Bad-ass looking, beautiful bike for trail riding with all the bling kit for a rather surprising price, but the new women’s specific geometry gets a mixed response
Buy if, You’re looking for a capable trail bike that’s fun to ride, particularly for smaller riders, but needs confident handling on steeper terrain
Pros: Incredibly well specc’d for the money, climbs well, fun and flickable on the trails, smaller sizes are great for shorter riders
Cons: If you’re towards the top-end of a size range, you may find the reach too short which impacts its performance on steeper terrain
The Canyon Spectral WMN CF 9.0 SL is one of our Bike of the Year bikes for 2018. To read reviews of the other contenders and the categories tested across road, mountain and women’s bikes, visit our Bike of the Year hub.
The Spectral WMN is an aggressive trail bike, with 27.5 wheels and 150mm travel front and 140mm rear. It’s a bike that’s designed for trails that veer towards the technical end of the spectrum, but the question is, does the redesign help or hinder that goal?
Canyon Spectral WMN CF 9.0 SL – Women’s Trail Bike of the Year 2018 Contender
The Canyon Spectral WMN goes women’s specific
The big news is that Canyon has decided to produce a frame with women’s specific geometry.
Previously, the WMN version of the Spectral was based around the same ‘unisex’ frame as the non-WMN version, but with women’s specific contact points such as saddle.
That’s changed. The decision to move in this new direction is based on Canyon’s analysis of thousands of body measurements, which are routinely submitted to Canyon’s website via its online bike size fit system.
The Fox Factory Float DPS Evol shock has a lighter tune to suit lighter ridersMatt Wragg / Immediate Media Co
Canyon says the data it has indicates that there are statistically enough differences between the average male and female that, in order to allow female riders to have the same body position and ride experience on its bikes as male riders do, they benefit from a bespoke geometry.
Incidentally, this also means that what was previously described as a ‘unisex’ frame would be more accurately described as a frame to suit predominantly male body dimension data, which doesn’t make it particularly unisex.
This is something Luisa Plasczymonka, product manager at Canyon, confirmed when Canyon first made this switch in approach around its Endurace and Ultimate road bike ranges in 2017.
“Bikes were always developed around average male body proportions,” says Plasczymonka. “Apart from that, the bike industry is quite male dominated and the engineers, designers, product managers, bike testers have almost always been men. This of course makes us question, how a bike like that can be unisex.”
Ergon grips proved very comfortable on long ridesMatt Wragg / Immediate Media Co
In this case, Canyon stated that some of the main differences between the average male and female rider include smaller average heights, lighter weight and shorter reach due to slightly shorter arms and narrower shoulders.
The result is that the new Spectral WMN frame has a shorter reach, size specific handlebars and cranks, a women’s specific saddle and a women’s specific suspension tune. Canyon has also kinked the top tube to allow a lower standover giving it — it claims — the lowest standover per size of any trail bike on the market.
Through adjusting the reach, Canyon has also altered the front centre of the bike. It says that based on its observations and feedback from testers and pro riders, women tend to ride with their weight further back on a bike, which makes sufficiently weighting the front wheel — which is important for traction in corners and on steeper terrain — more difficult. The new geometry is designed to bring the rider weight further forward.
Canyon Spectral WMN frame
Cables are concealed under a plate for protection and a sleek looking finishMatt Wragg / Immediate Media Co
This new women’s specific frame is constructed from carbon, and although the cables might look like they’re routed internally, they’re actually external but protected by a sneaky cover that looks like part of the frame.
This offers protection and keeps the bike looking sleek, but still means you can access the cables easily for maintenance.
The stepped seat tube isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing element, but it does serve a function. It conceals an integrated clamp with the adjustment bolt accessed by moving the rubber cover. This spreads the clamping load of the seat clamp over a wider area of the post, meaning there’s less chance of interfering with the post’s operation through over-tightening.
The stepped seat tube conceals an internal seatpost clampMatt Wragg / Immediate Media Co
I have mixed feelings about the new shorter reach and adjusted front centre. At 5ft 9in / 175cm or thereabouts, I sit towards the upper end of the height range for the size medium frame, which is the biggest available Spectral WMN frame.
While I find the reach comfortable for climbing and for flatter or undulating trails, on steeper technical terrain and corners the reach felt too short, and I found it hard to work out where to keep my body weight, making the ride feel twitchy and nervy. When cornering, the turned bars came too close to my knees for comfort.
If a bigger size was available, I think that would solve these issue. Many shorter riders of the bike enjoyed riding it, which makes me think this is a bike that would better suit riders who sit at the lower end of each size range. Riders towards the top may want to size up.
The bumper on top of the head tube prevents bars rotating far enough to damage the frameMatt Wragg / Immediate Media Co
However, if you’re just looking at the suspension and spec side of things, it’s a bike that’s got the type of set up that makes it potentially very capable on the more technical end of the trail spectrum.
Along the trails of the average trail centre and natural, flowing singletrack it feels great. The rear suspension is supple enough to smooth out smaller rocks and bumps while still providing a wonderful poppy feel. So pumping through terrain or getting playful on smaller jumps and drops is immensely rewarding and fun.
