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2018 Canyon Spectral CF 9.0 SL (discontinued)

Vital Rating: (Outstanding)
Canyon Spectral CF 9.0 SL
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First Ride: The All-New 2018 Canyon Spectral

Canyon shows off their redesigned, uniquely kitted 140mm travel trail weapon. See the bike up close and hop aboard as we put it to the test in Madeira, Portugal.

Rating: Vital Review
First Ride: The All-New 2018 Canyon Spectral

The 140mm trail bike market is a crowded one. Depending on where one looks it could be XC, trail, all-mountain, enduro… you name it. Canyon’s new Spectral doesn’t really seek to check any box in particular – instead, Canyon designed their new trail machine to fulfill the needs of the go anywhere, ride everything mountain biker. No labels, no niche, just get out and have a laugh with your friends and ride whatever comes around.

Part long-legged XC bike and part enduro weapon, the new Spectral has an interesting combination of frame design and component choices that will likely appeal to a wide variety of riders. As a complete package the new Spectral is meant to be playful, nimble, and a blast to ride all day, no doubt a result of Joe Barnes’ desire for a ‘play’ bike when he isn’t out competing in the Enduro World Series. With FOX suspension front and rear, 2.6-inch tires, peculiar bolt holes on the rear chainstay, and a number of creative new features, Canyon has certainly done their homework and produced a unique new bike. All said and done the only thing Canyon seemed to reuse from the original Spectral is the name.


Canyon Spectral Highlights

  • 27.5-inch (650b) wheels
  • 140mm (5.5-inches) rear travel // 150mm (5.9-inch) front travel
  • Three frame material options: Full carbon (CF SLX), carbon front/6066 aluminum rear (CF), full 6066 aluminum (AL)
  • Triple Phase suspension design with Metric shock sizing
  • Ready for FOX Live Valve electronic suspension integration
  • Fully sealed industrial bearings with additional X-ring seals for added protection
  • Impact Protection Unit near headtube
  • Integrated cable management channel and downtube guard
  • Integrated seatpost clamp
  • Press fit bottom bracket
  • 180mm post mount rear brake
  • Boost 148mm rear spacing with 12mm through axle
  • Eight models to choose from
  • Sizes: XS, S, M, L, XL
  • Weight: Starting at 27.3-pounds (12.4kg, claimed)
  • Availability: January 1, 2018

"When developing the new Spectral we took a step back and asked ourselves: What makes a trail bike fun? Taking cues from the unique riding styles of Joe Barnes and the Dudes of Hazzard, we set out to find the right mixture of traction, control, handling and, above all, playfulness." - Canyon Bikes

Improved Suspension Design

Canyon made several modifications to the Horst-link design they utilized on the original Spectral, a bike Vital testers enjoyed thoroughly, all with the goal of improving performance. Suspension cues learned from the Sender DH bike have made their way into the redesign, resulting in shifted pivot placement and a new horizontal shock alignment versus the previous rocker design.

Previous Spectral Design
New Spectral Design

"Not only does it improve the stroke of the shock," Canyon claims, "it has allowed us to increase standover height and use a larger 150mm dropper post for significant gains in rider mobility. Further still, the new linkage significantly decreases stress on the bearings at the pivot points improving longevity."


Canyon used the redesign as an opportunity to increase the bike's anti-squat for improved acceleration, taking care to not go too far and introduce adverse amounts of pedal kickback. Anti-rise was also tweaked, especially at the beginning of the Spectral’s travel, to help keep rear wheel traction under heavy braking.


Canyon calls their design "Triple Phase Suspension," as illustrated by the three shaded portions of the leverage curve shown above. The design isn't unlike many other progressive linkages, providing an active suspension feel up to the sag point during the initial ‘response’ phase to provide traction. The mid-stroke has been labelled as the ‘stability’ phase. The concept there is that the design provides plenty of trail feedback, avoids wallowing, and rewards riders’ efforts while pumping terrain. The ‘ramp’ phase is exactly what you would expect and need from a bike that encourages riders to play: enough progressivity that harsh bottom-outs aren’t a routine occurrence. This final trait in particular can be further adjusted with shock setup.

