The 2022 Canyon Spectral range received a massive update today, and James Vincent has been testing the mullet Spectral CF 8!
Update! Canyon has just informed us that they’ve been working on their pricing and have managed to lower it on several models in the range. The price of this bike is now £3,899, a saving of £100. It was already good value for money, with this saving it’s even better.
Launched today, this Canyon Spectral CF 8 CLLCTV is the unruly wayward sibling in the new Spectral family. Retailing at £3,999, it sits in the middle of the new family, and mates a 29in front triangle with a 27.5 rear end to create a mullet frame. All the rolling benefits of the larger wheel at the front, while the smaller rear wheel allows the bike to be more playful and change direction easier. Business at the front, party at the back. The Canyon marketing team have even sent me a branded mullet comb in case I was in any doubt about the link between dubious 80’s haircuts and bikes.
2022 Canyon Spectral CF 8 CLLCTV – Frame
Jumping straight into the heart of this Spectral CF 8 CLLCTV, you’ll see the frame is an all carbon fibre affair. Even though Canyon has just introduced a new aluminium frame to the Spectral family, that option is limited to the lower reaches of the range and the Spectral CF 8 CLLCTV is carbon only. As such, it comes with all the adornments of the Spectral 29 launched last year, sharing as it does the front triangle. There’s the same shortened seat tube for increased sizing flexibility and improved standover clearance, fully guided internal cable routing and threaded inserts to save costly repairs should you get overzealous when wrenching.
The flip chip is also still present, allowing you to steepen the head and seat angles by 0.5 degrees and raise the bottom bracket by 8mm should you wish.
2022 Canyon Spectral CF 8 CLLCTV – Suspension
The suspension platform uses Canyon’s well-received Triple Phase System that’s been fine-tuned for trail use, and again the kinematics are the same as on the Spectral 29 launched last year. Compared to the previous generation Spectral, the anti-squat has been increased at the start of the travel, there’s more progression across the suspension range, all while reducing pedal kickback.
Interestingly, and rather cleverly, Canyon’s engineers have designed the 29 and 27.5 frames to be modular – to make this complete mullet frame, just take one 29in front triangle and bolt it to a 27.5 back end. Thanks to some hard work from the Canyon engineers, the angles and kinematics remain the same, the only difference is the rear wheel size, and chainstay length. Sadly, Canyon won’t be offering separate 27.5in rear ends as an aftermarket part, so if you want to ride a Spectral mullet, you need to make that decision when you make your initial purchase.
Canyon Spectral CF8 CLLCTV – Geometry
As I touched upon above, when choosing between the Spectral 29, mullet or 27.5 frames, the head and seat tube angles remain the same. In the low position, you’re looking at 64° and 76° respectively. Flipping the flip chip to the high position adds 0.5°. Reach for the size large I’ve been testing is a comfortable 485mm, and Canyon is keen to point out that they’ve evened out the gaps between sizes across the range. Finally, although some manufacturers chainstays grow as frames get bigger, on the Canyon CF 8 CLLCTV, the chainstays are fixed at 432mm.
2022 Canyon Spectral CF 8 CLLCTV – Components
The specification on the Spectral CF8 CLLCTV is a little different to the regular Spectral CF8 – Canyon hasn’t just fitted a smaller rear wheel to the bike. They were keen for the bike to sit in the middle of the range price-wise, so there’s an alloy bar instead of a carbon one found on the CF8, a few Shimano SLX parts, and the hubs get a slight downgrade. In return, and befitting the CLLCTV name, you do get some key upgrades elsewhere – a coil shock, upgraded tyres, and 200mm rotors. Canyon wasn’t mucking around when they put this parts list together.
Upfront, we’ve got a FOX 36 Performance Elite air fork with Grip 2 cartridge putting out 160mm of travel. It’s good. Very good. Almost too good. For the average rider, the high and low-speed compression and damping controls offer more opportunity to mess things up than to dial in your settings. So I set them to the recommended settings on the FOX website and went riding.
Propping up the rear end is a Fox DHX Performance Elite shock. This is simpler than the 36 upfront – one dial for rebound, one for compression and a coil spring. Yup, for the first time ever, Canyon is offering a coil spring on one of their bikes. They’ve avoided this previously due to the challenges of direct sales, but felt the intended riding style of the Spectral CLLCTV called for a coil spring. Some riders may rejoice at this, while it might put some of you off. My advice? It’s going to be easier changing a shock than it is trying to buy a 27.5 rear end from Canyon and mullet your 29in Spectral.
