As its name suggests, the Canyon Spectral 125 is the shorter travel counterpart to the much loved Spectral. Although its meager travel figures suggest otherwise, the Spectral 125 is every bit as aggressive as its longer travel sibling but it benefits from a much more supportive rear end and a dynamic ride that’ll unleash the inner hooligan of anyone who swings a leg over.
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Although the Spectral 125 shares the same name as the 150mm rocking Spectral, it’s a very different bike. Its frame may look similar at a glance but each and every tube has been slimmed down and the bike’s suspension kinematic has been altered to suit the reduction in travel.
That’s not all that’s changed as the Spectral 125 is only available with 29” wheels, as the designers wanted to make full use of the bigger wheel’s known rollover in a bid to boost the little traveled bike’s capability.
What is similar, however, is the geometry as the Spectral 125 gets the same 64.5° head angle and 76.5° seat tube angle but the reach has been stretched from 456mm up to 460mm on the medium frame we’ve got for testing. The chainstay stays the same at 437mm.
The similarities continue as the frame is graced with Canyon’s clever replaceable pivot threads, internal cable routing, and a geometry adjusting flip-chip which remained in its LO position throughout testing.
As for the bike’s specification, rather respectfully it’s uncanny to the full fat Spectral CF8’s. There’s a Fox 36 Performance Elite fork handling 140mm of travel with a Fox Float X Performance shock kitted with a piggyback reservoir. If that’s not a nod of this bike’s intentions, I don’t know what would be.
Shifting is provided by Shimano’s XT 12-speed drivetrain and slowing the bike down are matching four-pot brakes. The rotors here measure in at 203mm at the front and 180mm at the rear.
Wheels then come from DT Swiss in the form of the XM 1700 wheelset and it’s wrapped with a Maxxis DHRII at the front and a firm favourite of mine, the Maxxis Dissector at the rear. Both tyres come in 2.4” widths, MaxxTerra compounds, and EXO casings.
Canyon says that the Spectral 125 is designed to offer a new experience compared to the Spectral and the brand has confidently hit the nail on the head. It’s just as fast, poised, and composed as the bigger travel bike but it’s much faster on the pedals, more supportive under compression and it certainly doesn’t hold back on the agility front.
Upon swinging a leg over the bike, I was welcomed with a very familiar feeling, as a fan of the original bike. Though things are clearly a little different, namely the slimmer tubes and the slightly longer reach but glaringly, there’s noticeably less squish as the suspension reaches sag when weighted.
The Spectral 125 is a real credit to Canyon’s Triple Phase Suspension kinematic that graces every bike in the range. It’s mega supple off the top while almost motionless under pedaling making it an incredibly strong climber. However, it is happy to open up to keep the rear wheel tracking when the speeds rack up.
That kinematic is mostly to credit for the Spectral 125’s prowess up a hill and to put it simply, it eats climbs. I can only recall climbing at similar speeds when aboard a hardtail, though the chatter absorbing suspension may have made things even quicker. We can’t give the rear end all of the credit for the bike’s lively pedaling though, as the very wise tyre choice only aids the cause thanks to that mighty fast rolling Dissector tyre.
It’s a comfortable rig to pedal about too not only thanks to the low weight and the stable pedaling platform but the reasonably steep seat tube angle and the stretched reach only makes things even more cushty. The bike just proves to be a nice place to be. There’s plenty of room towards the front end and the seat tube plonks your body at a solid and efficient place over the pedals.
However, when dropping into one of my all-time favourite trails, the extra few millimeters that Canyon has plugged onto the reach in the name of stability did take a smidge of getting used to. It’s by no means a bad thing and actually, the new figure is rather good and we’ll get onto that a bit later. It’s just different but was a small hurdle that didn’t take too much to leap over.
As such an efficient climber, it would be rude to say that it’s a bike that shines on the descents but when it gets going, it really comes to life. It’s a lot more composed than I was expecting, especially when you consider the travel on offer. While definitely lively, the super progressive shape of the bike is massively confidence-inspiring and a lot of the time, I found it almost too easy to hold off the brakes and let the bike roll through chunk.
It’s hugely encouraging of throwing in a cheeky pedal stroke too as it rewards you with an almost laughable amount of speed. Combine that with pumping the terrain and the Spectral 125 gets absolutely hauling with surprisingly little effort.
This is where the Spectral 125 edges away from its bigger sibling but it also sets itself apart as it takes a more considered approach when tackling tech. Rock gardens and roots look a little bit bigger aboard the smaller traveled bike but a calculated touch and some forethought prove very useful as you hurtle through sections in awe of the speed you’ve collected.
There is a lot of confidence to be found in that geometry though and it remains as the trail gets steep. The newly lengthened reach summons up a load of support at the front of the bike, especially when paired with such a solid fork. The small travel on offer can make things feel a little uneasy as touched on before but that’s all part of the Spectral 125’s charm. It’s a bike that likes to keep you on your toes while being highly capable.
As such, it’s not all about unwavering confidence as Canyon has dubbed the Spectral 125 as the rowdy one, and rowdy it definitely is. The bike's weight or lack thereof combined with such a responsive suspension kinematic has had me popping over trail gaps I’ve never realized were there before with blissful ease. I’ve found that the bike loves to throw in a surprise slide every now and then too. Whenever that's happened though, it’s been totally controllable and after some more time on the bike, predictable and ridiculous fun.
Canyon has done impeccably well to strike such a fine balance between savage playfulness and all-out conviction. If you wanted to pick through tech, it’ll happily do that and it’ll be an awful lot of fun as you did. If you just fancy launching over all of that tech, the Spectral 125 will make it easy and take it in its stride.
The Spectral 125 has carved something of its own niche, offering the travel found on downcountry rigs while being specced with burly kit that’s usually reserved for long-legged trail, or even enduro bikes. It's shaped very aggressively too, which is somewhat rare to find on a bike of such travel figures.
Similar bikes in the price range and category come in the form of Nukeproof’s Reactor 290 Elite but it comes with more travel, an SLX level drivetrain, and a more conservative geometry with a 446.3mm reach and 66° head tube. That one’s priced equally at £4,400.
Then there’s YT Industries’ IZZO Core 3 but realistically, it’s a very different bike coming with a spec and geometry that’s not quite as aggressive. That includes a Fox 34 fork, 2.35” Maxxis Forekaster tyres, and a comparatively reserved shape, featuring a 450mm reach (on a medium) and 66.5° head tube for starters. The IZZO Core 3 costs £4,300.
The only bike that springs to mind that follows a similar ethos to the Spectral 125 is the Evil Following V3. It's a 29er with 120mm of travel. It gets a similar shape with a 460mm reach, a 77° seat tube angle but it gets a much steeper head angle at 67.9°. The big point with this bike is that it'll set you back nearly £6,500 for the base level, GX, build. So it goes without saying that the Evil is a much larger investment.
Canyon’s Spectral 125 CF8 has been incredibly impressive to the point where I reckon that it’s the perfect bike for all-round riding in the UK. It pedals super quickly, wrenching the rider up hills with relative ease but it’s also got the chops to become heaps of fun wherever you choose to point it. It might not have the outright confidence that more suspension travel gives you, but that’s all part of the Spectral 125’s infectious charm.