Canyon Lux CF SLX 9.0

I’m a reasonably strategic shopper. I don’t like paying more for something than is necessary. I want quality, but I don’t care about labels. Canyon is a brand that has an almost instinctive appeal for me. 

Like anyone who has visited Canyon’s site, when I first looked at the bikes and the pricing, I rubbed my eyes. Then I rubbed them again. Then I went to another big bike company’s web site and checked similar bikes with similar builds. The savings were so obvious I honestly wonder why they aren’t selling even more bikes. 

I’d reviewed the Canyon Lux CF 8.0 Race previously, and as much as I liked it, they wanted me to take another look because they had made some subtle but meaningful changes. While I rode a SRAM-equipped bike spec’d with Gripshift previously, this time I rode one of the top-of-the-line builds, with Shimano XTR, which was, honestly, the first time I got to do significant miles on that group not at a ski area, where I was constantly pushing the brakes to their limit. More on that in a second.

With mountain bikes, setting is huge. In the last year I’ve ridden a variety of mountain bikes: a hardtail, a few trail bikes, a couple of long-travel 29ers and one short-travel cross country bike, the Canyon Lux CF SLX 9.0. Some were better than others, and usually (though not always) that corresponded to riding them in the sort of terrain they were designed for. 

Rather than design the rear triangle with pivots, the Lux uses flattened seatstays to allow the triangle to flex as it moves through its travel.

For example, I can’t stand riding a hardtail on some of the rockier trails in Annadel State Park, near my home, and honestly, I wonder what would possess anyone to do so. Let’s call it what it is: a bias.

Similarly, a long-travel 29er on the trails I ride when I visit Memphis would be absolutely laughable. There’s not enough down to require that much suspension. The trails twist more than your larger intestine, and a big bike with that sort of relaxed geometry would feel like driving a monster truck on a Formula 1 course. Mismatch indeed.

I’ve been on record saying that I think for anyone who isn’t completely rad or a dedicated cross country racer, a trail bike is the way to go. That sweet spot of 120-135mm of travel results in a bike that pedals well and can take in any terrain that doesn’t pose the risk of imminent fatality.

The 100mm Fox Stepcast 32 surprised me because it never felt underpowered for the riding I do.

Mode of Attack
This is a cross country bike, straight up. With 100mm of travel front and rear, prospective buyers could be forgiven for thinking this bike would be out of its element on terrain any more raw than a groomed race course, but my experience was that this handled all the terrain I typically ride. On the previous Lux I’d ridden I managed to bottom out both the fork and shock on a couple of occasions—not hard stops, but just enough to see the O-ring at the end of the travel. With the suspension set up for my weight with hydration pack, I noticed that this was slightly more progressive.

I told myself that this edition felt smoother over most terrain, but that could have been me and my personal echo chamber. It’s hard to say without having both bikes directly at hand. What I can say for certain is that the change improved my control on especially rocky terrain. How do I know that? Simple. Strava PRs. I re-set a number of them that I’d previously set on the Lux.

This steering restrictor prevents the fork crown from hitting the frame.

23.26
That’s the number in pounds, that this bike weighed. That’s the same weight as my circa-1992 Merlin mountain bike with cantilever brakes, no suspension, 26-inch wheels and a 21-speed drivetrain.

Is a 23-lb. full-suspension cross country bike fun? You betcha. It’s crazy fun and what is readily apparent is how the raw material diet resulted in a bike that is a bit more nimble just because there’s less mass headed in any one direction. Would I have dinged the bike were it 25 or 26 lbs? Not on your life. Would I have noticed an extra three pounds? Sure … every time I picked the bike up, but not while pedaling up a hill.

We tout lightweight bikes and components for what they are supposed to deliver as we climb or accelerate. Were I chasing podium finishes in races, I can tell you the reduced weight would mean something, but as much as I’d like to tell the world I climbed faster on this bike, my gains were too modest to measure.

Why?

The XTR group shifted flawlessly, especially under full power on a climb.

For the simple reason that my fitness can vary more in a year than equipment can make up for. Slow me is different enough from fast me that the only time I can verify that a bike really made a difference is on a descent. And depending on the descent, lots of factors can influence why one bike is faster than another.

