FACE-OFF

CANYON SENDER CFR vs. TREK SESSION 9 DOWNHILL BIKE REVIEW

TWO UNBELIEVABLY DIALED DOWNHILL BIKES

Photos by Dusten Ryen
Video by Brian Niles / Treeline Cinematic

Not many things in life get our blood flowing the way pointing purebred DH bikes at chunky downhill trails does. It is an absolutely euphoric experience to let downhill bikes, the pinnacle of our sport, tackle the gnarliest and steepest terrain as fast as possible. While there are a number of very capable downhill bikes on the market, The Canyon Sender CFR and Trek Session 9 have earned a special place in our hearts and for that reason, we wanted to take them out for some timed laps and back-to-back swaps to see how they’d do. If you remember, last year I made a very bold claim that the Canyon Sender CFR was my all-time favorite downhill bike. Since then, the new high pivot Trek Session 9 has not only impressed our staff but has won a number of medals on the World Cup Downhill circuit. We couldn’t think of two better downhill bikes to Face Off against each other.

THE CONTENDERS

Both the Canyon Sender CFR and the Trek Session 9 are race-ready downhill machines featuring 29-inch wheels, Rock Shox suspension packages, SRAM drivetrain, and 200mm of bump-eating travel. While the bikes may share some features and intended applications, there are plenty of differences to be found in both design and ride.

We have done some very in-depth features on both bikes in the past, which you can find at the links below, so we’ll keep this feature a bit more focused on the performance and head-to-head test.

Canyon sender CFR

CANYON SENDER CFR

Price: $5,799
Weight: 34.6 lbs
Travel: 200 / 200mm

GEOMETRY HIGHLIGHTS
Reach:
435mm (S), 460mm (M), 485mm (L), 510mm (XL)

Head Tube Angle: 63°
Seat Tube Angle: 78.5° (S – M), 78° (L – XL)
Chainstay Length: 435mm (S – M), 445 (L – XL)
Wheelbase: 1,237mm (S), 1,264mm (M), 1,304mm (L), 1,331mm (XL)

SPEC HIGHLIGHTS
Frame Material: Carbon
Fork: RockShox Boxxer Ultimate RC2
Rear Shock: RockShox Super Deluxe Ultimate DH
Drivetrain: SRAM X01 DH
Brakes: SRAM Code RSC 203 / 200mm
Wheels: DT Swiss FR560
Cockpit: Canyon G5 Components

Canyon Sender Review
Trek Session 9

TREK SESSION 9

Price: $7,029.99
Weight: 36.6 lbs
Travel: 200 / 200mm

GEOMETRY HIGHLIGHTS (high position)
Reach:
447mm (R1), 472mm (R2), 499mm (R3)

Head Tube Angle: 63.6°
Seat Tube Angle: 61.6°
Chainstay Length (H/L): 435mm (R1), 441mm (R2), 452mm (R3)
Wheelbase: 1,243mm (R1), 1,274mm (R2), 1,309mm (R3)

SPEC HIGHLIGHTS
Frame Material: Alpha Platinum Aluminum
Fork: RockShox Boxxer Ultimate RC2
Rear Shock: RockShox Super Deluxe Ultimate DH
Drivetrain: SRAM X01 DH
Brakes: SRAM Code RSC 200 / 180mm
Wheels: Bontrager Line DH 30
Cockpit: Bontrager Components

Trek Session 9 Review

KEY DIFFERENTIATORS

The main differences that consumers will note when comparing things beyond travel and components are suspension platforms, geometry, and adjustability.

Adjustability: When it comes to wheel sizes, Trek takes the point for being able to accommodate full 29, mullet or 27.5” wheels. However, Canyon’s frame adjustability offers far more fine-tuning of the bike’s geometry. With three headset cup positions to adjust reach plus or minus 8mm combined with a 10mm adjustment chip at the rear axle for chainstay tuning, The Canyon Sender CFR offers far more options than the Trek High/Low Mino Link adjustment. Is that something we used often? Not really, but some racers will greatly appreciate the tuning and change in handling depending on the track or region they’re riding.

Something we really like about the Trek is the suspension progressivity chip. Simply flip the lower shock mounting link for either 20% or 25%, depending on your trails and preference. It’s a difference we noticed on the trail and think other riders will benefits from.

Suspension: Trek’s Session 9 is buzzing with their new mid-high pivot suspension platform, which features an idler pulley to reduce pedal kickback and give an incredibly smooth and confident feeling bike. The rear wheel’s axle path is decidedly more rearward than its predecessor but not as rearward as some other bikes with higher, high pivots, which we think helps make this bike a lot better than some other options as it doesn’t suffer from some of the drawbacks high pivot bikes have.

