Canyon’s new steering stabilizer-equipped Spectral K.I.S. mountain bike holds your line, taking some of the work out of climbing, and then smoothing out and speeding up your descents by automatically centering the handlebar.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on Bikerumor.
But don’t call it a steering damper. Instead, something much simpler hides inside this Spectral’s carbon top tube. The Syntace K.I.S. tech gently straightens the bike as trail obstacles deflect the front wheel.
But why, you ask?
Canyon Spectral K.I.S. Gets Stable Steering
Why did Canyon put a steering stabilizer in their popular and versatile Spectral trail-to-enduro bike?
It seems rare that we get to see true out-of-the-blue innovation in bikes. Mountain bikes have improved in the past decade primarily by continually evolving geometry, suspension layouts and internals, wheel-tire interfaces, and shifting tech. The Canyon Spectral has already benefited from that in the last 2 years.
But the Syntace Keep It Stable (K.I.S.) steering stabilizer device is an entirely new concept and one that could make us rethink how to ride a bicycle, especially off-road.
The idea boils down to self-centering steering, like in most modern motor vehicles. So without rider input, the bars come back straight when the front wheel hits an obstacle that knocks it off track.
You can also think of it like this. Close your eyes and let go of the bars for a second, and when you open them, you know precisely where the handlebar is — closing your eyes while riding isn’t usually the best idea.
But a similar analog might look further down the trail to anticipate a bigger obstacle, and your wheel hits something. Or glancing down to see if your shock is unlocked, back to see what gear you are in, or down at the just-punctured tire hissing and spraying sealant at you.
Any instance where you break concentration or take your hands off the bar, that’s when a self-centering steering stabilizer could save your butt.
Canyon highlights that the Spectral K.I.S. system filters out those small bumps that knock your front wheel off track, delivering “less twitchy, more confident handling” when descending. The K.I.S. system improves stability on the flats or climbs by counteracting the wheel flop from the slack front ends and weight shifting back.
That should mean over technical terrain, faster descending with less stress and easier climbing with less upper body fatigue.
How does it all work?
The basis of the limited edition, steering-stabilized Spectral K.I.S. is a standard carbon Spectral 29 CF that Canyon reshaped in 2021 as a do-it-all 29er all-mountain bike. It’s a versatile 150/160mm bike that can easily go from everyday trail bike to light enduro under a deft rider.
Tucked inside the top tube of the popular trail-to-enduro bike is the relatively simple and lightweight 120g spring, strap and cam setup. The system doesn’t slow down steering, instead gently pulling the handlebar back to a straight position after trail obstacles knock it out of line.
Canyon’s solution is super low profile, only visible from the outside of the frame at three points. The bolt-on head badge is the connection point for an internal ~175-degree steerer stop.
A hole on the left side of the headtube gives access to the clamp bolt that secures the cam around the steerer tube (this is where you would loosen, straighten the bars following a significant crash, and retighten the cam). And the alloy adjuster on the top tube allows you to vary the tension of the internal spring by sliding the adjuster front-to-back.
But does it improve the ride?
Canyon Spectral CF8 K.I.S. Riding Impressions
Here’s the thing, I only spent the better part of one day riding the new Canyon Spectral K.I.S., so I’m not sure yet. But I am intrigued.
I rode the steering-stabilized bike on sometimes loose, sometimes technical trails north of Nice, the home trails of Fabien Barel, who showed us around. And I also have ridden the regular Spectral (and its mullet and 125mm versions) a lot on my home trails, so I was already very familiar with the bike’s feel.
And for the most part, in its middle spring setting, the Canyon Spectral K.I.S. didn’t feel all that different most of the time. I rode along and quickly accepted the self-centering steering as normal while on the ground.
It wasn’t a super strong pull. And it felt like K.I.S. was probably helping to keep my front wheel straight while bombing down challenging, rocky, and loose trails.
I could feel the spring working a bit against my steeper handlebar turns in slower corners. But going faster through loose turns, it seemed to give more grip.
The explanation was that the K.I.S. system was pulling the back wheel inline more with the turn, helping me have a more balanced position on the bike to get a better grip from both wheels.
The odd sensation was when the bike was in the air, and I was riding playfully. Most times, when I jumped off a hip turn or whipped the bike over a straight line jump, I turned the bars a bit, pointing the bike in the direction I wanted to land. But in the air, the Canyon Spectral with the K.I.S. steering stabilizer would always want to straighten itself out.
Without friction from the ground keeping the back end where it was, the spring would make it straight again if the bike was in the air with the bars turned. The weirdest part wasn’t this straightening; it was the equalizing of the bike.
If I didn’t actively resist, the K.I.S. system moved the bars halfway back straight and partially lined up the bike’s rear end. It wasn’t entirely equal and a bit unexpected at first.
With that said, it wasn’t a bad sensation, just something I had to get used to.
On my first rides, I wasn’t confident enough to push the bike past the edge of grip on unfamiliar trails to experience the two-wheel drift that Fabien Barel described as similar to being on skis. But after turning through the air, I got a sense of what that will feel like with the bike wanting to keep itself aligned.
So yes, the bike helped stability down technical trails. And while it didn’t magically make me a better climber, I did feel good climbing up loose trails with less input to keep the bike straight.
Is it a game-changer? Maybe. Everyone doesn’t need to get rid of the perfectly functional mountain bike they currently know how to ride and get a new KIS-enabled bike. Most current Spectral owners don’t need a K.I.S.-equipped version.
But the riding feel was unique. And it certainly could appeal to a wide range of riders, including those who lack the confidence to attack the most technical trails. Or, on the other end of the spectrum, those technically skilled riders looking to push it farther and faster down the gnarliest paths.
I’ll leave it with this: I want to spend more time on this bike. When more are available after this winter, I’m going to try to put in a bunch of rides on the new Canyon Spectral K.I.S. to see if it can reshape how I ride a mountain bike.
Canyon Spectral CF 8 K.I.S.: Pricing & Availability
Curiously and as a pleasant surprise, adding innovative tech doesn’t add a ton to the bike’s overall cost. As Syntace describes it, its K.I.S. system itself is relatively simple and lightweight, so a lot of the added cost is in integrating it seamlessly into the bike.
Adding K.I.S. to the Spectral increases cost by $400, bringing the total to $4,799 — under the 5k mark. More critical will be its availability.
For the first year, Canyon has exclusivity for the K.I.S. tech outside of Syntace/Liteville, but volumes are still pretty low to start. Canyon suggested that about 150 Spectral C.F. 8 K.I.S. bikes were available on the Oct. 25 launch, with more expected in the early spring.
The limited edition 2022 Canyon Spectral C.F. 8 K.I.S. ($4,799) is available now in three or four stock sizes (small coming in a couple of weeks) in Reflecting Grey (reflective paint) in a single Shimano XT, Fox Performance suspension build meant to hit an attainable price point for all riders looking for the latest tech.
So if the K.I.S.-equipped, steering-stabilized all-mountain bike sounds like your kind of bike, you’d better act fast to snag one.