Canyon injects more fun into its longer, lower, slacker 29er Spectral

29in wheels re-appear on Canyon's flagship trail bike

Canyon Spectral

Canyon’s Spectral trail bike has seen a complete refresh for 2021, with the German direct-sales brand introducing four ground-up designed carbon 29ers to its range.


The Spectral is Canyon’s do-it-all bike, and this iteration of the bike sees rear wheel travel set at 150mm and front travel at 150mm or 160mm, depending on the build option you choose.

Canyon Spectral
This is the first 29er trail bike Canyon has built since 2014.
Robyn Furtado / Immediate Media

Canyon believes that the all-round rider is now looking for more from their bike – faster speeds, greater capability and a bike that’s happy being pushed to its limits.

This has driven Canyon to the new design, not just in terms of the bike’s geometry, but also the shift from 27.5in wheels to 29in wheels – the first time since 2014 that its trail bike has rolled on bigger wheels.

While this new 29er obviously takes the limelight, it’s worth noting that the previous generation 27.5in Canyon Spectral will remain in the line-up, in both alloy and carbon flavours, with updated 2021 specs too.

While the bike has seen a complete redesign, it’s not to say that the bike is a complete departure from old. Canyon felt it necessary to retain the agile and poppy feel of the previous version of the bike – ultimately trail bikes are about having fun on, right?

The differences between this generation and the previous are fairly obvious on paper, though, with the differing wheel sizes, a longer and lower chassis, and slacker head angles too.

Meanwhile, Canyon’s engineers have also been working hard to make sure the bike is as easy to live with as possible.

A whole new chassis

These newly released Spectrals will come with a full carbon frameset. Rather than stretching the previous 27.5in bike, this is a completely new frame built around the wheels, geometry and suspension kinematic.

Spectral front triangle
Canyon has given the Spectral the usual geometry refinements.
Robyn Furtado / Immediate Media

Stiffness to weight was the key goal. With a bike that’s more capable, Canyon felt that it should feel as stout as it needs to, so some areas of the bike have gained weight, including the rocker linkage and some small parts.

The down tube and rear triangle make up for a lot of the bulk of this added stiffness, with the engineers spending plenty of time working on the cross sections and material layup to ensure that the bike has the desired feel. Furthermore, they looked at pivot location as well as the position of the bottle, which allows for a straighter down tube.

This has then allowed Canyon to lighten other areas of the frame – and generally these are higher up – such as the top tube. Keeping the additional weight low is no bad thing and, overall, Canyon has still managed to save around 200g from the frameset, taking it down to 2,598.1g for the frame (no shock).

Despite all of this, Canyon still gives the Spectral its Category 4 classification – one step down from the strength requirements for downhill racing, and it complies with enduro racing load and impact resistance protocols, too.

Triple Phase Suspension

One of the previous Spectral’s best assets was its rear suspension, which we found gave the bike a great balance between efficiency, compliance and comfort.

Canyon wanted to maintain that poppy feel of the bike’s character, but still wanted to adjust the kinematics to get even more performance from the rear end.

Spectral fork
Our Spectral has a 160mm Fox 36 Performance Elite fork plugged in up front.
Robyn Furtado / Immediate Media

Canyon’s kept the leverage ratio very similar. Called ‘Triple Phase Suspension’, it’s found across the range and has some early stroke progression, giving sensitivity, before a fair amount of mid-stroke support and then a smooth ramp up at the end of the travel.

The main difference here is that overall progression has been upped by 4 percentage points, from 25.5 per cent to 29.5 per cent.

The tricky balance with suspension is the compromise between anti-squat (the resistance to inefficient pedal bob) and pedal kickback on bigger impacts.

While Canyon admits that it can’t perform miracles, it’s tweaked the anti-squat curves to perform better. In the early portion of the stroke, to a point at around 90mm of suspension travel, the anti-squat figures are higher than the previous generation bike. This has been done to improve pedalling efficiency.

Spectral bolts
The majority of the pivot bolts are all accessible from the same side of the bike.
Robyn Furtado / Immediate Media

Beyond 90mm travel, the anti-squat falls away from the previous bike fairly dramatically, meaning there’ll be much less interference with the pedals on bigger impacts. This is said to improve speed and smoothness over bigger hits.

These two alterations to the anti-squat curves are present across the cassette’s range (the gear in which the bike is in has an impact on anti-squat).

Longer, slacker, lower

Not a bike launch goes by without the new generation being longer, slacker and lower. The evolution of mountain bike geometry really came from the emergence of the EWS race series, which pushed the capabilities of ‘normal’ bikes.

Reaches on the new Spectral are up 20 to 25mm per size, the head angles are 1.5 to 2 degrees slacker, with similar numbers being added to the seat angles. The chainstays are short, to retain the playful character of old.

Spectral pivot bolts
A Hi and Lo setting is available.
Robyn Furtado / Immediate Media

While Canyon’s Strive enduro bike has the ShapeShifter technology, allowing geometry adjustment on the fly, Canyon felt the Spectral needed to have the best of both worlds. So there’s no on-the-fly adjustment here. However, there is a shock flip-chip which, in its higher setting, steepens the angles a touch and raises the bottom bracket.

Canyon says this has been included for riders who like tackling steep, technical climbs where a little extra pedal clearance is a good idea.

