Canyon Bicycles Spectral AL 8.0 EX WMN 2016 Mountain Bike Review

Canyon Bicycles Spectral AL 8.0 EX WMN 2016

Reviews / Enduro Bikes

Canyon Bicycles 622,178

At A Glance

Established in 2002, Canyon are a young brand relative to other major players, though they’ve built themselves a tidy and credible reputation within that time through providing keenly priced and brilliantly specced bikes of every genre. They’re only available to buy directly, but I’d heard great things, yet never had the chance to try one, until now. I was intrigued to get to grips with the women’s Spectral AL 8.0 EX WMN, which was to be my Canada-bound companion for a six-week stint to Golden, BC. With over 100km of varied singletrack and downhill on my doorstep, I wasn’t short of time or terrain.

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On first impressions, the Spectral is one fine looking lady; an elegant grey frame finish coupled with subtle flashes of aqua blue; feminine yet understated. Coming directly from the factory in Germany, my first task on landing was to unearth my bike-building prowess. Set up was simple; Canyon has it dually covered with every manner of tool required. I wished I’d checked a little more carefully on the website, as I’d packed my own shock pump in anticipation, yet no need, Canyon had one to boot.

On first inspection, or indeed admiration, the Spectral AL 8.0 EX WMN is a finely specced machine. While my usual choice for weight reasons has led me to carbon, the alloy frame was surprisingly light, coupled with an incredible drivetrain in the shape of SRAM’s XO1 and Race Face Turbine cranks.

On initial set up, my only gripe was the slightly awkward ability to secure a bottle cage, as I don’t always like to pedal with a pack for shorter rides. Canyon have cleverly and neatly allowed for the cables to run along the down tube, which saves difficulties with internals, however, on the small frame size, I struggled a little to attached the cage as well as keep my bottle secure. I had to opt for a side entry cage too, which on one occasion saw me backtracking the trails to find my much-needed water in the unfamiliar Canadian heat. Maybe I should just ride where I don’t need so much water!

On The Trail

With six weeks of riding, the Spectral is undeniably a superb bike with a playful, intuitive and confidence-inspiring nature. The SRAM gearing and Guide RS brake set were faultless. From the off, I was highly impressed with both the shifting, accuracy and stopping power thanks to the four piston callipers and 200 mm front rotor. There was plenty of bite that gave me confidence on some rough and sketchy steep stuff; there were certainly moments where I found myself pushing my limits. Saddling up, the Reverb post was just the trick and worked perfectly to give me the confidence to descend, as it should.

When it comes to suspension, I was equally impressed with RockShox's Pike RCT3 forks. With 150 mm, I had plenty of travel to carry me over the rough stuff, but I did take some time to adjust the damper settings to get it totally comfortable, also to adapt to the manual 3 stage adjustment for open, platform and lockout. Being used to a remote lockout front and back, I missed the ease this gives on the go, but by the nature of our terrain, it wasn’t hard to adjust to switching when needed. Rarely was there actually a time I ever needed a fully locked front. For rear bounce, the shock comes in the form of the Monarch XX with a remote hydraulic lever, which I found to be super smooth and straightforward to use with two adjustments. With significant climbing to get to the downhill trails, the rear locked perfectly, and I could feel the energy savings at the push of a button.

A notable change for me was the 27.5 and 2.4 tyre combination. Coming from an XC background, I’ve run up to 2.25, but there was significant stability and control with the 2.4 Mountain King II. Sure they felt more draggy than I’d been used to initially, but when it counts, especially on the natural, muddier, steeper trails, they held well, and the 27.5 wheels were nimble to manoeuvre on a network of endless bends. My initial concern was the ability of the Spectral to climb as effortlessly as I’ve been used to. However, I was happily proven wrong as one significant climb after another saw me in single figure Strava positions, both up and down!

Overall

As content as this bike is to go up, the biggest grin came when sampling the local downhill trails of Panorama and Kicking Horse Resort. Made to fly, the Spectral gave me confidence and a stable, centred position, helping to progress my riding within a short space of time. A shift to a slacker 67-degree head angle also lifted my confidence, combined with the suspension set up and tapered steering. While I’ve not ridden this bike to the limits, it feels fast, fun and relatively light. The Spectral AL 8.0 EX WMN delivers what Canyon is known for; exceptional value combined with a high quality set up.

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This review was in Issue 43 of IMB.

For more information visit Canyon Bicycles

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By Catriona Sutherland
Having worked in the outdoor, cycling and running industry for the last 10 years, I’m never far from my bike, a pair of running shoes or my trusty kayak! Based in Kendal, a small outdoor town in the The Lake District, I’ve incredible trails on the doorstep and it’s the perfect playground for adventure. As a mountain biker at heart, I’m most drawn to endurance and love nothing better than hours in the saddle, preferably somewhere far-flung with good coffee at the finish. I’ve raced in South Africa, Spain, France, Israel and Canada and so I’m never far from my passport or my bike bag!

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