Canyon’s killer value Neuron CF 9.0 SL is about big miles and vast vistas not big air and rad verts. The German direct-sell powerhouse might not be following the latest short-on-travel-but-big-on-attitude trends when it comes to its new Neuron CF 120mm travel 29er. It’s not a tight, remote-shocked longer-travel race bike either (that’s the Canyon Lux). However, there are still a huge number of riders who just head into the hills for exploration, freedom and adventure not just a frenzied adrenaline fix. If that’s you then the Neuron is ideal and the 9.0 SL is a great value package that puts the spend where it matters most. Don’t forget that component spec comes at the expense of the free servicing and set up support you’d get from your local shop if you bought a bike from them.
Design and geometry
Neuron shares it’s basic shock under top tube, small rocker link on seat tube outline with the Canyon Lux and countless other bikes. 67.5 degree head angle and 453mm top tube are conservative rather than cutting edge. A relatively tall seat tube makes it awkward to size up to add stretch and the 440mm chain stays give stability rather than agility. It gets a chunkier tube set than the Lux yet and a chainstay pivot that kinks up onto the seat stays (more on that later) rather than flex stays. The larger linkage gives 120mm of rear travel and there’s no remote shock lockout.
The detailing deserves a real shout out, too. The shock linkage gets an extended cover that serves no functional purpose but gives a really neat junction and vector alignment with the parallel top tube and stays when the frame is unsagged. Rather than complicated, faffy internal cable/hose routing the brake and gear lines run under a long protective panel that bolts on and off the down tube. The main pivots get neat bolted covers and, while there’s only one bottle mount, it can be set high or low.
The bottom bracket is screw in and there’s a steering lock limiter to stop fork and bars damaging the frame if they whip round. The rear axle with pull-out handle is really neat, too. The main pivot is surprisingly narrow stance for a single-ring specific frame though. The cable/hose exit alignment also causes rub on the head tube and fork crown so both need protective taping before your first ride. There are alloy models which use a totally different vertical shock layout and slightly different kinematics, but the geometry is the same.
Components and build
There are five different spec levels of Neuron CF bike, with women’s models in the CF 8.0 and CF 9.0 builds also available. The 9.0 SL is the middle priced option with Reynolds light but stiff and responsive TR309 carbon rimmed wheels as the obvious spec win. Premium triple compound versions of Maxxis’s deceptively fast but all weather trustworthy Forekaster tyres are a great choice for the bike’s character, too.
Fox 34 Performance Elite forks give a full range of damping adjustment for the 130mm stroke, but work consistently well even if you’re not a fettler. The rear shock gets a generous 50mm stroke for smooth low pressure operation, but the climb switch tune is relatively aggressive for solid pedalling stability when required.
SRAM X01 is the 12-speed Eagle family sweet spot in terms of cost and performance. The small 30-tooth chainring underlines the cruising rather than charging intent of the Neuron though and Guide R brakes are adequate not amazing. The Fox Transfer dropper post is a super reliable unit, the Iridium saddle comfortable for mile after mile and the Canyon 60mm stem and 760mm bar suit the geometry and mission brief of the bike fine.
Ride, handling and performance
The Neuron isn't what you'd call a radical bike. The front wheel sits comparatively close to the rider and the head angle isn’t super slack so it doesn’t need a super-short stem to snap it off a straight line. It turns easily at all speeds with a balanced response to any bar input. Not swaggeringly confident like an Enduro bike, not twitchy and easy for rocks or braking to trip up like a really steep XC bike, just vice free and predictable up, down or along.
The 440mm rear stays add stability and climbing traction in a straight line, but slightly delay shock response and reduce agility if you want to flick and flare the bike around. Add the raised rear pivot giving a fluid suspension action in the open position and it’s an impressively grippy bike on technical rooty/rocky climbs if you just sit and spin. The sub-13kg weight helps it tap out tempo climbs or accelerate out of corners easily, as the lightweight rimmed, tautly spoked carbon wheels gain speed so well. The easy mid-stroke movement of the shock swallows bigger rocks, drops and square edge hang ups without worry and the Fox 34 fork is impressively capable for 130mm travel. Even the Ergon grips and Iridium saddle collected compliments from our test team for their comfort on longer rides. This creates a bike that carries speed easily on blue/red trails or the natural rooty, rocky equivalent. The further you go the more it’s naturally forgiving rather than demanding character reduces fatigue and builds advantage over more butch or belligerent bikes.
The Neuron doesn’t cope so well with more combative riding though. The conservative geometry doesn’t encourage you to stuff the front wheel into trouble flat out and rely on inherent stability to keep you safe. The short reach also sits you higher over the bike rather than hunkered down into it for carving corners. The frame itself is soft rather than stiff, with a noticeably articulated feel to the narrow main pivot back end if you start pushing hard through corners or carving across off cambers. That same structural softness that sucks up vibration and calms chatter also eats some of your effort if you’re cranking hard. The fluid suspension relies on the ‘Climb’ compression damping lever to provide a workable pedalling platform rather than anti squat inherent in the kinematic. That means riders looking for a more power responsive, sprint friendly ride should definitely choose the Lux CF which is also 1.6kg lighter in the similarly priced 8.0 SL spec.
Canyon had an opportunity to create a short-travel savage when they reworked the Neuron but they clearly didn’t want to and that’s fine. There are huge amounts of riders who want a bike that doesn’t feel much different to their current ride, but just uses the latest tech to go further and faster more easily. Geometry is balanced, predictable and an easy transfer across from a previous-generation trail bike. Frame and suspension feel are forgiving and fatigue minimising for going further rather than aggressively taut for pushing limits.
While it means you won’t get local shop support and set up for free, by delivering direct, Canyon supplies an excellent spec for the money. Weight is low and the Reynolds wheels are a great value performance-pepping highlight that really suit the bike. Super reliable Fox suspension and dropper, plus threaded bottom bracket and easy-to-access cabling and pivot bearings mean that it’s ready to go the distance mechanically, too. Just be sure to protect the head tube and fork crown from cable rub and while it isn’t a sharp-edged weapon you’ll have a great companion for making big days out less of a big deal.
- Temperature: 13-15 degrees mixed weather
- Trails: Natural singletrack, rocky moorland tracks, blue and red Bikepark trails
- Terrain: Short singletrack sessions and big hills
Tech spec: Canyon Neuron CF 9.0 SL
- Price: £3,169 / US$4,299 / AU$5,099
- Head angle: 67.5
- Frame material: Carbon
- Size: Large
- Weight: 12.95kg
- Wheel size: 29-inch
- Suspension (front/rear): FOX 34 Performance Elite130 mm travel, FOX FLOAT DPS Performance shock 120mm travel.
- Drivetrain: SRAM XO1 Eagle gears, Truvativ Stylo 7K carbon crank 30T
- Wheels: Reynolds TR309 carbon wheels with Maxxis Forekaster 3C Exo 29 x 2.35in tyres
- Bar/stem: Canyon V12 60mm stem, H15 760mm riser bar
- Seatpost: Fox Transfer Performance Elite dropper post
- Saddle: Crank Brothers Iridium saddle