If there was one bike missing from the Canyon range then it was a 29er trail bike, that gap has now been plugged with the all-new 2021 Canyon Spectral 29.
If you Google “Canyon Spectral 29” then you won’t be too surprised to see that the concept of having a 29er trail bike in the Canyon range is nothing new, but it has been missing for a few years.
When Canyon updated the Spectral range with its fantastic new frame design and 3 phase suspension platform, the German maker concentrated on a 27.5in model available in either alloy, carbon/alloy or full carbon frame options. Until now, riders wanting a modern 29er Canyon trail/enduro bike didn’t really have a choice but to go for the full fat Strive Enduro race bike.
For 2021 the 29er trail segment gap has been filled with the Spectral 29, don’t think of this as simply a bigger Spectral though, this is completely new.
2021 Canyon Spectral 29 Frame
If you were to look at the Spectral 29 and Spectral 27.5 frames side by side you will certainly see the family resemblance, but there’s very little in common between the two framesets.
For starters, Canyon is only offering the 29er in carbon with both the front and rear triangles made of the wonder stuff. The new carbon frameset has been designed from the ground up to be a trail-ready 29er, with a new layup, new tube profiles and improved stiffness and strength. Those of us who know our German bikes will be familiar with the category levels bikes are tested at. 5 is for the most extreme downhill racing, while 4 for super aggressive enduro riding. While the Spectral 29 is a trail bike it has been built to withstand category 4 style trails and abuse, which makes me wonder if some riders might choose the new Spectral over the Strive?
Some of the features that made the 27.5in Spectral different from the rest of the trail frames on the market have been removed, while new, arguably more impressive features have been added.
Because there is more clearance for suspension fork crowns, and because the top tube is lower, there is no issue with brake levers or fork crowns coming into contact with the carbon frame so Canyon has removed the knock block system found on the smaller wheeled bike.
The Canyon 27.5 used a bolt-on plastic covering to hide cables and hoses, but due to the extensive work carried out on the frame to ensure its strength, weight and stiffness, this has been replaced with fully routed internal cable and hose routing. This means no messing about trying to thread cables though, and a cleaner and faster build.
Riders familiar with the 27.5in Spectral will also note that the seat clamp has been replaced with a traditional component rather than the wedge model. Canyon says they’ve done this to improve the aesthetics of the fame, but more importantly so that they can reduce the seat tube height. For those of you who read my review of the 27.5in bike, the seat tube height was one of the only items I would have changed.
While developing the bike Canyon worked closely with World Cup mechanics and asked what features they would like to see on a new frame. One of the developments from this is that all pivot bolts can be accessed from the non-drive side of the bike. For convenience, this means you can check all of your pivots without having to swap sides, you also don’t need to remove your shock or crank arms to check everything. It’s a small detail but a very important one for anyone who works on their own bikes.
Another small but extremely important detail are the replaceable thread inserts for the pivot bolts. If you ever get overzealous and strip a thread on the new Spectral you’ll just need to replace an alloy insert not an expensive part of the frame.
Anyone who enjoys a well-engineered bike is going to appreciate these touches on the new Canyon Spectral 29, and will no doubt appreciate the threaded BB, and optional bolt-on ICSG mount.
Oh, but we haven’t finished yet! There’s a flip-chip on the linkage to tweak the geo by 0.5-degree, room for a water bottle and even a single bolt under the top tube for fastening tools and accessories too. Plus there is plenty of rubber protection on the chainstays, under the downtube and in the chain guide to ensure all you hear on the trail is your tyres, not the chain!
The suspension system on the Spectral 29 is very similar in design to the previous bike and uses a similar 3 phase platform to offer a playful and poppy nature and 150mm of rear-wheel travel. The kinematics have been altered slightly by increasing anti-squat at the very start of the travel and giving more progression. This results in a bike that likes to climb but still retains its playful side.
2021 Canyon Spectral 29 Geometry
As you can already see, Canyon has done a lot of work to the new frame that clearly distinguishes itself from the smaller wheeled bike, and this is also evident in the geometry.
It won’t surprise you to hear that the Spectral 29er is long, lower, slacker and as we’ve come to expect, it also comes with a steeper seat tube angle to boost climbing. In addition to these, “industry-standard” changes, the new Spectral sports a longer chainstay length for improved stability and a flip-chip.
Canyon sent me the CF 29 9.0 which comes fitted with RockShox suspension and 150mm of travel front and rear. If you opt for the Fox equipped model the Spectral boasts 160mm of travel up front, a slacker head angle and a beefier fork chassis.
