Canyon's Spectral range of trail bikes starts with the aluminum-framed AL 6.0. It features 150/140mm front and rear travel, not-quite plus 27.5 x 2.6in tires and has the components of bikes costing thousands more. And it rips. It's become my new recommendation when asked what bike to buy.
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Canyon Spectral AL 6.0 highlights
- Frame: aluminum, 140mm travel
- Shock: RockShox Deluxe RT
- Fork: RockShox Pike RC, 150mm travel
- Drivetrain: SRAM GX Eagle, 12-speed
- Brakes: SRAM Guide R, 200/180mm rotors
- Wheels: DT Swiss M1900 Spline
- Tires: Maxxis Minion DHF 27.5 x 2.6in / Rekon+ 27.5 x 2.6in
- Actual weight: 13.6kg / 30lbs (size Large)
Everywhere I rode the Spectral AL 6.0, heads shook in disbelief when I told people that this bike cost $2,400 / £2,299 / AU$3,599.
Looking at the specs, there's dismay about how Canyon pulled this off. But the not-so-secret answer is its direct-to-consumer selling model.
Canyon does not sell in bike shops, it's strictly an order online and call-in customer service affair. Whether this is a good thing or not depends, we've broken down the pros and cons of buying online vs at a bike shop in this article.
Depending on how comfortable you are with bikes your experience may vary, but to me, building the Spectral was easy, with clear instructions and the included tools. Here's my take on the build up.
Wide, not plus-size tires, make sense
When compared to actual plus size tires (2.8in and wider), the 27.5 x 2.6in Minion DHF up front and Rekon+ out back are better when pushing hard. At this width, there's less bouncing, less trying to keep the bike in line and on point as plus tires can ping around in the rough stuff. There's also none of the dreaded squirm from flexy sidewalls or the vague feel that can limit some plus-size tires.
Yet the 2.6in size has a bit more girth than a regular 2.35in trail tire for added bump absorption through chunky rocks. With the 30mm wide DT Swiss rims, the additional air volume and lower pressures also helped with sucking up little bumps.
It's not all shred and bliss, though. With more tire width, there is less precision for very skilled pilots. It's noticeable when comparing a large 2.6in tire to a line-sniping 2.3in with Wide Trail casing. But on a sub $3k bike, I don't feel like this is a detriment.
That said, I really liked the Minion/Rekon pairing. Up front, a Minion is a gold standard for its levels of predictable traction. But on the other end, I find the rolling resistance and draggy knobs a bit too much. The Rekon does an excellent job where the Minion flails, faster when on the pedals, a bit looser when trying to get wild.
As such, this combo works really well on the Spectral and on the trails I tested it on in Colorado. However, as my UK coworkers have noted, if you ride in muddier climates, it's worth recognizing that the fast-rolling, low-tread nature of the Rekon doesn't have quite the levels of bite that gives traction in the wetter months.
Wildly impressive specs
As mentioned above, looking at the parts of this aluminum trail bike had most riders in awe.
Starting with RockShox' big 150mm travel Pike RC up front. This fork was a huge benefit. The 35mm stanchioned chassis delivered the stiffness and traction that the bike warranted.
Not only that, but the Charger 2 damping was better, too, with a more supple feel off the top and more mid-stroke support than the commonly spec'd Revelation fork found in this price bracket.
It's also far less prone to spiking on sudden impacts than the Revelation's Motion Control damper, and has proved more reliable too.
RockShox' Deluxe RT rear shock was also a good performer, but did feel overworked on long, rugged descents with sustained hits. A rear shock with an additional piggyback oil reserve would do well on this bike.
The other component highlight that made eyes go wide was the 12-speed Eagle shifting. It's SRAM GX level, and compared to the more standard-issue NX level 11-speed drivetrain at this price, its additional gear range and overall performance are noteworthy.
DT Swiss M 1900 Spline wheels made up the rolling stock. I enjoyed the 30mm width, they set up tubeless with ease, and they proved to be durable, never needing a spoke wrench.
Lastly, only brand name parts were found, with a Race Face bar and stem, KS dropper post and even an SDG saddle.
Neutral handling and confident in the rough
Geometry-wise, the Spectral isn't crazy long, low or slack, but still slots in with the new-school sizes and shapes. That made it easy to ride and confident when thrown into technical sections.
A 66.1-degree head angle worked well with the wide bars and stubby stem. Combined with the stout Pike fork, wide DT Swiss rims and 2.6in Minion tire up front, it never shied away or felt out of its element even on properly rocky, rough trails.
On smoother, more buff singletrack and fireroad connectors, all that mass felt a bit overkill, but that's the standard trade-off on all ready-to-smash bikes.
For a size Large, the 456mm reach and 1,215mm wheelbase provided a good amount of room and decent go-fast stability. For comparison, a Santa Cruz Bronson comes in shy of those numbers by 11mm and 26mm, respectively. Yet the Spectral has 2mm shorter chainstays even with the bigger 2.6in (vs. 2.3in) rubber tucked in the back.
Overall, the Spectral AL 6.0 was one of those bikes that was immediately easy to ride. Blasting into sections at mach speed felt neutral, there wasn't any guessing games about what the bike might do.
Overly stiff bars and a bit slow on the climbs
Maybe it's my tired hands, maybe they're just too damn stiff, but I am not a fan of the latest 35mm diameter stem clamp and handlebars. Pair that overly rigid alloy bar with thin grips and my hands begin to ache after a few hours of riding. If it was my bike, a cockpit upgrade would happen.
Big tires, low pressures and heavy wheels have trade-offs. Their benefits are undeniable when ripping down a nasty chute, but when pulling against gravity that extra girth and weight can be felt.
Multiplying that slow uphill action was the fact the Spectral's rear suspension wasn't as responsive as a VPP or DW-link set up. There's a lock-out lever on the Deluxe RT shock, but in my opinion that provides more mental relief than actual help.
The frame itself isn't as stiff as some other aluminum frames front to back. On sideways landings or when getting pinged off rocks, I could feel the frame twist. However, when sprinting and slashing corners it was difficult to notice any negative feedback in terms of front to back flex.
Canyon Spectral AL 6.0 bottom line
Bikes like this are easy to recommend. The Spectral AL 6.0 falls into the do-it-all 140mm travel bracket, it isn't a total pig when going uphill, and yet it charges downhill like a much more expensive rig. On top of all that, it not only looks the business, but also doesn't break the bank.