Canyon invited us to try out their 2017 Neuron range for a day’s riding around the Forest of Dean’s trails. Here’s what we thought of the Neuron AL 7.9 29er after a short, but fun day’s riding.
New for 2017 the Canyon Neuron range of full suspension mountain bikes replaces last year’s Canyon Nerve models. In terms of levels of suspension travel (120 mm) the Neuron range sits below the longer travel Enduro/Gravity ranges the Spectral and the Strive which points it very much towards the longer travel XC racer or XC Marathon type of rider. Indeed, Canyon Bikes own publicity material claims that the Neuron range is for those riders wishing to excel “during extensive adventures over mountainous terrain”.
The 29in AL 7.9 tested here sits in the middle of the Neuron AL range specification and price wise (£1949 + shipping) the maximum of which is the Neuron AL 9.9SL selling at £3,200. As mentioned above the 7.9 uses 29er/700cc wheels and has a frame shock and fork suspension providing up to 110 mm and 120mm of travel respectively.
The Neuron Range is sold in three sizes: M, L and XL, although worth noting that like some other brands smaller riders looking for a similar bike are directed to Canyon’s 650B Neuron AL range.
Despite the keen price point the bike comes with a mix of impressive and dependable components including a Fox Rhythm 34 suspension fork with 120 mm spring travel and 15 mm through axle; a Fox Performance Float rear shock; RockShox Reverb height adjustable dropper seat post with handlebar remote switch; DT Swiss 1505 Splined wheelset (although the Canyon website states the model should come with the lower graded Mavic Crossride wheelset); plus a mix of XT and SLX 11 speed Shimano Drivetrain.
A 70mm stem and 720mm wide bars puts the Neuron more in the XC rather than endure or gravity trail rider camp, but this would be obvious to anyone studying the bikes geometry and angles. Weighing in ar a respectful 13.4 KG and the frame suspension design used by Canyon is a typical four-bar Horst-link suspension arrangement. Rear wheel spacing is 142×12 while the front fork and hub on the test bike used the wider Boost 110 mm platform. This provides 29ers with a much stiffer and stable front end.
With both front and rear shock set up complete we set off for an assault of the Forest of Dean’s finest MTB trails (The Vederas Trail and the Freeminers Trail). These are a perfect mix of man-made and more natural terrain to test the Neuron AL’s capabilities.
Being used to the feel of carbon fibre rides, we were immediately reminded of the ride character of aluminium frames; greater trail feedback. Once re-acclimatised we quickly appreciated the sure stable handling of the bike as it devoured the terrain without hesitation.
It was agile on the climbs, stable and stiff in the turns and berms and dependable on the descents thanks to the bike’s steepish XC style geometry. The Neuron AL demonstrated the flexibility and capability that riders might demand from a bike that can fulfill a range of riding tasks. Anything from being taken for a blast around the local woods to more ambitious adventures in the high mountains.
The impressive key components – shocks, drivetrain and dropper post all worked flawlessly to help enhance the enjoyment of the ride. We particularly liked the internal cable routing for the dropper post and the spread of gears offered by the 2x 11 Shimano groupset.
The Shimano M506 stoppers also worked flawlessly for the duration of the test. The DT Swiss XM 1501 Splined wheelset felt exceptional, although as noted above this wheelset is associated with the some of the higher price range Neurons ALs.
Often a reaction to riding a bike depends on the style of rider you are and the type of bike you usually ride. Someone more familiar with what we might consider more progressive geometry could find the Neuron too twitchy. They might feel it was not as fun to ride compared to bikes with a slacker frame and geometry. But the Neuron AL is more about agility and speed over all terrain, including ascending.
It will appeal to those riders looking for a faster, more direct ride over big terrain, rather than a day out at a bike park. While it is tempting to imagine how a carbon version of this bike might ride – certainly a costlier option if it were ever to exist – don’t let the fact that this is an aluminium frame put you off giving this and the rest of the range some serious consideration if you are in the market for a new trail bike. As well as providing an all-round quality ride the Neuron Al 7.9 is packed with quality componentry at a really competitive price.
All photos courtesy of Canyon on the day.
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