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2021 Canyon Spectral 29 CF 8 Bike

Vital Rating: (Excellent)
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Canyon Spectral 29 CF8, Stealth Black
2021 Canyon Spectral 29 CF 8 Bike 2021 Canyon Spectral 29 CF 8 Bike 2021 Canyon Spectral 29 CF 8 Bike 2021 Canyon Spectral 29 CF 8 Bike 2021 Canyon Spectral 29 CF 8 Bike
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2021 Canyon Spectral 29 CF8 First Ride

Breathing New Life Into Canyon's MTB Line Up

Rating: Vital Review
2021 Canyon Spectral 29 CF8 First Ride

Vital MTBers, look at what Santa Claus dropped off 25 days ahead of schedule. This is Canyon’s new Spectral 29 trail bike. Our $4,699 CF 8 model literally showed up 3 days ago! If you’re a mountain biker who pays attention to new bike releases, you’re probably thinking of how it compares to the new Stumpjumper EVO since the color scheme and general intention are pretty darn similar. Well, you’re not alone, we did the same thing! Regardless, we’re going to break down the Spectral 29’s geometry and spec, as well as how it differs from the Spectral of old. We also get a first-ride impression from our tester, Greg Montgomery, who, like many of us, wonders if a 150/160mm travel 29er with 64-degree head angle should be considered a “trail bike”.

Video Contents

  • 0:00 - Intro
  • 1:27 - Direct-to-Consumer Bike Buying
  • 2:19 - Buying a bike online from Canyon
  • 2:43 - 2018 Canyon Spectral AL 27.5 and Strive
  • 3:22 - Spectral 29 Bike Highlights
  • 4:19 - Spectral 29 Bike Models
  • 5:46 - Spectral 29 Weights and Details
  • 6:10 - Spectral 29 Geometry
  • 7:10 - Spectral Frame Features
  • 7:35 - Potential Water Bottle Issues
  • 8:17 - Canyon G5 Stem, Headset Spacers and Headtube
  • 9:22 - Fork, Shock, Seatpost, Chainring
  • 9:56 - Suspension Graphs
  • 10:17 - RIDE REPORT
  • 14:21 - Outro

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Canyon Spectral 29 CF Highlights

  • New, full-carbon frame
  • 29-inch wheels
  • 150mm rear travel, 160mm front on all U.S. models (European markets have 150mm front travel build options)
  • Adjustable geometry with 64-degree head angle in lo setting
  • S, M, L, XL sizes
  • Increased reach lengths across the board (485mm on size L tested)
  • Guided internal cable routing
  • Replaceable threaded frame inserts
  • 165mm crank length on Small, 170mm length on M-XL
  • Medium frame claimed weight, 2598g
  • Complete Bike Weight - 31 pounds, 14 ounces (Size L CF8 model tested w/o pedals)
  • Price - $4,699

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Strengths

  • Price
  • Geometry updates
  • Stability at speed
  • Climbing efficiency
  • Adjustable geometry

Weaknesses

  • Water bottle limits
  • Frame-specific headset details

Direct-to-Consumer Bike Buying

Before we jump in, Canyon is a direct-to-consumer bike brand. That means you go to canyon.com, buy the bike you want, and they ship it to your door, with no local bike shop involved. The bike will arrive in a box, mostly assembled. They include the tools you’ll need to finish the build and setup at home so you can get on the trail. A benefit of this model is that bike prices are lower than with a brand like Specialized or Trek or Santa Cruz that has a bike shop network. Potential downsides are that you’re on your own with assembly and maintenance (probably not a huge deal for anyone actually considering the Spectral 29) and that if there are warranty or parts issues, you deal directly with Canyon instead of a local shop. That could mean delays or shipping issues if your bike goes down.

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Let it be clear that since Vital MTB is not a customer of Canyon, we’re not going to speak about the customer service experience of buying directly Canyon. Canyon has their system and policies in place, and their success is dependent on the happiness of a customer. You can cruise the internet to see how others have fared when buying a bike from Canyon and decide if the savings on price are worth it in the long run.

