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Words by Drew Rohde  |  Photos by xxx

When we began our Canyon Spectral CF 8 K.I.S. review, we set out with open minds and excitement. In our opinion, why wouldn’t you want to try a new technology that would hopefully offer a difference to the ride experience? However, based on the online hate the Canyon K.I.S. system has received, not everyone feels the same. Canyon’s Keep It Stable – or K.I.S. system – is available in select bikes and licensed from Syntace as a form of mechanical steering assistance or a stabilizer device. Robert attended a media event last year and dove into some details during his first ride, and Drew also had the chance to get his first ride on a prototype Canyon eBike in Whistler BC last summer. Both of those videos have some interesting insights and first ride experiences. This long-term review of the Canyon Spectral CF8 K.I.S., however, needed to go further than the novelty of it all and see if K.I.S. really was the best thing to come along since dropper posts. So, did it win over our riders? Find out below.


• 150mm Horst Link Suspension
• HTA 64
• STA 76.5 (effective)
• REACH 481 (Large)

Frame: Carbon (CF) | 150mm
Fork: RockShox Lyrik Select+ RC 160mm
Shock: RockShox Super Deluxe Coil Select+ RT

Brakes: SRAM Code R | 200mm Centreline rotors
Handlebar: Canyon G5 Alloy 31.8mm | 780mm | 30mm Rise
Stem: Canyon G5 Alloy 31.8mm | 40mm Length
Seatpost: Canyon G5 | S/M: 170mm, L/XL: 200mm
Saddle: Ergon SM10 Enduro Comp

Wheelset: DT Swiss EX511 370LN
Front tire: Maxxis Assegai EXO MaxxTerra 29″ x 2.5″
Rear tire: Maxxis DHR2 EXO+ MaxxTerra 27.5″ x 2.4″

Bottom Bracket: SRAM DUB BSA
Cassette: SRAM GX Eagle | 10-52T
Cranks: SRAM GX Eagle | 32T | 170mm
Shifter: SRAM GX Eagle AXS | 12s
Derailleur: SRAM GX Eagle AXS |12s


  • Versatile

  • Super fun

  • Suspension feels surprisingly good

  • K.I.S. (Don’t knock it til you try it)

  • Decent Value


  • K.I.S Realignment usually required in event of a fall/crash


The Canyon Spectral is not a new machine, however it has enjoyed success as a crowd-pleasing all mountain bike with many riders, so Canyon opted to use it as the test bed to release the Syntace-developed Keep It Stable, K.I.S., technology to the wider market. Did it make a good bike better?

THE K.I.S. SYSTEM | We’ll keep our section on the K.I.S. system fairly brief in this article and instead focus on our ride impressions over the longer term. If you want to know the fine details and some of the theory behind the K.I.S. system, you can check out our first ride review article here.

The K.I.S. (Keep It Stable) system is designed to improve steering dynamics on a bike, creating a counter force to any deviation of the front wheel from straight. It comprises a cam ring that is attached to the steerer inside the headtube; two springs that are attached to adjustable block inside the headtube; and two synthetic fiber bands to connect them together. The adjustable block can be moved fore and aft to change the pretension on the springs, increasing or reducing the effect of the system on the steering.

Claimed benefits are improved stability and precision; reduced fatigue; and improved climbing efficiency and control thanks to wheel flop being counteracted. We were interested to find out if all of this ran true, and if so, were there any downsides to accompany the benefits.

FRAME AND FEATURES | Canyon is only offering the K.I.S.-equipped Spectral in their mullet wheel setup (29”F/27.5”R) CF8 build for now, with a carbon fiber (CF) frame housing the K.I.S. tech, and an aggressive build kit that’s built to take some abuse. There’s a 150mm travel rear end which is paired with a 160mm fork. The CF frame features all the modern features you may expect: a SRAM UDH, two-position geometry flip chip, ISCG-05 tabs for a chain guide, guided internal cable routing, room for a water bottle, and a gear mount which comes setup with a LOAD bag to store small spares and tools.

Canyon backs their Spectral CF8 frame and their own-brand components with a 6-year warranty for the original owner. Also great to see is a 30-day ride and return period, so customers can get their money back if they’re unhappy after the first few rides on their new bike.

Canyon Spectral CF8 K.I.S Review

SUSPENSION | Canyon continues to use their Triple Phase Horst Link suspension system on the Spectral, with the claimed three phases delivering a smooth feel on small bumps; stable mid stroke and ramp up at the end of its stroke.

In reality, it’s quite a typical leverage ratio curve which delivers around 29% progression which flattens towards the end of the stroke to prevent a harsh ramp when used with an air shock. Anti Squat is fairly low at sag for a modern all mountain bike, rising from around 85% in the climbing gears to roughly 100% in the harder gears. Anti Rise, or Brake Squat, sits at a fairly low figure of 65% at sag – typical for Horst Link bikes.

