2018 Canyon Spectral AL 6.0

Vital Rating: (Spectacular)
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Canyon Spectral AL 6.0
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Tested: Canyon's Insanely High-Value 2018 Spectral AL 6.0

At just $2,399, this sparkle pony delivers an incredible number of smiles per dollar, excellent components, and great ride qualities.

Rating: Vital Review
Tested: Canyon's Insanely High-Value 2018 Spectral AL 6.0

'What a most super special and awesome best good time thing this bike is. For many times of funs and sends, this off-road bicycle will make biggest splash.'

Marketing speak be damned, bikes these days are pretty awesome and the Canyon Spectral is no exception. Yes, light carbon wonder-rigs with the most bitching of parts are fantastic. One can even get a Spectral equipped as such. Thing is, the vast majority of us don’t truly need them and can't fully utilize them, much less do we want to shell out for them. Read on to find out why the Spectral AL 6.0 is the ultimate punctuation in that statement.

Spectral AL 6.0 Highlights

  • 27.5-inch (650b) wheels
  • 140mm (5.5-inches) rear travel // 150mm (5.9-inch) front travel
  • Full 6066 aluminum frame (AL)
  • Triple Phase (four-bar) suspension design with

'What a most super special and awesome best good time thing this bike is. For many times of funs and sends, this off-road bicycle will make biggest splash.'

Marketing speak be damned, bikes these days are pretty awesome and the Canyon Spectral is no exception. Yes, light carbon wonder-rigs with the most bitching of parts are fantastic. One can even get a Spectral equipped as such. Thing is, the vast majority of us don’t truly need them and can't fully utilize them, much less do we want to shell out for them. Read on to find out why the Spectral AL 6.0 is the ultimate punctuation in that statement.

Spectral AL 6.0 Highlights

  • 27.5-inch (650b) wheels
  • 140mm (5.5-inches) rear travel // 150mm (5.9-inch) front travel
  • Full 6066 aluminum frame (AL)
  • Triple Phase (four-bar) suspension design with Metric shock sizing
  • Fully sealed industrial bearings with additional X-ring seals for added protection
  • Tapered headtube
  • Semi internal cable routing
  • Compatible with optional Frame Case for on-bike storage
  • Integrated frame guards, including Impact Protection Unit near headtube and cable management channel/downtube guard
  • Integrated seatpost clamp
  • 180mm post mount rear brake
  • PF30 bottom bracket
  • Boost 148mm rear spacing with 12mm through axle
  • Measured weight (size medium, no pedals): 30-pounds (13.6kg)
  • MSRP: $2,399 USD

With eight models to choose from and weights starting at a claimed 27.3-pounds, Canyon's lineup of carbon and aluminum Spectral bikes offers something for everyone. Cruising through the specs of the most-affordable Spectral AL 6.0, we came to the bold conclusion that this bike has everything a rider needs in order to party. You could ask for some different parts here and there, but you certainly don’t need any more. The full SRAM GX Eagle drivetrain sporting a 32-tooth ring and massive 50-tooth cassette for the *squawk*, DT Swiss M1900 wheels with 30mm internal width rims, stealthy KS Lev Si dropper post, RockShox Pike RC and a metric Deluxe RT shock have all the bases covered. Not only are all the new standards present, but these are the sort of bits that do their jobs well.

Canyon has their own seat clamp that presents a clean look and worked perfectly for the duration of the test. The bike comes with a torque wrench.
The bolt-on caps over the suspension linkage tell us that Canyon has built this thing for longevity and has considered those who ride in the wet.


Per Canyon, the Triple Phase Suspension is meant to be compliant off the top, deliver a stable mid platform, and then ramp at the end to keep your molars intact. After our First Ride in Madeira, we were eager to put one of these bikes through the paces in more terrain.

There was only one item that left us with a raised eyebrow: 2.6-inch tires. A slightly smaller variant of the plus-sized world, tires this large on a trail bike tend to conjure up a few images. Only time would tell once we got on the trails with Sparkles the Spectral and its late 90’s Rockhopper paint job.

Geometry

There is nothing outlandish or wild here, which is good. Close inspection of the digits will reveal what Canyon had in mind for customers: a mountain bicycle. A 66-degree head angle mated to a 74.1-degree seat angle and a moderate 436mm (17.2-inch) reach on the size medium are sensible numbers for those that like to go up hills so they can terrorize their way back down them.

