Landscape Magazine

CANYON SENDER

 

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Canyon Sender Review

 
Canyon launched their Sender downhill chassis back in April 2016 and recently announced their new World Cup DH team, starring no other than pinners Troy Brosnan, Ruaridh Cunningham, and Mark Wallace. Not to mention the team is being mentored and led by the legendary Fabien Barel. 
 
The Sender has a carbon fiber main frame joined to an alloy swingarm, and comes equipped with a components package that's ready to head straight to the starting line. Air-supported Fox suspension with a multitude of adjustments are found front and rear, Renthal controls the cockpit, and RaceFace cranks are supplied to stand on. Wheelset duties are handled by DT Swiss, in the form of their FR1950. The drivetrain is a Sram X01 DH 7-speed affair. Maxxis Minion DHRII tires and an SDG I-Beam saddle finish things off. In Europe, €4999 gets your new bike posted straight to your door.
 

Canyon Sender Details

 
• Intended use: Downhill 
• Travel: 200mm 
• 27.5" wheels
• 62 - 64° adjustable head angle with included headset cups
• 430 - 446mm adjustable chainstays
• 12 x 157mm rear spacing
• Carbon main frame and 6066-T6 alloy swingarm
• 4-Bar Suspension System with MX Link
• Sizes: S, M, L, XL
• Weight: 16.2kg (claimed) size Medium
• Price: €4999
 
For the last seven months, I've had a Sender to test and have been doing my best to break it.
 

Suspension

 
Canyon hasn't gone wild trying to invent an all-new suspension linkage; a four-bar system combined with a motorbike style 'MX Link' drives the supplied Fox Float X2 shock. A matching Kashima-coated Fox 40 is found at the business end of the bike. 
 
The bike comes with a handy suspension sag-o-meter marked on the linkage. Not so handily, it doesn't mention anywhere in Canyon's literature how much the sag would be with the markings aligned. After a quick email to Canyon, I found this relates to 30% of the travel.
 
Using Fox's Float X2, I had a nightmare attaching the shock pump to the shock valve due to the frame shape. After months of struggle, I sent a moaning email to Canyon. The reply noted that Canyon was aware of this issue and there is a 'valve extender' supplied with the new bike. My valve extender was either missing on delivery, or I threw it away with the recycling.
 
Reaching the rest of the adjusters on the Float X2 (and the DHX2 pictured) is easy. Other types of shock could have issues with adjuster access and the compact frame design. Shocks with a single rebound adjuster at the non-piggy back end of the unit could be especially awkward to adjust.
 

Geometry/sizing

 
The geometry and sizing of the Sender were superbly well thought out from the beginning, introducing a full four sizes from day one. Sizes are well spaced with a 9mm increase in stack height per size and a regular 20mm added to the reach per size. A size Small, for example, sports a reach of 420mm and the XL a more rangy 480mm. 
 
Head-angle adjustment is supplied in terms of +/- 1º headset cups, giving a range between 62 and 64º. There is also an adjustable chainstay insert that swaps length between 430 and 446mm. There is no bottom bracket height adjustment. Naturally, however, a dual-crown fork allows ride height to be tweaked at the front end. My XL-sized test bike, including the -1º headset cups and the chainstay in the long setting possessed a 1322mm wheelbase. 
 

Out of the Box

 
What's the downside of buying your bike online from a direct sale only brand? Not having a local bike shop to order, receive, un-box and get it ready for you to hit the hills.
 
Luckily, the Sender arrives in a well thought out box (that is also perfect for airplane travel) with inserts to keep everything safe and protected. A basic tool kit is included with instruction manuals. All you need to do is pull the bike out of the box, bolt on the stem and insert the wheels. The bikes are fully built, prepared and checked; this includes torquing all bolts, aligning and bleeding brakes, and tuning the gears before the bike is packed and sent to your door. In short, you need only possess the most basic of mechanical skills before you can start riding. 
 

Handling

 
The carbon front end of the Sender has superb lateral stiffness, and the hand-to-feet connection is solid and accurate, even in the roughest rough. The front triangle also absorbs the frontal impacts well and doesn't transfer harsh loads through your arms and upper back.
 
