2022 ENDURO SHOOTOUT

CANFIELD LITHIUM REVIEW

Photos by Dusten Ryen
Shootout Sponsored by Maxxis Tires & Fox Racing

The Lithium is Canfield Bikes’ latest enduro creation and is the longest travel pedal-friendly 29er they’ve made to date. With 163mm travel of CBF suspension in the rear and a 170mm fork leading the charge, the Canfield Lithium promises to be a very capable bike, but Canfield made considerations throughout to make it a well-rounded machine that would still be fun on mellower terrain. With its unique industrial looks and purposeful geometry, we were intrigued to see how the aluminum Canfield would stack up against some bigger players in this Enduro Bike Shootout, so let us tell you how we got on.

We’d like to thank Fox Racing and Maxxis Tires for their support in making this series possible. Without their partnership these types of projects wouldn’t be possible, if you feel so inclined, offer them a thanks down below! And while you’re at it check out Fox’s new 2023 Product Line and Maxxis’ performance MTB tires here.

QUICK HITS

• 163mm CBF Suspension
• HTA 64.5
• STA 76.7 (effective)
• REACH 475 (Large)

Price: Starting at $5,799 ($6,099 as tested)
Website: Canfieldbikes.com

THE LAB

Lithium is Canfield Bikes’ answer to the question of enduro. A pair of 29-inch wheels is attached to a 170mm front fork and a 163mm travel rear end to give the terrain ironing feel required to push hard. The rear suspension movement is controlled by the Canfield Balance Formula (CBF) suspension system. CBF is a dual link design patented by Canfield, which allows for a constant center of curvature to maintain consistent pedaling performance throughout the travel, while still being able to manipulate the braking characteristics and leverage ratio to their liking. This means Canfield was able to give the Lithium a consistent and relatively high anti rise figure to prevent the extension of the rear end when braking, and a progressive leverage ratio, though not extremely progressive. For riders wanting to take the aggression of the Lithium down a notch, short stroking the shock can take it down to a more efficient 151mm. This in conjunction with a 160mm or even a 150mm fork would make for a super fun trail shredder.

Canfield Lithium Profile Shot

Welded 7005 aluminum front and rear triangles are mated by two, one-piece machined 7075 links spinning on 15mm bearings. As is so often the case these days, the rear axle is boost spacing, the bottom bracket is threaded; and cables are routed internally with bolt-on ports at the headtube. The chainstays are covered with a custom thin rubber/plastic protector; there are removable ISCG05 mounts, and there’s a mount for a water bottle, but it’s unfortunately located on the downtube.  The rear end will clear a 29×2.5” or 27.5×2.8” tire, and a brake will mount to a 180mm rotor without an adaptor.

The Lithium is offered as a frame only option for riders looking to build a bike to their dream specs, retailing for $1,999, or with a choice of quality shocks and forks at various corresponding prices. Riders can also purchase a full bike, offered in a single base spec starting at $5,799. This can be customized with a choice of suspension, wheels and brakes, to dial in the key points of rider preference. We tested a build retailing for $6,099, which was equipped with e*thirteen LG1 Plus enduro wheels, Magura MT5 brakes and the Ohlins RFX36 m.2/TTX2 Air suspension options. The drivetrain is a unique mix of TRP TR-12 shifter and mech, with an e*thirteen Helix cassette and Absolute Black 30t chainring. Grip is provided by a Maxxis Minion DHF/Dissector pairing. The rest of the spec is a purposeful selection of Canfield own-brand components, with their cranks available in a length from 155-175mm of your choice; a carbon fiber handlebar; their 40mm alloy stem and a SDG/Canfield custom saddle on top of the SDG Tellis dropper.

Canfield Lithium CBF Linkage

The geometry on the Lithium was selected by Canfield to be their ultimate compromise of stability and agility for aggressive enduro and bike park riding. Angles are on the relatively conservative side at 64.5 degrees for the head tube and 76.7 degrees for the seat tube. Reach numbers are quite tightly packed with 25mm gaps, from the 425mm small to 500mm XL, putting our large test rig in our happy zone at 475mm.

Stack heights are tall and have a narrow range from 635mm to 649mm. Seat tube lengths are fairly long for the larger sizes by modern standards, with the Large at 460mm and XL at 490mm. The bottom bracket sits 28mm below the axles, and all sizes share the same tight 430mm rear end. This bike sports the shortest chainstays in the roundup. The wheelbase sits at a compact 1,248mm, sitting at the short end of the bikes in the roundup.

Canfield Lithium Geo | Enduro Geo Chart Comparison
Canfield Lithium Review | Enduro Shootout

THE DIRT

It’s been quite a while since we’ve ridden a Canfield bike, and when we pulled this Pearl Patina Green beauty out of the box, we were excited. The attention to detail, nice welds and of course that bitchin’ head tube badge combine to suggest good things for the trail performance. We’re a bit nostalgic here, but we like when brands show some pride of craftsmanship in a day and age when everything is plastic and all about lowering production costs. Kudos to Canfield Bikes for keeping it real.