Small and extra-small bikes get a shorter 210mm shock length (vs 230mm) and specific tune to provide better suspension performance for their lighter weight. The special leverage curve is said to be "even more responsive in the first phase."


A cover on the main pivot and the addition of X-ring seals on the rear pivot bearings help keep things running smoother, longer.

Canyon Creativity

Canyon engineers sought to provide riders with simplicity through creativity. That doesn’t mean that the new Spectral is void of cutting-edge features, rather it means the bike is free of switches or gadgetry.

Canyon engineers sought to provide riders with simplicity through creativity. That doesn’t mean that the new Spectral is void of cutting-edge features, rather it means the bike is free of switches or gadgetry.

The bike features a unique approach to cable management by routing cables externally under the downtube, but managing and protecting them using an integrated bolt-on "Cable Channel." This not only keeps the bike extremely quiet, but provides complete protection from rock strikes, shuttling, or any other abuse riders throw at it. We aren’t fans of the cables running under the bottom bracket, but we’ve also spent our fair share of curse words while routing cables internally or watching muck drain from cable ports, and we appreciate the simplicity, ease of service, and rattle-free ride that Canyon’s design allows.


This integrated approach continues with the Spectral utilizing an integrated seatpost clamp. The clamp distributes forces better than a standard collar, potentially improving dropper post performance, and it also utilizes a rubber gasket to keep water and dirt from working into the frame. From an aesthetics point of view, both the Cable Channel and seatpost clamp give the Spectral a very clean appearance in addition to their functionality.


The Spectral takes frame protection further by integrating their Impact Protection Unit (IPU) near the headtube. The simple system was also seen on the previous Spectral. It utilizes a limit stop and custom headset cap to protect the top tube in the event of a crash. In the case of a bigger incident, the bolts themselves are designed to shear in order to protect the frame. Riders can easily choose to remove this system, but we see no downside unless you’re throwing barspins throughout your after work loop.

Want storage on your frame? Canyon offers the ability to mount an optional Frame Case.

With many trail riders forgoing hydration packs, Canyon is also offering custom accessories for the Spectral. The top tube / head tube junction can accommodate an optional "Frame Case" storage box. Canyon also offers two water bottle cages specifically designed to fit within the front triangle of every frame down to the XS size. Rubberized plugs cover the mounting holes when the Frame Case or bottle mount are not in use.

Wheel Size & Geometry

The Spectral is only being offered with 27.5-inch trim. Canyon made the decision to optimize the Spectral for smaller diameter wheels and high volume tires in order to retain the lively ride quality that they feel the smaller wheel offers more readily. While the frame can accommodate even larger tires, the Spectral is ideally suited to modern trail bike tires somewhere around 2.4 to 2.6-inches in width. The high-volume 2.6-inch Maxxis rubber featured on many of the stock build kits is paired with 30mm internal width rims, offering plenty of grip without becoming unsupportive or squirmy.


Canyon has made small geometry adjustments on the new Spectral without going to extremes. The 460mm reach of the size Large frame and 66-degree head angle are enough to provide stability, without getting so long and slack that agility suffered. The rear chainstays are a compact 430mm across all sizes which also helps with maneuverability, but again Canyon chose to keep things moderate in order to retain stability at higher speeds. The final compliment to the front and rear ends is the 74.5-degree effective seat tube angle which is steep enough for all-day comfort and efficiency.

Compared to the previous Spectral, the bike has a 1-degree slacker head tube angle, 5mm longer chainstays, and 2 to 14mm longer reach values depending on the size. Canyon pairs this with 10mm-shorter 40mm stems.

Compared to the previous Spectral, the bike has a 1-degree slacker head tube angle, 5mm longer chainstays, and 2 to 14mm longer reach values depending on the size.

