spectral-1.jpg
First Impressions Review

2021 Canyon Spectral 29 LTD

Words Ryan Walters
Photos Deniz Merdano
Date Mar 1, 2021
Reading time

When I was asked if I wanted to review the Spectral LTD, I jumped at the chance. Not because I thought it was the perfect bike for me, but because on paper, it wasn’t. Oodles of carbon, Kashima and XTR may have also played a role in my excitement. I’ve recently stopped playing the N+1 bicycle game, and have chosen instead to play N=1. My ideal one-bike-to-rule-them-all is probably closer to a DH bike than a trail bike. This is why I wanted to spend a few weeks on the Spectral - because I wouldn’t necessarily have considered it as my daily driver. But what this machine might lack in suspension travel and sledgehammer spec, it makes up for in smart, progressive geometry. This mantra of “let the geometry do the talking” seems to have worked very well for bikes like the Norco Sight and Transition Sentinel (these 3 bikes are so close in numbers, you gotta wonder who was copying whose homework); it will be interesting to see how Canyon executes this winning formula.

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This bike looks fast just standing still - but does it glow in the dark? (spoiler alert: It doesn’t). Nothing to upgrade here. Well, maybe if you don’t look too hard at the tire sidewalls…..

Canyon isn’t exactly a household name in The Great White North, as they currently don’t deliver to hosers. But this is set to change in the very near future - this spring to be exact. Canyon operates under the direct-to-consumer business model, similar to companies like YT. If you’re willing to forego the customer service and expertise of your LBS, you can reap the economic benefits of eliminating one or two steps in the supply chain. Saying the words “good value” and “$6,300 US” in the same sentence may cause some heads to spin. But when you consider that the wheels alone retail for $2,780 US(WTF!?), if you’re in the market for a halo-level bike spec that leaves nothing to be desired - it’s hard to argue that the Spectral LTD isn’t competitively priced. I would expect a bike like this from other high-end brands to retail for significantly more Benjamins. Direct-to-consumer is not without its own drawbacks though. Supporting local economies, professional bike assembly, “free” maintenance programs, and knowing that your LBS will have your back if something goes wrong are strong arguments against the direct-to-consumer model. In the end, it’s up to you to decide what’s most important for you. My 2 cents: If you’re not 100% sure about the kind of bike you want, and/or you’re not confident in your abilities to service a $6,300 bicycle on your own - then you might not be ready for direct-to-consumer.

With all that out of the way, let’s take the tour.

Frame

‘Effing gorgeous pretty much sums it up. The fit and finish of the full carbon frame easily rivals that of most boutique brands. Everything is beautifully designed and assembled. From the X-Ray colour scheme, to the fit of the chainstay protector and BB guard - this bike just has perfect lines all over it. It’s obvious that a lot of effort has gone into keeping the bike tidy with minimally exposed bolt hardware and ridiculously hidden cable routing. Many suspension frames have all kinds of nooks and crannies for mud and debris to collect. This frame is the exact opposite - every potential debris accumulator is sleek and closed off. As a rider of the PNW, I love this. But if you’re the type who judges the success of their rides by the amount of loam collected on the frame, you may just be disappointed.

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Not many shelves here to stash your loams.

The frame design does suffer from one glaring issue that may not be an issue at all to some riders: the included 600ml water bottle. While it’s a very nice bottle, 600ml is going to be too small for some riders who don’t want to carry a pack. The frame design doesn’t allow for a bigger bottle to fit. Also, the bottle is positioned very low on the frame - almost impossible to reach while riding.

On the size large frame that I’ll be reviewing, here are the numbers that I care about:

-150mm travel (160mm fork)

-64* head angle (low setting)

-485mm reach

-437mm chainstay length

-1251 wheelbase

-76* effective seat tube angle (low setting)

-36mm BB drop (low setting)

And here are the rest of the numbers that you might care about:

Spectral Geo.jpg

Boingy bits.

The LTD spec gets the full Factory treatment from Fox, with a 36 up front and a DPX2 out back. The fork gets the new VVC Grip2 damper with ALL THE DIALS, EVOL air spring, lower leg bleeder ports, and a clever new floating QR axle system. Floating fork axles are a no-brainer and I wish they were more common - they allow the fork dropouts to clamp the axle in a “neutral” state that eliminates any slight misalignments that can lead to bushing bind. This results in smoother fork action and should result in longer bushing and stanchion life. I personally don’t mind using allen keys to do up my fork, but the new Fox system allows you to set the floating pinch bolt once when you first set up the bike. After that, you don’t need to mess with it again, and removal of the wheel is strictly done with the tool-free QR.

