Canyon has updated it's Neuron CF short-travel trail bike with an all-new, full carbon chassis that brings the frame layout into line with both the longer travel Spectral and cross-country Lux ranges. Rolling on 29" wheels and with 130mm of travel at either end, it's pitched as a do-it-all bike for everything from all-mountain adventuring to trail centre thrashing. We took a spin around the Surrey Hills to see how it stacks up.
As with the Spectral and Lux before it, the Neuron CF now uses Canyon's 'triple phrase suspension' that uses a four-bar design with a curve that'd designed to be sensitive, stable and then finally progressive in each third of the travel. The shock is now mounted to the top tube rather than downtube, there's a neat cover on the downtube that hides cables out of the way but allows easy access and the bearings have been given some beefed up seals to keep out the dirt, plus all the usual neat features such as top-tube protector bump stop and so on.
Size-specific tuning and wheel sizes
Canyon also tweaks the tubing for each frame size to keep things feeling even across the frame sizes, with bigger frames getting larger diameter, stiffer tubes, which necessitates entirely different moulds and layups. Women's specific geometry has been dropped, with specific finishing kit used instead on selected bike models. Canyon was keen to stress that they still see the value in gender-specific geometry on their other bikes, but with squeezed time and resources from so many projects on the go, they couldn't justify creating an entirely separate design.
However, on both the extra-small and small bikes, riders get 650b rather than 29" wheels, though both still use a 29er fork, giving a marginally slacker head angle. That means that the 29" wheeled bike has more ground trail (it's effectively more stable) at 99mm compared to the 95mm of the 650b bike.
Canyon says that to compensate for this, they've evened out the handling by fitting a narrower 740mm rather than 760mm handlebar to the latter, which gives both bikes the same ratio of handlebar width to trail at 0.13 to 0.129 respectively and thus a similar turn response.
That's an interesting bit of meddling with maths, but as a smaller rider is unlikely to ride a larger bike, I'm not entirely sure what benefit it brings to the party, save for a sense of neatness between the sizes and the potential for smaller riders to be wanting some bigger bars further down the line.
Other tweaks made for the two smallest sizes include the fact that the shock eye-to-eye length and stroke have been dropped from 210/50mm to 190/45mm for, with a resultant slight drop in bottom bracket height too. All extra small bikes get the same extra-light damping tune, but the women's small models do have a lighter tune than the unisex small models.
Taking an angle
In terms of overall geometry, Canyon has played it very much on the conservative side, with a large frame sporting a reach figure of 453mm - 7mm shorter than an equivalent 650b wheeled Spectral - and a head angle of 67º and effective seat angle of 74.5º. Compared to brands such as Whyte, that's not going to blow anyone's mind when it comes to pushing the boundaries of long, low and slack - quite the opposite - but it is likely to feel like a familiar and friendly riding position for many people after a short travel trail bike, which is what Canyon said they were aiming for.
It's worth noting that there's also an aluminium framed Neuron available, but that uses the older-style suspension layout, though the geometry has been updated over the 2018 bikes.
A super spec for the money
Canyon supplied me with a Neuron CF 9.0 SL which, at £3,349, sits third from top in the five bike range. At 172cm tall, I rode a large frame - I do prefer more reach - and as such it rolled on the big hoops.
As ever, Canyon has batted it out of the park when it comes to offering stonking value for money on the parts list. There are plenty of aluminium framed bikes out there that struggle to offer such well-sorted kit for the cash, never mind one with a full carbon fibre frame.
Fox Shox supplies the suspension, with a Performance Elite 34 fork up front with FIT4 damper and Performance Float DPS shock at the back. Both are smooth, supple and well controlled and along with the big hoops did a very effective job of muting bumps.
The extremely fancy Reynolds TR329 wheelset uses carbon rims with a 30mm internal width. They're tubeless ready and wrapped in 2.35" Maxxis Forekaster tyres. I'm not usually that fussed by carbon wheels - they can often be harsh and wallet meltingly expensive should you damage them - but there's no doubt this particular wheelset added great precision without hammering my hands and they also made the Neuron extremely responsive when you do stamp on the pedals.
The drivetrain itself was a mix of SRAM's 12-speed X01 Eagle group, with a set of carbon armed Stylo cranks with a 30T ring and pinned GX Eagle 10-50T cassette at the back. It's a sweet delight to see the cranks running on a normal threaded bottom bracket too, meaning much less chance of noisy woes.
It's all stuff that works flawlessly and that meant I could get on with wrapping my head around the bike.
How does it ride?
There's no doubt that the impressively low all-in weight - 12.9kg on my scales for the large - does a lot to flatter your fitness and climbing prowess, as does the well sorted suspension. Much the like the Spectral that I rode a while ago the suspension does a good job of balancing pedalling performance with outright traction. It feels like there's a bit more verve to pedalling - I suspect it's got a smidge more anti-squat - but not so much that there's significant kickback through the cranks.
Cockpit wise, a 60mm stem and 760mm bars aren't my usual fodder, but after a genteel few kilometres of fireroad and singletrack I'd come to terms with the relatively neutral handling before we got stuck into the first descent.
It's there that I definitely noticed just how reassuring the big hoops are when they start to drift - slick winter mud and the relatively light tread on those fast Maxxis tyres are maybe not a superb combo - which would definitely be reassuring to the beginner. Pushed harder, the front end did occasionally want to tuck rather than turn, but that's always going to be a tradeoff between something that's light and lively at the bars on flatter, flowing trails.
Even so, there's still a pleasure to be had from trying to hustle it down more 'interesting' trails at speed, though there's a limited amount I can definitively tell from a relatively short spin around the more gentle end of the Surrey Hills.
Who should buy a Neuron?
That does raise some questions as to just who would suit a Neuron over a Spectral or Lux. I suspect my riding preferences lean very much towards the Spectral end of the spectrum regardless. That's a bike that pedals really well, has a more aggressive and capable feel thanks to a bit more reach and travel and it's no porker when it comes to the hills either.
If you want to go really fast and far, the 29" wheeled Lux is the obvious choice for distance work. The Neuron CF somewhat splits the difference between the two, which makes it somewhat of a case of it being neither fish nor fowl. That said, if you do want a bike that sits between an all-out cross-country machine and a UK-centric (read: long travel) trail bike, then the Neuron does have a lot going for it, with a good ride feel, excellent suspension and amazing value. For my money, a bit more reach and more relaxed head angle would be grand, but if you fall into that camp, I suspect a Spectral should be higher up your shopping list.
Neuron CF bikes start at £2,249 for the CF 8.0 and rise up to £5,099 for the CF 9.0 Unlimited. You can check the full range out below:
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