Some have noted a slightly tall stack height as a potential concern – too tall or too low a front end and it can be difficult to weight the front end properly. Our bike came with 15mm of spacers under the stem, giving riders room to move that stem around. We did play with stem height and different stem/bar combos, but eventually came back and found the factory-set Race Face Ride bars with 20mm of rise to be the bee’s knees.

Reasonably short seat tube heights and low standover mean even garden gnomes can slam the 125/150mm dropper post while still being able to achieve correct leg extension during the climb up. Canyon offers the bike in sizes XS to XL, covering a wide rider height range of 5'1" to 6'7" (155 to 200cm).

Setup

Our Spectral showed up as it would to any customer that purchased a bike direct from Canyon. The FedEx guy rolled up, dropped it off and peaced out in a diesel roar as to thank us for the troublesomely large box. Though consumer direct is growing, there are plenty of riders that may want to know what this process feels like. Vital is here for you.

Open the box, pull some cardboard and you’re almost there. The actual build consisted of attaching the dropper post to its cable, bolting the handlebars to the stem, and slapping on the front wheel.

Should you be a bit reticent to tackle a bike build yourself, that is totally cool. Canyon has partnered with Velofix, a mobile bicycle service, so you can have your bike built by a certified, qualified, bonafide mechanic at your house or place of work. Canyon will ship straight to your local Velofix mechanic and he/she will come to you. Reps at Velofix say that Canyon customers are liking the $99 option and in most cases opting to peer over the mechanic’s shoulder during the work to gain a bit of bike knowledge. Follow up maintenance services can be arranged, should the customer so choose. In the event a bike shows up to Velofix damaged, they will contact Canyon directly and the particulars of how things proceed with be handled for you.

Opting to tackle assembly ourselves, unboxing and building the bike was pretty uneventful. Open the box, pull some cardboard and you’re almost there. The actual build consisted of attaching the dropper post to its cable, bolting the handlebars to the stem, and slapping on the front wheel. In the name of science we checked out a few key items along the way to see how the build crew at Canyon did. All parts were greased and torqued as they should be. Pulling the reflectors from the bike helped increase the legit factor over 40%.

There wasn’t much fancy or special about getting the Spectral dialed. We set the rear shock to 30% sag per Canyon’s recommendation and used the air chart guide on the Pike RC’s lower leg combined with two Bottomless Token volume spacers. The RockShox bits are nearly ubiquitous in bike land, allowing us to be bike focused rather than caught up in tuning. Moving up the Spectral line will increase your tuning options via RCT3 or FOX Factory options, something long-term owners and racers will really appreciate. The bike was tested primarily in the Western Sierras, home to minefields of dagger rocks and baby-heads, so tire pressures typically stayed in the 27 to 30psi range.

The only changes that needed to be made for the Spectral to be rider ready were preference based. This meant Sensus Swayze single-ply grips. The 760mm (29.9-inch) handlebars are a sensible spec for a bike in the trail category, though larger riders may want to bump up to something wider.

The backpack averse will rejoice as the inside of the front triangle has super nifty bolts that can be used to mount a water bottle – even on size S and XS frames though the use of Canyon's Eject System double scuba diver bottle looking setup.

Want storage on your frame? Canyon offers the ability to mount an optional Frame Case, shown here on the $5,999 Spectral CF 9.0 SL.

On The Trail

Some of our early rides included laps on Mount Hough in Quincy, California. This family-friendly, 11-mile, 4,000-foot vertical descent was built by the great folks at the Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship. Terrain is variable with shale over soft dirt, red clay, brown dirt, and hard pack. Deep, high-speed berms and undulating rollers keep smiles large for kids and shredders alike. Flanked by Sensus wild-man, Ray Syron, and resident grom, Trixie, the name of the game was white knuckle and tug off every roller at mach ten in hopes of clearing to the next one. What a great game.

Canyon’s Triple Phase suspension design delivers a progressive feel without being too radical. If you like to keep your peepers pealed for bonus hits and fun lines, know that the Spectral offers loads of pop.

The Spectral proved surefooted through high-speed turns. Eyes up, keep hold, and the bike will deliver you. Body positioning was neutral and suspension support never had us in the backseat coming out of turns. Our “tug and pray,” game proved fruitful as the Spectral provided a proper progressive platform from which to gain some loft. Ramp throughout the stroke meant our vision wasn’t blurry after harsh landings, which was quite nice, though super senders may want a little additional progression at the very end of the travel. At the end of our first few weeks together, this little red machine was starting to take hold of us.

