It’s been quite a few years since we last saw a carbon fibre trail bike from Canyon. In fact, it was 2014 when the Nerve CF was last kicking about – a rather marathon-ish, lightweight full susser that featured racy geometry, 120mm of travel, and 26in wheels.
Thankfully, things have moved on just a wee bit since then, and that’s left Canyon’s range somewhat languishing without a high-end trail bike. Well, until now.
Canyon’s Carbon Fibre Neuron
Unveiled just before the end of 2018, the Neuron CF has arrived to take the mantle as Canyon’s brand new carbon fibre trail bike.
Plugging the gap between the Lux (Canyon’s 100mm travel XC racer) and the Spectral (the 150mm travel AM bike), the Neuron brings 130mm of bounce front and rear. Depending on frame size, it’s built around either 29in wheels (M/L/XL) or 27.5in wheels (XS/S).
Canyon offers both full-alloy (AL) and full-carbon (CF) versions of the Neuron. Both are new for 2019, though the alloy frame is more of a refresh, and carries over the existing frame shape and suspension platform from the pre-2019 model. Of note is that the 2019 Neuron AL shares almost identical geometry to the Neuron CF, and we’re told that the suspension leverage rate is very similar too.
It’s the smooth, plastic-fantastic frame that we’ve got on test here though, and this particular model – the CF 9.0 SL – sits right in the middle of the five-bike range, which starts off with the CF 8.0 (£2,449 / $3,949 AUD) and peaks with the 9.0 LTD (£5,099 / $8,149 AUD). There are also two women’s models that utilise the same frame, but are spec’d with a lighter suspension tune, narrower bars, a shorter 50mm stem, and a women’s saddle.
All You Need?
Canyon’s marketing tagline for the Neuron CF is ‘All You Need’. That’s not entirely the truth, because you will require pedals to ride this bike. For best results, I would also recommend shoes, a helmet, and a positive, can-do attitude.
In all seriousness though, I believe Canyon is referring to the fact that the Neuron CF is simply meant to be a good ol’ fashioned trail bike – something that pedals efficiently, and goes up ze hills equally as well as it goes down.
Indeed a quick look at the numbers will reveal that this is not the slacked-out, trail-blazing, genre-bending, adrenaline junkie from a 50to01 video. No, the focus here is much more on endurance riding, over enduro racing. The Neuron CF wants to be more Friends rather than Jackass.
Now I’d normally be down with that, but I have previously tested an alloy Neuron, back when it was still called the Nerve AL. It had a nice black anodized frame and it was spec’d smartly for the price. Unfortunately I was left completely underwhelmed by the rear suspension. Unless you pumped the rear shock up to the wazoo, it had a habit of blowing through the travel, resulting in a spectacular bottom-out on even the smallest of landings. It seriously let the whole bike down.
It seemed I wasn’t only the one either, as you’ll read in Antony’s review of the 2017 Neuron AL.
Given our prior experience, I was curious to see how the latest carbon fibre version would compare.
Would it remain an exclusively wheels-on-the-ground, slightly heavy, longer-legged XC bike? Or would I notice a noticeable improvement from the sprightly, versatile trail bike Canyon has promised us?
Time to find out.
Let’s not beat around the bush – this is one very good looking bicycle. With its matte paint job, full carbon fibre frame, and the neatly integrated composite shock yoke, the Neuron CF is uber clean. Its dashing looks have certainly proven enough to warrant inquisition on every single group ride I’ve been on with it.
At a claimed 2920g with the rear shock (Medium size), the carbon frame isn’t as light as I was expecting. Compare that to Canyon’s Lux SLX frameset, which purportedly weighs a lithe 2128g. Aside from the flattened top tube though, everything is pretty chunky and oversized.
There’s a plump tapered head tube, a huge hexagonal downtube, and the boxy chain and seatstays are both bridged for added rigidity. Given the, err, Rubenesque shape and attention to detail, I’d suggest this is a frame made for the long haul.
All the bearings are fully sealed, with the drive-side main pivot featuring dual-row bearings, and each pivot capped with plastic covers to keep crap out in the first place. Having removed a few of the pivot bolts out of curiosity, I was impressed to find them adequately greased, with the threads prepped with Loctite too.