On the flip side, the alloy swingarm is certainly not as stiff as others; this allows the bike to flex and track and hold a straight line with ease. It is not best at providing stiffness on the smooth hardpack of a bike park, but it's a killer through gnarly rocks and roots – the Sender is a downhill race machine and no park rat anyway. 
 
In my opinion, a bike should have the most stiffness between the headtube to the bottom bracket, and from those two points should become continually more compliant all the way to the tire contact patches. For me, the Sender has this sorted. Objectively, preferred or needed stiffness is largely influenced by rider's weight and traveling speeds. 
 
The Sender flies on smooth terrain with a few revolutions of the pedals and gains speed quickly. The downside of this stable pedaling dynamic is that it is hard to keep on the gas through the rough stuff, stiffening the suspension and bouncing my flat pedal feet around, but we shouldn't be pedaling over bumps on a downhill anyway, should we? 
 
The Sender has a close to neutral braking action thanks to the Horst-style pivot, allowing the suspension to continue to move almost freely under braking, but this always gives me the feeling of the bike pitching forwards on the stoppers; less weight on the back wheel means I need to move my weight further back to compensate, which can then cause issues with weighting the front wheel to grip in towards the corner apex. One could increase the spring rate of the fork or add some turns to the LSC to compensate for this, but I strive to strike a good balance to keep me centered on the bike during situations when I am not pulling the brake levers.
 
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Now, not everyone will agree with me here, but I find more anti-rise (brake squat) a benefit on steep trails. Yes, it will stiffen the suspension movement when braking, but not excessively. The perceived adverse effect makes me think more about braking – I try to get out of the rough, brake hard in a strong and tall position with my weight driving into the front wheel, then get off the brakes and lean into the corner and feel the tires tracking. Personally, I would like to see the Sender's suspension squat more under braking. I spoke with Canyon about the previous two points, the anti-rise and the anti-squat. They said they had built adjustable test mules to adjust the characteristics in the prototyping phase, settling on the current numbers gave them what they thought will suit a range of their pro-racers and across the board to their amateur customers. I can only agree that they have created a machine that balances all aspects of design well. 
 
Initial reports of the Sender suggested it needed more progression and mid-stroke support. The Fox Float X2 shock that came packed full of spacers (the Float X2 was delivered with six spacers installed) didn't solve this. In fact, it compounded the issue. I tried the shock with no spacers, for a more linear feel and mid-stroke support; that helped, but it still wasn't perfect. On paper, the Canyon is up there with some of the most progressive machines available. So I think the problem lies in the Float X2. I think the rebound circuit gets overwhelmed and can't return towards the sag point fast enough, this gives the feeling of it being too soft, bogging down, and making the rider want more oomph in the bike or shock to return. I did tune this out, by adding more and more compression and less and less rebound. That tweak did solve this particular bogging issue, but caused some others.
 
I strapped on a Fox DHX2 coil and noticed an instant improvement. It was more supple in the beginning, gave better mid-stroke support, returned faster to the sag point than the air-sprung shock and didn't wallow. I had no issues with excessive bottoming out and it didn't leave me wanting more progression.
 
As soon as I mounted the DHX2 coil and gave it a run, I felt I was instantly moving faster over terrain with more control. I went to my test track and set both shocks to factory damping and sag suggestions, and did some back-to-back runs. Result: I was consistently three seconds faster with the coil than with the air shock on the sub-two-minute track. This was only over six runs, but on a track I know well, so I'd say it was significant.
 
I have been told that Fox have a damping-circuit upgrade coming for model year 2018, which could solve this issue. Overall, the Fox suspension is amazing: smooth, supple, superbly reliable with a wide range of adjustment.
 
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Steepest DH track in the world: Champery.
 

Thoughts

 
Geometry: I'm bored of the short-chainstay marketing exercise. I believe people who say that they like short chainstays on short bikes. But if you always choose the XL option, I think the 446mm setting should actually be the shorter of the two options. I ran the Sender at the full 446mm length for the duration of testing, bar a couple of runs to check the short setting. Some testing by a World Cup racer on my test track suggested he was seven seconds faster on a 1.45min track with the longer CS over the short. He was riding a medium Sender. 
 
