As one of the most popular bikes in Canyon’s range, it was a bit of a surprise to see the Neuron go so long without an update. The outgoing bike’s silhouette hasn’t changed for quite some time and the vertically-mounted rear shock and very cross-country-orientated geometry stood out as old-hat in Canyon’s range.
At the start of 2019 Canyon treated us to a revamped Neuron with geometry updates, a new shape that includes a horizontally-mounted shock and women’s-specific models to boot. Like other new bikes in the Canyon range, it uses a mix of 650b and 29er wheels depending on the bike’s size.
In blue and black it’s a looker. Steve Behr
It sits comfortably between Canyon’s Lux XC race whippet and the Spectral, a longer travel all-mountain bike. At the time of the bike’s launch, Canyon was very keen to point out that the bike is designed for beginners and experienced riders alike — certainly a difficult target to hit.
Defined by Canyon as an all-round mountain bike that’s designed to hustle along local singletrack and be just as comfortable out in the big mountains, it aims to be a true jack-of-all-trades then. But does it master any of them?
I tested the CF 9.0 SL model, which sits about two down from the range’s top model, to answer that question.
Canyon Neuron CF 9.0 SL frame details and suspension
Given its intended use, it’s unsurprising to see 130mm of rear-wheel travel driven by Canyon’s own Triple Phase suspension that’s shared across its range of full-sus bikes.
Canyon has managed to hid the pivot’s bearings behind the frame giving the bike very clean lines. Steve Behr
This, it claims, should give the rider an exceptionally supple beginning stroke with plenty of support in the mid stroke for turns and compressions, and plenty of ramp towards the end of the bike’s travel for those who like to get a little rowdier.
The new suspension layout means the shock is horizontally positioned under the top tube rather than mounted parallel to the seat tube. This, Canyon claims, has let it reduce the bike’s weight by slimming down the linkages and because there is less force going through the bike’s pivots it also claims to help increase service intervals.
A theme that runs through the new Neuron’s design is how each size has been tailor-made to suit its rider — this means that the shock tune on the smaller models is lighter than the larger sizes.
The factory tune on the Fox Float DPS shock was supportive and encouraged speedy riding. Steve Behr
Continuing that theme, the frame’s wall construction differs between sizes. Like the shock tune, the larger bikes get burlier tubes than the smaller bikes to help standardise stiffness across the size range for their intended riders.
The frame’s pivots get double-sealed bearings to help improve their lifespan and the main pivot’s bearings are asymmetrical. The driveside has one more bearing than the non-driveside, which helps to compensate for the additional forces put through the bike when you pedal.
The new Neuron also has Canyon’s knock-block system that’s integrated into the headset and top tube. It’s designed to physically stop your handlebars, and therefore fork and front wheel, rotating further than a pre-determined amount, hopefully reducing potential frame damage in a crash.
Canyon has a system to stop the bars from turning 180 degrees and prevent brake levers fouling the top tube and the fork crowns hitting the down tube. Steve Behr
The bike has a threaded bottom bracket and semi-internally-routed cables — the cables are routed along the underside of the down tube and are covered by a plate that bolts over the top of them.
Canyon Neuron CF 9.0 SL geometry
The new bike’s headline feature has to be its geometry. With each change in size comes marked and intentional geometry changes that, when coupled with a change in wheel size, suspension tune and tube wall thickness differences, should add up to a bike that fits its intended rider like a glove.
The extra small and small bikes get 650b wheels, while the medium, large and extra-large bikes are fitted with 29-inch hoops.
Reach figures grow from a positively-tiny 398mm XS bike to a rather-average-for-the-size 473mm for the XL bike.
The Neuron is a trail bike that sways more towards cross-country than all-mountain. Steve Behr
Unlike some manufacturers who maintain chainstay lengths across sizes, the new Neuron starts at 430mm for the XS and S bikes and grows to 440mm for the rest of the size range.