With the new Triple Phase Suspension layout, Canyon has flipped up the rear shock, which now mounts underneath the top tube. This allows for decent standover clearance, while still providing room for a water bottle inside the mainframe.
Other practicalities include a threaded bottom bracket shell (unlike the press-fit shell the carbon Spectral and Lux frames use) and the now-familiar IPU headset, which prevents over-rotation of the bars, while providing a greater range of movement than Trek’s Knock Block design.
The cutely-named Quixle thru-axle combines bolt-up cleanliness with a concealed pop-out lever at the rear dropouts, though it does need cranking up pretty tight to stop it from working loose while riding.
Canyon earns a vivacious high-five from me for the clever cable tunnel underneath the downtube, which uses bolt-on plastic plates to both hide and protect the cables without having to resort to routing them inside the frame itself.
Genius right? Unfortunately the solitary mech cable does flap about a bit at the entry point though, and combined with some occasional chain slap on the chainstay cable guide, the Neuron CF doesn’t quite live up to its stealthy looks on the trail.
Though not the priciest option, the CF 9.0 SL still comes dressed with a schmick outfit. The Fox suspension and dropper post package complement the swish frame, with shiny black stanchions and, more importantly, high-tech internals all-round.
Reynolds TR 309 wheels are a strong spec choice at this price point. The carbon wheelset is built with straight-pull spokes, sealed bearing hubs, and a 4-pawl freehub mechanism with 36 engagement points. Confirmed weight is a reasonable 1803g, and the 30mm internal width provides a good platform for the tubeless Maxxis Forekaster tyres.
The 1×12 SRAM drivetrain is tarted up with an X01 mech and the excellent X01 trigger shifter, which possesses lovely, smooth paddles that have been a welcome change from the GX Eagle shifters I’ve been using lately.
On the note of gears, it turns out the Neuron CF will actually fit a front derailleur. The CF 9.0 actually comes with a 2×11 drivetrain as stock, but any Neuron CF frame can have a mech bolted onto a special bracket via the main pivot. I mention this 2x compatibility, because chainring and tyre clearance are a bit limited. 32t is the biggest 1x chainring you can run (38/28t for a 2x setup), and Canyon states an official limit of 2.4in for the rear tyre.
I was able to just fit in a 2.6in wide Maxxis Rekon tyre, though I personally wouldn’t recommend it, particularly for muddy conditions. Given the emerging popularity of big volume 2.5-2.6in tyres in the trail bike arena, this lack of clearance seems like a missed opportunity on Canyon’s behalf.
Sizing & Setup
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2019 Canyon Neuron CF 9.0 SL Specifications
- Frame // Carbon Fibre, 130mm Travel
- Fork // Fox 34 Float, Performance Elite, 51mm Offset, 130mm Travel
- Shock // Fox Float DPS, Performance Elite, EVOL Air Can, 210x50mm (195x45mm on XS, S sizes)
- Hubs // Reynolds TR3 Mountain Hub, 110x15mm Front & 148x12mm Rear
- Rims // Reynolds TR 309 Carbon, 28h Front & Rear, 30mm Internal Rim Width
- Tyres // Maxxis Forekaster EXO 2.35in Front & Rear
- Chainset // SRAM Stylo 7K DUB, 30t Chainring
- Rear Mech // SRAM X01 Eagle, 12-Speed
- Shifter // SRAM X01 Eagle, 12-Speed
- Cassette // SRAM GX Eagle, 10-50t, 12-Speed
- Brakes // SRAM Guide R, 180mm Front & 160m Rear Rotors
- Bar // Canyon H15 Alloy , 15mm Rise 760mm Wide
- Stem // Canyon V12 Alloy, 60mm Long
- Grips // Ergon GA2, Lock-On
- Seatpost // Fox Transfer, Performance Elite, 150mm Travel
- Saddle // Iridium Trail
- Size Tested // Medium
- Sizes available // X-Small, Small, Medium, Large & Extra Large
- Confirmed Weight // 12.56 kg (27.63 lbs)
- RRP // £3,349 / $5,399 AUD
|Product:||Neuron CF 9.0 SL|
|Price:||£3,349 / $5,399 AUD|
|Tested:||by Wil Barrett for 2 months|