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The new Fox 36 - apparently comes in other colours, but who cares when the black looks this damn good.

The DPX2 shock is standard fare on a bike like this. You get fewer adjustments than on the fork, but sometimes less is more - particularly when it comes to shocks. Damper adjustments include rebound, compression and 3 ride modes from “open” to “firm”. It’s worth noting that compression adjustment only affects damping in the open ride mode.

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Fox Factory squish with on-trend low BB setting engaged. Don’t try sticking a bigger water bottle in there though.

Hyper-exclusive wheels and odd tires.

Wow, these things actually exist! I knew that DT Swiss was making carbon hoops, but I had yet to see any in the wild. Their stratospheric price might have something to do with that. The XMC1200 is their top-tier, all-mountain wheelset. They seem to have a fairly deep radial cross section, which leads me to wonder if they’ll be bone-jarringly stiff. Time will tell. 30mm internal width, straight-pull, bladed spokes and ultra-bling DT 180 hubs round out this wheelset. I’m a huge fan of DT hubs, so I’m excited to see how these wheels perform as a complete package.

The tire spec on this particular test bike falls under the “interesting” category. I found a Minion DHF EXO up front with a Minion DHR II EXO out back. The interesting part came when I realized that the front tire is MaxxTerra compound, and the rear tire is MaxxGrip compound. For the uninitiated, you generally are going to want a stickier compound up front for better braking and cornering on slippery surfaces, and a slightly stiffer compound out back will keep your rear tire from getting smudged out too quickly. This bike is rocking the opposite for some reason. Now, I have to think that this combo might be a Covid-era supply chain issue - because it’s just plain weird. The Canyon website shows EXO MaxxTerra front and rear, which is to be expected. That said, for a bike with a self-proclaimed “Shred Spec”, it would have been nice to see at least EXO+ casings.

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Bladed spokes - because they cost way more.

XTR abounds!!!

This will be my first real experience on the new superstar from Japan. I’m a bit of a peasant when it comes to equipping my own bike with a means of transmitting pedal power, so I’m expecting big things from this 12-speed jewellery. Brakes on the other hand, are something I don’t take for granted, and I’ve heard very good things about the XTR stoppers. They feel awesome at the lever, even with the trademark Shimano wandering bite point. And yes - the pads rattle. And yes - it’s a bit annoying. 203mm rotor up front with a 180mm out back is fairly standard these days, and a welcome sight.

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These letters appear no less than 7 times on this bike, but who’s counting?

The other stuff…..

The rest of the package is solid, and free from any unwanted fluff. Even the house brand bar and stem are really nice. I’m really digging the fighter-jet-meets-road-bike aesthetic of the Canyon G5 stem, along with the matching headset spacers. So clean! Very happy to find a 180mm OneUp dropper and great feeling Ruffian grips - er, I mean Canyon G5 grips.

I’m almost surprised to find Race Face Next SL cranks on this build. I feel like the slightly beefier (but still featherlight) Next R would be more at home here. On paper, this bike appears to have pretty rowdy intentions, and spec-ing Race Face’s lightest crankset is maybe a controversial move. That said, I’m not too worried as I’ve had nothing but good experiences so far on Race Face carbon cranks. But for the 67g weight penalty, I’d prefer seeing Next R here.

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A drivetrain fit for royalty. Note the minimal use of protruding bolt hardware for the suspension linkage. This is one of the sleekest bikes I’ve set my eyes on. The almost comically enormous chainstay is amazing, and inspires confidence that this bike is built to take some abuse.

While we’re on the topic of the cranks, I ran into issues trying to install my Race Face Atlas pedals on the Next SLs. The pedal body sits quite close to the crank arm, and the protective crank boot severely interferes with the pedal - even with the supplied pedal axle spacer. I had to take the crank boots to a belt sander and sand down the outboard surface to allow more clearance. Seriously Race Face, how is it that your own pedals don’t play nicely with your own cranks? Luckily, the boot modification was easy - but not everyone has access to a belt sander. I certainly wouldn’t recommend running these cranks without the boots, so this is something you may have to consider depending on your pedals.

crank boots - before.jpeg

Before modification using a belt sander...

crank boots - after modification.jpeg

And after.

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Bike Category 4 (from Canyon website): “.....for use on very harsh, obstacle-scattered terrain with steep gradients and consequently higher speeds. Regular, moderate jumps pose no problem for experienced riders when using these bikes. Extended and regular use in bike parks and tackling “North Shore” sections should be avoided.”

