Imagine you were tasked with designing the ideal trail bike, a bike that was able to handle everything from long XC laps to the occasional enduro race. What would it look like? What size wheels would it have? How much travel?
Canyon's engineers found themselves facing those very same questions when it came time to revamp the Spectral, and the result is a bike with 27.5” wheels, 140mm of rear travel paired with a 150mm fork up front, and a very clean, modern look that was inspired by the Sender, Canyon's DH rig.
Canyon Spectral Details
• Intended use: trail / all-mountain
• Wheel size: 27.5"
• Rear wheel travel: 140mm
• 66º head angle
• Aluminum and carbon frame options
• Boost hub spacing
• Size: XS (alloy only) - XL
• Price: $2499 - $6999 USD
Riders who were familiar with the previous Spectral will immediately notice the new shock position – it's now oriented horizontally, running directly from the seatstays to the downtube. According to Canyon, this change was inspired by the lessons they'd learned during the development of the Sender. The goal of the revision was to improve the feel of the suspension at the beginning of its stroke, while still maintaining the ideal level of anti-squat to create an efficient pedaling bike. The Spectral has a progressive suspension curve that's designed to work well with air shocks, but the amount of ramp up at the end of the stroke isn't overly drastic, which allows rides to add or subtract volume spacers as they see fit.
The rearmost pivots are still located on the chainstay, but they're positioned above, rather than below the rear axle, a layout that's reminiscent of Rocky Mountain's Smoothlink design. Altering the shock position also allowed for a lower top-tube height, and makes it possible to run 150mm dropper posts.Frame Details Semi-internal cable routing:
At first glance it looks like the Spectral's housing is routed inside the frame, but it's actually sandwiched between the downtube and plastic “cable channel.” Found on both the carbon and aluminum frames, the plastic cover can easily be removed for maintenance, and also adds an element of frame protection. Integrated seat post clamp:
Most seatpost clamps only concentrate their clamping force onto a centimeter or so of post, which is why in some cases it's possible to tighten them down enough to affect the performance of a dropper post. Canyon's integrated clamp uses a plastic sleeve that's designed to help spread out that force.
Frame Options / Build Kits
Impact Protection Unit: In order to keep brake levers from smashing into the top tube during a crash the carbon-framed Spectral's are equipped with Canyon's Impact Protection Unit (IPU), which uses a custom headset spacer and a bump stop that's attached to the top tube. That bump stop is attached by hollow screws that are designed to break away, sacrificing themselves in order to save the top tube.
Lunch box: Canyon even came up with a frame case that can be attached inside the front triangle, with enough room for tools, a CO2, and some snacks.
Double bottle holder: Small riders get thirsty too, but it's often difficult to fit a full size bottle on smaller frame sizes. The Eject System is Canyon's solution to that problem, a bottle holder that holds two 400ml bottles side-by-side.
There are three different frame options for the Spectral; riders will be able to choose from an all-aluminum frame, a frame with a carbon front triangle and aluminum swingarm, or a full carbon option. It's worth mentioning that Canyon now designates the Spectral as a Category 4 on their rating system, the same designation given to the longer travel Strive. In other words, the frame should be stronger than before, and able to handle even more aggressive riding. Prices range from 2199 EUR all the way up to the 6999 EUR for the full-carbon, XX1 and ENVE wheel equipped model.
All of the bikes are spec'd with wide tires, typically a 2.6" Minion DHF up front and a 2.6" Rekon in the back. Geometry
Creating a playful, fun bike was the overarching goal behind the Spectral's redesign, and the geometry numbers reflect those intentions. This isn't a super-slack, stretched out limousine, but with a reach of 460mm on a size large, 430mm chainstays and a 66-degree head angle, the numbers are right in line with what you'd expect to see on a modern trail bike.
The geometry is slightly different on the small and extra-small sizes - Canyon equips those with a shorter shock, which results in a lower bottom bracket and lower standover height. The travel amount remains the same, but changing the shock size is said to alter the suspension curve so that it's even more supple in the first part of the travel, a benefit for lighter riders.
Winter is in full swing where I live in the Pacific Northwest, so when the opportunity arose to head over to Madeira, Portugal, to check out the new Spectral I jumped at the chance. A cursory Google search made it looked like a rugged island with plenty of sunshine – not a bad place to spend a few days. After nearly 24-hours of travel I stepped off the plane into spring-like temperatures and clear skies – things were off to a promising start.
However, Mother Nature had other plans, and by the time it was time to ride the weather had taken a turn for the worse – heavy fog had rolled in, accompanied by a steady, soaking rain. What followed were some of the wettest rides I've ever been on, and I'm no stranger to soggy pedaling. At times it was a struggle to see more than a few feet ahead, and the wet rocks and slimy turns made staying upright and in control a challenge. In other words, tricky conditions for riding unknown trails on an unfamiliar bike.
I'm having a good time in this photo, I swear.
Luckily I'm not made of sugar, and neither is the Spectral, and I was able to get in two full days of riding aboard the bike. Much of the riding on Madeira is done with the help of a shuttle vehicle, but there were a few extended sections of climbing that allowed me to get an initial feel for the bike's ascending capabilities. It's a snappy climber, even with the shock in the fully open position, and unless you try to pedal squares instead of circles there's minimal pedaling-induced suspension movement. Most of the climbs were fairly straightforward, free of any really tight, technical sections – sussing out the Spectral's performance in those situations will have to wait for a long term review.
On the descents, I'd say that Canyon have achieved their goal of creating a fun, playful bike – the Spectral lives for cornering, and felt right at home on Madeira's twistier trails. Rather than being a ultra-plush, plow-through-everything type of bike, the Spectral is on the sportier side, ideal for popping from feature to feature, even when shod with 2.6” rubber. It's a quick and precise handling machine, but there's still plenty of stability to take on rougher, higher speed trails, with just enough travel to take the edge off of those sneaky rocks that seem to jump out from nowhere.
As for the not-quite-plus-sized tires, the 2.6” Minion DHF / 2.6” Rekon combo worked well, despite the challenging conditions, although if it were my bike I'd probably swap out the Rekon for something slightly narrower with a more aggressive tread pattern. The same goes for the Fox 34 – I can envision some riders swapping that out for something like a 36 in order to gain a little extra front end stiffness, and to push the bike even further into the all-mountain realm.
Overall, Spectral hits the mark, slotting comfortably into the do-it-all category, a bike that should be able to handle just about everything short of super-technical DH trails. I did find myself wondering what a 29” wheeled version of the Spectral would be like, but we'll just have to wait and see if Canyon decide to go down that route in the future.