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Canyon Neuron CF SLX 9.0 LTD mountain bike review

Canyon has rebuilt its proven lightweight 130mm Neuron trail bike with SLX-race-bike DNA and a top-level spec

Canyon Neuron CF SLX 9.0 LTD
(Image: © Guy Kesteven)

Our Verdict

Geometry and frame twist limit brawling ability but suspension efficiency, lightweight and irrepressibly sprung ride feel make it a seriously quick and entertaining XC/Trail livewire with premium spec at a great price

For

  • Light and irrepressibly lively trail feel
  • Naturally efficient pedalling with compliant grip
  • Superbly equipped for epic XC/Trail
  • Geometry suits intended riders really well

Against

  • Flexy when pushed or pedalled hard
  • Tall seat tube stops sizing up
  • Niche features add weight and flex
  • XTR brakes can be temperamental

Canyon launched the Neuron 18 months ago, essentially upscaling the kinematic of its super-light 100mm Lux race bike to 130mm and adding more confident but still relatively conservative angles. That made it a very efficient, naturally fast but easy to ride, distance shrinking all-rounder. Some riders wanted an even lighter, faster version though and here it is.  

Design and geometry

Neuron and Neuron SLX share exactly the same moulds, but the SLX uses a higher grade of carbon fibre and more exacting construction methods to save an average of 250g across frame sizes. They only produce the SLX in M, L, or XL though so smaller riders wanting a lighter bike are out of luck. Numbers and features are otherwise unchanged. That means 130mm travel either end, 67.5-degree head- 74.5-degree seat tube and a 453mm reach on the large, with a relatively long 444mm chainstay. Those are conservative numbers for more progressive bikes in the category but they’re similar to classic XC/Trail machines like Scott Spark and the previous Santa Cruz Tallboy. A 38mm bottom bracket drop means ride height is low though and there’s plenty of room for 2.4in tyres. Unfortunately, the tall seat tube mast means there’s little scope for sizing up to add length without cramping dropper post room. 

The main pivot is asymmetric but it gives space to fit a front mech and double rings if you bolt a mount onto the removable bearing cover. That’s likely a niche bonus (none of the current generation Neuron complete bikes come with a double chainset) but this is a bike that will appeal strongly to Alpine marathon ‘tourers’ and racers who are the last granny ring die-hards. Steering lock is also limited by a winged collar under the stem and a bolted block on the top tube. Again that’s redundant extra weight on the bike there are no clearance issues with the fork or bars, but you might risk contact if you added a remote control to the fork.

Canyon Neuron CF SLX 9.0 LTD

Unless your running a remote on your fork there's not a requirement for a steering lock (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)

The pull out Quixle axle at the rear is a neat, rattle-free touch though and matches the use of a QR15 cam axle rather than a bolt through axle upfront. Other ‘easy life’ touches that add weight for the sake of convenience include cables and hoses that are hidden under bolt-on plates the length of the down tube rather than being routed internally. This makes them easier to work on and provides protection against rocks etc. coming off the front wheel. There’s more bolt-on cable management/chain protection on the super deep rear stays too. Three bolt holes in the down tube mean you can even mount your bottle high or low in the frame.

The composite shock driver yoke gets extended fins to cover the outer faces of the bearings, adding a few more grams to make an otherwise potentially ‘congested’ area look a lot neater visually. The rear pivot is interestingly placed too, kinking up ahead of the rear axle so the bearings sit in the seat stay above the axle line. As the pivot point is still between the main pivot and the axle the kinematic is a full four-bar rather than a linkage driven single pivot set up.

Canyon Neuron CF SLX 9.0 LTD

Extending the shock-driving yoke over the bearings gives the suspension system a tidier look (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)

Components and build 

Moving travel up to 130mm also means Canyon have to go with the full-fat Fox 34 fork rather than the 170g cutaway chassis Step-Cast version which tops out at 120mm. Canyon hasn’t cut corners on the build though with the Factory forks matched by a gold-shafted Float DPS Factory shock and 150mm stroke Transfer dropper post. Stop and go is largely provided by Shimano XTR with non-finned rotors but finned pads as standard. Thankfully Canyon had put standard pads in ours to remove the death rattle we’ve suffered on other XTR rear brake bikes we’ve tested and this set behaved well in terms of predictable bite point too. The upgrade to a sub 500g Race Face Next SL carbon crankset (rather than alloy Shimano) is part of the production package though.

Canyon Neuron CF SLX 9.0 LTD

The Race Face Next SL carbon cranks save a little weight over Shimano XTR  (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)

The DT Swiss XMC 1200 30 wheels are also premium lightweight carbon but still with a 30mm width to give plenty of support to the 2.35in Maxxis Forekaster tyres. Again these are a trail rather than pure speed choice but the wide-spaced tread rolls surprisingly fast, especially in the triple MaxxSpeed compound Canyon has fitted.

Canyon provides its own 760mm carbon low rise bar and neatly forged 60mm stem while the grips are the excellent Ergon GA20 with Fizik’s firmly supportive Taiga saddle completing the bike. The Neuron also comes neatly packaged in a reusable box complete with a torque wrench and assembly paste for accurate building. With delivery costs that add around £40-50 to the price depending on where you live, buying direct still makes the bike great value for the amount of flagship tech you’re getting. It’s worth noting that the standard CF with the same Fox Factory set up, DT Swiss wheel pack and finishing kit but SRAM X01 is £1050 cheaper.