So, now that I have my DH pedals sorted out on my XC cranks, time to get this beautiful machine dirty! Let’s hope that mother nature cooperates and allows me to spend more time on dirt than on snow.

The Spectral LTD doesn't appear on every national version of Canyon's website, and the Canadian site doesn't yet list prices or... anything really, so you may have to become an honorary Australian (for example) to see more info about this bike. In the land down under the Strive 29 Ltd. lists for 9399 AUD. More info here.

rwalters
Ryan Walters

Age : 40

Height : 1803mm

Weight : 86kg

Ape Index : 1.03

Inseam : 787mm

Bar Width : 780mm

Preferred Reach : Pretty comfy at 487mm these days.

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Comments

cxfahrer
0 Heinous WasatchEnduro
cxfahrer  - March 1, 2021, 3:50 a.m.

Ok, so no northshore riding with this bike. With a Canyon reviewed, I am always keen to know when it will break

:D

Reply

Heinous
0
Heinous  - March 1, 2021, 6:37 p.m.

I worked on several team issue Canyons when engaged for races by one of their top tier athletes at the time. The frames were custom paint and team issue so potentially had extra level of QC to normal ones, possibly not.

The build quality of the frames was the poorest I’ve ever seen in a frame with a logo on the side. PF BB’s that we’re hand pressable in and out, stray material inside, seat tube and stem tolerance for so poor auxiliary means were needed to keep things in place. I’d been so close to buying one of the 27.5 spectrals (those black and gold ones looked great) and immediately decided to look elsewhere.

Reply

HollyBoni
0
HollyBoni  - March 2, 2021, 4:01 a.m.

I've heard a few stories and always wondered if Canyon is really that bad. Sadly they're one of the very few companies who are promising delivery in June-July with the Spectral, but i'm also afraid to buy a carbon frame from them, especially a full sus.

Reply

rwalters
0
Ryan Walters  - March 2, 2021, 7:45 a.m.

Definitely not the impression I'm getting from this bike in front of me. I've already got a handful of fairly punishing rides on it - no issues to speak of, and nothing has come loose. I'll see if I can do some interior frame inspection before the end of the test.

Reply

HollyBoni
0
HollyBoni  - March 3, 2021, 12:17 a.m.

Looking forward to your review.

I almost never listen to random internet chatter, but when it comes to Canyon i've heard too many stories about quality issues, bad customer service and warranty. But 90% of that might be BS, who knows. Still, I can't get it out of my head.
Damn you internet!

Reply

sospeedy
+2 AJ Barlas Deniz Merdano
sospeedy  - March 1, 2021, 4:53 a.m.

A modern 150mm 29er that shouldn’t be used to tackle the Shore? Bit of a head scratcher, that...

Reply

rwalters
+6 Deniz Merdano Niels AJ Barlas WasatchEnduro Cr4w Timer
Ryan Walters  - March 1, 2021, 7:36 a.m.

Haha! I laughed a bit when I read this too. Pretty sure when Canyon says "North Shore sections should be avoided", they mean stuff like Flying Circus and the like. Because, that's all we ride in North Van, right? Mile-high skinnies and dorps to falt! Ha!

Reply

DanLees1978
+6 Ryan Walters Cam McRae Niels WasatchEnduro Paul Lindsay Timer
Dan Lees  - March 1, 2021, 8:18 a.m.

"North Shore" stunts in Europe has a tendency to be 8ft shitty ladder drops to flat hence their reluctance to suggest their trail bike's suitability.

Don't blame them to be fair!

Reply

rwalters
+7 Dan Lees Suns_PSD Pete Roggeman Cooper Quinn WasatchEnduro Grif Timer
Ryan Walters  - March 1, 2021, 8:32 a.m.

Yeah, our history has given us a sometimes unfortunate reputation. It's been at least several days since I've last hit a shitty 8ft ladder drop.

Reply

YDiv
+3 Ryan Walters Pete Roggeman Cr4w
YDiv  - March 1, 2021, 8:33 a.m.

Similar problem with OneUp's aluminum pedals. The inboard bearing makes it pretty annoying to use crank boots.

Another workaround: trace a hole about the size of a quarter, and use a dremel or something else to make the hole in the boot larger. This works much better if you use the back side of the boot, since there's a lot more material there.

(Won't look pretty but gets the job done.)

Reply

rwalters
0
Ryan Walters  - March 1, 2021, 8:45 a.m.

Yup - did that exact same thing with my personal ride - OneUp pedals with X0 carbon cranks. The pedal / crank boot interference issue seems to be more common than you'd expect.