Moving onto the drivetrain, and it’s really really hard to pick a fault with Canyons choices here. A Shimano XT shifter and rear mech are mated to an SLX chainset and cassette. All the benefits of XT where it matters (Multi Shift function on the shifter, bearings on the jockey wheels and easily accessible clutch mechanism), with all the cost-saving of an SLX chainset and cassette. Smart.
Likewise with the brakes, it’s really hard to pick fault in Shimano XT 4 pot calipers and 200mm rotors front and rear on a bike that’s 60/40 biased in favour of descending. At XT level you get Ice Tech rotors, finned pads, and an improved lever over SLX.
As the frame is designated Canyon’s Category 4 rating, all the components need to be EWS ready. Thus, we find DT Swiss EX511 rims mated to 370 hubs. The hubs are a little basic, but the internals are upgradable should you wish, while the rims are a solid dependable choice, so should be more than capable for trail riding.
I wholeheartedly applaud the provision of a Maxxis Assegai upfront over the DHF found elsewhere in the Spectral family, and the DHR 2 found at the back is possibly my favourite rear tyre ever. I also appreciate the speccing of a slightly beefier EXO+ casing on the rear, but I’d love to see Canyon go one step further and fit a DoubleDown casing in its place. Yes, it’s just a trail bike, but it’s also one that’s obviously designed to be ridden hard. This is only a minor niggle though, and I just installed CushCore as soon as I got the bike home.
The majority of the contact points are from Canyon’s own brand, G5. As the name suggests, these are rated Category 5, meaning they’re ready to tackle RedBull Rampage and World Cup downhill tracks. The 780mm alloy bars, 40mm stem, and lock-on grips go about their job with a minimum of fuss, but a special mention needs to go to the new Canyon G5 cable activated dropper post. Using a stepped DU bushing, you can fine-tune the drop of the post in 5mm increments and without tools. Nice.
Last but not least, the saddle is an Ergon SM10.
2022 Canyon Spectral CF 8 CLLCTV – Ride
For reference, I’m a shade over 6ft (184cm) and have been riding a size large. To mitigate the issues surrounding getting the correct coil spring for your weight, Canyon will be providing 3 springs in the box when shipping bikes to customers. As standard, a size large comes with a 450lb spring, and I had to go up to a 500lb spring to match my 87kg. When I collected the bike, the flip chip was set in the low position, and as I had no issues with ground clearance, I rode the bike exclusively like this for the duration of the test.
I popped down to Canyon UK HQ in Surrey earlier this month to collect, sorry CLLCT the bike, and have done my very best to squeeze in as much riding as humanly possible in the two weeks since. In fact, I’m writing this very late on Monday night (the launch is tomorrow morning) because I decided to head out and get yet another ride in today. Partly because I wanted to test the Spectral on one more familiar trail before finalising this review (Nan Bield in case you were wondering), but if I’m honest it’s because the Spectral CLLCTV is just a ridiculously fun bike to ride and I can’t get enough of it.
I’ve ridden it on as many varied trails as I can, including loamy berms in the Surrey Hills, big mountain adventures up here in the Lakes, and nadgery sketchy tech in the woods at night. I’d like to think I’ve got a pretty good handle on how the bike rides, but there’s no getting away from the fact that I’ve only had it for 2 weeks and therefore can’t comment on the longevity of the bearings and other components.
Climbing the Spectral CF 8 CLLCTV
Normally when mulleting a bike, you end up with something a little slacker than before, to the detriment of the bikes climbing ability. Not so with the Spectral. As I’ve already mentioned, the head and seat tube angles are the same, whether you’re riding the 29”, 27.5” or mullet version. As a result, the Spectral CLLCTV has a great climbing position, pedalling well whether you’re winching up a fireroad, or picking your way up a technical singletrack climb.
I did find myself reaching for the lockout lever on the Fox DHX a little more than usual – the coil spring was prone to settling a little further into its travel than an equivalent air shock would. If this was a long term test or my own bike, I’d be keen to try an air shock for comparison.
