Field test: Canyon Spectral AL 6 – When trail meets enduro

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VALUE BIKE FIELD TEST

Canyon Spectral AL 6


Words by Ryan Palmer, photographs by Tom Richards
As the most expensive bike in the Value Bike Field Test, it was no surprise that the Canyon Spectral AL 6 was better equipped than the rest. But it still amazed us at what Canyon could pull together for $3,500. Absolutely nothing needs changing right out of the box on this bike. Plus, everything is built to last, from the all-aluminum frame to the parts that hang from it.

The frame is a simple affair, with a simple four-bar suspension layout designed without unnecessary links or bulk. We can’t test longevity in the field, but such a simple system has a potential edge over more complex designs.
Ghost Canyon 125

Canyon Spectral 125 Details
• Travel: 125 mm rear / 140 mm fork
• 29″ wheels
• 64° head tube angle
• 76.5° seat tube angle
• Reach: 486 mm (large)
• Weight: 34.9 lbs / 15.8 kg
• $3,500
www.canyon.com

Cables are routed internally through the mainframe and externally on the bases. The bottom bracket is threaded, the rear spacing is Boost 148, and the derailleur hanger is a SRAM UDH, all practical and rational choices.

Geometry, on the other hand, is less practical. The Spectral 125 only has 125mm of rear wheel travel and 140mm up front, but performs numbers normally seen on longer-legged enduro bikes. For starters, the reach on the size large is 486 millimeters. The medium is 460mm, longer than most full-size bikes of just a few years ago. The head tube angle is 64 degrees, one of the slacker found on a bike with 125mm of travel, and a full degree slacker than anything we’ve had in test.

It’s a specific type of rig that mixes playfulness and plow in a way that few other bikes can. It’s long in the front, but relatively short in the rear, with 437mm chainstays on all four sizes, and while it didn’t have the longest rear center on test, it had far the longest wheelbase, at 1260mm. The next longest was the Stumpjumer at 1237mm. That means the Spectral 125 AL likes to rumble through tough terrain. It’s big for its panties, so it’s a good thing it has component specs to follow.

The Shimano SLX 12-speed drivetrain shifts perfectly fast, can take a beating and, when you need to replace it, is much more affordable than SRAM GX. The GX cassette, for example, sells for $230, while a replacement SLX cluster will set you back just $105. With that kind of performance and value, the SLX transmission was definitely the favorite transmission of the entire fleet we had in Tucson. The SLX four-piston brakes also impressed us, with buckets of power and solid consistency throughout the test.

Not to be overlooked, the Fox Rhythm 36 fork and Float X Performance shock were equally impressive. These shocks lack the adjustments found on Fox’s Factory or Performance Elite-level offerings, but they’re smooth, consistent and adjustable enough for a truly top-level ride.

Escalation

On the big technical climbs we were testing in Tucson, the Spectral’s length and slack head angle were immediately noticeable as not being totally comfortable. He lacks the snappy ways of the YT Izzo, which makes it harder to change direction when picking lines. However, for riders with more power, who could maintain higher speeds on the climbs, it proved to be a pretty solid technical climber. Kazimer wrote that “the length and slack head angle slows the track down a bit and gives time to pause, regroup, and prepare for the next move.”

Personally, I love technical climbing and was able to clean up many of the more technical moves on our testing grounds, but not consistently on the Canyon. I’m a much slower climber than Kaz, and at the speed I was going the bike would exhibit undesirably soft steering. It was more of a handful than the Izzo, which was my go-to bike for the Tucson trails.

Regardless of how fast we climbed, we agreed that the Canyon isn’t as perfectly suited to climbing certain types of singletrack as some of the other bikes in the test, and is much more comfortable on lesser climbing. steep, less technical and a smashing fire. road climbs.

The actual pedaling efficiency of the Spectral 125 is very good, however. There really is no crouching or wallowing to speak of, even with the open midfield shock. Testers liked not having to use the firm lever on the shock because leaving the shock open allowed them to maintain traction in loose, rocky terrain, without losing power.

Descending

Just like on the climbs, the slack head angle stood out, but this time in a really good way. The Spectral 125 had the most stable, secure, and efficient type of feel. Going fast on the YT Izzo, and to a lesser extent the Specialized Stumpjumper, tended to be a more carefully executed affair, but once we updated the Canyon, it felt pretty damn solid.

He begged us to let off the brakes and rally through the loose rock gardens and blocky stairways that litter Tucson’s trails. The suspension is quite progressive, which made us both appreciate and criticize. For one, it provided great bottom protection when we were cooking. Aggressive power-up comes in handy when there’s only 125mm of travel to work with. The progressiveness also gives the Spectral an overall sporty attitude that makes it really fun to play and get great pop on small trail features.

The snappy nature of the progressive suspension does make some sacrifices when it comes to small-bump sensitivity, though. The Canyon was less willing to give up on its trip than the YT Izzo, for example. The rear wheel jumped more, while the YT hugged the ground a bit better. We felt like we had better traction with the YT, but the Canyon maintains better stability through bigger, more jarring impacts. You will feel more of the trail with over the Canyon, but it will still be composed.

Ultimately, the Spectral 125 isn’t really made for the kind of trails we were riding. On the steep loams of the Pacific Northwest, we think this bike would really come to life. You know, scary trails in a less pokey way. The bike’s aggressively long and slack geometry and progressive suspension are best suited for steeper, less bony terrain. This is where this unique bike will really shine.

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