Reply

SprSonik
0
Mark Forbes  - March 2, 2021, 10:45 a.m.

to be fair, I've run Next SLs for over 5k miles without boots and they are holding up just fine in spite of countless strikes and gouges.

Reply

flattire2
0
Brian Tuulos  - March 1, 2021, 9:04 a.m.

What’s it weigh?  That’s a Gucci bike 

I’m guessing a smidge over 30

Reply

rwalters
0
Ryan Walters  - March 1, 2021, 9:32 a.m.

Good guess! The size large came in a bit under 31lbs.

Reply

cooperquinn
0
Cooper Quinn  - March 1, 2021, 9:23 a.m.

Nice first look, Ryan.

But, uh... "tackling “North Shore” sections should be avoided." ....what? 

Also curious on full build weight.

Reply

rwalters
0
Ryan Walters  - March 1, 2021, 9:35 a.m.

I seem to have opened a can of worms with that north shore section quote! Bike came in just under 31lbs.

Reply

cooperquinn
+2 WheelNut Sanesh Iyer
Cooper Quinn  - March 1, 2021, 11:28 a.m.

Huh, interesting. That's not.... actually that light, especially if you're not supposed to be hucking ladder drops.

Reply

rwalters
+1 Cooper Quinn
Ryan Walters  - March 1, 2021, 12:09 p.m.

To be fair, my Enduro is rated category 4 as well, and it's certainly heavier than the Spectral. I think this is just a case of unfortunate wording from Canyon.

You could probably get the weight down below 30lbs if you threw a SID on the front ;)

Reply

Ceecee
0
Ceecee  - March 1, 2021, 4:51 p.m.

Yes, that's exactly what both those bikes need, a 120mm fork. Aerolites are 40g or so lighter/wheel compared to Sapim Race in addition to being more of a bother. Looks like you'd rather count XTR badges and millimeters--all 1803. Maybe Canyon meant the Polish North shore.

Reply

rwalters
0
Ryan Walters  - March 2, 2021, 7:35 a.m.

Full disclosure - 1803mm was the height I put on my internet dating profile to convince my wife to go out with me. In reality, I’m an optimistic 1798mm. I’m also a militant advocate of the metric system, I dislike rounding errors, and I enjoy long walks on the beach.

Ceecee
0
Ceecee  - March 2, 2021, 8:40 a.m.

Your lies are precise to the thousandth of a meter...manufacturer puts you on a size Medium. It's okay, the chainstay will still be comically amazing

Reply

pete@nsmb.com
+2 Mark Forbes Cooper Quinn
Pete Roggeman  - March 2, 2021, 9:56 a.m.

I'm not sure why you're so enamoured with manufacturer sizing charts and then critical of people choosing outside of that range, Ceecee (as you also were with my Sentinel review). 

They are helpful as general recommendations, but people's body dimensions, riding styles, and preferences dictate that they're not one-size-fits-all. Canyon also has me sized into Medium for this bike (I measure 6'1 or 185) and I can assure you that bike will not work for me - even the Large is on the smaller end of the length I like.

Ceecee
0
Ceecee  - March 2, 2021, 12:37 p.m.

185cm puts you on a Large Spectral 29--fact. Is weighting wheels no longer the one glaring exception to 'no funky weight distribution' on Sentinel? I'm 183cm on a Medium Bronson.3, so no special love for sizing charts. Frame size is min-maxed: minimum size, maximum versatility

Timmigrant
+1 Cooper Quinn
Tim Coleman  - March 2, 2021, 11:17 p.m.

Manufacturer's sizing charts are a recommendation, and intended to guide riders who haven't been able to try a number of sizes to determine their preference. Every rider is going to have a different preference. I'm 183 cm tall, so the Canyon sizing chart suggests between a Medium and a Large, but I can tell you the XL Spectral is shorter than I'd like.

Ceecee
0
Ceecee  - March 3, 2021, 11:35 a.m.

But it's got a cm more reach than Slayer 29 XL, which fit...you'd like Spectral 29 to have more wheelbase because it's got less travel? I suppose Jack Moir would like a larger size if he were on the Shore. Enjoy

Timmigrant
0
Tim Coleman  - March 3, 2021, 1:24 p.m.

I find reach can be a misleading number in determining fit. I've ridden two bikes back to back with the same reach, and they fit very differently. So I prefer to look at the wheelbase, rear center (and rear center growth when applicable), bb drop, head angle and travel. It's more complex, but those dimensions determine where my hands and feet are relative to the wheels. 

As for the XL Slayer 29, I'd prefer if that was longer as well. I'm on a 150 mm travel bike with a wheelbase over 1,300 mm and it feels about right for my height. And yes I think there should be a longer one for the many folks that are taller than I am. 