Canyon Trail Bike History

Three years ago, we fell in love with the $2,399 Spectral AL. The value and performance of the 27.5 machine was tops. The geometry, spec and on-trail experience hit all the marks. The carbon versions promised the same value and performance, too. With 2021 on the horizon, the Spectral remained unchanged. Longer bikes, slacker bikes and “modern” geometry has taken over, and on paper, the Spectral felt dated. Combine that with lack-luster internet-commenter approval of the 29er Canyon Strive with its 66-degree head angle (we thought it was a great bike, BTW), and Canyon’s trail bike line had an air of less-than-progressive offerings.

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Fast-Forward to a couple days ago and we learned that the new Spectral 29 takes care of the interneters with modern angles and layout. Travel remains at 150mm out back and uses their Triple Phase suspension design, a Horst layout they claim is supple through chattery sections, supportive mid-stroke, and progressive toward the end for big hits. Sadly, 27.5 does not get updates we see on this 29er, and alloy options are nowhere to be found. The existing Spectral will remain available in 27.5, however. We all know some of you will try, but Canyon says this new Spectral is NOT a mullet-ready bike, citing they’re not anti-mullet because their new Sender DH bike can run mixed wheel size. You can run a coil shock if you dare, but it’s optimized for progressive air shocks.

Canyon rider, Braydon Bringhurst, on his custom-setup Spectral 29.

Canyon Spectral 29 Models

The United States will get 3 carbon options of the Spectral 29, all using 160mm forks and having a different spec than some of the European offerings. The CF 7 at just $3,699 uses a 160mm-travel RockShox Lyrik fork, Super Deluxe shock and SRAM GX Eagle drivetrain (Euro models get 150mm Pike fork and Select + shock). The Spectral CF 8 29 we testd bumps up a grand at $4,699, and has a 160mm travel FOX 36 fork and DPX2 shock, runs Shimano XT kit and only comes in black for the U.S. (even though Canyon sent us the X-Ray green option). Things between Europe and the U.S continue to differ as the US version of the Spectral 9 for $5,699 has SRAM X01 Eagle goods with the FOX suspension package and 160mm fork. The Euro version of the CF 9 has the RockShox suspension kit with 150mm fork, but, only Europe gets the addition of a Spectral 9 LTD model with FOX goods and Shimano XTR drivetrain and brakes for 5,999 EU.

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Spectral 29 Frame Details and Geometry

The frame is completely new with carbon front and rear ends, and Canyon claims this 29-inch frame is lighter and stiffer than the than the 27.5, with a medium at 2598 grams (5.72 pounds). Not bad considering it’s a longer, bigger bike overall. Our Spectral CF 8 test bike weighs 31 pounds, 14 ounces w/o pedals.

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Aside from wheel size, the geometry is the obvious, visual big deal with this update. Reach figures grow substantially across the board. The new medium is 460mm compared to 440mm, and our large reach is 485mm compared to 460mm on the 27.5. In the lo setting with a 160mm fork, head angle is 64 degrees compared to 66. Put in hi with a 150mm fork there's 65-degree head angle. Seat tube lengths get chopped a bit offering shorter riders an option to go longer without a seat up their butt, and seat angles are now between 76 and 77 degrees depending on flip chip setting and fork travel. Chainstays are a semi-playful 437mm. On paper, the geo looks solid and should keep most interneters at bay for now.

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Features of the frame that are intriguing but easily missed have to do with its refinement. World Cup mechanics had input with maintenance features. All frame bolts are accessible when the frame is extended and every bolt is tightened from the non-drive side. Replaceable thread inserts on important frame interfaces avoid permanent frame damage in the event of a cross-thread or ham-fisting incident.

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The bottom bracket is 73mm threaded and there’s an integrated upper chain guide. An after-market ISCG mount is available if for riders really need ing that level of protection. Max rear tire width is 2.5-inch. Interestingly enough, crank length is 165mm on size small only going to 170mm on Medium thru XL. Canyon says this will keep cadence up on steeper climbs and obviously reduces pedal strikes.