Standout numbers for the size large I tested include a 67.5-degree head angle, a 74.5-degree seat tube angle, a 1,190mm wheelbase and a 453mm reach.
Size (tested*): XS, S, M, L*, XL
Head tube angle: 67.5 degrees
Seat tube angle: 74.5 degrees
Seat tube length: 48cm
Top tube length: 62.6cm
Head tube length: 11.2cm
Chainstay length: 44cm
Wheel size: 29 inch
Canyon Neuron CF 9.0 SL specification
Sitting just two bikes down from the range-topper, the CF 9.0 SL is kitted out with some top-spec parts for the price.
Fox’s FIT4 damper and 34 chassis always underwhelms me. If it had the fantastic GRIP2 damper, performance would be much improved. Steve Behr
For your £3,349 / €3,699 /$4,799 / AU$5,399 you get a Fox 34 Float Performance Elite fork with a FIT4 damper and a Fox Float DPS Performance rear shock, which are more than capable of handling the terrain you encounter on a trail bike.
There’s a full SRAM 12-speed Eagle drivetrain that includes an X01 mech and shifter and an XG-1275 cassette. It’s specced with SRAM’s Guide R brakes and a Fox Transfer dropper post.
Canyon’s own-brand bars were very comfortable. Steve Behr
The bike’s got the impressively stiff Reynolds TR 309 carbon wheels that are wrapped in tubeless-ready Maxxis Forekaster 2.35-inch wide tyres.
The Forekaster tyres were set up tubeless on our test bike, but retail bikes are only tubeless-ready from the factory. Steve Behr
Canyon own-brand parts finish the bike off and, like the rest of the changes with each size, the bar widths increase from 740mm on the smaller bikes to 760mm on the larger versions.
Similarly, pedal crank length differs by 5mm from 170 to 175mm and the dropper post loses some travel for the small bikes.
Canyon Neuron CF 9.0 SL ride impressions
How does all of this translate to on-trail performance, then? I went out on the bike in a host of different locations to find out where its limits are and to work out what sort of terrain it excels on.
Canyon Neuron CF 9.0 SL climbing performance
Climbing is a breeze thanks to its light weight. Steve Behr
First impressions of the bike are particularly positive — it’s light, the suspension is relatively active under pedalling and it’s very easy to propel forwards with little fuss.
That’s probably down to the bike’s especially light carbon wheels and general construction. You do feel like the majority of your power is pushing the bike forwards rather than flexing the frame from side-to-side.
Like the drivetrain, the Fox Transfer dropper post performed flawlessly. Steve Behr
And even with especially enthusiastic or even rather stabby pedal strokes the bike’s suspension remains composed and reluctant to bob under power, hinting at a particularly high anti-squat value — which is no bad thing on a bike of this type.
On particularly smooth climbs the lockout lever turns the bike into a pseudo-hardtail, but its overzealous function isn’t as welcome on bumpier, off-road trails where you rely on the suspension for grip and comfort.
And despite the suspension’s penchant to be particularly unphased by rider input, it still remained impressively active while it was under power, ironing out trail buzz and small bumps alike. This came as a bit of a surprise, albeit a welcome one.
The down tube protector doubles up as the bike’s internal cable routing and is a smart feature. Steve Behr
The long stem does help to reduce twitchy feelings sometimes felt at slow speeds on technical climbs, but I didn’t feel that the climbing advantages outweighed the reduction in performance on the descents.
And despite the bike’s particularly high-looking seat tower, it didn’t feel too high when I was on the bike — I increased the seatpost’s height in the frame for the climbs, which, as someone with shorter legs and a longer body, isn’t something I frequently do. This does mean that it is tucked out the way on the descents, though — a great positive.
The bike’s overall shape and geometry provided a very comfortable base from which you can both attack and cruise up the climbs. My weight wasn’t especially biased to the front or rear of the bike and I wasn’t wasting energy constantly adjusting my position or trying harder to find more grip.
