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Canyon Spectral AL 6.0 2018 Review

A sharp handling aggressive trail bike at a tremendous price point.
The Canyon Spectral AL 6.0 has easily got the best build to value ration we've ever seen.
Editors' Choice Award
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Price:  $2,399 List
Pros:  Confident descending skills, responsive handling, excellent price point
Cons:  Poor rear hub specification, tall head tube creates high front end
Manufacturer:   Canyon
By Pat Donahue, Joshua Hutchens  ⋅  Apr 30, 2018
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72
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#12 of 29
  • Fun Factor - 25% 8
  • Downhill Performance - 35% 7
  • Climbing Performance - 35% 7
  • Ease of Maintenance - 5% 5

The Skinny

The Canyon Spectral is a capable bicycle that provides impressive performance and an unrivaled value. Two testers rode this aggressive trail bike for three weeks to get a handle on its key ride characteristics. The Spectral provides an aggressive downhill ride thanks to semi-slack geometry paired with a meaty 2.6-inch Maxxis Minion DHF front tire and RockShox Pike. This bike is confident over rough and chunky terrain but is just as happy railing berms on flow trails. Climbing is relatively efficient and doesn't rely heavily on the shock's climb switch. Best of all, the Spectral AL 6.0 provides an outstanding value at $2,399. The build kit quality to performance ratio is outstanding.

The Spectral is now available in a women's version. The female version still offers 140mm of rear wheel travel but features women's specific geometry. More importantly, the ladies Spectral has a reworked leverage curve to work better with lighter riders. In addition, the frame sizes range from XXS-Medium.


Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Spectral carries over for the 2019 model year. Despite some small component tweaks, it is the same bike. October 2018.

The Spectral is a blast.
The Spectral is a blast.

Should I Buy This Bike?


Canyon pitches the Spectral as an "incredibly versatile trail bike". We found this to be an accurate assessment. We would have no problem ripping a couple park laps or hammering out a 50-mile ride on this bike. That said, this bike is best suited for the trail rider who wants to get aggressive but doesn't want to push a hefty enduro bike around. More importantly, at $2,399 Spectral AL 6.0 is far and above the best bike we have tested at this price point. This is a tremendous option for the aggressive rider on a budget.

If you're dead set on 29-inch wheels, options are slim at this price point. For a bit more, the Transition Smuggler is a fantastic bike for the aggressive trail rider. Despite only having 120mm of rear wheel travel, the aggressive geometry makes for a very capable descender. The climbing position is comfortable and it is reasonably efficient. We tested the $3,999 GX Eagle build kit, but there is a $2,999 NX version available.

This bike is comfortable operating at speed.
This bike is comfortable operating at speed.

Looking to go full enduro? The Commencal Meta AM 4.2 is an aggressive rig that has a clear preference for descending. This long and slack enduro sled likes steep terrain and high speeds. The Meta AM is at home blasting park laps or shuttle runs. Long climbs are far less pleasant. This bike relies heavily on its climb switch and it certainly isn't light. We recommend just sitting down and grinding it out. The Essential build kit that we tested sells for $2,999, but the entry-level version goes for $2,199.

The new Spectral has a completely redesigned frame.
The new Spectral has a completely redesigned frame.

Frame Design


The all-new Spectral features 140mm of rear wheel travel and is designed around a 150mm fork. Canyon's Triple Phase Suspension is designed to be supple off the top and ramp up significantly through the stroke. This design features a main link above the bottom bracket, a rocker link above the main pivot and a link forward and slightly above the rear axle. This design worked well on all aspects of the trail

Our large test bike has a 631mm effective top tube and 432mm chainstays to create a 1217mm wheelbase. We measured the reach to be 460mm. With the stock 150mm fork, we measured the head tube angle to be 66.1-degrees. The seat tube angle is 74.4-degrees. The bottom bracket measured 329mm. Our large test bike weighs 30 lbs 1 oz set up tubeless without pedals.

Great performance and an outstanding value. We love it.
Great performance and an outstanding value. We love it.