Canyon has sizes to suit any body type with a slightly broader overall range of reach values. The addition of a size extra-small adds a fifth size, though, meaning you can dial in fit more precisely. Sizes small and extra-small have even lower standover and bottom bracket heights so "smaller riders enjoy the same improvements in maneuverability and lowered center of gravity."

Frame Material & Strength

The Spectral is available in three frame configurations: full carbon (CF SLX), carbon front/6066 aluminum rear (CF), and full 6066 aluminum (AL). What engineers made clear was that strength across the entire lineup has improved dramatically compared to the previous generation. The old Spectral was given a Category 3 strength rating using Canyon’s in-house testing, whereas the new frame receives a Category 4 rating – the same classification as the Strive enduro bike. Engineers understood that the Spectral needed to be stronger, acknowledging that riders are pushing trail bikes harder than ever.

Spectral CF SLX Frame
Spectral CF Frame
Spectral AL Frame

On The Trail

Canyon chose Madeira, Portugal as the ideal location to show off their new Spectral. We only rode a snippet of Madeira’s seemingly endless network aboard the Spectral, however the terrain varies significantly which is great for getting a sense of the ins and outs aboard a new bike. Suspension setup was straightforward and we quickly made our way above the clouds to Madeira’s ridgeline trails before descending all the way back to the Atlantic Ocean.



The Spectral’s character and ride qualities encourage exactly what the bike was designed for: play. Sure we could drop our heels and monster truck, but the Spectral seemed to be most at home cruising along looking for opportunities to cuttie, jump, wheelie, and jib about rather than looking for a straight A to B line. Having said that, the video below also provides evidence that the Spectral can handle high-speed clay-based ruts without issue:

Whether we were climbing or descending we were comfortable aboard the Spectral. Canyon seems to have struck an outstanding balance between efficiency and composure, which meant that regardless of the trail the Spectral could rally along. It is truly ‘all-mountain’ with the added bonus of being truly fun.


Canyon seems to have struck an outstanding balance between efficiency and composure, which meant that regardless of the trail the Spectral could rally along. It is truly ‘all-mountain’ with the added bonus of being truly fun.

Build Kits, Pricing & Availability

Canyon's Product Managers deserve credit for offering frames and builds kits to compliment just about any budget. We rode a high-end Spectral CF 9.0 SL, but more affordable builds still offer great suspension, solid rubber, 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. The Spectral will be available for purchase in North America in January 2018.

Spectral AL 6.0
Spectral CF 8.0
Spectral CF 9.0 PRO

View all AL models & specs | View all CF models & specs | View CF SLX models & specs

US Models & Pricing

  • Spectral AL 6.0 - $2,499 USD
  • Spectral CF 8.0 - $3,499
  • Spectral CF 9.0 PRO - $4,499
  • Spectral CF 9.0 SL - $5,999 (Tested)
  • Spectral CF 9.0 LTD - $6,999

While riding the new Spectral we couldn’t help but wonder how the bike would perform with a more aggressive build. Performance would no doubt improve with more time for setup and tuning, but things would really kick up a notch with a burlier fork and more robust tires.


What’s The Bottom Line?

For us, the Spectral was a great reminder to enjoy every second while riding. With trail bikes becoming ever more capable, the Spectral only adds to the quiver-of-one argument for typically self-propelled riders who might also shuttle or ride a chairlift should the opportunity arise. Some of our most memorable rides are the ones where you literally have no clue what’s around the next corner but have the confidence to hit just about anything – the Spectral allowed us to do exactly that in Madeira. Simply put: the Spectral is a well-rounded, capable, thoughtful, and most importantly fun bike. Canyon has been looking to make a more significant impact in North American markets and the Spectral could be just the ticket.

