Originally developed for the Canyon Sender (check out our review here) Canyon’s Triple Phase suspension design is proven on multiple platforms and podiums. With a characteristically progressive ramp, the design offers a supportive mid stroke and hard ramp at the end to reduce bottom out harshness. While many platforms err on the side of compliance at the cost of liveliness, Canyon chooses the latter. It makes for a bike that’s far more playful than the 150/170mm of travel and 29-inch wheels would suggest.
The bike is only available in carbon fiber, but with two frame options. The High Performance frame found on the 5.0-8.0 build levels is the standard carbon frame, while the CFR is the top of the line carbon frame found on the two range topping builds. An altered carbon layup, fiber type, alignment and resin accounts for the difference in weight (and price) between the two– 300 grams. Both are equally stiff and durable. Both also have small details that matter, like clever cable guides and frame ports, as well as integrated downtube and chain stay protectors.
In typical Canyon fashion there is a full line of builds offered at varying price points. The largest difference aside from cost savings is that the CF models have a 160mm fork, and the CFR models have a 170mm fork. Over forking the bikes by 10mm indicates that Canyon expects those top of the line builds to be used by aggressive riders either racing or riding like they are.
Canyon chose to spread all builds across the board with SRAM and Shimano spec. Our test bike is an entirely SRAM affair. Every single model also has a chain guide/bash guard on top of the narrow wide chain ring. The full build sheets and geo chart for all levels are available below. Note the diagram that shows geo changes with the Shapeshifter system.
After the presentation at Canyon, we were able to get some good time in on the bike. Canyon wasn’t messing around, taking us on a 28 mile ride to get intimately acquainted with the bike. Over the course of the ride we covered almost every terrain possible. We hit high alpine single track with snow, steep climbs covered in rock, smooth flowy single track, and incredibly rocky downhills. Heck we even ended the ride at a jump spot frequented by Kyle Strait!
The ability to do all that on one bike is what makes long travel 29ers so popular. The diversity of the ride was no accident, serving as proof of the versatility of the Shapeshifter system. Our ride began with a steep, unrelenting climb up soggy soil. If you’ve ever climbed in the mud you know it feels like dragging a pile of rocks up the hill behind you. While I can’t say I made the climb with ease, there was a very noticeable difference with the Shapeshifter system. In the 150 position, the bike felt sluggish, making me work for every pedal in the soft dirt. After pressing Click (the climb switch) the bike picked up and delivered my pedaling efforts with increased efficiency. During out of the saddle efforts, of which there were many, the bike hammered down and resisted pedal bob. The steeper the climb, the more beneficial the change was.
The on the fly travel adjustment also proved to be unexpectedly beneficial when not climbing. On mellower sections of flat trail where pedaling was required to keep speed, I found myself “clicking” to improve efficiency. Pretty much any time sustained pedaling is involved, the system shows its benefits. I even went as far as using it on tight switchback downhills with impressive results. In areas where steering responsiveness is key, the instant change in head angle is a huge advantage.
Of course, what fun is a long travel 29er if you don’t get to use its full potential. See an aggressive section of trail coming up? Smack the “Clack” lever and the bike transforms beneath you. Yeah, I agree. It would have been better to call the levers climb and descend or something along those lines, but oh well. In the slack mode, this bike is a monster truck, plowing over whatever rocks, roots, or small children are in your path. On jumps, the progressive ramp of the suspension design still keeps the bike lively and eats up large impacts from flat landings or rocks.