If you can live with buying online and receiving a bike in a box, the Canyon Spectral AL 5.0 is one of the best-equipped rides for the price. The frame geometry won’t suit everyone though.
Canyon Spectral AL 5.0 frame
For 2019, the Spectral’s travel increased by 10mm. It now gets a 160mm-travel fork and 150mm out back, thanks to a longer-stroke shock, which provides a supple feel when paired with the four-bar linkage rear end.
The frame geometry isn’t particularly lengthy by modern standards, with a 470mm reach on the XL, while the seat tube and head tube are tall, making it difficult to size up.
On the plus side, the integrated seat clamp allows the dropper post to be clamped tightly without affecting its action, and the way the German brand sandwiches the gear cable and rear brake hose between a protective cover and the down tube gives you the best of internal and external routing combined.
Canyon Spectral AL 5.0 kit
An integrated seat clamp and ingenious cable routing make for a neat, efficient frame. Russell Burton
Canyon has nailed the componentry here; with beefy brakes (complete with big rotors), a supportive Fox 36 Rhythm fork and a wide-range 12-speed drivetrain, nothing needs upgrading.
The sticky Maxxis DHR II tyres are a highlight, along with a 145mm dropper post on the XL. My only gripe is that the shifter position can’t be adjusted independently of the brake lever, which is mildly annoying if you run your levers high.
Canyon Spectral AL 5.0 first ride impressions
The Spectral’s suspension is straightforward to set up, with no need to fiddle with volume spacers. With my usual baseline set-up, the rear end was a little too soft, so I reduced the shock sag from 30 percent to nearer to 25 percent. Configured like this, the bike pedals efficiently and stays on top of its travel nicely while climbing.
This also makes the 74.5-degree effective seat angle feel steeper, because the suspension doesn’t slouch. The downside is that you can get bounced around a little more over bumps when seated, unless you adopt a smoother pedalling style.
When descending, the suspension offers a smooth, comfy ride and maintains momentum well through choppy terrain. Combined with grippy tyres, this makes rocky and rooty sections less tricky.
The low bottom bracket (330mm) and relatively traditional geometry make it easy to hop, manual and weave around the trail, although the tall head tube meant I had to slam the stem to get enough weight onto the front wheel in turns. Some testers found it too high, particularly those who are relatively short for the frame size.
When descending, the suspension offers a smooth, comfy ride and maintains momentum well through choppy terrain. Russell Burton
Although I measured the wheelbase at 1,250mm (15mm longer than the figure on Canyon’s website) and the head angle at 65.5 degrees (0.5 degrees slacker), the Spectral isn’t the most confidence-inspiring bike on fast, technical trails, partly because the soft suspension makes the short chassis less stable.
I also found that there was less margin for error when pushing hard than on some longer, slacker or bigger-wheeled bikes. This means there are better bikes for riding flat-out enduro terrain, even at this price (for example, the Calibre Sentry). But if it’s an agile trail bike you’re after, with a little extra squish, the Spectral is hard to overlook.
Canyon Spectral AL 5.0 early verdict
An agile and comfortable – rather than flat-out fast – trail bike, the Spectral is hard to fault for the cash.
Canyon Spectral AL 5.0 geometry (XL)
Seat angle: 74.5 degrees
Head angle: 66 degrees
Chainstay: 16.93in / 43cm
Seat tube: 20.47in / 52cm
Top tube: 26.02in / 66.1cm
Head tube: 6.69in / 17cm
Wheelbase: 48.62in / 1,235mm