Canyon Spectral CF 8.0 review

Top frame and killer suspension, but let down by tall head and seat tubes

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0
GBP £3,199.00 RRP | AUD $5,099.00 | USD $3,499.00

Our review

Tall in stature, but still a killer trail bike
Pros: Well-designed frame, killer suspension
Cons: The tall head and seat tube reduce versatility
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Launched in late 2017, the Canyon Spectral impressed with its quality suspension and very decent kit for the price. The 2019 Spectral gains 10mm in travel at the front and rear compared to the previous model, giving it a more aggressive stance, which makes it look more like a little enduro bike than a full-on trail bike.

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  • The Canyon Spectral CF 8.0 is one of our Bike of the Year bikes for 2019. 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 page.

In addition to the extra travel, the 2019 Spectral ditches the previous model’s 2.6in tyres for a more ‘normal’ 2.4in width. This is a good shout because the narrower tyres help to make the bike feel a little more precise.

Canyon has made a cracking frame with a carbon front and alloy rear triangle, and the finishing touches — from the down tube protector that doubles as a semi-internal cable routing guide to the hidden seat clamp bolt — demonstrate great attention to detail.

A Shimano XT drivetrain makes a change from the GX Eagle often seen on bikes at this price point
A Shimano XT drivetrain makes a change from the GX Eagle often seen on bikes at this price point
Dan Milner / Immediate Media

This is mirrored in the packaging that the Spectral is boxed in from the factory. The bike comes with a comprehensive tech manual, shock pump and torque wrench to help you get it set up, and the build shouldn’t take too much effort.

You don’t get the immediate back up that a bricks-and-mortar shop might offer, but that’s reflected in the price, and there’s a call centre if you run into difficulties.

The Fox rear suspension is one of the best on the market. It conforms to all the clichés: supple in the early stroke over small bumps and repeated hits, while maintaining plenty of traction; supportive in the mid stroke, giving a nice platform to push off against; and resistant to squatting too deep as you traverse more technical features.

This support helps to keep the shock relatively still while pedalling, so I rarely wanted to use a lockout on climbs.

Canyon uses its in-house G5 componentry in the cockpit
Canyon uses its in-house G5 componentry in the cockpit
Dan Milner / Immediate Media

Finally, it’s nicely ramped towards the end of the stroke, so when you hit those impacts big enough to get to the end of the travel, your feet don’t get blown off the pedals. It’s a system that’s impressive both on big hits, through the chatter and on the climbs.

Canyon has fitted DT Swiss M 1700 wheels, 2.4in Maxxis Minion DHR II tyres front and rear, the impressive four-pot Shimano XT brakes and Fox’s Performance Elite suspension in the form of a 160mm 36 fork and the DPX2 shock.

Canyon Spectral CF 8.0 ride impressions

Canyon has some of the best rear suspension on the market, and the Spectral benefits from it
Canyon has some of the best rear suspension on the market, and the Spectral benefits from it
Dan Milner / Immediate Media

The shifting felt a little stiff out of the box, something we’ve found with some other Shimano XT set ups, but everything else performed as expected. Fox supplies the Transfer dropper post — a regular favourite among testers — and the Spectral gets Canyon’s own-brand G5 finishing kit.

While it worked well on steeper tracks, the addition of that 10mm of travel at the front, along with a tall head tube (147mm on my large test bike) meant a high front-end that pushed my weight back on flatter terrain, forcing me to work harder for traction.

The head tube is long on the Spectral, and could make fit trickier than necessary
The head tube is long on the Spectral, and could make fit trickier than necessary
Dan Milner / Immediate Media

And the tall seat tube (480mm) meant that at 6ft tall I still had the 150mm dropper slammed. If I wanted to make the most of the reach on the XL model (482mm), I wouldn’t have been able to fit on it thanks to that long seat tube.

The Spectral's seat tube is tall, like the head tube — we'd like to see it a chunk shorter
The Spectral’s seat tube is tall, like the head tube — we’d like to see it a chunk shorter
Dan Milner / Immediate Media

We took the Spectral to Finale Ligure in Italy for testing and it definitely impressed out there. It’s got an enviable back end — as good as many bikes with far more travel — and is still very agile through tight and technical terrain.

The Spectral is also good value, with a very decent parts package. It’s the height of the head and seat tubes, and the associated drawbacks, that stop it scoring higher. But if you’ve got long legs and you like a high front end, you’ll love this bike.

Canyon Spectral CF 8.0 specifications

The Canyon Spectral is a superb all-round trail bike
The Canyon Spectral is a superb all-round trail bike
Dan Milner / Immediate Media
  • Sizes (*tested): S, M, L*, XL
  • Weight: 13.96kg
  • Frame: Carbon front, 6066 alloy rear, 150mm 650b
  • Fork: Fox Performance Elite 36 160mm
  • Shock: Fox Float Performance Elite DPX2
  • Chainset: Shimano Deore XT
  • Bottom bracket: Shimano Pressfit
  • Cassette: Shimano Deore XT
  • Chain: Shimano
  • Mech: Shimano Deore XT
  • Shifters: Shimano Deore XT
  • Wheelset: DT Swiss M 1700 Spline
  • Tyres: Maxxis Minion DHR II 2.4 front and rear
  • Brakes: Shimano XT 4-pot 200/180
  • Bar: Canyon G5 760mm
  • Stem: Canyon G5 50mm
  • Seatpost: Fox Performance Transfer 150mm
  • Saddle: SDG Radar
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Canyon Spectral CF 8.0 geometry

  • Seat angle: 74.5 degrees
  • Head angle: 66 degrees
  • Chainstay: 43cm / 16.93in
  • Seat tube: 48cm / 18.9in
  • Top tube: 63.3cm / 24.92in
  • Head tube: 14.7cm / 5.79in
  • Bottom bracket drop: 2.2cm / 0.87in
  • Wheelbase: 1,204mm / 47.4in
  • Stack: 63.4cm / 24.96in
  • Reach: 46cm / 18.11in

BikeRadar would like to thank 661 Protection, Northwave, Effetto Mariposa and Finale Ligure for their help and support during our Bike of the Year test.

Product Specifications

Product

Name Spectral CF 8.0
Brand Canyon

Available Sizes S M L XL
Saddle SDG Radar
Wheelbase (in) 47.4
Top Tube (in) 24.92
Seat Tube (in) 18.9
Chainstays (in) 16.93
Wheelset DT Swiss M 1700 Spline
Weight (kg) 13.96
Stem Canyon G5 50mm
Shifters Shimano Deore XT
Seatpost Fox Performance Transfer 150mm
Seat Angle 74.5
Rear Tyre Maxxis Minion DHR II 2.4
Bottom Bracket Shimano Pressfit
Rear Shock Fox Float Performance Elite DPX2
Rear Derailleur Shimano Deore XT
Head Angle 66
Handlebar Canyon G5 760mm
Front Tyre Maxxis Minion DHR II 2.4
Frame Material Carbon front, 6066 alloy rear, 150mm 650b
Fork Fox Performance Elite 36 160mm
Cranks Shimano Deore XT
Chain Shimano
Cassette Shimano Deore XT
Brakes Shimano XT 4-pot 200/180
Frame size tested L