Canyon’s Triple Phase suspension design delivers a progressive feel without being too radical. If you like to keep your peepers pealed for bonus hits and fun lines, know that the Spectral offers loads of pop. Downsides of a rear end that is too progressive can include suffering under successive mid-sized hits or harshness on bottom-outs, as reviewers have noted with the the YT Jeffsy. Too little ramp, though, and the bike can feel dead beneath the rider. This one strikes a good balance. Any time we needed to load and pop this bike, the suspension was phenomenal. This includes hitting actual jumps and making up our own. We also very much appreciated the supportive platform in corners. Compared to the Transition Scout, the Spectral comes in with just a bit more support in these instances.

Ricky Bobby be praised, the Spectral’s propensity for speed is a standout among bikes in this class.

We also sought out plenty of chatter and rocky bits during the test, looking to drop heels and see what happened. The Spectral is no plow bike (thank goodness) but it absolutely holds its line when the bumps get big. It does start to show its true trail-bike classification in really steep, very chunky stuff where technique trumps speed – the sort of spots you'd want a proper enduro bike. With the exception of outlier situations that truly fall outside of the Spectral’s class, there was no single realm in which it fell short.

Ricky Bobby be praised, the Spectral’s propensity for speed is a standout among bikes in this class. On lower grade, vision-blurring trails, the Spectral holds speed very well. It feels and rides lighter than the scale indicates, though even that is a modest 30-pounds (13.6kg). No matter how fast the trees flew by, the bike remained composed and ready for action. Not overly twitchy nor sluggish to respond, the Spectral hits a happy medium in the performance category. Like we said: mountain bike.

The Spectral’s suspension has an active feel on the way uphill, and a careless cadence on pavement will have you feeling that rear shock activity. Reaching for the compression switch has the Deluxe RT shock firm right up. Hill sprinters and hardcore “try-ers” will appreciate the firmer setting for those out-of-the-saddle, redline moments. Leaving the compression open does not hinder general off-road climbing or create any wallowing, however, so long as you make consistent, pretty circles with your legs. Smaller bumps and rollers get soaked up and traction remains in tact to keep up the momentum. When larger rocks or features present themselves, we found that digging in, putting down some watts and going smashy smash right up the center did well to get the job done. In other words, the bike climbs well and if things don’t pan out, you can’t blame the Spectral.

Build Kit

Canyon offers frames and builds kits to compliment just about any budget. Even the most affordable builds offer great suspension and thoughtfully selected components rather than a smattering of penny-savers. Internationally, Canyon will offer three distinct build kits for the aluminum AL frame, three for the carbon/aluminum CF hybrid, and two for the full carbon SLX frameset.

US Models & Pricing

  • Spectral AL 6.0 - $2,499 USD (Tested)
  • Spectral CF 8.0 - $3,499
  • Spectral CF 9.0 PRO - $4,499
  • Spectral CF 9.0 SL - $5,999
  • Spectral CF 9.0 LTD - $6,999
The build kit on the Spectral AL 6.0 is your meat and potatoes, your peanut butter and jelly, a beer and a shot – a solid blend of what you need to make it in this world.

The sparkly red paint may harken back to the days of yore for some, the good news is that this puppy also comes in black.

Already a crowd pleaser and a vanguard of trail forks, it comes with no surprise that the 150mm travel RockShox Pike RC on the Spectral did its job and did it well. Our fork remained buttery smooth and ready for action throughout the entirety of the test. For 2018 the Pike received a nice and tidy new top cap interface on the air spring side of the fork, allowing you to remove the air cap with a cassette tool when adding/removing air tokens.

Fans of brake modulation will rejoice with the SRAM Guide R. If you aren’t part of the modulation brigade, you’ll want to look at a possible brake swap down the line. We can say this: we always knew how the Guide would perform and it never left us surprised. At this price point, adjustable lever reach and consistent performance were a nice bonus.

The KS Lev Si dropper post proved to be a standout performer for not standing out. The post was smooth, reliable and took zero maintenance.

The Spectral line all share the same tire combo: 2.6-inch Maxxis Minion DHF up front and a 2.6-inch Rekon in the rear. The cartoon slipper tires look a bit funny to those not accustomed to the mid-fat trend. As with all Minions, the front tracked well and kept us in line. The rear, however, was a different story.