Ride, handling and performance 

At 12.2kg with a super light wheelset and quick tyres it’s no surprise the SLX is seriously quick out of the blocks and treats climbs with contempt compared to most 130mm trail bikes. The long-stroke shock and Fit4 fork also give it a firm and efficient feel even in fully open mode. Both are micro tuneable in open or switchable to ‘trail’ or ‘locked’ settings too if you want an even firmer ride, but we rarely felt the need to flick switches even out of the saddle.

The short reach and slightly steepened seat angle naturally push you into an aggressive bent elbow stance, attacking the trail in a crouch over the front wheel. That’s how we spent the vast majority of each test ride rather than pushed back and dealing with things at a relaxed distance. It’s not that you can’t sit up and tap out tempo - and in many ways, that’s the best way to get the most from the Neuron - but there definitely seems to be more predatory race DNA in its character than just the carbon blend. As a result, pretty much every ride we took it on was rewarded with at least one and on some occasions four KOMs on mixed XC/Trail singletrack and climbing sections. That’s particularly telling as these are local sections I’ve been riding for decades, but then conditions have been ridiculously dry and fast and there’s definitely been some Covid cabin fever to release. 

Canyon Neuron CF SLX 9.0 LTD

Flex around the front end and chainstays is noticeable when the Neuron is pushed hard  (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)

Pushing the SLX hard does expose some of the downsides of the chassis too. While it does clearly go damn fast and the SLX frame is stiffer than the standard CF bike which had a definite softness, there’s still a noticeable amount of flex and twang going on. Despite the monster chain stays the offset pivot still means the back end pulls round under peak power. The raised rear pivot position lets the wheel yaw and twist in corners, across off cambers or catching landings too.

The short, lightweight front end and 34 fork can also start to shimmy and twang when you’re working them hard in turns or on the brakes and the cockpit gets to its reaction and leverage limit too. Add a near 2kg weight advantage and that means pure power and speed athletes should definitely look at the stiffer feeling Lux for their flat out fix. In contrast, more aggressive trail riders will want a longer, stiffer and slacker bike with a punchier suspension set up for really driving home their watts and mini enduro enthusiasm too.

Having said that, because the flex comes through as a very lively whip-sprung feel, not a flaccid flop, it actually gives the Neuron an irrepressibly, almost giddy ride character. That translates into a carnival of pinging from root to bank to root, coiling the back end up to explode out of turns, using the short reach to bring the front end up into easy manuals and generally flicking the bike around for fun at every opportunity rather than just ploughing numbly through trouble. The frame compliance and relatively long rear end mean better climbing and tech section traction than you’d normally get from the tappy shock tune. 

The geometry and cockpit are well balanced for clawing up vertical climbs or stall turning round tight switchbacks. The longer you ride the more the low weight, it’s ‘sit in the saddle and spin’ optimisation and the more forgiving frame feel will pay dividends in terms of reduced fatigue. At this point you’ll also be glad you have more emergency travel from a set and forget suspension set up, more tyre grip and more confident, stable geometry than you’d get on a lighter, twitchier race bike too.

Canyon Neuron CF SLX 9.0 LTD

A short reach keeps weight over the front wheel on climbs and gives the Neuron a snappy playful character on the descents (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)

Verdict 

With more and more enduro angled short/mid travel 29ers appearing, the Neuron could be seen as slightly out of step with the latest 130mm fashion. The fact you can’t size up because of the tall seat tube is a definite fail though and missing out XS and S riders when they’d benefit most from the reduced weight seems tight too. Even though it’s stiffer than the standard CF you can still twist it out of shape through the pedals or bars if you push proper hard too. Because the focus is on low weight and responsive flow not building a bike the same weight and shape as a 150mm enduro race the shorter, steeper geometry actually makes sense though. It also means the same riders who might be glad you can fit a double chain set won’t be freaked out by the fit. While they add weight that they’ve worked very hard (and you’ve paid extra) to have carved off elsewhere the cable and pivot shrouds make for an easier long term life, too.

But, most importantly, despite the niggles and theoretical numbers, the Neuron CF SLX has been an absolute blast to spring and whip along local natural trails at consistently blistering speeds. Trails that often feel a bit dull on a fully ‘progressive’ bike, not least because the extra weight makes them a chore to charge up to speed out of every corner, or push the pace over the top of rises to get the most out roller coaster sections. Something that’s certainly not an issue on the SLX and which potentially makes it far more rewarding for a lot more riders and rides than gravity skewed fashion bikes.

Test conditions

  • Temperature range:  5-15 degrees   
  • Trails: Mixed local woods, man-made trails and moorland backcountry 

Tech spec: Canyon Neuron CF SLX 9.0 LTD

  • Price: £5,599.00
  • Discipline: XC/Trail 
  • Head angle: 67.5 degrees 
  • Seat tube angle: 75.5 degrees
  • Frame: Carbon fibre mainframe and swingarm  
  • Size: Large
  • Weight: 12.22kg  
  • Wheel Size: 29-inch
  • Suspension (front / rear): Fox 34 Fit4 Factory 130mm travel, mm offset / Fox Float DPS Factory 130mm travel
  • Groupset: Shimano XTR 10-51T 12 speed gearing and shifter  
  • Crankset: Race Face Next SL 32T chainset 
  • Wheels:  DT Swiss XMC 30 carbon wheels 
  • Tyres: Maxxis ForeKaster  3C MaxxSpeed 29 x 2.35in tyres 
  • Brakes: TRP Slate T4 brakes with 200mm front, 180mm rear rotors  
  • Bar/stem: Canyon 760x31.8mm carbon bar and 60x31.8mm stem   
  • Seatpost: Fox Transfer Factory 150mm dropper post 
  • Saddle: Fizik Taiga saddle