Just over a year ago, my Canyon Spectral AL 29 6.9 arrived. I’ve done about 900 miles on it so far and I thought I’d write a bit about how it’s been to live with the bike for a year. I’d like to say that most of those 900 miles have been gnarly, off-road riding, but to be honest, it’s been about a 50-50 split between riding the roads to stay fit and riding the trails to have fun.
First up, has the bike been reliable? In a word, yes. All through last summer, autumn and winter, the bike just got on with whatever I asked it to do with the absolute minimum of maintenance and fettling. I cleaned bits, lubed bits and added air here and there, but it never really required any major work. I swapped out the grips on the bars because I love the big, fat, grippy Superstar XL grips, but other than that, for the first 11 months, the bike was pretty much as it came supplied by Canyon. By this April however, the drivetrain was starting to show a bit of wear and tear. The chain wasn’t really slipping too much and it was shifting OK so I thought I’d see how many more miles I could get out of it. Then the chain snapped, fortunately, only about a mile from home.
I did the sensible thing and replaced the whole drivetrain at once, swapping out the Race Face cranks for Shimano ones and increasing the size of the cog at the front slightly to a 32 tooth but kept the rear cassette the same spec. Not sure if it was the bigger cog that caused it, but since it’s been on the bike, I’ve managed to take some chunks out of my fastest times on my local trails. More of that later.
Other than the drivetrain, the rear tyre is now on it’s last legs, looking rather worn (I blame all the weight my fat arse puts on it) and the headset has developed an annoying creak as the bearings are starting to go. Generally though, considering it gets battered over roots and rocks with 18 stone of me on top of it, it’s held up pretty well.
In terms of how it rides, I love it, can’t really say any more than that. I’ve read tons of bike reviews in mags that go on about handling and this and that, and it makes no sense to me really. All I know is that I get on my bike and it feels good and I feel like I can ride as fast and as hard as I am able without worrying that I might be better off on a slightly different bike. I’ve never been on a mountain bike that feels as stable and as confidence-inspiring at speed, and I’m riding faster than I’ve ever ridden. Well, I’m sure 20 years ago I could ride up hills faster, but when I want to do important things, like cornering hard and maintaining speed over rough terrain, the bike never lets me down. In fact I’m sure it could corner a lot harder with a better rider than me in the saddle.
Hopefully the 2nd year of riding the Canyon will involve taking it to a few more interesting places and trying more new trails.
Still clocking up the miles (more than double the amount I’ve ridden on the Canyon) is my Ragley Blue Pig. It always feels too small and a bit dated getting on the Ragley after being on the Canyon, but the Pig still does the job. It had it’s drivetrain replaced last November, and this March I put some wider bars on it so it’s riding nicely and feeling a little less cramped.
It’s gradually making itself at home in the dusty, rocky calderas of Fuerteventura and slowly finding new trails. I managed to meet another local rider out there and there is potential to do some slightly more scary riding out in the Canaries this summer. Trail reports and injury details may well appear on this blog in August…
It’s been a slow start to 2015, this time last year, I’d ridden 477 miles, this year, 273. That’s a big drop, but I have been climbing a lot, I’ve been trying to make sure that every ride I do has at least 1,000ft of climbing involved, and I’m hoping that 12 mile rides with 1,200ft climbing will do more for my fitness than the 20 mile rides with 400ft of climbing did last year.
Though I say it’s been a slow start to 2015, I have been setting some new personal best times on some of my regular trails at Bedgebury. I’ve managed to get into the top 60 on five or six of the leaderboards. Being 51st or 56th out of 3,600-odd Strava riders feels pretty good to me. I’ve managed to do it (I think) by getting more and more confident to lean the Spectral into corners. I’ve not yet found the limits of it’s grip, and I hope I never do, because I’m not sure I fancy losing traction when leaning into a corner at 15mph, especially since I don’t wear kneepads.
The last couple of times I’ve ridden at Bedgebury it’s been in fantastic shape, really really dry, grippy and fast. Springtime also means much less foliage to whack you in the face or block your vision on corners too. Last time there I managed to do 2 laps of the singletrack for the first time ever. Very tiring, but on my first lap round, I managed an average speed of 9.5mph which is my quickest run round yet. 2nd lap was more like 8mph and very hard work, but it felt good to finally have the fitness level to actually be able to do 17 miles there at a decent pace. I even managed to lap some lads who were riding round at the same time.
Here’s a little bit of Bedgebury footage from May bank Holiday weekend…