After about 100 miles in the saddle the Rekon rear tire could no longer be tolerated. We had grown tired of hearing the rear tire fold and make horrendous "hrannk!" noises whenever things got wild in a corner or landed a bit sideways. It occurred far more often than normal, and quite frankly it was holding this bike back. The small, ramped knobs also gave minimal traction on climbs, heaven help us if we made the awful life choice of standing to sprint. We never ran it lower than 26psi, and running it at our typical 29-30psi left us spinning out on climbs in loose over hardpack conditions. Tackling roots or slippery rocks also left the tire spinning out, meaning technique, cadence, and power application had to be absolutely perfect to make something happen. There was little traction for braking which really broke our heart considering how fast this little red bike wanted to go. We all lack a little regard for health, but there’s a tipping point that broaches on dumb and you need to be able to stop. Softer, wetter conditions allowed the tire to at least use its girth to slow down the bike but any sort of loose or dry conditions left the back end dancing. What does it mean when the tire's large contact patch that is supposed to give you traction, does not? Not much more than a slow rolling tire: triple threat complete. The only joy this tire brought were deep-as-hell Scandi-flicks into corners. Too bad there are no skinny jeans in the closet. Off came the Rekon and on went a 2.3-inch Minion DHR. Wouldn’t you just know it? Every single issue was resolved AND the bike rolled faster, making a rear tire swap our only major upgrade suggestion.

The real punchline? This bike costs $2,399. At a thousand dollars more this would still be a fantastic bike. Nobody is touching this sort of value or level of performance at this price point.

The DT Swiss M1900 Spline wheels sported a new 30mm internal width option which has become much more common in the trail category. As has been our experience, the rims held their own throughout the test without fuss or complaint. The hubs rolled fast and smooth, despite the somewhat slow (but easily upgradable) hub engagement. The rims came pre-taped so all we had to do was toss in some valves and sealant. Easy peasy!

SRAM's GX Eagle drivetrain worked perfectly sans chainguide or dropped chains. If you want that touch of insurance, it may be a bit tricky as there are no ISCG 05 tabs to mount a chainguide.

A full aluminum bike ridden in a manner that may have made Canyon a little less that appreciative should certainly be clinking down the trail. Not the case here. Cables are secure and quiet, and the Eagle only makes noise when the rider shifts to that big cog. Mate that with the clever rubber protection on the chainstay and you have a very quiet bike. Despite our best efforts to satisfy the pitchfork wielding anti-press fit crowd, the crank and bottom bracket area just wouldn’t creak.

Long Term Durability

The three and a half months we tested the bike proved to be some of the wettest that our region had to offer. We seized the tremendous opportunity to do a little "neglect testing" in an effort to squeeze out a typical year or so worth of abuse. Our test bike was ridden in all manner of mud and washed with abandon. We’d never treat our own rides like this, though sometimes the moral compass has to spin a bit to deliver quality content.

At the end of the test we did a teardown of the frame. You will need your full compliment of allen wrenches to pull all the parts and pieces off the Spectral, but access and layout are actually quite nice. Many of the bolts and pivots simply thread into the opposite side of the frame, keeping home mechanics from having to come up with a duplicate wrench to undo shock bolts. The potential for a stripped thread or sheared bolt inside the frame could mean searching for more than just small parts, however. Canyon states that their frames are covered under a six year warranty against defect. They also offer a three year crash replacement program.

Bearing inspection during out tear down revealed nothing alarming or out of the ordinary, and the plastic pivot caps did their job well. There was no sign of moisture or corrosion at the bearing interfaces. All pivots rolled smoothly and were in proper order. We did discover one bent shock bolt, however – something we haven't done since 1999 on an FSR Extreme.

Canyon’s downtube routed cables are housed in a bolt-on plastic cover. This fantastic design offers the benefits of internally routed cables with external accessibility.
As an added bonus, your paint won’t get hammered when you put your bike over your tailgate.

Early in its time with us, the Spectral was subject to quite a few miles of fire road trailhead access and shuttling and was subsequently attacked by its shuttle mates. Ill placed pedals do a number on the paint. Other than this boneheaded thrashing, the finish and quality on the Spectral was top notch. That glossy, sparkling red paint wasn’t going anywhere.

What's The Bottom Line?

We’ve taken our cheap shots at this bike because, well, that’s all the ammo we have on this thing. Here’s the real shake: this is an outstanding bike with special attention paid to longevity. The Canyon Spectral crept up and won us over in ways we could not have imagined, and on trail performance was spectacular. A versatile ride that gets you all over the hills and lets you have a ton of fun along the way, the Spectral is the very definition of a mountain bike.

The real punchline? This bike costs $2,399. At a thousand dollars more this would still be a fantastic bike. Nobody is touching this sort of value or level of performance at this price point. Truly, the question isn’t whether the Spectral would be a good fit, it’s whether you should get the AL and feel like Scrooge McDuck or shell out the extra cheddar for one of the carbon builds. You simply can’t lose.

