Canyon’s Spectral has been the direct-sell all-rounder benchmark for years and this new version brings the award-winning platform right up to date. Things are a lot more competitive in this category these days though, so staying on top is no walkover.
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The cherry-red Spectral has a slick-styled frame and I like the way the control lines run through flush-fit plastic ‘armour’ sections bolted under the down tube. Other neat features include a plastic chain-slap protector, mounts for frame storage and a pull-out lever on the rear axle.
The position of the shock limits you to using a side-loading bottle cage, and experience suggests the press-fit bottom bracket won’t last as long as a screw-in unit. There are no ISCG mounts either and the dropouts are very thin. While the reach will be fine for most (460mm on the large), the extended seat tower makes it tricky to size up.
Canyon Spectral AL 6.0 kit
Although the Spectral’s spec is way ahead of anything you’ll get through a ‘proper’ shop for this price, the fancy frame clearly costs. The Canyon shares its GX Eagle gears with the Radon, also on test, but despite its higher price, gets a less sophisticated Pike RC fork.
It uses basic SRAM Guide R brakes, and a 50mm stem and 760mm bar create a slightly restrained ride character. The DT Swiss wheels are relatively light and tough with an excellent ride feel, though, and the triple-compound Maxxis tyres are top-quality rubber.
The metric RockShox Deluxe shock is sublimely smooth and potentially well worth the extra money.
Canyon Spectral AL 6.0 ride impressions
I say ‘potentially’ because I had to add volume spacers to the shock to combat a very linear character that left the rear of the bike feeling unbalanced with the already high front end. Even with the progression sorted, the shock’s extra-long negative spring and the high positioning of the Spectral’s chainstay pivots meant I often found myself flicking the low-speed compression lever across for a firmer pedalling feel under power.
The fork also benefited from an extra spacer (or two), so that I could lower the air pressure to sync with the rear, without losing support.
It’s worth spending the time getting the Spectral into its sweet spot, because it’s a thoroughbred at heart. Relatively low weight for a reasonably long bike means it picks up speed easily.
The high-volume tyres and fluid suspension help it carry speed across rocks and roots, and it clawed out of several seemingly unsaveable stalls during testing.
That low weight also makes it easy to get dynamic — you’ll find yourself popping over fun-stoppers, hitting hips and diving onto downslopes at every opportunity to boost the bike’s already excellent flow.
The DT Swiss wheels, 2.6in tyres and carefully-constructed frame have a smooth vibrancy that peps up the feel of the Spectral even further, keeping fatigue at bay.
Even with the suspension balanced up, the Canyon’s more conservative cockpit kit, 66.5-degree (measured) head angle and middling reach mean it’s not as keen to get properly rad as something like the Whyte T-130 SR.
Despite (or maybe because of) its triple rather than dual-compound tyres, the Spectral has a vague trail feel and a tendency to slide out earlier under heavy cornering loads.
The classic ‘grab the rear wheel and wrench it about’ test also revealed more rear-end flex, which I put down to the skinny dropouts and narrower, offset main-pivot arrangement. These aren’t deal-breakers though, and the Canyon’s baseline buoyant, lively and forgiving feel made it a favourite for some of our test team. I can see a lot of riders viewing the kit/cost advantage compared to similar bikes such as the Whyte and other shop bikes as a deal-clincher too.