TESTED: Canyon Spectral


Direct to consumer brand Canyon designed the Spectral as an ambitious, long travel trail bike. This model was released about 14 months ago with many ‘ahead of it’s time’ features.

One of the cleanest looking trail bikes on the market.

What is it?

It’s a backyard trails session bike with just a touch more agility on offer. Bike park laps, shuttle runs, rolling your local trail and smashing most of the technical lines your thing? – then this is something you should look at. The Canyon Spectral is intended to bring more ‘fun and control’ to the technical trails but it’s not a big bore enduro smasher like it’s big brother, the Canyon Strive.

The details

With 27.5” wheels, 2.6” rubber and a revised Sender-inspired suspension kinematic, the Spectral is a 150mm rear and 160mm front trail weapon. Super clean design lines with semi-integrated cable housings, an internal clamp seat post and an overall look that drops jaws of most bike fans.

The bike has a carbon front section with an alloy rear. A deep sloping top tube contributes so much steeze to the overall look as do the smooth intersections of head tube, down tube, BB and seat tubes.

The progressive rear end with what Canyon have coined as Three Phase Kinematics is designed to deliver a supple feel in the initial part of the stroke, more support in the mid-stroke which is set to enable riders more of a ‘platform to push off of’ and then uses a decent amount of ramp at the end of the travel to prevent harsh end of travel hits. The idea is to make full use of all the travel for more controlled fun on the trails.

The triple phase kinematic; supple, supportive then rampy.
There is nothing too progressive or far out of the norm in the geometry numbers.

Some of the other features include a steering lock system which prevents the brake levers from smashing into and likely damaging the top tube. The rear axle has a pop out quick release lever which is really neat, not to mention super convenient. The BB is lower than the previous edition, seat tube angle steeper and head angle marginally slacker.

On the trails

The Spectral is well balanced, playful and agile.

Rider position wise the reach numbers are not overly long, which means you can just get on and ride without having to consciously move your weight forward to get through turns. The Spectral has average length stays for a 27.5” play bike and you can definitely feel it on trail as it’s pretty easy to pick and place the rear end of the bike where you choose, with pinpoint accuracy. The Spectral is a very playful ride, you can commit to turns, it changes direction easily and will have you looking for trail features to boost, pop and huck. One of our riders felt the rear could be more progressive, it could be a simple internal tweak on the shock — we are not sure on that, but it could definitely ramp more towards the end of stroke.

The DT Swiss wheels, Fox damping and an all Race Face cockpit can’t be scoffed at. Ok, maybe the bars could be wider.

We didn’t like the 2.6” sized tyres which we felt lacked trail feedback and wallowed a bit in the turns but it looks like Canyon are onto that as all the Spectrals in their webstore windows are now dressed with 2.4” rubber. We had some irritation with a pivot bolt which came loose a few times and one of our riders kept knocking the compression lever with his knee pad during the ride.

The Spectral coaxes you into hitting the fun lines.

The combination of 27.5” wheels on a light, tight bike ensures the Spectral has great acceleration out of turns and as soon as the trail points down. Pedal efficiency is good when using the lockout. The bike is remarkably agile and nimble considering the travel it has. It would be interesting to fit a 29″ front end on this bike and see how that rides. The BB is certainly low enough to cope with the bigger wheel.

It’s a super light weight package and climbs better than anticipated.

Insights into what the future possibly holds for trail bike geo

Head angles: Making sweeping statements about a bike’s dynamic ride purely on its geo numbers is a mistake that is often made by riders. In the case of the Spectral, the much obsessed about head angle is not super progressively raked out, it’s a little more conservative, which might have some forums ablaze but in our opinion it preserves the versatility of the bike. Kudo’s to Canyon for this. On the trail in this travel genre right now anything between 64.5 and 66.5 is the space to play in.

Chain stays: Similarly there is some movement away from overly tight chain stays and this in our opinion is a number all engineers should start to look harder at. Sure, it would reduce some of the playful DNA of this particular bike but would add stability in other areas too. It’s a compromise of stability vs. play really.

Wheelsize: The 27.5” rear end is definitely beneficial to trail riders who are under the 1.8m tall mark.

The future: Perhaps somewhere in the future chain stay flip chips, reach adjust cups, and head angle adjust options will become standard spec for all trail bikes. That would allow infinite rider customization and less stress around sizing decisions and is something worth lobbying for, as is an off the shelf 29″ front and 27.5″ rear setup.

Ok, back to Canyon and this review, we really like the frame case which Canyon offer as an added extra and would highly recommend you adding it to your basket at purchase time. At about R600, it’s a bolt on option, which sits just behind the head tube and adds so much value to your ride experience by allowing you to stash less in your pockets or hydration pack, and more on the bike. Don’t dare buy this bike without one! Really. Don’t do it!

What’s up with the whole buy direct model?

We love bike shops. They exist for a reason and in our opinion, will continue to do so forever. That’s not to say that we don’t believe that a variety of business models which are direct to consumer or semi direct to consumer will not find their place and thrive in the vast cycling market too. The world is changing.

For those of you buying direct from Canyon, know that your bike arrives boxed and will take about 40 minutes to build, that’s start to finish and depends on your box cutter, tyre lever and allen key prowess. The brakes, shifter and dropper post comes installed and adjusted so you won’t need bleed kits and the like to build the bike. There is also a detailed instruction manual to help you with your self-build process. It’s really not that big of a deal. Take the tubes out, install the supplied valves, add a tiny bit of sealant and you are good to go. Hey, why not light some candles, open a beer, put on some rad vibes and enjoy the process. [Ok maybe not the candles.] The alternate build option is to take the box to your obliging local bike shop and have a good wrench do the whole thing for you.

Being a long way from Germany, there is a local support crew here in SA to answer your queries, or just jump online and chat with Germany. We have spoken to a few local Canyon owners who pretty much are all super impressed with the entire purchasing and delivery process. One of them said he had his bike at his front door within 4 days of ordering it. The world these days aye… remarkable.

Pricing wise, when you look online first convert to Rands, then add 15% VAT, then add 15% import duties plus a little for shipping to get your final price.


The Canyon Spectral is gagging for trail games. Climb aboard, roll out to the backyard trails and boost, punch or manual the stress away. It’s downright rad.

IMAGES: Gary Perkin

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