Brand new for 2021 Canyon’s latest Spectral sees a return to big wheels for their most trail-friendly of trail bikes. The range is split between bikes with 150mm or 160mm travel up front, with both the longer-travel burlier builds and the slightly lighter 150mm fork options enjoying 150mm of rear wheel travel.
Canyon Spectral 29 CF 7 frame
Canyon has won many fans with its Triple Phase Suspension linkage (a 4-bar system), and here it provides the 150mm of travel at the back. An aluminium rocker link pushes the shock through its travel, into the middle of the down tube, leaving space for a bottle underneath the damper.
Canyon has given the Spectral replaceable threaded inserts on the frame, meaning if you do manage to mangle, say, a shock bolt’s threaded nut, it can be swapped out without causing extensive damage to the frame. The usual gamut of frame finishing touches are all present too – internal cable routing, down tube and chainstay protection, and neat blanking plugs for the bottle cage bosses.
Canyon cannot be criticised for its approach to geometry too, with a very up-to-date shape on its latest trail bike. A long 485mm reach features on a Large, along with a slack 64.5 degree head angle, steep-ish 76.5-degree seat-angle and mid-length 437mm chainstays.
The 460mm seat tube is perhaps the only obvious area for improvement – a shorter one would allow a longer-drop dropper for those who like to tackle the steepest of steeps. That said, it’s 20mm shorter than the previous generation Spectral’s seat tube, and there’s a shorter head tube too – excellent news.
There is a flip-chip, should you wish to steepen the angles, and improve ground clearance for technical climbs. Switching it over adds 0.5 degrees to the head and seat angles, and 8mm to the bottom-bracket height. For the purpose of this review, I talk about the bike in its low position.
Canyon Spectral 29 CF 7 kit
SRAM features heavily across this version of the Spectral (160mm versions receive Fox 36/Shimano builds), with a 150mm RockShox Pike Select RC fork that has low-speed compression and rebound adjustment, and a matching Deluxe Select+ rear shock.
Pushing and pulling the bike to and fro is a full GX Eagle drivetrain, with its new 10:52t cassette, while G2 R brakes with 200/180mm rotors complete the SRAM package.
As frequently seen, DT Swiss provides the wheels, this time in a 30mm-wide internally M 1900 flavour, while they’re shod in Maxxis tyres – a 2.5in Minion DHF at the front and slightly faster, but still nice and aggressive 2.4in Dissector at the back.
Canyon’s own components largely finishes the build. Its G5 cockpit is borrowed from its more aggressive Torque/Sender/Strive lines, showing Canyon’s intent for this bike to be pushed towards the limits of the trail rider. The Iridium dropper has 150mm of travel and on top sits an Ergon saddle – a company based very close (in more ways than one!) to Canyon’s Koblenz HQ.
Canyon Spectral 29 CF 7 ride impressions
Effortless is the term that first springs to mind when I jumped on the Spectral. It’s an incredibly easy bike to ride, needs little to no adjustment to riding style and I reckon most riders would happily jump on and start setting some PRs as soon as the wheels start turning.
That’s thanks to the shape of the bike, which throws out no surprises, and also the rear suspension, which is some of the best in the business. No doubt it’s also helped by a sorted parts package.
Geometry wise, while it’s not the most radical trail bike out there, the numbers all add up to give plenty of confidence and control, whatever the trail.
The 480mm reach gives a nice balance between front-end stability, without it feeling like an effort later in the ride to manoeuvre the bike around. This is paired with a 64.5-degree head angle, which puts the front wheel nicely ahead of the bike, easily allowing you to confidently weight it in a corner or on loose terrain without too much worry of it washing out or projecting you over the front.
I found it an easy bike to rally through corners and point down steeper chutes. If you want even more performance on the steeps, check out the CF 6 or CF8 models, which gain an extra 10mm of travel at the front and a Fox 36 fork for added authority through the chunder.
Looking further back is the Canyon’s Triple Phase Suspension. It’s their take on the traditional 4-bar linkage, and truth be told, it’s up there with the best rear suspension I’ve ridden.
It’s sensitive, so it soaks up high-frequency trail chatter early in its stroke for a comfortable ride and predictable traction whether under braking or acceleration.
The mid-stroke is underpinned by utmost stability. Through corners it holds you up, and you can really push into the middle of its travel to get an extra boost on the lip of the jump. Jab at the pedals, and the suspension remains rock solid, projecting you forward.
Then later on, when you really clatter the bike onto a landing, it reaches the end of its travel with perfect finesse.
So why has the Spectral not won our annual Trail Bike of the Year test? It very nearly did. But while back in the day the name Canyon was synonymous with ‘value’, the £3,656 price tag doesn’t quite come with the parts package to compete. The GX Eagle drivetrain is on par, but the G2 R brakes lack the all-out power and adjustment of its slightly pricier siblings. Likewise, the DT Swiss M1900 wheels are very good hoops, but maybe in the past we’ve been spoilt by posher wheels.
Then it comes to the fork and shock. I really like the Pike fork, but the Select RC level fork has the older Charger RC damper, rather than the Charger 2.1 found in the Select+ fork – it’s good, but not quite as plush as it could be on staccato hits.
I’m nit-picking here, and almost feel bad for doing so. Truth be told, the Spectral is one of four bikes that could very easily have won Trail Bike of the Year, but this time, it just misses out. If you do go ahead and purchase one, I’m fairly confident you’ll be impressed with the bike’s capabilities.
Canyon Spectral 29 CF 7 geometry
A massive thank-you to BikePark Wales for granting us access to its trails despite the bike park being closed to the public.
And not forgetting Muc-Off, for its help keeping the bikes washed and lubed throughout testing.
Bike of the Year 2021 contenders
A decent trail bike should also be fast and capable on the descents, but with less weight and travel (130–150mm) than enduro bikes, they’re nimbler on flatter trails, less of a drag on longer rides and better on the climbs.
The following bikes were shortlisted for our Trail Bike of the Year award, with a price range of £2,999.99 to £4,695.
- Bird Aether 9 (winner)
- Canyon Spectral 29 CF 7
- Intense Primer 29 Expert
- Lapierre Zesty AM CF 6.9
- Privateer 141 SLX/XT
- Propain Hugene
- Saracen Ariel 30 Pro
- YT Jeffsy Blaze 29