In 2013, Canyon took on triple downhill world champion, Fabien Barel, and together they revolutionised the Strive into a race-winning enduro bike. Now, they’ve applied the Barel treatment to a brand new downhill bike. Enter the Sender.
After riding five different DH tracks totalling 14 runs, these five aspects really stuck out.
1. Fab Geometry
The Sender is available in a huge size-range, so should fit most riders really well. Fabien’s input has yielded a long, low and slack machine; in fact, it’s the longest mainstream DH bike on the market.
The head angle is adjustable from 62-64 degrees and chainstay length can be altered too for different riders or terrain: pick either 430mm or 446mm. The wheelbase of the XL bike set with the longer chainstay and slacker head angle will push beyond the 1300mm milestone – that’s over 50mm longer than the XL Specialized Demo, and over 20mm longer than an XXL Santacruz V10.
2. Air-tuned suspension
Coil springs are a pain in the a***. Finding the right spring rate is fiddly and expensive; there are still big gaps between available spring rates, and there’s no means of adjusting the progressivity. Canyon appears to agree, as they’ve designed the Sender around air-sprung dampers.
Here’s the science bit. Air springs are firmer in the beginning third, making them harder to get moving off the top of the stroke; they’re softer in the middle third, resulting in more mid-stroke wallow, yet they ramp up towards the end to prevent bottom-out.
Canyon’s motocross-inspired ‘MX link’ compensates for this. It provides loads of leverage at the start of the stroke to soften up the beginning third. This transitions smoothly into a lower leverage ratio in the middle third to reduce mid-stroke wallow, without making full-travel inaccessible.
The MX link also isolates the shock from lateral flex in the frame, apparently reducing friction and wear.
3. The details
For those of us who prefer to ride DH bikes rather than simply drool over them, the Sender features some clever features to keep it running smoothly. Fully integrated downtube protectors and fork bumpers are present and correct, alongside a neat heel-rub shield on the left chainstay.
The cable routing, while internal, is clearly designed to be rattle-free and easy to install. The chainstays are shaped and shielded to minimise chain-slap too. Industrial oversized pivot-bearings should last for ages, and (joy of joys) the bottom bracket is threaded.
4. The ride
After fettling the bike to suit our tester’s personal tastes, it was time to hit the trails.
The Sender is uncannily quiet over rough ground. The rubberised stays and E13 LG1+ guide do a great job of silencing chain clatter. All that remains is the silky swoosh of damping oil and the dull thud of rubber on rock.
At first, the rear was bottoming out too easily despite setting just under 30% sag when measured stood up. Another two volume spacers were added in the shock, bringing the total to eight. This resulted in a near-perfect bottom-out force, saving my ass on some really hard landings while still allowing full-travel. The rear suspension remained incredibly active over small-medium hits.
The Fox 40 RC2 fork is arguably the best there is, yet even when setup with minimal compression damping, it felt less sensitive than the rear. With 26 psi in the front tyre and 28 psi in the rear, the front wheel was smashing loudly into high-speed rock gardens while the rear seemed to soak them up. I ended up with the fork’s high-speed compression fully open to help it keep up with what the rear was capable of devouring.
After two runs on the shorter chainstay, I switched to the longer option. This resulted in a far more balanced feel, with improved stability on random rocky straights and more predictable cornering too. We took the Sender down some really tight and steep switchbacks. Did the long geometry make it a pig to get round the bends? Not really. Although the medium head angle setting was plenty slack enough here, especially with the forks at full extension. The bike felt stiff through the bends and efficient under power, yet there wasn’t so much chain-growth as to produce noticeable pedal-kickback – a good compromise for racing.
A future world cup winner? It has the potential, that’s for sure. We’ll have to wait until 2017 to see if the perfect storm of man and machine can put it on the top step.
5. The price
The range-topping bike we rode leaves almost nothing to be desired in terms of spec, and will retail for a very reasonable €4,799. That’s €200 cheaper than the top-spec YT TUES – not that anyone’s keeping score!
There’s a mid-range option for €500 less, using RockShox suspension and E13 components. The smart money is arguably on the base model, though. At €3,599, it features simplified versions of the Fox dampers seen on the top model, with solid Shimano stop/go equipment and the same carbon/alloy frame. It will be sold with a coil-sprung fork at first, but Canyon says this will be updated to an air-sprung version soon.
- SENDER CF 7.0 – €3,599
- SENDER CF 8.0 – €4,299
- SENDER CF 9.0 – €4,799
The things that could be improved
Canyon is leading the way in terms of really long DH bikes, yet at 192cm, our tester could have done with even more reach; rolling a 35mm-rise bar quite far forwards in the 50mm stem to get properly comfy. Fabien, who has a similar penchant for really long bikes, rides the size XL frame despite being significantly shorter at 180cm tall.
I suggested offering offset headset cups to adjust the reach for really tall riders, or those between sizes. Canyon’s product development crew said they’d look into it – it’s nice to see a big brand remaining so receptive to suggestions. An 800mm bar would have suited us better too, and could be a useful option on the bigger frame-sizes.
Measured standing up, we ended up running a tick under 30% sag, yet needed eight volume spacers in the shock to get the progressivity our tester is after, which is on the limit of what Fox recommend fitting. Canyon is definitely on the right track with their smoothly progressive leverage curve, but we wonder if it could be even more progressive at the end of the stroke. The suspension was impressively active, though, so more compression damping could be used to remedy this.
We can’t wait to get one on home soil for some proper comparative testing. Watch out for that soon.