Admittedly, we haven’t spent a ton of time on Ohlins suspension products, but this spec came with some shiny new dampers, and we were equally excited to set them up and see if the bike rode as well as it looked. During the suspension setup process, we were a bit uncertain as the bike didn’t feel all that smooth, or active while trying to set sag. Little did we know that just sitting on the bike in the shop would be nothing like standing over it on the trail.

After riding so many longer, heavier and slacker enduro bikes, Drew dropped into the first trail and began cutting, carving and manualing the bike to get that “Nice to meet you, how’s this going to go?” introduction out of the way. He was surprised when he found himself and the bike effortlessly floating from one side to the other, and nearly looped out after yanking on the bars for that first manual. “Ohhh, you’re a lively one!” he muttered. The fun only progressed from there.

Canfield Lithium Review | Enduro Shootout

Despite not having the most plush, or active feeling suspension in the garage, our riders all commented on how active and fluttery the rear end was as we tackled trails day after day. The short rear end worked with the CBF suspension platform to give a very active and lively rear end. The Lithium really liked pumping and eking more speed out of every transition possible. The only thing it liked more was cornering. This was one of the best cornering bikes in our shootout, in most situations when the corner comes with some support. The short rear-end and high stack height puts the rider in a very confident body position to attack corners. Of course, with any good, there is a tradeoff.

The short rear end and lively feel mean that it’s not the absolute best bike if you’re hitting the World Cup DH trail at your local bike park day in and day out. Well, it’s not entirely the rear end as the reach and 64.5-degree head tube angle all play a role in the bike’s feel. What makes it so much fun and spritely can also be the hiccup for the gnarliest, steepest and fastest downhill trails. This could be an issue for you, or it could be something that isn’t in your normal trail menu, in which case, charge on.

While we’ve been talking a lot about the downhill performance, active suspension and capabilities, the reality is most riders are going to have to get themselves to the top of the mountain. Luckily, the Canfield Lithium is also a very capable pedaler and unbelievably only ways a few ounces more than our fully carbon Specialized Enduro. At just over 33.7 pounds, we couldn’t believe a small brand was able to create an affordable, aluminum bike that hangs this well.

There were some spec issues on our test bike that are worth noting. The TRP drivetrain didn’t manage to completely ruin the ride time, but it’s notably less smooth and consistent than the equivalent price SRAM or Shimano drivetrains. Sticking with the drivetrain woes, the cheap chain spec’d let us down on just the second ride and had us nervous to put down the watts until it was replaced. And lastly, the Ohlins rear shock didn’t possess the progression to keep us happy when hitting the jumps and drops that the Lithium otherwise encouraged, so be prepared to obtain and fit some volume reducers to suit.

Canfield Lithium Review | Enduro Shootout

The Wolf’s Last Word

Without a doubt, the Canfield Lithium surprised our riders more than any other bike in the shootout. Perhaps it was because we didn’t know what to expect, but the fact a small, independent brand can put out a bike that hangs with the big dogs on almost every kind of trail is impressive. Throw in the fact it’s Ohlins-equipped, looks rad and has a cool head badge and you’ve got a unique talking piece that shreds!

It’s not the bike for everyone, as Dario pointed out, being a taller rider who values a more race-oriented bike, the shorter rear end and semi-conservative geo had him feeling a little slower on the all-out race runs down the gnarliest DH tracks. Conversely, we all liked the pedaling efficiency, playful demeanor and light, lively nature of the bike. Sean and Drew both loved the bike’s shorter rear end for more fun trails or when it came time to pump, snap and play on the trail. It also keeps the rider comfortable and stable as the active suspension ate up the hits. We’d all love to add some progression to the rear shock as we regularly hit bottom but know that’s just a shock tuning issue and we didn’t have access to any Ohlins volume reducers.

In short, this bike is very much worth a look and we hope to see lots more of them on trails next year. 

Price as Tested: $6,099
Weight: 33.7 lbs
Website: Canfieldbikes.com

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SPECIFICATIONS

CHASSIS
Frame: 7005 Aluminum; 163mm
Fork: Ohlins RF36 M.2 | 170mm
Shock: Ohlins TTX2 | 230x65mm

COCKPIT
Brakes: Magura MT5, 200F/180R Storm HC rotors
Bar: Canfield Carbob | width: 800mm | clamp: 35mm
Stem: Canfield Alloy | length: 40mm
Seatpost: SDG Tellis | S/M:150mm | L/XL: 170mm
Saddle: SDG Canfield Custom

WHEELS
Wheelset: e*thirteen LG1 Plus Enduro
Front tire: Maxxis Minion DHF 29×2.5″WT | MaxxGrip | EXO Casing
Rear tire: Maxxis Dissector 29×2.4″WT | MaxxTerra | EXO Casing

DRIVETRAIN
Cassette: e*thirteen Helix Race | 9-50T | 12spd
Cranks: Canfield | 165mm
Shifter: TRP TR-12 | 12spd
Derailleur: TRP TR-12 | 12spd

Canfield Lithium Review | Enduro Shootout

We Dig

Active and smooth suspension
Climbs well
Very fun and playful
Corners, Corners, Corners
Looks and uniqueness

We Don’t

Cheap chain spec broke within 2 rides
TRP drivetrain
Not the fastest descender

Canfield Lithium Review | Enduro Shootout

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