Last year felt like it was full of new long-travel enduro bikes, many of them equipped with idler pulleys and DH-bike geometry. Looking into my crystal ball, I have a feeling that a decent portion of the focus this season is going to shift towards trail bikes, those do-it-all machines with 125 – 145mm or travel, give or take a few millimeters.
Canyon is kicking things off with the new Spectral 125, a bike that shares identical geometry to its longer travel sibling. That’s right, you’re looking at a bike with 125mm of rear travel, a 140mm fork, and a slack 64-degree head angle. Unlike the standard Spectral, which is available in a variety of wheelsize options, the Spectral is only available with 29” wheels front and rear.
Spectral 125 Details
• Wheel size: 29″
• Travel: 125mm, 140mm fork
• Carbon or aluminum frame options
• 64.1º head angle
• 437mm chainstays
• Sizes: S, M, L, XL
• Claimed frame weight: 2,500 grams (carbon) / 3,000 grams (alloy)
• Weight: 30.6 lb / 13.9 kg (size L, CF9)
• Price: $2,899 – $6,299 USD
There are five models in the lineup, two with aluminum frames and three with carbon. Prices start at $2,899 USD for the Spectral 125 AL 5, which has a Shimano Deore 12-speed drivetrain and brakes paired with a RockShox 35 fork and Deluxe Select+ shock.
The top-of-the-line model is the $6,299 USD Spectral 125 CF9. Its build kit highlights include a SRAM GX AXS wireless drivetrain, Fox 36 Factory fork and Float X Shock, SRAM Code RSC brakes, and DT Swiss XMC 1501 carbon wheels.
The Spectral 125’s carbon frame is 100 grams lighter than the longer-travel Spectral, coming in at a claimed 2,500 grams. That weight savings was accomplished by using slightly smaller tube cross-sections, and a smaller rocker link between the seatstays and seat tube. Even with those weight reductions, the 125 frame receives a category 4 designation, which means it’s built to the same standards as Canyon’s enduro bikes. That’s a good thing, because a bike with this spec and geometry isn’t meant for toodling around on gravel paths.
There’s space for a water bottle, although the space is a little tight due to the shock placement. To get around that, Canyon have their own bottle that’s a little stubbier than the norm, making it possible to haul around 600mL of liquid. Two bolts under the top tube can be used to attach a tube or tool holder, and Canyon even makes their own little zip-up pouch that can be strapped to the frame there.
Other features include a threaded bottom bracket, ribbed chainslap protection, and fully guided internal routing on the carbon frame (the aluminum models use foam sleeves to keep things quiet). Tabs on the frame can accept an ISCG adaptor that’s available separately for riders who want to run a chain guide of some kind.
Although the geometry is the same, the Spectral 125’s kinematics do vary slightly from the 150mm version. The leverage curve is slightly steeper, which means the bike ramps up a little more quickly in order to keep riders from blowing through the travel. Canyon recommends running 25% sag, another factor that helps give the bike a snappier, more energetic feel on the trail. For those of you who are scheming about putting a coil shock on this bike, Canyon doesn’t recommend going that route, and in many cases there won’t be enough room to make that a possibility in the first place.
As I mentioned, the geometry is almost identical to the Spectral 150 – the reach, chainstay length, and head angle were all copied and pasted onto this new model. By now, saying that a bike is long and slack is about as useful as saying that it has two wheels – of course it does – but that description is very apt this time around. The size large has a 64.1-degree head angle, a 486mm reach, and 437mm chainstays on all sizes. The seat tube angle is 76 degrees, and Canyon provides several reference numbers to help riders get an idea of what it’ll be at different positions.
A flip-chip at the rear shock bolt makes it possible to steepen the head angle by .5-degrees, which also raises the bottom bracket by 8mm. The aluminum models don’t have a flip-chip, but they do have what seems to be best-of-both-worlds geometry – the alloy frames get the slack head angle and low BB of the carbon frame’s low setting, combined with the steeper seat tube angle that you’d get in the high setting. I do wonder why Canyon just didn’t do that for the carbon model too – there probably would have been a couple bonus grams of weight savings by going that route.
Models & Pricing
Categorizing bikes is a tricky thing, especially now that there are so many sub-categories. At what point does a downcountry bike become a trail bike? And when does an enduro bike turn into a freeride bike? I have my own opinions, but there are certainly no hard and fast rules. However, as easy as it is to poke fun at all the names, I do think they can be useful, a way to show where a bike fits in the grand scheme of things. With the Spectral, I’d put it in squarely in the aggressive trail category. This is a bike that goes uphill moderately well, but it’s decidedly more focused on the descending side of the equation.
For riders who actively search out challenging climbs, or who are a little less intent on riding more technical trails, the Spectral 125 may feel like too much bike. The 64-degree head angle and overall wheelbase length give it relatively subdued handling on tighter, twistier climbs. It gets the job done, and 76-degree seat angle creates a riding position that’s comfortable on a variety of terrain, although I personally wouldn’t have minded if it was a little steeper. That won’t be the case for everyone – at 5’11” I’m right on the border of the medium and large sizes, so taller riders may not find this to be an issue.
On tight, slower speed sections of trail the Spectral 125 is easier to maneuver than a full-blown enduro bike would be, thanks to the supportive suspension, but it’s more of a handful than an Ibis Ripley, or a Santa Cruz Tallboy, for example.
As you’d expect, it’s on the descents where Canyon’s geometry decisions pay off – this thing can carry some serious speed, especially on trails that aren’t super chunky. My local riding area contains a mix of moderately rough trails interspersed with plenty of berm- and jump-filled trails, which I’d say is the Spectral 125’s ideal habitat. It’s easy to get airborne, and it’s an absolute blast on jump lines, with enough end-stroke ramp up to take care of those moments when the landing ends up being a little flatter than expected.
On a component-related note, I did need to pull apart the dropper post and wrap a piece of electrical tape around the inner cartridge to keep it from rattling when fully extended. It’s something that I had to do on the new Torque as well, so I knew what to expect and it only took a few minutes. Still, it could be an annoyance, especially for less mechanically minded-riders.
The spec choice of a Fox 36 and Code brakes makes a lot of sense, and helps keep things from getting too out of control. I have had a couple of moments where I felt like I was approaching the bike’s speed limit (or at least my brain’s speed limit) – it’s easy to forget there’s only 125mm of travel, and the next thing you know you’re rocketing straight into a mess of roots faster than seems safe. That’s part of the fun, though, trying to find the limits and then dialing it back ever so slightly.
Canyon’s obviously not the first company to come out with a short travel 29er that’s meant to be ridden hard – Kona’s Process 111 is the example that immediately comes to mind as demonstrating what big wheels and just enough travel could do, and more recently the Norco Optic picked up the torch. As it turns out, the Spectral 125’s geometry numbers are very close to the Optic’s, except for the fact that the Spectral’s head angle is a degree slacker.
We’re going to be putting more miles in on an aluminum Spectral 125 very soon for an upcoming Value Field Test, where it’ll be compared to a whole bunch of other bikes and subjected to all the usual pseudo-scientific tests, including a saguaro cactus-filled Impossible Climb.