Sanny checks out the latest release from Canyon: the Canyon Neuron AL, an update to their best selling full suspension bike.
Another day, another bike to test. Last time around, I shared with you my thoughts about Canyon’s latest gnarpoon ebike, the Spectral:ON. Fair to say, I was suitably impressed. It managed that rare feat of handling like a normal bike and had a neutral ride quality that meant that anyone could ride it. However, jump forward to day two of Canyon’s Press Camp just outside Barcelona and I was faced with an entirely different proposition, a 130 mm front and back, alloy, 29er full suspension bike. No motor, no help up the climbs, it was back to the old ways. After positively wafting up the climbs on an ebike the day before, I would be lying if I was to say that I was relishing the thought of doing those same climbs under normal power. But more of that later. For now, let me tell you about the Canyon Neuron AL.
Canyon Neuron AL
- Size tested: Large
- Price: 2,199 Euros
- From: Canyon.com
As seems to be the case with every bike Canyon brings out, there is a clear mission statement that each bike built is designed around. In the case of the Neuron AL, the goal was to create what Canyon considers to be the ultimate all-rounder: a bike that is both versatile and reliable and which works for every type of mountain bike rider. It is not intended to be a super aggressive short travel trail slayer. There are other bikes for that. Rather, Canyon reckons that the Neuron AL offers punchy acceleration coupled with an all-round capability that can handle both steep climbs and technical descents. Back in the day, we would just call that a mountain bike, but technology has moved on a lot in the last few years. Not so long ago, 130mm travel on a 29er was practically unheard of but now it doesn’t even warrant a Roger Moore eyebrow raise.
What’s New for the Canyon Neuron AL?
In design terms, Canyon has made a lot of changes to improve upon the existing aluminium framed model which is already their best-selling full suspension trail bike. But where to start? Well the main pivot has been widened and extra bearing seals added which should make for improved bearing life.
Cable routing has been updated in order to minimise bending in the outer which should help keep rear shifting running smoother for longer. Cable routing is now fully internal too. Canyon has retained the horizontal shock position as they believe it increases bearing life by being under less strain. Running from 2XS up to XL, the smallest three frames run 27.5 wheels while M to XL go full 29 front and rear. Bars, stem, dropper and crank size vary by frame size, recognising that one size does not fit all. Other design features of note are the inclusion of Canyon’s Quixle rear axle, a neat solution that eliminates vulnerable exposed levers, an in-built chainstay protector and space for a full size bottle and cage.
Adopting Canyon’s Triple Phase suspension design, the Canyon Neuron AL claims to offer small bump sensitivity in the first third of travel, stability for a poppy feel in the middle of the range and progressive in the final third in order to cope with big hits. All in all, there is a lot going on so I was keen to see whether the reality matched up with the fanfare.
For the purposes of the test, I got to try the top of the range Neuron AL 7.0 which comes in at the princely sum of 2,199 Euros. The spec isn’t top end, but a sensible mix of kit designed to not break the bank. I may have to take a moment here to reflect on that. 2,199 Euros for a mountain bike is still a lot of money in the eyes of the general public but when compared to the growing slew of eye wateringly expensive ebikes which cost well in excess of ten grand, it doesn’t seem quite so much.
The drivetrain is a mix of SRAM NX shifter and GX Eagle 1 x 12 rear mech mated to a 30T front ring while wheels are Shimano MT 400 and MT 510 hubs mated with Race Face rims. The cassette is a SRAM PG1230.
Braking is taken care of by Shimano’s MT 400/420 series brakes meaning reach adjustment is done by Allen key as opposed to the simplicity of spinning a small wheel. Tyres are Continental Mountain King III in a 2.3 width. Rounding things off are Canyon’s own brand Iridium Dropper and stem matched with an alloy riser handlebar. The saddle is a Selle Italia X Base. Initial impressions of it were less than favourable but by the end of the ride, I wasn’t noticing it so that is a good sign.
Looks wise, my bike came in matt black with silver detailing and in my view gave the bike an understated but classy appearance. Suspension duties were handled by a Fox 34 Float Rhythm fork and a Fox Float Performance DPS shock at the back. For those of you who like numbers, stack is 624mm, reach is 453mm, head angle is 67.5 degrees and seat angle is 74.5 degrees. Wheelbase is 1191mm.
Riding the Canyon Neuron AL 7.0
After the obligatory pre-ride set up faff, we all steeled ourselves for the first climb of the day. Not believing in warming up (Hey, this is Spain!), a steep fire road had our names on it. I would be lying if I was to say that I was looking forward to it but in a curious way, the fast rolling tyres and lack of heft quickly reminded me why I enjoy climbing, even on fire roads.