Canyon Spectral CF 29 geometry (High/Low where applicable, size Large)

  • Seat tube: 460mm
  • Head tube: 115mm
  • Head angle (150mm) H/L: 65 / 64.5 degrees
  • Head angle (160mm) H/L: 64.5 / 64 degrees
  • Seat angle (150mm) H/L: 77 / 67.5 degrees
  • Seat angle (160mm) H/L: 76.5 / 76 degrees
  • Bottom bracket drop H/L: 36mm / 28mm
  • Chainstay length: 437mm
  • Wheelbase: 1,253mm
  • Stack: 628mm
  • Reach: 485mm

Finishing touches

Canyon has worked hard to make the Spectral frameset as easy to live with as possible and has received input from its EWS and World Cup DH team mechanics.

For example, save for the driveside pivot, all the pivot bolts are accessible from the non-driveside of the bike, meaning the bike can efficiently be stripped down.

The female threaded part of the pivot bolt system has also been made as an insert – as such, if the thread gets damaged during maintenance the frame isn’t written off. This insert is held in place by an M3 bolt, which, again, if it is damaged, shouldn’t damage the frame terminally.

The pivot housing features a double seal, and while the previous generation had a plastic cover over the bolt head to provide the sealing, this generation now has that bolt head exposed. Canyon has also worked to reduce the friction within the pivot, which should aid suspension sensitivity.

Cables are run internally, with their route fully guided from front to rear. Cables are secured with a bolt-on cable entry and exit guides.

The chainring benefits from an integrated chaingude, which has rubberised inner faces to cut noise. There’s also an aftermarket clamp-on ISCG05 mount, which clamps around the threaded bottom bracket shell. This should move during a large impact, again reducing the chance of writing off the frame.

The down tube gets a moulded rubber protector, as do the chainstays.

Parts list

Finishing kit on the bikes comes from Canyon’s own ‘G5’ line. This name refers to its usage classification scale, with the parts built to stand up to use on its gravity range of bikes.

The bars have dropped down to 31.8mm from 35mm, and the top-load clamp on the stem is designed to be easier to fit – with a front-loaded stem the bars want to fall out as you put the face plate on, while with this design the bars sit in the cradle. Canyon’s also provided the shaped stem spacers to make the cockpit tie in better aesthetically.

Bosses are riveted to the underside of the top tube to add on-bike carrying capacity, rather than cutting in to tubes to provide in-bike storage.

The seat tube is designed to allow the provided dropper posts ample room to be slammed, without interfering with the pivots.

Canyon Spectral CF 29 specifications and pricing

As alluded to, Canyon’s four Spectral models are split in to two camps: a trail-orientated bike with 150mm front suspension and a slightly burlier 160mm build.

Spectral shock
A piggyback shock features on the Spectral with a 160mm fork – 150mm versions get a single-can shock.
Robyn Furtado / Immediate Media

The 150mm forked bikes come with SRAM components, while the 160mm bikes get Fox suspension (including a piggyback shock), and are paired with Shimano components. The burlier bikes also get slightly grippier, but draggier, tyres.

Canyon Spectral CF 7.0 key specs

Canyon Spectral CF 7.0
Canyon’s entry-level Spectral 29.
Canyon Bikes
  • Fork: RockShox Pike Select RC 150mm
  • Shock: RockShox Deluxe Select+
  • Brakes: SRAM G2
  • Drivetrain: SRAM GX Eagle
  • Wheels: DT Swiss M1900
  • Tyres: Maxxis Minion DHF / Dissector
  • Dropper post: Canyon Iridium
  • Price: £3,499 / $3,699

Canyon Spectral CF 8.0 key specs

Canyon Spectral CF 7.0
The 8.0 comes with 160mm Fox 36 forks.
Canyon Bikes
  • Fork: Fox 36 Performance Elite 160mm
  • Shock: Fox DPX2 Performance Elite
  • Brakes: Shimano XT 4-pot
  • Drivetrain: Shimano XT
  • Wheels: DT Swiss XM1700
  • Tyres: Maxxis Minion DHF / Minion DHR II
  • Dropper post: Canyon Iridium
  • Price: £4,149 / $4,699

Canyon Spectral CF 9.0 key specs

Canyon Spectral CF 7.0
Canyon’s 150mm travel Spectral.
Canyon Bikes
  • Fork: RockShox Pike Ultimate 150mm
  • Shock: RockShox Deluxe Ultimate
  • Brakes: SRAM G2 RSC
  • Drivetrain: SRAM X01
  • Wheels: DT Swiss XMC1501
  • Tyres: Maxxis Minion DHF / Dissector
  • Dropper post: ONEUP Components V2
  • Price: £5,199 / $5,699

Canyon Spectral CF ULT key specs

Canyon Spectral CF 7.0
Canyon Spectral 29 CF LTD – this is the top-spec model with 160mm forks.
Canyon Bikes
  • Fork: Fox 36 Factory 160mm
  • Shock: Fox DPX2 Factory
  • Brakes: Shimano XTR 4-pot
  • Drivetrain: Shimano XTR
  • Wheels: DT Swiss XMC1200
  • Tyres: Maxxis Minion DHF / Minion DHR II
  • Dropper post: ONEUP Components V2
  • Price: £6,199