GEOMETRY | The Canyon Spectral Mullet has a fairly well-rounded geometry without any numbers that stand out. In the low setting of the flip chip, the Head Tube Angle is 64°; Effective Seat Tube Angle is 76°; the BB sits 33mm below the axles and the chainstays are 437mm long. Reach numbers are quite typical, going from 431mm on size Small to 506mm on XL. Our size Large test bike had a 481mm Reach and 633mm Stack height, with a Wheelbase totaling 1,255mm.

BUILD SPECS | Canyon offers the Spectral in a range of price points starting with their alloy-framed Spectral 4 at $2,299, but if you’re looking for a K.I.S.-equipped model then you’ll have to go with the $4,699 / £4,799 /€4,999 CF8 Mullet for now.

The Carbon Fiber CF frame with K.I.S. is fitted with an aggressive components package, from the coil-sprung RockShox Super Deluxe Select+ RT shock to the burly DT Swiss EX511 370LN wheelset. The fork is a 160mm travel RockShox Lyrik Select+ RC, offering low speed compression and rebound adjustments to the damper. The drivetrain is SRAM’s GX Eagle AXS – not T-Type – and the brakes are their Code R’s with a pair of 200mm rotors. Canyon provides their alloy G5 bar, stem and dropper post, keeping the price down without sacrificing too much in the way of quality. Rounding out the specs are the Ergon SM10 Enduro Comp saddle; and a Maxxis Assegai EXO / DHR2 EXO+ tire combo with MaxxTerra rubber.

Canyon Spectral CF8 K.I.S Review


SETUP | From our experience receiving over a dozen Canyon bikes, their packaging and prep make for a relatively easy build process. Getting the bike setup and feeling good was fairly easy, provided your body weight sits in the sweet spot of the specified coil spring, which we did. Airing up the fork and getting the suspension feeling good took little time or effort as the bike has a pretty open and neutral characteristic, unlike some bikes which have a very slim window for optimized performance.

We didn’t love the Canyon bars but dealt with them for a while, however one piece of kit that we just can’t even ride is Canyon’s grips. We instantly pulled them off and installed a set of OneUp grips that gave us much more comfort and security.

Setting up the K.I.S system doesn’t really require any additional steps when building, however riders can adjust how much or little resistance they want by loosening and adjusting the sliding block to move it fore and aft. Be careful not to loosen it too much however, one of our testers learned the hard way and had to get the system reconnected after loosening the bolt all the way.

CLIMBING | Even though we spent a ton of time letting a chairlift do the climbing for us, we set out on plenty of rides where we propelled the Spectral up the mountain. Whether it was going up technical pitches or spinning away on lower grade climbs, the Spectral was rather impressive for a mullet and coil-sprung all mountain bike. Some riders felt that the seat tube angle and smaller rear wheel had them a little off the back in certain scenarios, but it wasn’t enough to really turn them off. For a bike that’s as capable and competent on the downhills, it’s a really solid climber and all around mountain bike.

DESCENDING | We had a ton of fun descending on this bike. In fact we regularly asked ourselves how a 150/160mm bike was the one that kept getting loaded in the van for trips to the bike park.

What was cool about the Spectral CF8 however is that it didn’t need the gnarliest, fastest trails to remain fun. On the lower elevation trails that require quite a bit of pedaling on lower-grade descents, our riders still felt speeds and fun were on the upper end of the spectrum. Smoother flow trails with berms and jumps were enjoyable as the bike felt very natural railing turns and flying through the air.

The suspension platform is similar to other four-bar or Horst Link bikes in that it is just a solid all around performer. It offers decent platform for pushing into corners or off lips, but remains lively and playful enough to get the back end around for flicks, drifts and taps.

K.I.S. CHARACTERISTICS | During our first rides with the K.I.S. system turned on, it felt a bit unnatural and even strange. We could feel the resistance as we climbed up smoother to mildly-chunky trails. The feeling was a bit like having to push more to get the bars turning and then when they did, releasing the bars to let them come back to center, not quite a constant struggle of over/under-steering, but it was certainly noticeable. We were questioning the other riders and reviews we’d seen where people talked positively about it. However, after a few minutes, it grew more natural and we began to adapt to the feeling up front.

Once we grew more comfortable we began to feel comfortable letting our upper body and hands relax. It allowed us to just focus on pedaling and rather than actively keeping the bike pointed straight, just lay our hands on the bars to conserve energy. One downside we found is that climbing with your hands off the bars is pretty challenging. Normally you can use your body weight and knees to counter-steer and work with the rocking/tipping motion of the bike and front wheel to keep it balance and upright. With this system, the bike wants to stay straight, so riding with your hands off the bars is more tricky, granted that’s not something we do a ton of, but it is worth mentioning.