The main pivot is covered by a cap to help keep mud, water and grime out. Steve Behr
That said, the seat did need to be angled as far down and as far forward as possible in the seat clamp to help combat the relatively slack 74.5-degree seat angle.
On a bike where you spend a lot of time seated it would be great to see much steeper seat angles. This would really increase your ability to centre yourself on the bike and not feel like you’re slipping rearwards on the seat on particularly steep climbs.
The Maxxis Forekaster tyres provided plenty of grip on wet and dry hard-pack surfaces but do come unstuck when it gets wetter. A more aggressive tread would help here.
I do feel like the tyres strike a satisfactory compromise between grip and rolling resistance, though. And because our test bike’s tyres were set up tubeless it saved important grams. Canyon supplies its bike tubeless ready so the endless amounts of hassle to get them set up at home should be minimised.
Canyon Neuron CF 9.0 SL descending performance
Turn the Canyon Neuron CF 9.0 SL downhill and the ‘one bike for all’ claim suddenly makes itself known.
Initially, the ride is a little perched — you sit on the bike rather than in it. This is surely down to a combination of things: the long stem, the XC-orientated geometry and that particularly supportive suspension I spoke about earlier.
The Neuron performs well even on tricky, natural trails. Steve Behr
Ease yourself into the way this bike rides though, and that perched feeling does diminish. The suspension lets you push hard through the turns and over undulating bits of terrain and it’s very easy to generate more speed. It also helps on bigger impacts and the bike surprised me with its willingness to provide multiple ‘get out of jail free’ cards when I got things especially wrong.
One particular incident involved a double that wasn’t a double. The blind (on take-off) landing turned out to be a gigantic hole, and although the bike bottomed out harshly, the sum of its parts — its wheels, carbon frame and supportive suspension — created a particularly forgiving platform and compensated for the large error I had just made.
That rewarding feeling of competence also generates speed, and the bike is accurate and particularly fun to ride. The mid-stroke support just eggs you on.
It rails turns happily too. Steve Behr
It is very easy to gather momentum thanks to the light wheels and tubeless tyres, and the bike loves to change direction on a dime, especially when you’re feeling in a dominating and confident mood.
There is a limit though, and thanks to the bike’s suspension and properties created by its spec, it does reach that limit surprisingly quickly. Although maybe that’s to be expected for a 130mm travel trail bike.
The 34 is light enough, but the damper’s performance just doesn’t impress. Steve Behr
The geometry is pretty conservative, particularly the reach, wheelbase and head angle figures — I would like to see them all growing slightly and don’t think a longer reach, longer wheelbase and slacker head angle would stop the bike being any more capable on the ascents and flat sections or less appealing or harder to ride for beginners.
It’s also easy to push the tyres beyond their limits. The casings aren’t especially tough — most likely in a bid to keep weight down — but that does mean they flex when you start playing rough and I managed to get the tyre to strike the seatstays in turns quite regularly. A tougher set of tyres would solve this issue.
The carbon Reynolds TR 309 wheels were stiff and rolled quickly. Steve Behr
Just like when you’re ascending, the Forekaster has plenty of grip on hard pack surfaces regardless of whether they’re wet or dry, but is a little lacklustre in muddy and boggy conditions. No surprises there then.
Canyon Neuron CF 9.0 SL bottom line
You can have plenty of fun at the trail centre too. Steve Behr
Generally speaking, the new Neuron is a fantastic bit of kit for XC riders who like to get a little rad and rowdy some of the time. Its geometry is fairly conservative, though. But the bike is comfortable and composed in most situations on both the ups and downs.
The bike’s USP is a little confusing. Reconciling the idea that a bike can be suited to both beginners and pros is a tough gig and that’s reflected in how it rides at both ends of the spectrum: beginners might not get the most from the excellent mid-stroke suspension support while better riders will struggle to go as fast as they can without making the hairs on the backs of their necks stand on end.
It’s certainly an improvement over the outgoing model and the pricing is hard to ignore. You get a lot of bike for your money.