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The included 600ml water bottle fits fine, but a "normal" water bottle was just barely touching our FOX DPX2 shock on our size large. It seems unlikely the bottle would fit in a medium or small frame.

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The stem is the right length at 40mm, but it’s always one of the odd-ball things we find on Canyons. Their G5, house-brand stem is definitely “different”. This new one is a little more straight-forward, easier to use than the previous version, but retains that "unique" look. It clamps to a Canyon G5 cockpit with 780mm bars. They did away with their knock-block-type thing which is a thumbs up from us, but the upper headset seal is frame-specific and when the bars are turned, the seal hangs off a bit. This has to do with the non-tapered head tube. When we asked an industry insider why Canyon wouldn't use a tapered head tube, they indicated it could be a nod to internally routed cables through handlebars and stems in the future - all speculation, of course. The funky upper headset seal cap isn’t a deal-breaker by any means, but we wonder if it could invite contaminants in harsher riding climates or slice a knee if going OTB with the bars turned. Cable routing is now fully internal and guided, doing away with their clean and clever "semi internal" system on the 27.5 Spectral.

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Fork offsets are 44mm across the board and shock size is 230 x 60. 30.9mm diameter dropper posts vary across models from a Canyon Iridium on the CF 7 and 8 to a ONEUP V2 on the CF 9 models. Small and medium bikes get 150mm drop while Large and XL get 170mm drops. 32t chainrings come stock and are recommended, but 30t or 34t rings can work for spinners and mashers.

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Canyon Spectral 29 Suspension

Canyon describes the updated suspension design on the Spectral 29 as having a bit more progression than before with increased anti-squat near sag and initial travel. This should mean hits at speed are handled well while pedaling efficiency is increased. Anti-squat numbers drop as the suspension cycles deeper with the goal of reducing pedal kickback through big hits.

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On the Trail - A Frozen First Ride Review

How do Canyon’s geometry layouts and kinematic tweaks transfer to the trail? With this tight deadline, we’re not saying anything definitive just yet. Our tester, Greg Montgomery, did spend a couple frosty hours aboard the Spectral on a fast, rough moto trail that he’s very familiar with to give us some initial reporting. He was joined by Canyon rider, Braydon Bringhurst, who is riding a medium Spectral 29 with his own custom build. Aside from a quick setting of sag and cockpit controls, Greg's bike setup was minimal with the brand-new bike. Despite the crude introduction, the Spectral 29 accepted the challenge.

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Exceptional climbing was delivered as promised with the anti-squat characteristics providing efficient power transfer to the pedals. The climbs up to Trail 4 are steep, and even with snow making them more challenging, the Spectral 29 made due. The descents to follow are high-speed and full of moto-whoops that can swallow a mountain bike whole. The long, slack layout proved stable through snow-covered ruts and big hits, and Greg says the bike "loves straight-line speed" remaining composed while holding line choices. Often a rowdy, sketchy ride, the trail was turned into a "casual stroll" on the Spectral. Words like "safer" were tossed around about the bike after the ride.

At 5'11", Greg felt that the large Spectral 29 is long. He spent a little time on Braydon's medium, finding it descend well, but too cramped on the climb. The large is where he believes he should be, but there's some fine-tuning of setup and ride positioning to be done as he felt too over the front of the bike on this first ride. And while straight-line speed is great, not every trail is a Mach 10 smash fest. Some time on tighter, more technical trails is necessary to reveal how diverse the new Spectral 29 is given its length and head tube angle.

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What's the Bottom Line?

While it's too early to provide a star rating just yet, on paper and on the wallet, the new Canyon Spectral 29 looks like a very solid, modern offering from a major direct-to-consumer cycling brand. Geometry stacks up against any modern bike and even though it may feel long and aggressive as a "trail bike", it climbs well and remains maneuverable. We can turn a blind eye to the stem and its spacers and feel less-than-stoked about the water bottle situation. The initial ride reports are promising, however, and USA buyers should keep an eye on that CF 7 with Lyrik and Super Deluxe for just $3,699. We’ll spend some time putting our CF 8 through the wringer and will report back with our findings.