Visit www.canyon.com for more details.

Vital MTB Rating

  • Climbing: 4.5 stars - Outstanding
  • Descending: 4.5 stars - Outstanding
  • Fun Factor: 5 stars - Spectacular
  • Value: 5 stars - Spectacular
  • Overall Impression: 5 stars - Spectacular

About The Reviewer

Brad Howell - Age: 38 // Years Riding: 25 // Height: 5’9” (1.75m) // Weight: 160-pounds (72.5kg)

Brad started mountain biking when a 2.25-inch tire was "large," and despite having threads, bottom brackets sucked. Riding in the woods with friends eventually lead way to racing, trying to send it at the local gravel pits, and working in bike shops as a wrench to help fix those bikes. Fortunate enough to have dug at the past six Rampages and become friends with some of the sport’s biggest talents, Brad has a broad perspective of what bikes can do and what it means to be a good rider. The past few years Brad worked in the bike industry and got to see the man behind the curtain. These days, though, he likes just riding his bike in the woods with friends.

Photos by Eric Rasmussen

Specifications

Product Canyon Spectral AL 6.0
Model Year 2018
Riding Type Trail
Rider Unisex
Sizes and Geometry
XS, S, M, L, XL View Geometry
Size XS S M L XL
Top Tube Length 559mm 579mm 605mm 633mm 661mm
Head Tube Angle 66° 66° 66° 66° 66°
Head Tube Length 88mm 92mm 116mm 147mm 170mm
Seat Tube Angle 74.5° 74.5° 74.5° 74.5° 74.5°
Seat Tube Length 385mm 425mm 440mm 480mm 520mm
Bottom Bracket Height 27mm drop 27mm drop 22mm drop 22mm drop 22mm drop
Chainstay Length 430mm 430mm 430mm 430mm 430mm
Wheelbase 1122mm 1141mm 1172mm 1204mm 1235mm
Standover
Reach 400mm 419mm 440mm 460mm 482mm
Stack 588mm 588mm 605mm 634mm 655mm
Wheel Size 27.5" (650b)
Frame Material Aluminum
Frame Material Details 6066 aluminum
Rear Travel 140mm
Rear Shock RockShox Deluxe RT, 210mm length (XS and S sizes), 230mm length (M, L, and XL sizes)
Fork RockShox Pike RC
Fork Travel 150mm
Head Tube Diameter Tapered, 1.125" top, 1.5" bottom
Headset Canyon | Acros
Handlebar Race Face Aeffect
Stem Race Face Aeffect R, 40mm length
Grips Canyon G5
Brakes SRAM Guide R
Brake Levers SRAM Guide R
Drivetrain 1x
Shifters SRAM GX Eagle Trigger, 12-speed
Front Derailleur N/A
Rear Derailleur SRAM GX1 Eagle, 12-speed
ISCG Tabs
Chainguide N/A
Cranks Truvativ Descendant 6K Eagle, 170mm length (XS and S sizes), 175mm length (M, L, and XL sizes)
Chainrings Truvativ Descendant Eagle, 32 tooth
Bottom Bracket Press Fit
Pedals N/A
Chain SRAM GX Eagle, 12-speed
Cassette SRAM Eagle, 12-speed
Rims DT Swiss M 1900, 30mm width
Hubs DT Swiss M 1900 Spline
Spokes DT Swiss M 1900
Tires Front: Maxxis Minion DHF, 27.5" x 2.6"
Rear: Maxxis Rekon+, 27.5" x 2.6"
Saddle SDG Fly Mtn
Seatpost Kind Shock Lev Si dropper, 125mm travel (XS and S sizes), 150mm travel (M, L, and XL sizes)
Seatpost Diameter 30.9mm
Seatpost Clamp Integrated
Rear Dropout / Hub Dimensions Boost 148x12mm
Max. Tire Size 2.6"
Bottle Cage Mounts Yes, Canyon Sideloader (M, L, and XL sizes), Canyon Eject System (XS and S sizes)
Colors Stealth, Red
Warranty Six years frame; two years components; three years crash replacement program
Weight 29 lb 12.2 oz (13,500 g)
Miscellaneous Triple Phase suspension
Internal cable routing via cable channel
Impact Protection Unit (IPU) protects top tube from damage from handlebars
Fully-sealed industrial bearings with X-ring seals at the pivots
Size S bike uses shorter shock
Includes Canyon torque wrench, shock pump, organza bag, and tool case
Price $2,499
More Info

www.canyon.com

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