When it came to descending with the K.I.S. system, we noticed that there were only a few instances where we had to “Learn” it. Unlike the climbs, we had a harder time noticing that it was doing much of anything until we turned it off. One area that did present a couple of new sensations was in higher speed corners where the cornering technique requires a bit of bar turning as well as bike leaning. Certain corners where the radius changed or lines weren’t quite perfect resulted in some awkward feelings where the bike wanted to stand up, or straighten out a bit, or had us exiting a bit higher than desired. It was something we noted the first couple runs but then quickly adapted to. It also was less prevalent with lower tension on the K.I.S. system. So, depending on your strength, weight or how much tension you have, this could be more or less noticeable.

The only other real possibly negative trait we found was when jumping. More specifically, when we wanted to try and style or trick jumps. the system wanting to snap the bars back to center is noticed in the air, for better or worse. Depending on what you’re trying to do in the air, it could be something you turn off for jump runs and back on for raw, techy DH trails.

What we did notice however is that as soon as we turned the system off for those rough and rowdy descents, our front end felt like it was weaving from one side of the trail to the other. We quickly realized how much less the front of the bike wandered when the K.I.S. system was on. Our front tire held straighter lines, we didn’t feel like we were constantly working our arms and hands to push and pull the bars a million times a minute to make small adjustments or balance corrections. It did in fact reduce some fatigue and allowed our upper bodies to relax a bit as the system did some of the work in keeping us pointed down the hill.

Much like our first rides with the system turned on, once it was off, we had to recalibrate to riding with it off and all of our testers half-jokingly said, “Can we stop real quick? I want to turn it back on now. That was enough for me to see I like it on.” Even riders who felt it was a pointless, marketing or unnecessary feature were pulling multi-tools out of their pocket to turn the K.I.S. system back on. For whatever that’s worth, it seemed to make believers out of us. Does that mean it’s a must-have or everyone needs it? We don’t think so, but maybe as we ride it even more and on different bikes, it will be something we truly learn to love and don’t want to ride without. Or perhaps the next generation will be an even bigger ride-changing experience.

Canyon Spectral CF8 K.I.S Review

FINISH AND VALUE | Nothing stands out as amazing or really draws you into the Canyon from a fit and finish side. It’s a value-oriented bike from a value-oriented brand, which is probably all it needs to do. Recently we reviewed the Pivot Switchblade and specifically compared how nice their $5,000 Brunch Ride bike was because their frame exudes refinement and top-tier touches whereas the Canyon is the understated work horse that just does its job without needing to look flashy. For the price, we’d say it’s a decent value but not amazing since so many brands are currently making aggressive price cuts that have really amped up the competition for bikes around the $4,500 – $5,000 mark.

COMPONENT REPORT | We were quite surprised at how things held up on this bike to be honest. The fork could be argued about by some riders but we can’t really say it’s “Not the right spec” call for this bike and its intended application. The shock really surprised us with how well it performed, which was probably the one component that stood out to us on this bike. Most of our riders discussed the odd selection of going with AXS drivetrain and keeping SRAM Code R brakes on the bike, but we could understand how some may prefer to have AXS and upgrade the brakes to their preference. One thing that probably every rider will upgrade immediately are the grips. As we’ve said before, we’re pretty sure Canyon wins the award for having the worst OE grips, and would love to see something better…Or maybe that’s part of how they can keep their prices competitive?

HOW DOES IT COMPARE? | Comparing the Spectral to other bikes, we’d say it sits in a pretty impressive spot. Certainly a podium placing bike in this category. Compared to something like the Norco Sight C2 SRAM, which has a similar price point, the Canyon doesn’t look as nice from a paint, fit and finish perspective and doesn’t pack some of the size specific geometry and suspension tuning features that certainly add value to some consumers. But what it doesn’t offer in features it makes up for in performance. This bike just gets the job done and does it well.

The Wolf’s Last Word

Over the course of the year, we always have a few bikes that stand out among the rest. The Canyon Spectral CF8 KIS was a bike that put itself on that list and just stayed there. It is dependable, works well in a variety of conditions and trail types and is a lot of fun to ride. If you prioritize getting a bike under $5,000 that doesn’t have to sport all the snazzy bits and bobs that marketing geniuses thrive on, the Canyon Spectral CF8 Mullet K.I.S. is a really bad ass mountain bike for mountain biking.

Did the K.I.S. win over our crew? Well, the short answer is yes, and no. It is really cool and absolutely helped keep speeds and confidence up, fatigue low and really changed our perception of what it would do on-trail. Do we believe it’s a “Must Have” technology? Not really. It’s very cool, we would not be opposed to riding more bikes with it as an option, but we’re sure a non-K.I.S.-equipped Spectral would still be a really fun bike. So, out of 10, we give the K.I.S. system a solid 7.5 or 8.

Price: $4,699 / £4,799 /€4,999
Weight: 33.1-lbs.
Website: Canyon.com


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