The Spectral 29 can be purchased directly at canyon.com.

2021 Stumpjumper EVO Expert compared with 2021 Canyon Spectral 29 CF8

Specifications

Product Canyon Spectral 29 CF 8 Bike
Model Year 2021
Riding Type Enduro / All-Mountain
Rider Unisex
Sizes and Geometry
S, M, L, XL View Geometry
Size S M L XL
Top Tube Length 582 609 636 663
Head Tube Angle 64° Lo, 64.5° Hi 64° Lo, 64.5° Hi 64° Lo, 64.5° Hi 64° Lo, 64.5° Hi
Head Tube Length 95 105 115 125
Seat Tube Angle 76° Lo, 76.5° Hi 76° Lo, 76.5° Hi 76° Lo, 76.5° Hi 76° Lo, 76.5° Hi
Seat Tube Length 395 430 460 490
Bottom Bracket Height 28 Lo, 36 Hi offset 28 Lo, 36 Hi offset 28 Lo, 36 Hi offset 28 Lo, 36 Hi offset
Chainstay Length 437 437 437 437
Wheelbase 1195 1224 1253 1283
Standover
Reach 435 460 485 510
Stack 610 619 628 637
* Additional Info Measurements are in mm unless otherwise noted
Lo and Hi adjustable geometry positions via a flip-chip on the rear suspension linkage
Wheel Size 29"
Frame Material Carbon Fiber
Frame Material Details Canyon CF-grade carbon, replaceable threaded inserts, guided internal cable routing
Rear Travel 150mm
Rear Shock FOX FLOAT DPX2 Performance Elite, 230x60mm, 3-position adjustment
Fork FOX FLOAT 36 Performance Elite, GRIP2 damper, 15x110mm, 44mm offset
Fork Travel 160mm
Head Tube Diameter Straight
Headset
Handlebar Canyon G5, 760mm width (size S), 780mm width (sizes M-XL), 30mm rise
Stem Canyon G5, 40mm length
Grips Canyon G5, lock-on
Brakes Shimano Deore XT M8120, 4-piston, with 203mm front / 180mm rear Shimano RT86 rotors
Brake Levers Shimano Deore XT M8120
Drivetrain 1x
Shifters Shimano Deore XT, 12-speed
Front Derailleur N/A
Rear Derailleur Shimano XT M8100, 12-speed
ISCG Tabs ISCG 05 (removable)
Chainguide Canyon integrated upper guide
Cranks Shimano XT, 165mm length (size S), 170mm length (size M-XL)
Chainrings 32 tooth
Bottom Bracket Shimano MT800, HOLLOWTECH II threaded
Pedals N/A
Chain Shimano XT M8100
Cassette Shimano Deore XTR, 10-51 tooth
Rims DT Swiss XM1700 wheelset, 30mm width
Hubs DT Swiss XM1700 wheelset, Ratchet-drive
Spokes DT Swiss XM1700 wheelset
Tires Front: Maxxis Minion DHF 2.5"
Rear: Maxxis Minion DHR II 2.4"
Saddle Ergon SM10 Enduro Comp
Seatpost Canyon Iridium dropper, 150mm travel
Seatpost Diameter 30.9mm
Seatpost Clamp Standard single bolt
Rear Dropout / Hub Dimensions 12x148mm Boost, Canyon Quixle tool-less through axle
Max. Tire Size 29"x2.5"
Bottle Cage Mounts Yes
Colors USA: Stealth Black only
Europe: Stealth Black or X-Ray Green
Warranty 6-year limited
Weight 31 lb 13.4 oz (14,440 g)
Miscellaneous
  • Replaceable thread inserts eliminate the risk of over-tightening bolts and damaging your frame
  • Adjustable geometry via a flip-chip on the rear suspension linkage
  • Triple Phase Suspension design
  • SRAM UDH derailleur hanger
  • Price $4,699
    More Info

    www.canyon.com

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