On more technical climbs, the smaller rear wheel definitely struggled for traction compared to the 29er I’m used to riding. The coil spring helped claw back some of the losses, but I still struggled with the rear wheel spinning out at times. On these trails, I got the best results from sitting down and trying to pedal smooth circles, leaving the shock wide open for maximum traction.
Descending the Spectral CF 8 CLLCTV
Although I’ve not ridden the current 29” Spectral, I have previous experience with an earlier generation Spectral (vertical shock, 27.5” wheels). It was an amazing bike; lightweight, eminently flickable and a whole heap of fun. The only reason I moved on from it was that it got a little overwhelmed when the going got really rough (a common occurrence here in the Lake District).
This new Spectral CF 8 CLLCTV seems to have taken all the positive traits of the old smaller wheeled bike (fun, agile and effortless to ride), and made it a hell of a lot more capable in the rough stuff. Ok, so it doesn’t have the ultimate bump swallowing capability of a longer travel enduro bike, but what it lacks in travel it makes up for in precision. The smaller rear wheel is easy to position, or you can let it skip about, happily doing its own thing, safe in the knowledge that it’s less likely to smack you in the arse than a full sized 29er.
The riding position is amazing right off the bat – I felt no need to adjust the bar height or anything other than a quick tweak of saddle angle. Jumping on the bike in the Surrey Hills, I was able to get down unfamiliar trails, whilst not especially stylishly, but not bad enough to embarrass myself too much. Back home on more familiar terrain in the Lakes, I’ve found myself getting down technical sections that have flummoxed me in the past and left riding companions baffled. The bike oozes confidence, and if you can get the front wheel over an obstacle, simply leave the rear wheel to sort itself out and on the whole you’ll be fine.
On the tight switchbacks at the top of Nan Bield, the 29” front wheel did a great job of smoothing out the steps and rolling over the chunky rocks. Meanwhile, I was able to flick the smaller rear wheel about with ease. When the trail levels off further down, but is still a chunky rocky mess, I did miss the rolling capability of a 29” rear wheel. It’s on these sorts of trails that keeping your momentum up takes a bit more effort with the mullet, but that’s all part of the compromise – do you go for the fun and engaging approach of the mullet, or the faster and more efficient 29er?
Things I loved
- The geometry. Not too steep, not too slack. Very confidence inspiring and effortless to ride.
- The smaller rear wheel. Climbing issues aside, it’s a hoot.
- The tyres. I’m a huge fan of the Assegai up front, while the DHR 2 is possibly my favourite rear tyre ever.
Things that could be improved
- The tyres. EXO and EXO+ casings just aren’t tough enough for a bike designed to be ridden hard, especially here in the Lake District.
- The rear shock – coil feels great, but only if you can get the spring rate right. It’s also a massive pain changing the springs.
- A longer dropper would be nice, but I’m really clutching at straws here.
2022 Canyon Spectral CF 8 CLLCTV – Conclusion
In short, I really really like this bike. It’s an incredibly well thought out and put together package that seems perfect for where UK trail riding is at in 2021. It shines on steep and rough trails, and is a joy to ride hard round corners. There’s nothing stopping you from taking it to the occasional race, but out and out speed isn’t its forte, instead, it rewards those looking for a bit more fun and playfulness from their ride. And that’s not to say it’s limited to short blasts in the woods – this bike will quite happily take on longer rides. It’ll just do so while hunting out the side hits and making a nuisance of itself. XCLLNT
Canyon Spectral CF 8 CLLCTV Specification
- Frame: Canyon Spectral CF
- Fork: Fox 36 Performance Elite Grip2 (160mm)
- Shock: Fox DHX Performance Elite (150mm)
- Brakes: Shimano XT, 203mm rotors
- Wheels: DT Swiss EX511/370LN
- Tyres: Maxxis Assegai 2.5 WT MT EXO/Maxxis Minion DHR 2.4 WT MT EXO+
- Chainset: Shimano SLX 32T
- Groupset: Shimano XT (SLX cassette 10-51)
- Brakes: Shimano XTR M9100
- Cockpit: Canyon G5 AL Stem (40mm) G5 AL Bar (760mm S, 780mm M-XL)
- Saddle: Ergon SM10 Enduro
- Seatpost: Canyon G5 Dropper w/ – 25mm adjustment
- Colours: Grey S, M, L, XL
- Weight: 15.1kg
- Price: £3,999
- Shipping: £37.99
- Bikeguard: £18.99
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