Even with the rear shock fully open, I appreciated how easily the bike handled the climb. I had been expecting a bit of a trudge but the bike was doing everything in its power to enable me to sit, spin and enjoy the climb. Even a bit of mid climb faff where I dropped off the back to adjust my saddle height wasn’t a big issue as the bike allowed me to catch up with the group without too much effort.
Canyon talks about powering your way to the top with confidence and as I started to stretch my legs for a bit of out of the saddle sprinting, I could see what they were talking about. The overall riding position is comfortable and the bike is sufficiently capable that long saddle grinders aren’t quite as bad as you might have feared. Flipping the lever on the rear shock stiffened things up dramatically meaning that if you want to get your XC Jones on, you can.
Cresting the top of the climb, we regrouped before steeling ourselves for the first descent. Eschewing the steep and technical trails we had ridden on the Spectral:ON the day before, wider and more flowing trails were the initial order of the day. Initial impressions were less than stellar. The bars felt a shade too narrow, the bike too light as it got knocked about the trail. I wasn’t feeling the love but then it struck me. I was on a regular bike and not an ebike. Mindset adjusted, I embraced the lack of heft and began to really enjoy myself. From inauspicious beginnings, the Neuron AL started to really grow on me. As the riding progressed and the trails became more technical (think tree lined, fast singletrack with wheel catching rain ruts and small drops to pop off), I found myself getting to grips with the bike and really having fun.
What is it they say about unlearning to learn? The Fox fork is neither the stiffest nor the most technologically advanced on the market but for the market the Neuron AL is aimed it, it is more than adequate. The more I rode it, the more the bike started to make sense to me. It’s not an Enduro trail slayer but that’s not the point of it. It’s a bike designed for beginners right through to experienced riders and I reckon it nails that aim quite convincingly. The suspension did a good job of handling both rutted fire road and bigger hits as I pinged my way through, over and round exposed sections of rock garden and roots.
While the guides stuck to tamer trails than we had ridden the previous day on the Spectral:ON, I couldn’t help but think that we were missing a trick. There was nothing from the previous day that I would not have been happy to tackle on the Canyon Neuron AL. From my brief time on it, I suspect that it could have coped with both the technical singletrack climbs and the more challenging descents we rode previously. It would be interesting to get my hands on one for a longer test to see how well it copes with trails in the Lake District and Scotland. Rather well, I would be willing to wager.
In terms of drivetrain and braking performance, everything worked as you would expect from a bike that had been expertly set up by a professional mechanic working late into the night. The dropper post worked flawlessly while the lack of tool-less adjustment from the brakes wasn’t an issue when it came to riding. The Continental tyres neither wowed me or phased me. I didn’t really notice any adverse characteristics when riding them in the dry and dusty conditions although I would have preferred a slightly wider and heavier tyre up front for when pushing hard into corners. That though is just down to personal preference. Noise wise, the bike was absolutely silent – no creaks, no groans, no weird unidentified squeaks. Just blissful silence. It’s the little things that make me smile.
Three things we liked:
- Balanced and neutral ride characteristics that should appeal to a lot of riders.
- Climbs as fast as your legs and lungs will take you.
- Smooth and effective suspension action in a good value package
Three things we would change:
- A wider bar would add an extra something for more aggressive riders.
- A slightly wider and heavier front tyre to take advantage of the neutral handling characteristics.
- The matt black is cool but jazzy colours would be nice too.
The Canyon Neuron AL is not really the type of bike I tend to ride these days. I tend to prefer something with more big hit capability, meatier tyres and wider bars. That being said, the Neuron AL 7.0 is a remarkably fun and capable bike that I believe achieves what Canyon set out to do. The riding position is neutral and balanced. There are no strange handling quirks that might put the less experienced rider off. It spins up climbs at a fair old pace while is capable of handling a lot more technical trail than the numbers would have you believe. It is, in short, a very good all round mountain bike at a reasonable price. The quality of frame construction is very good and neat features such as the Quixle and sensible cable routing make for a bike that appears well thought out. Ok, so it doesn’t feature the blingiest of parts but in the real world of riding, does that actually matter? I suspect that for a lot of riders, it may be the ideal bike. Bikepacking, long days in the mountains, fast XC group rides with mates, I’d be happy to use it for all of those and more. The existing model is Canyon’s best-selling full suspension trail bike and there is no reason to believe that this new model won’t only continue but also consolidate on this. Good bike, good price and lots to like. Mission accomplished I would say.
Sanny’s travel and accommodation were covered by Canyon.
|Product:||Neuron Al 7.0|
|Tested:||by Sanny for 1 long day in Spain.|
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