Canyon Spectral CF 8.0 EX review£3,099.00

Outstanding value, sweetly detailed, all-round trail perfection

BikeRadar score5/5

German direct-sell brand Canyon isn’t a stranger to Trail Bike of the Year wins and top finishes, and the Spectral looked like the bike to beat when we began testing for this year's awards, especially considering the £1,900 alloy EX scooped a super rare five out of five earlier in the year and the bike's detailed features throughout make it a hard to beat complete package.

For a start, the CF chassis (£2,199 separately) has a carbon-fibre mainframe and swingarm, rather than an alloy rear end, which immediately makes it one of the lightest bikes in this test despite matching the suspension travel of the heaviest bike here millimetre for millimetre.

Wide 780mm Renthal handlebars
Wide 780mm Renthal handlebars

Because you’re buying it direct from Germany (but with a full UK support office) there’s no compromise in componentry, and again the devil is in the detail. Items like the top-quality motocross-bred Renthal 780mm bar and 50mm stem that make the EX more extreme are obvious, but the Guide brakes on them are RS not just R. That means you get a Swing Link lever cam for more control and the 200mm front rotor boosts power, too.

The Pike fork is an RCT3 model featuring the awesome Charger damper, not the simpler Motion Control guts of the RC. The Monarch rear shock is an RT3 with extra compression tuning options for the already impeccably balanced suspension action. The RaceFace Turbine crank and DT Swiss Spline wheels are tighter and lighter than most here, too.

The bike has a RaceFace Turbine 30t crankset
The bike has a RaceFace Turbine 30t crankset

Triple-compound Maxxis High Roller II front and Minion SS rear tyres are also one of the best trail double acts around. The 66.5-degree steering angle and 455mm reach are totally on point for attacking descents and berms, but it’s steep enough in the seat for inching up climbs.

The result is a bike that just feels superb whatever you’re doing. Off the leash and off the brakes it’ll launch down the most technical descents with quietly calm yet massively capable confidence. The harder you bury it into corners or the faster the drops and boulders come at you, the more those brake, suspension, tyre details and the sheer class of the frame become obvious. Suicidal becomes saveable and dodgy becomes doable.

Canyon Spectral CF 8.0 EX wins Trail Bike of the Year

As soon as the rocks stop flying and the trail points upwards it feels like an e-bike compared to the bikes it can match on the descents, with effortless pedalling efficiency and minimal leg-saving mass. That same lightweight agility makes it a blast to hustle through any trails and I simply can’t think of a better example of a modern, state-of-the-art trail bike — certainly not one at such an excellent value price, within a killer overall range.

This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.

Guy Kesteven

Freelance Writer, UK
Guy started filling his brain with cycle stats and steaming up bike shop windows back in 1980. He worked the other side of those windows from '89 while getting a degree in “describing broken things covered in mud" (archaeology). Dug historical holes in the ground through the early '90s, then became a pro bike tester in '97. Guy has ridden thousands of bikes and even more components the world over since then and can remember them all in vivid, haunting detail. Can't remember where the car keys are, though.
  • Age: 45
  • Height: 180cm / 5' 11"
  • Weight: 68kg / 150lb
  • Waist: 76cm / 30in
  • Chest: 91cm / 36in
  • Discipline: Strict sadomasochist
  • Preferred Terrain: Technical off-piste singletrack and twisted back roads. Up, down, along — so long as it's faster than the last time he did it he's happy.
  • Current Bikes: An ever changing herd of test machines from Tri bikes to fat bikes and everything in between.
  • Dream Bike: His Nicolai Helius AM custom tandem
  • Beer of Choice: Theakston's Old Peculier (not Peculiar)
  • Location: Yorkshire, UK

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