The Sender is incredibly stable thanks to its length and layout. So stabIe, that I could live with the bottom bracket being a bit higher, and has me re-thinking whether or not a low BB is always the best route. I didn't strike the ground any more often than with other bikes, but some more clearance would be welcomed, and, I think, would speed up the transitions leaning from one corner to the next, and keeping angled into longer corners and cambers.
 
• Bearing life: The bearings lasted surprisingly well with no extra grease added since day one. They have developed a slight wobble after seven months of riding (and me not holding back with the jet wash). The bearings are not perfect, but the bike still compresses freely with the shock removed.
 
• Angle issues: The angled headset cups supplied with the Sender continually rotated themselves around from the correct angle. Pressing them in dry didn't work. Pressing them in with a lathering of fiber grip paste didn't work. Super glue worked; I'm not sure what this means for the carbon, so this is not a recommendation.
 
• Finish: The finish of the front end of the bike took a hammering like a champ, and still looks great after a wash and wipe down. On the seat stay, the top layer of black paint isn't as robust and did suffer a few chips, which reveal the blue below.
 
• Torque settings: Handily all the bolts are etched with torque settings. Not that I needed them: not a single pivot bolt came loose in seven months, now that is a rarity.
 
• Hub sizing: With the ever increasing number of hub standards in the mountain bike industry, can somebody please sort this out? The extra wide 157mm hub has at least 30mm of wasted space, a huge gap on the disc side (to maintain spoke symmetry) and that silly cassette spacer on the drive side. There is a lot of real estate between the disc and frame dropout too. Can we just make bikes narrower, for better clearance, or the spoke angle wider, as we are continually told it would make our wheels better? At least E*13 have sorted some of this problem with their LG1R wheelset.
 
• Alloy over carbon: After a rock connection, the right-hand alloy lever of the Guide RS was rough and bent; fortunately, they could be filed down and straightened. I think Canyon killed it on the specification choice for the Sender CF 9.0. People will instantly compare this bike to the equally priced YT Tues, and will claim the YT has a better spec because of the carbon cranks, wheelset and brake levers. I agree, better value on paper, but when your warranty has run out and you need to replace broken carbon parts at retail pricing, your wallet will be screaming.
 
• Details: The attention to detail on this bike is superb: the rear mudguard, the silently-insulated internal cable routing, the chain and heel guards on the chainstay. Dialed.
 

Component Check

 
• Fox Float 40 Factory and Float X2: The Float 40 is fantastic. Even though the recommended service interval is much shorter than the six months I didn't touch them for, the 40 kept on performing superbly. When I finally stripped them down, the oil was filthy and the cartridge squishy with some air pockets. But the fork was still working commendably until then. I only decided to get them sorted after they started getting really sticky.
 
• Maxxis Minion DHR II: I'd say Maxxis are still the king of the downhill tire. The carcass feeling is superb, the tread is a good width, and you get decent longevity in the 3C version. 
 
• SRAM X0 DH: Now I am not the biggest derailleur fan, but SRAM's X01 DH system was fantastic and nearly issue free. Except for the original B-tension screw and plate that broke within a few rides, it was the only ride ending problem with the bike. SRAM has acknowledged that this is a warranty issue and it was replaced with no further problems. If this happened to you, get in touch and they will fix it. I was a bit upset my replacement came with red stickers, instead of the original blue, though.
 
• DT Swiss FR1950 Wheelset: These wheels kept on taking the hits like a champ. I dropped the spoke tensions over a full turn, which had a huge impact improving off-camber grip, deflection, and traction. Tensions are low, and not ideal for hardpack berms and smooth corners, but boy, do they track well. The DT Pro Lock nipples also do a fantastic job of staying put, I ran the wheels for months at low tension, and they just never loosened off further. The rims are compliant, and the alloy isn't too hard. The rims have suffered a few minor dings, but nothing major, and none big enough to affect tubeless setup.
 
• E13 LG1 Chain Device: The E*13 LG1 chain guide and bash guard did a superb job with retention and protection. The lower roller, however, wasn't the smoothest operator, rumbling away whenever I was turning the cranks.
 

Conclusion

It's incredibly hard to pick faults with the Sender. Canyon has simply sent the ball out of the park. This machine combines the best value, ride, sizing and build kit on the market; it only seems to have one competitor from the other German direct sale brand.

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