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Vital MTB First Ride Rating

  • Climbing: 4.5 stars - Outstanding
  • Descending: 4 stars - Excellent
  • Fun Factor: 5 stars - Spectacular
  • Value: 4.5 stars - Outstanding
  • Overall Impression: 4.5 stars - Outstanding

About The Reviewer

Joel Harwood – Age: 34 // Years Riding MTB: 20+ // Height: 5’10” (1.78m) // Weight: 185-pounds (83.9kg)

Joel’s unique coaching background and willingness to tinker with products bring an objective perspective to testing. He dabbles in all types of racing, but is happiest simply exploring the limitless trail networks surrounding his home of Squamish, BC. Attention to detail, time in the saddle, and an aggressive riding style make Joel a rider that demands the most from his products while exposing any shortcomings.

Photos by Boris Beyer / Canyon Bikes


Product Canyon Spectral CF 9.0 SL
Model Year 2018
Riding Type Enduro / All-Mountain, Trail
Rider Unisex
Sizes and Geometry
S, M, L, XL View Geometry
Size S M L XL
Top Tube Length 579mm 605mm 633mm 661mm
Head Tube Angle 66° 66° 66° 66°
Head Tube Length 92mm 116mm 147mm 170mm
Seat Tube Angle 74.5° (effective), 70° (actual) 74.5° (effective), 70.6° (actual) 74.5° (effective), 70.9° (actual) 74.5° (effective), 71.1° (actual)
Seat Tube Length 425mm 440mm 480mm 520mm
Bottom Bracket Height 27mm drop 22mm drop 22mm drop 22mm drop
Chainstay Length 430mm 430mm 430mm 430mm
Wheelbase 1141mm 1172mm 1204mm 1235mm
Reach 419mm 440mm 460mm 482mm
Stack 588mm 605mm 634mm 655mm
Wheel Size 27.5" (650b)
Frame Material Carbon Fiber
Frame Material Details Full carbon fiber, uni-directional carbon
Rear Travel 140mm
Rear Shock FOX Float DPS Factory EVOL, 230mm length (size M and larger), 210mm length (size S)
Fork FOX 34 Factory
Fork Travel 150mm
Head Tube Diameter Tapered
Handlebar Renthal Fatbar Lite 35 Carbon
Stem Renthal Apex, 40mm length
Grips Ergon Lock-On
Brakes SRAM Guide RSC
Brake Levers SRAM Guide RSC
Drivetrain 1x
Shifters SRAM X01 Eagle Trigger, 12-speed
Front Derailleur N/A
Rear Derailleur SRAM X01 Eagle, 12-speed
Chainguide N/A
Cranks SRAM X01 Eagle Carbon
Chainrings 32 tooth
Bottom Bracket Press Fit
Pedals N/A
Chain SRAM GX Eagle
Cassette SRAM X01 Eagle
Rims DT Swiss XMC 1200 Spline wheels, 30mm width
Hubs DT Swiss XMC 1200 Spline wheels
Spokes DT Swiss XMC 1200 Spline wheels
Tires Maxxis Minion DHF 27.5"x2.6 front, Maxxis Rekon+ 27.5"x2.6" rear
Saddle Ergon SME30
Seatpost RockShox Reverb Stealth B1, 150mm travel (size M and larger), 125mm (size S)
Seatpost Diameter 30.9mm
Seatpost Clamp Integrated
Rear Dropout / Hub Dimensions Boost 148x12mm
Max. Tire Size 2.6-inches
Bottle Cage Mounts Canyon Sideloader (size M and larger), Canyon Eject System (size S)
Colors Black/Gold
Warranty 6 years
Weight 27 lb 8.9 oz (12,500 g)
Miscellaneous Updated linkage adjusts placement of pivot points and sets shock in a horizontal position
Size S bike uses shorter shock
Cable channel for internal routing
Fully-sealed industrial bearings with X-ring seals at the pivots
Impact Protection Unit (IPU) protects top tube from damage from handlebars
Sideloader water bottle cage (size M frames and up)
Eject System carries two 400ml bottles attached to either side of the frame (size S frames)
Optional Frame Case in front triangle for on-frame storage
Price $5,999
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