Review: Canyon Spectral CF Mountain Bike

Normally when we fly to a destination in order to write up a series, like this one, for Singletracks, we get hooked up with a rental bike from a local shop for the week. These rentals have varied in quality over the years from low-end, clapped-out, 2-year-old bikes to brand-new, off-the-showroom-floor, not-yet-available-to-the-public wonder bikes.

Canyon pulled out all the stops and sent over a pair of brand-new, never-been-ridden Spectral CF (carbon fiber) 27.5 trail bikes for Leo and I to ride during our intense Sweden shred fest. I think that riding a brand-new bike that’s this light and this blinged out, for a mere media trip, has set an all-new precedent for media trip bikes. So thanks for the hook up, Canyon!

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Not only was I excited to ride such a well-kitted bike, but I’ve been eager to get on a Canyon for years. Canyon is a direct-to-consumer brand that offers an incredible value proposition. However, that’s not to say that they sell solely entry-level price points like some other direct-to-consumer brands, or solely off-the-shelf frames. Rather, Canyon sells high-end bikes with unique designs at an extremely competitive price point.

Historically, Canyon has only been available in Europe. However, rumor has it that they’re going to be launching sales in the US very soon. I have yet to hear of an official US dealer and the States aren’t listed as a country on their about page, but hopefully these bikes will be available on this side of the pond very soon.

Spectral CF Specs

The Spectral CF is a 27.5in-wheeled trail bike with a full carbon frame. The carbon has a clear coat over it, allowing you to see where the actual sheets of carbon cloth join together to form the tubing. At first it’s a little trippy, but then it’s simply beautiful.


With 140mm of travel front and back, the Spectral is definitely in the trail category of mountain bikes. However, as I’ve mentioned recently, a few changes in geometry can make a massive difference in how a trail bike handles.


The Spectral is undoubtedly on the aggressive end of the trail spectrum. All of the sizes offer a slack, aggressive 67-degree head tube angle coupled with a pedal-friendly 74.5-degree seat tube angle.

In a size medium, the seat tube is 440mm long, the top tube is 596mm, wheel base is 1153mm, reach is 430mm, and the stand-over height is 777mm.

I rode the 9.0 model, which comes kitted with a RockShox Pike RCT3 Solo Air fork, a Cane Creek DBInline rear shock, a 2×10 SRAM X0 drivetrain with Type-2 rear derailleur, SRAM Guide RS brakes, RockShox Reverb Stealth dropper post, DT Swiss XM 1501 Spline wheels, and Continental Trail King Protection 2.2 tires.

Enduro Mountain Bike Magazine reports that this bike tips the scales at about 26.75lbs, but I didn’t bring a scale with me on the plane to double check their figures. 😉


Out on the Trail

As I’m sure you’ve been able to tell from my ongoing coverage of the Gothenburg-area trails, they’re technical, challenging, and they trend steeply in both directions (up and down). The Spectral proved to be the perfect bike for this terrain!

While occasionally there were features that I found myself wishing I had a full 160mm of travel for, the slack head tube angle allowed this bike to ride much more aggressively than I normally expect out of a 140-mil rig. This aggressive disposition made for confident handling even down near-vertical, wet, slimy, root-covered slickrock.

As always, photos never do a trail's steepness justice. Rider: Greg Heil. Photo: Leo Ranta.
As always, photos never do a trail’s steepness justice. Rider: Greg Heil. Photo: Leo Ranta.

Also adding to the Spectral’s aggressive disposition are the Reverb dropper post, the integrated Canyon chain guide, and the relatively-wide bars. The suspension components are widely-regarded by mountain bikers everywhere as best-in-category components. None of these are a given on bikes in the trail category, so I greatly appreciated these excellent component selections.

When the trail kicked back up, the Spectral’s light weight coupled with the efficient DBInline shock and excellent linkage design made climbing and pedaling a breeze. In fact, since the transitions from descending to climbing and back again were so rapid, I rarely used the climb modes on either of the suspension components–and yet, the bike still pedaled superbly.

The only component that didn’t work well in this environment was the 2.2in Trail King tires. I’d personally go with a 2.35-2.4in tire, and with a softer compound and tubeless setup. Generally I’d go for that sort of tire setup in any condition, but especially in the wet, muddy conditions we found in Gothenburg.

I didn't take it easy on this bike: I thrashed it through the gnarliest obstacles I could find. Photo: Leo Ranta.
I didn’t take it easy on this bike: I thrashed it through the gnarliest obstacles I could find. Photo: Leo Ranta.

Bottom Line

I was immensely impressed with the Canyon Spectral even before I looked up the retail price. It’s an incredibly well-put-together trail bike with an aggressive disposition and an absolutely bomber component spec.

Then when I realized that you can get this entire package for just 3,699 Euros (approximately $4,128 USD), my jaw just hit the floor. I’ve ridden bikes that retail for almost twice this amount that weren’t nearly as well spec’ed.

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