5-degree seat angle was a plus when climbing technical steeps because it kept the rider naturally forward. The narrow handlebar, however had us wishing for a bit more leverage when banging our way down chunky chutes or rutted trails.Component ReportRenthal bar and stem:
Good – Duo stem was the perfect length and component choice for an AM/trailbike which is billed as an enduro racer. Bad - Fat Bar Lite handlebar was a brilliant bend and the correct rise, but its narrow 740mm width seemed out of place on an AM/enduro bike.SRAM X01 drivetrain:
Good – one-by drivetrains should appear on every bike in this class. Shifting is crisp and sure. The ratios are perfect for fast-break speed and elevation changes, and we didn’t mind the downgrade from carbon to an aluminum crank because it is more bash-worthy in the rocks. Bad – for riders using this bike for its true purpose, a smaller, 32-tooth chainring may be a better choice, as it would assist technical climbing.RockShox Reverb Stealth dropper seatpost:
Good – still the best in class. It is pricey, but the fact that the Reverb was chosen means that the people who designed the bike also know how to ride.RockShox Monarch Plus RC3 shock:
Good – a long-stroke, fully adjustable reservoir shock belongs on every true AM/trailbike, and this one put in a good performance throughout testing. Bad – the three-way pedal platform lever fell off and was lost early on – and this was not the first time we’ve lost a Monarch lever. Continental Trail King and Mountain King tires:
Good – a huge casing, an aggressive tread and a nylon mesh protection layer make a worthy tire for technical riding. Bad - the stiff casing tends to make the tire run rough and it requires a narrow range of pressure to optimize its performance.Pinkbike's Take:
|Canyon made sure that its first 27.5-inch entry into the all-mountain realm would be successful by avoiding the pretense that sensationalism sells. Instead of inventing an elaborate suspension and using crowd-approved components, the Spectral AL 9.0 is a conservative design that blends a proven four-bar suspension and the handling traits that most riders attribute to the mid-travel 26-inch trailbikes we grew up on, with modern geometry and next-gen, 27.5-inch wheels. Experienced bike-handlers who want to retain the lithe feel associated with their old 26ers and incorporate the advantages in handling and efficiency that larger wheels bring to the table, could do well with Canyon's Spectral AL 9.0. As a pure enduro racer, Canyon's top-range Spectral ticks most of the boxes, but it falls a little short when it comes to high-speed, big-hit performance. As an all-mountain/trailbike, however, it's a hit. - RC|