The Canyon Sender utilizes a four-bar suspension platform with Canyon’s MX-Link. The Sender also features a slightly rearward initial wheel path with an incredibly responsive feel and progressive stroke. Overall, the Sender feels a bit more firm and offers a touch more support for popping and mid-berm support, but also means it can feel a touch rougher (compared to Session 9) over square-edge bumps, roots, and rocks if not dialed in correctly. As you’ll see below, it’s a game of give and take, and winning races means forgoing comfort for speed. Of course, you can let air out, run some more sag, and have a softer feeling Sender, but that’s not why you buy a race bike!

Smith Mainline Helmet Review

Durability and protection are other key areas consumers will want to focus on. The aluminum Session sports a bit more coverage on the downtube and has a slightly thicker chainstay protector, although both bikes are stealthy quiet. The CFR could benefit from a bit more protection as it’s beautiful carbon frame could suffer from strikes, bike rack incidents, and of course violent crashes, like Sourpatch’s ground kissing affair.

Where the Canyon Sender CFR may miss some frame protection, it is forward thinking when it comes to service and longevity. All threads in the bike suspension linkage are replaceable, so you can easily swap out parts as they wear and keep your bike tight and quiet.

THE DIRT
Now, for the important part. A bike can be the most beautiful, sport the flashiest components, be the best value or offer all the adjustability in the world but if it rides like a turd, well…it rides like a turd. Lucky for us, these bikes both represent the pinnacle of downhill race bikes from their respective brands, which means, our testers had their work cut out for them.

Our love affair started with the Canyon Sender CFR last summer when we had two of them to ride for our Bike Park Review Tour, if you watched those episodes or our long-term review, you could easily see we weren’t trying to hide how much we love that bike. Similarly, the Trek Session 9 is a bike we’ve had many great experiences on over the years and while it had a couple quirks that required some extra shock tuning to get right, the new high pivot, Trek Session 9 has improved an already great bike.

THE WOLF’S LAST WORD

If we were going to relate this these bikes to food, one bike is a delicious burrito from your favorite Mexican spot, the other is that perfectly tasty pizza that you can’t get enough of. While pizzas and burritos are both food, and are both equally enjoyable, you may be more of a burrito fan than a pizza lover, or vice versa…And that is where many riders will land with the Session and the Sender, from a performance perspective. Diving further into serviceability, local dealer support, price tag to value, frame material, warranty, and spec differences are another topic that may or may not be important to you. While Trek will have a robust dealer network around the country, and most of the world, the reality is we don’t suspect many shops will be stocking Session repair parts. So how valuable is that really? Conversely if the Canyon needs repair, it’s designed to be a bike that can be easily rebuilt and serviced, however you’ll either need to travel with the parts, or hope you can get in touch with someone at Canyon quickly and have them ship something out from Southern California, while Trek has multiple shipping and distribution hubs.

While both bikes are absolute winners and we’d love to keep them both, if we had to pull out our wallet and make a purchase, we’d probably go with the Canyon Sender CFR for a couple of reasons. First up, it’s more affordable than the Trek Session 9, and even though we have zero problem buying or suggesting an aluminum bike, swallowing an extra $1,200 on the price tag for an aluminum bike with more in-house components and a nearly identical spec is a bit tough. The second reason and in our opinion, more important reason, is that the Canyon Sender CFR suits our terrain and riding style just a little bit better. Although the reach is a touch longer than we’d like, the fact that the rear end snaps around corners easier, it pops off smaller features effortlessly, and is slightly more well-rounded than the Session in the variety of terrain it performs on. The Trek Session outperforms the Canyon Sender in some terrain, albeit by just a little bit, it is noticeable. If you are a rider who prioritizes wide-open trails, hard-charging and plowing over obstacles at high speeds, the Session will reward! Similarly, if you find yourself on tracks with lots of braking bumps and holes, the Session and it’s smooth, confident chassis is going to be the way to go. Even though we absolutely love charging all the aforementioned features as fast as we can, the Sender barely loses a step yet is more fun on a wider variety of trails. If you also enjoy popping, tire tapping, slashing and playing on your DH bike, the Sender (in full 29” dress) will be a livelier ride. Of course, you could swap the Session out to be a mullet or even full 27.5” and then you’ll have a completely different machine.

At the end of the day, if both of these bikes were the same price, we don’t know which way we’d go to be honest. They both are incredibly capable, fun, and were regularly within 1.5 seconds of each other on our countless timed runs on three different tracks. Pick your weapon and sharpen your skills, more practice and ride time will more than make up for any difference in the performance these two bikes will offer. These machines make our jobs difficult, but a whole lotta fun! Long live DH.

WEBSITES
Canyon.com | Trekbikes.com

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