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First impressions: Canyon Spectral 125 CF8

German brand aims to bring big-bike fun to short-travel trail whip

Canyon is keeping the momentum going with yet another version of its popular Spectral line. The German brand finds a way to make the new bike, the Spectral 125, completely different. That, despite releasing a wide range of Spectral bikes in 27.5″, 29″ and even mullet configurations just months ago.

To be clear, the Spectral 125 is an entirely new bike for Canyon. The 125-mm travel version does draw quite heavily on its long-travel sibling, of course. But the frame is completely re-designed. So it’s new, but not new. Different than the Spectral, but inspired by it.

Read on to find out details, and first impressions on the latest in Canyon’s ever-expanding line. What’s new, what’s borrowed and what makes this new Spectral 125 such an exciting bike worth taking note of.

Spectral 125

So, what is the Spectral 125? It sure looks like the long-travel Spectral, but with less travel. As the name suggests, the new frame has 125-mm of rear travel. It is paired with a burly 140-mm fork, most models use a Fox 36. That’s compared to the 150mm rear/160mm front of the regular Spectral. The new bike also only comes in 29″ wheels, instead of three wheel-size options.

I say “new frame” because despite looking like a mirror image of the original, the Spectral 125 uses completely different tubing. Canyon shaves 100 grams off the full-travel Spectral, mostly by using narrower tubing tuned to be slightly more forgiving. It still gets Canyon’s Category 4 standard, which is the same Enduro-level strength as the full travel bike. But the kinematics are tuned for the needs and expectations of a shorter-travel trail bike. The suspension is more progressive to avoid harsh bottom outs and there is a bit more anti-squat to make it a spry climber.

The 125 also features the same flip-chip on the carbon fibre frames that the full-travel Spectral does. This raises the bottom bracket eight mm and makes the head tube and seat tube angles half a degree steeper, for riding in slower or more technical terrain. In fact, the geometry and features on the 125 match the full-travel bike almost perfectly, with only minor adjustments to factor in the shorter travel. There’s five mm more reach, per size, to make the 125 climb better, and a slightly different BB height. But it’s still a slack, 64-degree head angle and stout, snappy 437mm chainstays.

Why a 125-mm travel Spectral? Mini-trail bike fun meets big bike toughness

So, if the Spectral 125 is so close to the full travel bike, why create it at all? Well, there are a few reasons. The Spectral is a fast, poppy and fun bike to ride. Not every rider wants – or needs – all 150-mm of its travel for everyday riding. This new bike, or new version of the existing bike, takes the attitude of the Spectral and packages it in a short travel frame.

Reducing the travel to 125mm and shaving a bit of weight off only accentuates the OG Spectral’s best qualities. It makes the 125 more responsive, gives it more pop and a more direct connection to the trail. All without really giving up anything on the durability front.

Not a Neuron

If that doesn’t answer what the Spectral 125 is, it might help to look at what it is not. It’s not a Neuron. Canyon’s existing 130mm travel trail bike isn’t going anywhere. The Spectral 125 is in addition, giving canyon two short travel trail bikes with very different personalities. The Neuron is a climb-friendly trail bike with cross country leanings for all-day riding excursions. The Spectral 125 takes its cues from its namesake, with aggressive geometry designed to descend fast and climb comfortably.

First impressions: Canyon Spectral 125 CF8

Canyon’s big re-work of the full-travel Spectral was very well recieved. In bringing the concept to a short-travel bike, the German brand steps into a very competitive category. It’s not the first company to think that a short travel bike designed to shred hard is a good idea. So, can Cayon’s newest mini-pony compete?

After a few weeks on a candy-red CF8 Spectral 125, the initial answer is a resounding heck yes.

Small but mighty

Canyon promises a bike that will ride as aggressively as the full-travel Spectral. On that front, the 125 delivers. Aided by a stiff frame and burly Fox 36 fork, the Spectral 125 hits hard corners like it is on rails. Unlike some other short travel trail bikes, the Canyon feels confident charging on trails that it would be reasonable to assume were well outside the range of its 125-mm travel. It takes big hits without flinching and holds a line through trail chatter. If it doesn’t go as fast through really rough sections as the full-travel Spectral, it is just because it has less suspension and not because it doesn’t feel like it should be there.

When the trail mellows out or starts to flow, the responsiveness of the 125 makes the bike come alive where longer bikes get sluggish. It urges you to pump for speed and pop off any little side hit you can find.

Climbing out of the Canyon

Climbing is about as good as you can expect from a bike this style. Canyon’s triple-phase suspension was already efficient on the full-travel Spectral. Tuned for more efficiency and less travel, the 125 pedals well enough that the Float X climb switch is almost unnecessary. The 125 may not have the urgency of a more xc-friendly bike on the climbs, but it sure does make climbing comfortable. It will happily rip uphill as fast as you want to push the combo of 2.4″ Maxxis DHR II/Dissector tires.

CF8 Components

The Spectral 125 CF8 is designed as an aggressive short travel trail bike, and its build reflects that. The Fox 36 and Float X don’t help cut weight, but they will back up the frame’s Cat.4 rating on the descents. Likewise, Shimano’s four-piston XT Trail brakes are given massive rotors (203mm front/180mm rear) to grab onto. A matching XT 12-speed drivetrain keeps shifting crisp while DT Swiss XM1700 alloy wheels are a solid mix of toughness and weight. Canyon’s own DH-rated G5 bar/stem and adjustable travel dropper-post round out the build solidly. All this puts the Spectral 125 a hair over 30 pounds (13.8kg).

It’s not all roses. The clearance for a water bottle is tight, even on the XL frame. Canyon says all frames will fit one of its own 600mL Fuel bottles, with a side-loader cage. The Fuel nozzles are finicky, though, and anyone looking to use an alternative bottle will have to size down to the 500mL range.

Canyon creates a space for the Spectral 125 that is both narrow and quite broad, depending on how you look at it. It pedals very well, but it’s no cross country bike. It is an absolute riot to descend but, necessarily, not as capable as the full travel Spectral. On the other hand, it is a snappier, poppier version of the Spectral that is quick on the climbs and quicker when you stomp on the pedals. It’s efficient enough to make long rides easy but the 125’s true focus is on having as much fun as possible between the top of the trail and the bottom. All in, Canyon’s combo of a lightweight frame and tough components makes it an excellent take on the “one bike,” especially for more aggressive riders.

2022 Canyon Spectral 125 – pricing and availability

Canyon offers five versions of the Spectral 125. There are three carbon fibre frames, ranging in price from $4,700 for the SRAM GX build up to $7,60o for wireless GX AXS shifting, Fox Factory suspension and carbon fibre DT Swiss wheels.

There are also two alloy frames, which Canyon developed in parallel with the carbon fibre version to have the same trail feel if slightly look and fewer features. The AL 5 sports Rock Shox 35 Gold fork and Shimano Deore 12-speed shifting. The AL 6 bumps up to Shimano SLX drivetrain and brakes and Fox 36 Rhythm fork and Float X Performance suspension.

All five should be available online through Canyon now, or soon. All give are available in four sizes, from Small to XL.

Spectral 125 AL 5 – $3,400
Spectral 125 AL 6 – $4,050

Spectral 125 CF 7 – $4,700
Spectral 125 CF 8 – $5,950
Spectral 125 CF 9 – $7,600