The Lux, by virtue of it being a cross country bike, is meant to be nimble, as nimble as a bike with 29-inch wheels can be. Its angles are a bit steeper, the bottom bracket is lower (easier to do with less suspension travel), and the wheelbase is shorter. The upshot is that it will always be faster than most anything else on classic, twisty singletrack, but put it on a machine-cut flow trail that bends with the lazy arc that unavoidably comes with escape-velocity speed, and it will get trounced by a proper trail bike.

I know that 1x systems are alleged not to lose the chain off the chainring thanks to its wide/narrow teeth, but I have lost the chain in thick mud; this little chain catcher is handy.

Tire Kicking
Too often, bike reviews don’t separate what the bike company can control (how the bike handles and rides) from what they can’t (components made by other manufacturers). Putting Shimano XTR parts on this bike was an obvious answer; you won’t get to 23 lbs. by spec’ing any of Shimano’s less expensive groups.

Because of the abuse we subject mountain bikes to, I’ve not typically liked XTR. Hush my mouth. But srsly. The brake levers flexed in a way that was not reassuring and because I don’t possess the skill set of a pro mountain biker, I do actually use the brakes, rather a lot I suppose. I always found XTR discs to be underpowered for my needs. Well those days are gone. Flex is nearly nonexistent in the brake levers now, and the brakes are a good deal more powerful.

This will sound crazy, but this was the first time I ever liked XTR brakes.

The Lux was spec’d with a Fox 32 Stepcast fork and Fox Float DPS shock. As I mentioned previously, the fork has 100mm of travel and the shock allows for 100mm of travel at the rear wheel. A lockout switch allowed me to still the front and rear suspension (there continued a tiny bit of movement for the sake of the seals, but I didn’t need to freeze my upper body to get out of the saddle). I love lockout switches as a concept, but this particular switch has a crazy design. Depress the lower, spring-loaded switch to pull the cable and the suspension opens; this is the switch that, like downshifting a rear derailleur, actually requires some force to depress. The tiny switch above it releases the cable, locking out the suspension; this switch requires only the lightest of touches. The upshot is that, should an errant thumb (or knee) even tap the small switch, the suspension locks. It happened any number of times, most often if my thumb slipped off the dropper post lever, which was positioned quite close so that I could reach both switches and that lever without moving my hand out of position. Part of the problem is that with the lower switch pushed in to keep the suspension open, the little switch doesn’t have the cover of that bigger switch.

The design of the Fox remote was the only thing about this bike I didn’t like.

Quite simply, that switch design is stupid. Sure, I could have mounted the switch farther inboard, but that makes it inconvenient to reach and if you are making stuff inconvenient to reach for the sole purpose of getting it out of the way so that it doesn’t accidentally get released, well that’s just a bad design.

That said, that’s the only thing about the bike’s performance that I can criticize. Can you knock a bike for being $5849? Yeah; all I have to do is put a post on Facebook and I can find 100 cyclists who will discuss what an affront to sanity a bike that expensive is. It’s not; the comparable bike from Specialized is $8400. Further, Canyon offers bikes at a half dozen different price points. The most expensive Lux goes for $5999, while the entry-level model (6.0) is $3399 and easily one of the best mountain bike values I’ve run across.

One small heads-up regarding this model; it is out of stock. I’d like to blame it on 2020’s anything-that-isn’t-nailed-down pandemic sales bonanza, but the launch of TCI was a contributing factor in the delay.

That this bike pedaled efficiently owes partly to the 100mm of travel, but also partly due to the Fox Float DPS shock.

The “social” trails of Annadel unspool only marginally more straight than the spiral binder in a notebook. Hyperbole, to be sure, but you get my drift. The Lux was at home on those trails, navigating the twists and wiggling course corrections like two cooks in a busy restaurant kitchen. I wish I’d been able to take this bike to Memphis and ride my home trails there. I have visions of pounding full power over sequences of roots that used to bounce me like a baby on a knee.

Assembling a bike from a box is mob-enforcer intimidating to many riders. Little touches like this cable keeper for the dropper post is just one instance of how Canyon went the extra mile to make sure this bike was easy to assemble.

Given this bike’s pricing, ease of assembly and on-dirt performance, the only thing I wonder about is why I’m not seeing more of them on the trails.

Final thought: Even if you don’t go big, you don’t have to go home.

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