Blitzkrieg Bop

Can This Über-Light German Bike Make You King of the Mountain? We Put It to the Test


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Brand: Canyon
Product: Neuron CF SLX 9.0 LTD
Price: $6,499
From: canyon.com

Remember that scene in Spider-Man: Homecoming when Peter Parker first tries out his souped-up suit? He immediately starts swinging all over the city, foiling a bike thief, impressing the locals, mistakenly web-zapping a guy getting into his own car and generally wreaking a mixture of magic and havoc throughout the montage. That’s kinda how I felt about the prospect of testing Canyon’s super-powered Neuron CF SLX 9.0 LTD mountain bike.

After all, I breathlessly wrote about its launch not too long ago, marveling at just how incredibly light (less than 26 pounds) the Koblenz, Germany-based brand had managed to make the bike while still packing in plenty of mouth-watering features. We’re talking Shimano XTR shifting, cushy Fox suspension, durable DT Swiss carbon wheels and so much more. The key? Special 40T UD carbon fibers, which boost the tensile strength of its sinewy frame.

As still somewhat of a mountain biking novice, I felt a bit like young Peter in the film: excited but, deep down, wholly unqualified to tame this beast. But of course I wanted to try. And over the course of the past couple months, I’ve been riding this thing just about every Saturday or Sunday. It’s proven to be not only a blessed respite from the pandemic panic, but a patient and forgiving teacher that has only sent me flying over the handlebars a few times. (Of course, I almost always deserved it.)

What We Like

Let’s start with the obvious: how f**king light it is. When you mountain bike in New York City — which in my case means riding 13 miles, way out to Cunningham Park in Queens just to start mountain biking — every pound really counts. (Side note: the serious road-riding designer who cut the images for this piece gave me crap about not ditching the reflectors, but I maintain when you’re riding home at night through multiple NYC boroughs, you wanna be, you know, visible.)

But assuming you don’t have nearly as far to ride, or you can drive your bike to the trails… I really notice the (lack of) weight when I’m actually mountain biking — especially when I’m going uphill. I don’t think I’ve gotten any fitter, but whereas I used to struggle in a few sections of the park, I can climb everything now. Granted, Cunningham is not a very… vertical spot, but there are so many twists and turns packed in that it can leave you out of breath for the little steeps, and I barely bat an eye at them these days. That has more to do with the machine than the man.

The second thing that stands out to me is that while the Neuron climbs exceptionally well, it descends pretty capably, too. It doesn’t have as much travel as some other MTBs I’ve been on lately: just over 5 inches front and rear, more than an inch less than the Trek Slash 9.9 I fell in love with at mountain bike camp in Whistler last year. But I find when I trigger the snappy dropper post and engage my “human suspension” properly, I can still send it down sketchy descents and rocky pitches without landing on my face.

I attribute this capability not only to all the high-end componentry the bike possesses, which you can read more about on the bike’s own page, but to something unmistakably… German. What can I say? This thing is clearly engineered by exacting pros, which enables all those fancy parts to work in concert to prevent a noob like me from making a total fool of himself out there, most of the time.

One final quality that stands out to me, that probably sounds kind of silly, is the fact that the Neuron is a surefire crowdpleaser. I see and ride a lot of sharp-looking bikes, but every time I take this thing out for the day, I get admiring glances, questions and comments, usually from riders who seem to know much more about it than I do. While these remarks don’t on their own make me a better rider, they give me the confidence in my equipment that you need to trust both yourself and your steed to take on tougher challenges and truly progress.

Watch Out For

All that said, I do have few beefs with this Neuron. The first one is really more about the industry than this particular ride. I haven’t been mountain biking seriously for all that long, and I am already so over these wide-ass handlebars all the new MTBs I’ve ridden recently seem to have. I get it, they’re more stable, but holy crap does that quality lose its appeal when you have to lean the bike halfway over to fit between tight trees. Like barefoot running a few years ago, wide bars is a trend I’ll be glad to see go whenever it does.

My other two hangups are, admittedly, pretty nitpicky. While it’s quite reliable and responsive, the mechanical shifting can be rather clunky on occasion. I’m planning to swap in Archer Components D1X shifters and see what kind of different that makes, which could be another story in itself. Last but… least, my tester came with some rather flimsy pedals. Considering most high-end bikes don’t come with any pedals at all, it’s hardly a beef at all, but I almost immediately swapped them for beefier ones and got significantly more stoked.

Urban MTB at its finest: this overpass bridges the intermediate and advanced sections of Cunningham Park.

Other Options

There are honestly a ton of great trail bikes out there. But in terms of being at or near the top of a brand’s line and boasting high-end components, carbon frames, top-notch suspension, 29-inch wheels and somewhat similar price points, a few that come to mind are the Specialized Stumpjumper EVO Pro 29 ($6,620), Evil Bikes The Offering ($7,399+) and Trek Fuel EX 9.9 XTR ($7,500+).

Verdict

My most recent trip out to Cunningham was last Saturday. And while every preceding visit had been like Peter Parker’s first adventure in the Spidey suit — equal parts uplifting and humbling — for the first time I really felt in command of just about every trail I tackled.

Hell, at one point, another rider even started asking me for advice about how to tackle one of the tougher sections of this surprisingly action-packed park — that little rock drop shown in the second photo at the top of this page — and asked to watch me demo it. I took a deep breath and somehow sent it over that thing perfectly. The validating rush was not exactly equivalent to swinging from New York’s tallest buildings, but it sure felt like it!

Bottom line: this bike isn’t exactly cheap. It’s Canyon’s most ambitious mountain bike after all. But even at its fairly steep price point, the Neuron offers value and joy that exceeds the dent in your bank account. The upsides far outweigh the downsides (and the actual bike, of course. Did I mention less than 26 pounds?). And much like Peter Parker once he’s had a taste of his suit’s powers… I sure as hell don’t wanna send the thing back.

Canyon provided this product for review.

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Note: Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here.

Steve Mazzucchi

Steve Mazzucchi is Gear Patrol’s outdoors and fitness editor. Outside the office, you can find him mountain biking, snowboarding, motorcycling or sipping a dram of Laphroaig and daydreaming about such things.

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