Design Highlights


   square bullet Available in aluminum and carbon fiber
   square bullet 140mm of rear wheel travel, designed around a 150mm fork
   square bullet 27.5-inch wheels only
   square bullet One aluminum build kit available for $2,399 (tested)
   square bullet Three carbon fiber build kits available for $3,499, $4,499 and $5,999

   square bullet Available in sizes XS-XL

Fun Factor


The Spectral was a unanimous tester favorite for its exceptionally fun personality. This bike is capable, handling is sharp, and it has a very playful attitude.

This bike is responsive to rider input. Riders can switch between lines in a hurry and the 2.6-inch tires offer sufficient amounts of traction. Jumping between lines is easy and the Spectral doesn't require herculean strength to get it airbourne. This 140mm trail bike is capable of charging flow trails, tech, and everything in between. That sounds pretty fun to us.

The 2.6-inch Maxxis Minion DHF makes for a mean and aggressive front end.
The 2.6-inch Maxxis Minion DHF makes for a mean and aggressive front end.

Downhill Performance


The Spectral offers consistent and reliable downhill performance. With reasonable travel and geometry figures, this bike provides a responsive yet confident ride without demanding super high speeds or an aggressive rider. Backed by a solid component specification, the Spectral is confident charging down a huge range of trails.

The all-new Spectral was announced early this winter. We live in a time where 29ers and long travel bikes are all the rage. That said, there is still something to be said for little wheels and a reasonable amount of travel. The Spectral is a maneuverable and confident descender. This bike is comfortable attacking a wide range of trails from high-speed berms to technical chop. The suspension is calm and it's difficult to overwhelm this bike.

This bike is comfortable on a huge range of terrain.
This bike is comfortable on a huge range of terrain.

The Spectral's 66.1-degree head tube angle feels confident at speed and on steeper terrain. It should be noted that this bike does respond better at speed. That said, it's not an ultra-burly enduro bike that requires blistering speeds to feel nimble. Zipping down berms and flow trails is a blast. Pointing it through rock gardens is remarkably confident. The Spectral holds a line well. One complaint about the descending position on this bike is the high front end. The head tube is substantially tall. On mellower trails, this can result in a little bit of an awkward and ever-so-slightly unresponsive feeling. The steeper the trail, the less problematic this is.

The component specification is extremely impressive for the price point. The Maxxis Minion DHF 2.6 is a mean and aggressive front tire with loads of traction. The RockShox Pike and its charger damper are an excellent specification on bike at this price. SRAM Guide R brakes are reliable and work well enough. If we had to come up with a complaint, it would be the lackluster engagement on the rear hub. When you start pedaling there is a substantial part of your pedal stroke that occurs before the hub bites and your power is transmitted. This can be frustrating over the course of a ride. It can also provide an audible clunk when you're slipping in pedal strokes. It is difficult for us to complain too loudly at this price point.

This bike offers balanced and capable climbing abilities.
This bike offers balanced and capable climbing abilities.

Climbing Performance


The Canyon Spectral is a reliable climber that offers a predictable and effective motion. Rider position is comfortable and more or less on top of the cranks. Uphill handling can be a little awkward thanks to a lengthy head tube. The Spectral's 2.6-inch tires provide a tremendous amount of grip to track right over loose terrain or rock.

The Spectral is an effective climber with or without the use of the climb switch. Climbing in the open position offers solid traction and minimal pedal bob. The bike stays fairly high in its suspension under seated pedaling loads. The rear end firms up nicely when you flip the climb switch on the RockShox Monarch. We would recommend saving the climb switch for grinding up fire roads or pavement.

SRAM GX Eagle makes for a light climbing gear.
SRAM GX Eagle makes for a light climbing gear.

The Spectral puts riders right on top of the cranks for a comfortable climbing position. The middle to long wheelbase of the Spectral is relatively easy to pull up and over rocky sections of trail. There is no mistaking this aggressive trail bike as an ultra responsive, short-travel bike, but it is reasonably responsive. One interesting design quirk we mentioned above is the tall-feeling head tube. This lengthy head tube puts the bars fairly high. Even with the stem slammed as low as possible, the front end felt high.

