Review: Canyon Spectral WMN AL 6.0

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Canyon released the new women’s specific Spectral trail bike earlier this year, and it features a unique frame, suspension design and geometry. But how different is the women’s Spectral to the unisex version? We got one in for our speedy tester Rachel Sokal to find out. Over to Rachel!

There have been a good few developments within the Canyon range, with the Spectral WMN encapsulating two of them: the Spectral’s redesigned suspension system and the new women’s specific range.

With many other brands moving away from women’s specific ranges this development by Canyon is an interesting one. Amanda went out to France for the launch at the start of the year and has given more background on Canyon’s rationale here.

In brief, Canyon wanted to account for some key differences that it has observed between its male and female customers: women tend to have shorter arms, are lighter and sit further back on the bike.

The Canyon WMN AL 6.0 ready and waiting.

Personally, I’m cynical about the whole women’s specific geometry thing. In part that’s because of some very tokenistic attempts by brands in the past (‘shrink it and pink it’, and build it with a poor spec whilst you’re at it) and in part because not all women are the same size or dimension or have the same riding style.

So, just as the way that not every men’s or unisex bike will suit every man, simply because it’s a women’s specific bike it doesn’t mean that it will fit and suit me and my riding style. That’s not to say I’m completely against it, and the speccing of bikes with thinner grips, shorter stems and suspension tuned for a lighter weight all have the potential to save me lots of faff and money as these are the things I often end up changing first.

The Spectral WMN is a mid-travel (150mm front and 140mm rear) trail bike, matching the unisex version that we have previously tested. It’s really pleasing to see that Canyon has produced a good few build options in the women’s range and, although not quite as many as the unisex, the price range is the same so there’s good choice to match your budget.

Prices in both ranges start at £1,699 for the entry level aluminium-framed bike and go up to £4,499 for the whizzy carbon framed CF 9.0. A key element of Canyon’s women’s range is the sizing, which starts with an extra-extra small (2XS) for riders from 148cm tall (4 foot 10) through to a medium for those up to 179cm (five foot 10). At 5 foot 6 (167cm) I’m just shy of the recommended height for the medium. However, having looked at the geometry I felt the small would be a bit short for my tastes so went for the medium.

The Spectral WMN – short and low.

The Bike

From its rider data Canyon identified that females tend to have less upper body strength and ride with their weight further back on the bike compared to male riders. Combined with a ‘standard’ geometry this can make the front of the bike harder to load and control, which leads to a lack of front wheel traction. To account for this Canyon has designed the Spectral WMN to be shorter and lower, which means it’s easier to get your weight over the front of the bike.

On paper these differences give a 10mm-ish shorter reach and a slightly lower stack on the WMN models compared to the unisex. The 65.9° head angle is pretty much the same on the two models (66.0° on the unisex). Standover on the WMN is a generous 741mm (medium) leaving lots of room to move the bike around and the 74° seat angle allows for a good position over the BB to transmit the power when you’re pedalling. The BB has been lowered too, resulting in a drop of around 20mm.

In comparison to the top-of-the-range, fancy-pants CF 9.0 model that Amanda got to ride out on the launch in France, I had the more modest AL 6.0 for a longer test. Price-wise the AL 6.0 is the middle of the three aluminium frame builds that are available and as we’ve come to expect from Canyon the amount you get for your £2,349 is pretty impressive. Suspension is courtesy of a Fox 34 Performance fork and Fox Performance Float DPS EVOL shock that is tuned for lighter riders. Compared to its predecessor the Spectral’s suspension linkage is designed to give a more responsive feel at the start of the travel for good traction and small bump sensitivity. Once in the mid-stroke the tuning provides a more stable feel before ramping up at the end of the travel.

Rear suspension tuned to lighter rider weights.

The DT Swiss M1700 Spline tubeless ready wheelset has a 30mm internal rim width, straight pull spokes and DT Swiss’ excellent ratchet freehub, making them robust, reliable and not excessively heavy – exactly what you want to see on a mid-travel bike. The specced Maxxis Minion DHR II 2.4 up front and Ardent 2.4 on the rear proved an excellent pairing on pretty much everything I rode whilst I had the Spectral on test.

Stopping and going duties are down to SRAM with Guide R brakes, a Truvativ Descendent crank and 1×12 GX Eagle transmission. It is pleasing to see that Canyon has given some thought to making the gearing ratios more fitting of a female rider’s typically lower power output, although I did find the 30t chainring combined with the 10-50 cassette a little too generous for my liking even on steeper terrain. The medium gets a 175mm crank (170mm on the smaller sizes), a length calculated from inseam measures in Canyon’s rider data.

