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 handlebarsRussell Burton / Immediate Media
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 cranksetRussell Burton / Immediate Media
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.