2021 Canyon Spectral CF 29 9.0 Components
The 9.0 is the top of the range Canyon Spectral 29 fitted with RockShox suspension, there’s a more expensive model LTD model with 160mm of front wheel travel and Fox suspension, but that model is also slightly heavier. In the UK the 9.0 will sell for £5,199, which isn’t cheap, but when you look at the quality of the frame, and the build kit, it actually works out to be very good value for money.
This RockShox equipped bike runs a Pike Ulitmate RCT3 fork with 150mm of travel with a matching RockShox Deluxe Ultimate rear on the rear. Keeping in the family, a pair of SRAM G2 RSC brakes come as standard, and the drivetrain is also from SRAM featuring a carbon X1 chainset, and X01 520% Eagle gearing.
Canyon has opted for a pair of DT Swiss XMC1501 wheels, which feature lightweight carbon rims laced to DT hubs. They’re a great all-round wheel that helps with acceleration and lowers the rolling resistance. Maxxis tyres come fitted to the Spectral, a fast-rolling Dissector on the rear and a DHF on the front.
Rather than going down the SRAM route for the dropper, the 9.0 features a One Up cable operated dropper post. This is my first time using this post and it worked perfectly throughout the test period. Other interesting components including an Ergon saddle and Canyon’s own brand G5 carbon bar and stem.
The 5 in G5 actually means that the Canyon designed components are developed for the toughest riders up to downhill standard. While they are own-brand components they don’t look or feel cheap, and I’ve always been impressed by the G5 kit.
Climbing the 2021 Canyon Spectral
I never thought that the 27.5in wheeled Spectral was a slouch on the climbs so it’s hardly surprising that the 29er model is fast uphill. Canyon has purposely tweaked the geometry and suspension kinematics for rapid uphill performance, and the lightweight wheels don’t hurt on the climbs either.
With the 150mm travel fork in the front and set in its lowest setting, the Spectral is sure-footed on the way up with no front wheel float and handfuls of rear-wheel traction.
The long, but not overly so, and slack, again not overly so, geometry doesn’t hinder ascending, offering the rider plenty of room for comfort and not feeling cramped but not so long that it’s a handful when fire road climbs turn to complicated root-filled puzzles to navigate.
I’ve found that many bikes that come fitted with a compression lever don’t really need them and the Spectral is the same. I’m more than happy to leave the shock open and enjoy the traction the 3 phase suspension offers.
Descending the 2021 Canyon Spectral
While a trail bike, there’s no denying that Canyon has built the new Spectral for descending and getting rowdy in the corners. The new Spectral is an absolute riot on loamy winter turns, again that long reach gives you the room to fling that stiff carbon frame into turns. Great for those ‘hero dirt’ moments.
The lively 3 phase suspension gives the Spectral a playful and poppy feel, this isn’t a super plush gravity muncher, but that’s not to say this new breed trail bike can’t hang with the big bikes. The bigger wheels and extra travel certainly help progression when the going gets tough, but with all that progression in the rear suspension and low weight, the 29er can switch from bruiser to trail hopper at the blink of an eye.
I found the Spectral to really come to life hopping from feature to feature, and whipping through corners, it is an extremely playful and capable machine. A great all-rounder, just what a mountain bike ought to be!
3 Things we would like to see
- A more affordable option. The 27.5in Spectral originally launched at a sub £2000 price point, those prices have increased, but the base 29er is over £3000.
- A mullet version? I’ve ridden more and more mullets and I think having the option on the new Spectral would have been great.
- G2 Brakes? Some riders have complained the G2 brakes aren’t powerful enough. I find that they need good sintered pads and they’re good to go, but some riders might want something with a little more power.
3 Things we love
- The lower standover and improved reach of the frame.
- All the clever features such as replaceable threads, threaded BB, stiff and strong frame. While we might ask for a more affordable version we also understand this is one hell of a frame.
- A bike that’s very easy to ride quickly, offers great confidence and is extremely versatile.
2021 Canyon Spectral CF 29 9.0 Specifications
- Frame: Canyon Spectral 29 CF
- Fork: RockShox Pike ULT RCT3 150 mm
- Rear Shock: RockShox Deluxe Ultimate
- Brakes: SRAM G2 RSC
- Wheels: DT Swiss XMC1501 30 mm
- Tyres: Maxxis Minion DHF/Dissector
- Chainset: SRAM X1 CF EAGLE DUB
- Gear Ratio: 32t – 10/52t
- Drivetrain: SRAM X01 EAGLE
- Bar and Stem: Canyon G5
- Saddle: Ergon SM10 Enduro Comp
- Seatpost: ONEUP Components V2
- Colours: Stealth, Red/Black (Red/Black–USA) S, M, L, XL
- Weight: 13.42 kg
- Price: £ 5,199
|Tested:||by Andi Sykes for 2 weeks|