On rougher ground and bigger drops, where the shock moves towards the lower end of its travel, it feels supportive and controlled without feeling wallowy.
For me, however, the new frame geometry limits the bike’s performance.
Canyon Spectral WMN spec
First things first: this version of the Canyon Spectral WMN is a spec bonanza! If you have the money to afford one, you’ll be getting top-end all the way. There isn’t anything on here that needs changing or upgrading in my opinion.
For example, the wheelset separately costs in the region of £1,800, the forks £1,100, and the Eagle groupset (not quite the top-of-the-line) around £900. And that’s on a bike that retails at £4,499 / $5,999 / AU$7,199.
Another feature that I appreciated was the fact that there’s room to fit a bottle cage within the frame, which is great when you want to ride light without masses of kit on your back.
The Eagle cassette provides plenty of scope for spinning up long and steep climbsMatt Wragg / Immediate Media Co
While it is aimed at trail riding, the 140mm of suspension front and rear pushes it towards the trail / all-mountain end of the spectrum.
Both the Fox Factory 34 Float forks and Fox Factory Float DPS Evol shock have a lighter tune to suit the lighter on average weight of female riders, while the forks are also fitted with the FIT4 cartridge, again designed to improve performance for lighter riders.
The SRAM X1/X01 Eagle groupset provides a huge range of gears which, combined with the low overall weight of the bike, makes spinning up long climbs or steep inclines a doddle. The SRAM X1 Eagle carbon cranks are a bling and lightweight addition to the package.
DT Swiss XMC 1200 Spline wheels are a high quality set, featuring a lightweight yet wide carbon rim and DT Swiss’s legendary hub internals. They’re fitted with a great aggressive trail tyre duo of grippy Maxxis Minion DHR II tyres on the front with faster rolling Ardents on the rear. Both are 27.5 x 2.4 wide which provides a decent, chunky base for your riding action with good all-round traction.
Beefy Maxxis Minion DHR II tyres on the front provide ample gripMatt Wragg / Immediate Media Co
Riders who tend to ride in wet and muddy conditions (UK riders, I’m referring to you) will appreciate that there’s good clearance around the wheels, which should help prevent them getting clogged up and stuck when conditions get claggy.
The RockShox Reverb Stealth seatpost gives 150mm of travel (125mm on the S and XS sizes), which is more than enough to drop it nicely out of the way on descents.
For some reason the control on this version is the old button-style remote rather than the newer lever system, which is disappointing. The action requires a sort of sideways thumb press to operate which feels awkward and it’s also vulnerable to getting bashed about if you pop the bike upside down.
My only niggle with the Reverb Stealth seatpost is the older button-style remoteMatt Wragg / Immediate Media Co
Near top of the range SRAM Guide RSC brakes with a four piston system offer smooth and powerful action with plenty of adjustability — only the Guide Ultimate tops them, with ti hardware and carbon blades.
Finishing kit is as bling as you’d expect, with carbon Canyon H23 Rise CF handlebars with a 15mm rise, Canyon V12 stem and SDG Allure women’s specific saddle.
I have to mention the Ergon GE1 Slim grips, which were extremely comfortable and provided a nice cushioned feel without losing too much feedback from the terrain under wheel.
SRAM Guide RSC brakes provide powerful braking with plenty of adjustabilityMatt Wragg / Immediate Media Co
Canyon Spectral WMN overall impression
The new Spectral WMN is a very good looking bike in an impressive package, with outstanding spec if you have the cash to splash.
It’s a bike that won’t need anything in the way of upgrades until parts begin to wear out, and with the quality of the parts that won’t be for a while yet.
It’s a bike that is fun, exciting and lively on trails, and great fun to ride. However, the frame was too short for me which affected the bike’s handling and confidence on steep descents or bigger terrain, a view that was backed up by a second tester, Anna Cipullo.
This build is pricy but if you’ve got the money is still great valueMatt Wragg / Immediate Media Co
“It was incredibly fast and nimble, but the geometry felt way too front-weighted for anything that was more gravity oriented,” Anna shares. “I found myself out of my comfort zone on technical descents, something I didn’t find with the 2017 model, which happened to be a very capable descender and one that shared the same geometry as the 2017 men’s bike. As a pure trail bike, it is lively and exciting to ride, but if you’re all about the descents, then you may be left wanting more.”
Overall, I really enjoyed flying around my local trails on this, playing on jumps and sessioning sections. It makes you feel like a climbing queen and eats up rough ground on ups and downs, or at least it does until the trail gets steep.
It’s good to see Canyon spending considerable resource on the female market, whether or not you find its approach suits you, and with the company offering more demo events there are more opportunities to give the bike a good try before you buy.
Canyon Spectral WMN price, sizes and availability
The Canyon Spectral WMN CF 9.0 SL is available for £4,499 / $5,999 / AU$7,199 and comes in three sizes: XS, S and M.
If you are planning on purchasing one, ensure you follow the online fit system guidance as this will take into account your body dimensions and height to recommend a frame size for you.
Canyon bikes are available directly via the Canyon website.
Aoife is all about adventure and exploration, whether that's on road bikes, gravel bikes or mountain bikes, so long as it’s anywhere with a big view and a few big mountains. She's also tested pretty much every women's bike on the market over the last 6 years.