A 30t chainring to keep those legs spinning.

Personally I’m not a big fan of SRAM Guide R brakes. The reach on the Guides is adjustable (as the R signifies) which is useful for smaller hands especially given the size of the lever; however, the bite point itself is not and the direct action piston means that there is quite a lot of free-throw in the system.

As with every other set of Guide Rs I’ve ridden with the lever wound in, once there is a bit of wear on the pads the brakes lose their feel and power and even squeezing them right back to the bar only returns a tiny amount of power. This is resolved if you wind the levers back out but then that negates the advantage of the adjustable reach. Of course, this is an issue with the brake rather than the bike itself but given many women will want to wind the levers in to account for their smaller hands there could be a better choice.

SRAM Guide R brake levers – there are better performing brakes for smaller hands.

Bars and stem are RaceFace Ride and there’s a KS LEV Integra dropper post. Due to the generous standover height of the frame the droppers are of a good length (150mm on medium, 125 on small and XS, 100mm on XXS) giving you lots of room to move with the saddle dropped.

It is something you need to watch though if you plan to upsize your frame as I did, as I was pretty close to not being able to get enough post into the frame to get my pedalling saddle height correct. This would be easy to change by fitting a post with a smaller drop, just annoyingly expensive to do so. What’s good to know is that Canyon actually lists the saddle heights for each size in the geometry charts so it’s easy enough to check before purchase.

The reliable Maxxis Ardent providing grip out back

The hydroformed aluminium tube frame accommodates some clever features. Firstly there’s the neat downtube cover that acts as a frame protector whilst also housing all the cables. This gives a neat and tidy appearance of an internally routed system without the need to lose hours of your life to a recabling job. Other cunning features are an Impact Protection Unit with break-away bolts near the head tube to prevent top tube damage from levers and bars in the event of a crash. There’s a little cap on each side of the suspension’s main pivot to prevent the best of British getting into your bearings. On the driveside this cap also the covers the front mech mount.

Finally, and away from the frame, there’s Canyon’s rear axle hideaway quick release that allows for easy tool free adjustment. Very handy for when you fail to do your wheel up tight enough and it works lose. Ahem…

The internal seat post clamp makes the downtube rather less sleek than it might be but aesthetics aside it functions really well; the bolt is easier to access and only requires 4nm torque to tighten which makes on-trail tweaks with a small multi-tool a breeze. There are little rubber bungs that protect the seat post, water cage and Canyon’s frame case which slots between the top of the down tube and top tube. I can’t really comment on the value of these bungs as after a few rides I’d managed to lose most of them somewhere on the trails.

Not the prettiest thing ever but the internal seat clamp works really well.

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2019 Canyon Spectral WMN CF SLX 9.0

  • Frame // Hydroformed aluminium, Women’s Specific Geometry & Suspension, 140mm Travel
  • Fork // Fox Factory 34 Performance, 150mm Travel
  • Shock // Fox Performance Float DPS EVOL
  • Hubs // DT Swiss, 110x15mm Front & 148x12mm Rear
  • Rims // DT Swiss M 1700, 30mm wide
  • Tyres // Maxxis Minion DHR II 2.4in Front & Ardent 2.4in Rear
  • Chainset // Truvative Descendant 6K Eagle with 30t  Chainring
  • Rear Mech // SRAM GX Eagle, 12-Speed
  • Shifter // SRAM GX Eagle Trigger, 12-Speed
  • Cassette // SRAM XG-1275 Eagle, 10-50t, 12-Speed
  • Brakes // SRAM Guide R, 180mm Front & Rear
  • Stem // Raceface Ride 50mm
  • Bars // Raceface Ride, 740mm Wide
  • Grips // Canyon G5
  • Seatpost // KS LEV Integra SI 150mm
  • Saddle // SDG Allure MTN
  • Size Tested // Medium
  • Sizes available // X-Small, Small & Medium
  • RRP // £2,349

Review Info

Product:Spectral WMN AL 6.0
Tested:by Rachel Sokal for 4 months

Comments (2)

    Has anyone (male or female) ridden the male and female version of the same spec bike, back to back?
    If so, could you tell any difference?
    Which did you prefer? (knowing that that is an individual personal preference)

    Very interested in this as first FS for daughter coming up from Islabikes Creig 26, as they do a properly small size. The small sizing appears to be the main advantage here.

    Unfortunately almost every model is out of stock, apart from a few larger sizes. Presumably I have to wait for a 2019 model now?

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