I'm sure I could ride Canyon's suggested 1,222 mm wheelbase medium, but I find a longer wheelbase is more fun, faster and better almost everywhere.

And I'm not writing this to yuck anyone's yum. I'm just saying that the OP's choice to ride a size outside of the manufacturer's sizing chart is personal preference, and those preferences can vary wildly. Ceecee and I are the same height, Ceecee likes a 1,191 mm wheelbase, I like a 1,300+ mm wheelbase. I can't imagine riding a bike that short, Ceecee probably feels my bike would be too long for him, and that's cool, to each their own.

cooperquinn
0
Cooper Quinn  - March 3, 2021, 2:01 p.m.

I usually size up from what manufacturers recommend, too. Looking at this chart, I'd probably want a large, and I'm smack in the middle of their Medium suggestion. 

Fit is about so much more than one measurement (or even three). And mtb geo is more than fit, some folks (myself included, bike depending) will pick what is possibly a sub-optimal geo number for fit/climbing because of other factors. 

And I'm not sure Jack Moir's preferences on bike fit are... particularly applicable to us humans. haha.

cooperquinn
+1 Ryan Walters
Cooper Quinn  - March 2, 2021, 9:11 a.m.

Ha! Nah mostly I'm just surprised the frame isn't a little bit lighter. 

But, pleasantly surprised. Seems a few brands are making frames a little bit heavier these days, which I think is probably a good thing. Less breakage, less warranty, etc. Talking to bike engineers a few years ago the conversation paraphrased was "if we could add 200g, we could take warranty rates to basically zero, but marketing won't let us." 

Maybe we've gotten over that hump.

Reply

Timer
0
Timer  - March 2, 2021, 9:20 a.m.

That sounds like a conversation from 10+ years ago. ;-)

For the last few years, frames have been heavy across the board, even the high-end carbon ones. I'm not convinced that this results in stronger frames, maybe it's just cheaper. It seems like the only companies still actively trying for light frames are Specialized and Scott.

Jotegir
+1 Ryan Walters
Lu Kz  - March 1, 2021, 10:01 a.m.

Alright Ryan, because you mention it now I gotta know: gimme the details on your closer-to-DH bike N=1.

And I think the "North Shore" riding comment is silly. I have to think that a company like Norco, GG, or Transition would be like HELL YEAH BROTHER if you wanted to ride some stupid skinnies and "north Shore" stunts  on an Optic or similar. Come on Canyon, does your warranty department already work too many hours? Hah!

Reply

rwalters
+4 andyf Marc Fenigstein Mark Forbes Tim Coleman
Ryan Walters  - March 1, 2021, 11:29 a.m.

My N=1 bike:

Reply

andyf
+1 Cooper Quinn Chad K Ceecee
andyf  - March 1, 2021, 12:31 p.m.

Nice! A 2020 Enduro was my N=1 bike until I made the mistake of taking a 2021 Epic Evo for a test ride. Now it's sharing stable space with its much lighter sibling. I have similar builds on the two bikes other than frame/shock/fork but those differences are enough to add up to 8 lbs.

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pete@nsmb.com
+1 Lu Kz
Pete Roggeman  - March 2, 2021, 9:58 a.m.

So you're telling us that your N=1 experiment actually turned into N=1+1?

Reply

rigidjunkie
0
Allen Lloyd  - March 1, 2021, 12:03 p.m.

There is space for more water bottle, BUT not a traditionally shaped one.  With as sleek as this bike is I really wish they would make a bottle custom for this that fills the triangle between the bottle and the frame.

Reply

paul-lindsay
0
Paul Lindsay  - March 1, 2021, 3:05 p.m.

Is it the 6 bolt G5 stem? They're a pain if you take the bars off to put the bike in a bike bag or whatever. You can't just take the face plate off, the whole thing has to come off. Then you discover all the (quite small) bolts have little washers too!

Reply

rwalters
0
Ryan Walters  - March 2, 2021, 6:12 p.m.

It is the 6 bolt G5, although I don’t understand why you couldn’t remove the handlebar by removing just the face plate(?)

Reply

velocipedestrian
+1 Ryan Walters
Velocipedestrian  - March 2, 2021, 10:51 p.m.

So, did you swap the tyres end for end? I find a stickier rear than front terrifying - those surprise slides belong with the back wheel.

Reply

rwalters
0
Ryan Walters  - March 3, 2021, 5:56 a.m.

Yes, swapped the tires last weekend. The bike felt more predictable right away on slippery rocks and roots.

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