The component grouping works well on an aggressive trail/all mountain bike. GX Eagle with a 32:50-tooth climbing gear allows riders to sit down and relax as they work their way uphill. The 2.6-inch tires provide tremendous amounts of grip over loose terrain. The downside? All of that rubber is hefty. Maxxis Minion DHF tires are on the heavier side in general. The weight is especially noticeable in the 2.6-inch wide trail casing.

Build


As we have discussed, the Spectral has an exceptional build kit.

The stiff and capable RockShox Pike fork.
The stiff and capable RockShox Pike fork.

The Rock Shox Pike is a high-end fork with a stiff chassis and Charger damper. The Pike is a perennial favorite among testers. It is supportive and burly enough to stand up to big hits, yet plush enough to be comfortable over small and medium impacts. Low-speed compression and rebound are the only adjustments, but that is standard fare on a bike at this price.

The RockShox Deluxe shock was fine.
The RockShox Deluxe shock was fine.

The RockShox Deluxe RT went beautifully unnoticed. The climb switch was beneficial for smoother climbs, but it worked fine in the open position

SRAM GX Eagle. We love it.
SRAM GX Eagle. We love it.

The SRAM GX Eagle 1x12 drivetrain is a tremendous specification on a bike at this price point. Just a year or two ago, 1x12 drivetrains were generally found on $6000 bikes. We love trickle down technology. The 50t climbing gear is light and comfortable for long and steep climbs. We found this super-light climbing gear can slow you down, but it does help preserve valuable energy.

The SRAM Guide R brakes are a solid specification. Some of our testers prefer Shimano brakes while others prefer SRAM. These four-piston brakes are a nice blend between power and lever feel/modulation. Guide brakes are not often found on a bike at this price point.

The KS Lev SI is certainly serviceable  but the quality can't match the higher end KS option.
The KS Lev SI is certainly serviceable, but the quality can't match the higher end KS option.

The KS Levi SI internal dropper post is decent. It worked well through testing but the lever feel is cheap.

The Spectral has killer tire specification. A 2.6-inch Maxxis Minion DHF offers loads of traction. This tire makes for an incredibly confident front end. Cornering abilities are impressive and traction over variable terrain is impressive.


The 2.6-inch Maxxis Rekon was solid. We didn't know what to make of this tire at first, but it hooked up well and rolled reasonably fast.

Value


The Spectral AL 6.0 is a tremendous value. Solid performance with excellent components with a $2,399 price tag is a spectacular deal. This bike is a great option for any aggressive trail rider that is on a tight budget.

The Spectral likes to party.
The Spectral likes to party.

Other Versions and Accessories


The Spectral is available in multiple build kits. Our test bike is the only aluminum model in the lineup. The rest of the build kits are available in carbon fiber.

The Spectral CF 8.0 is a step up from our test bike. This carbon fiber bike sells for $3499 and has a very similar build kit to our test bike. A RockShox Pike and Deluxe shock provide suspension. SRAM Guide R brakes provide stopping duties and a GX Eagle drivetrain powers this bike. A key difference is the RockShox Reverb dropper post as opposed to the KS Lev SI on our test bike. Upgrade. In addition, you can expect to save some weight thanks to the frame construction.

Two steps up from our test bike is the Spectral CF 9.0 Pro. This carbon fiber bike sells for $4499 and features some sweet parts. The RockShox Pike and Deluxe shock provide the squish. This bike is powered by carbon fiber cranks and a SRAM X01 Eagle 12-speed drivetrain. SRAM Guide RS brakes provide stopping power and this bike rolls on aluminum Mavic XA Pro wheels. If you have extra cash laying around, this bike is sick.

Conclusion


The Canyon Spectral AL 6.0 offers impressive performance, impressive components, and an even more impressive price point. This bike provides aggressive and responsive downhill performance that is fun on a huge range of terrain. The 140mm Spectral is aggressive enough to hang on some moderate enduro-worthy terrain yet conservative enough to be fun on tame trails. Climbing abilities are rock solid. While this bike will never be mistaken for a lighter, short travel rig, it is more than capable of multi-hour uphill slogs and long days in the saddle. Reliable and capable performance at a wonderful price. We love this bike.


Pat Donahue, Joshua Hutchens