Canyon Spectral KIS Automatic Steering Climbs & Descends Faster: First Rides Review

Canyon’s new steering stabilizer-equipped Spectral KIS all-mountain bike holds your line, taking some of the work out of climbing, then smoothing out and speeding up your descents by automatically returning your handlebar back-to-center. But don’t call it a steering damper. Instead, it is something much simpler hiding inside this Spectral’s carbon toptube – Syntace K.I.S. tech gently straightening out the bike as trail obstacles deflect your front wheel…

But why you ask?

Canyon Spectral KIS 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. Modern mountain bikes for example have gotten much better in say the past decade, for the most part just continually evolving geometry, suspension layouts & internals, wheel-tire interfaces, and shifting tech. The Canyon Spectral has already benefited from all of that in the last two years alone.

Canyon Spectral KIS all-mountain bike, MTB steering dynamics by Syntace

But the Syntace Keep It Stable (K.I.S.) steering stabilizer device is an entirely new concept on top of that… and one that could make us rethink how to ride a bicycle, especially off-road.

The idea essentially boils down to self-centering steering – like you have in most modern motor vehicles. So without rider input, when the front wheel hits an obstacle that knocks it off track, the bars come back straight.

But why?

Canyon Spectral KIS all-mountain bike, MTB steering dynamics by Syntace, But Why?

c. Canyon, photos by Boris Beyer, Roo Fowler & Bengt Stiller

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 exactly where the handlebar will be. Closing your eyes while riding isn’t usually the best idea. But a similar analog might be simply looking further down the trail to anticipate a bigger obstacle and your wheel hits something right in front of it. Or glancing down to see if your shock is unlocked, or back to see what gear you are in, or down at the just-punctured tire that is hissing and spraying sealant at you, or straightening your glasses or wiping sweat out of your eyes. Any instance where you break concentration for a fraction of a second or take your hands off the bar, that’s when a self-centering steering stabilizer could just save your butt.

Canyon Spectral KIS all-mountain bike, MTB steering dynamics by Syntace, frame detail

Canyon highlights the fact that Spectral KIS system simply filters out those small bumps that knock your front wheel off track, delivering “less twitchy, more confident handling” when descending. On the flats when your weight is shifted further back or when climbing uphill, the KIS system also improves stability by counteracting the wheel flop that comes from the raked-out front end of modern slack mountain bikes.

Canyon Spectral KIS all-mountain bike, MTB steering dynamics by Syntace, cornering

photo by Boris Beyer

That should mean over technical terrain, both faster descending with less stress and easier climbing with less upper body fatigue.

How does it all work?

Tech details

Canyon Spectral KIS all-mountain bike, MTB steering dynamics by Syntace, frame

The basis of the limited edition, steering-stabilized Canyon Spectral KIS is a standard carbon Spectral 29 CF that was reshaped in 2021 as a do-it-all 29er all-mountain bike. It’s a pretty versatile 150/160mm bike that easily can go from everyday trail bike to light enduro under a deft rider.

Syntace KIS steering stabilizer reimagines MTB handling, Canyon internal x-ray

Tucked inside the toptube of the popular trail-to-enduro bike is the relatively simple and lightweight 120g spring, strap & cam setup that doesn’t slow down your steering, instead gently pulling the handlebar back to a straight position after trail obstacles knock your wheel out of line.

Canyon Spectral KIS all-mountain bike, MTB steering dynamics by Syntace, exploded view

Canyon’s solution is super low profile, only visible from the outside of the frame at three points. The real bolt-on headbadge serves as the connection point for an internal ~175° 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 bigger crash, and retighten the cam.) And the alloy adjuster on the toptube allows you to vary the tension of the internal spring by sliding the adjuster front-to-back.

Canyon Spectral KIS all-mountain bike, MTB steering dynamics by Syntace, adjustable spring

photo by Roo Fowler

Read all about the Syntace Keep It Stable (K.I.S.) steering stabilizer tech here.

But does it actually improve the ride?

Riding Impressions

Canyon Spectral K.I.S. all-mountain bike review, Keep It Stable enduro trail riding, fast& rough

photo by Boris Beyer

Here’s the thing, I only have spent the better part of one day riding the new Canyon Spectral KIS, so I’m not really sure yet. But I am intrigued.

I rode the steering-stabilized bike back-to-back 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 & 125mm versions) a lot on my home trails, so I was already very familiar with the bike’s feel.

Canyon Spectral K.I.S. all-mountain bike review, Keep It Stable enduro trail riding, loose descent

photo by Roo Fowler

And for the most part, in its middle spring setting the Canyon Spectral KIS doesn’t feel all that different to ride most of the time. I rode along and quickly accepted the self-centering steering as normal while on the ground. It’s not a super strong pull. And it felt like KIS was probably helping to keep my front wheel straight bombing down a tough, rocky & loose trail.

Canyon Spectral K.I.S. all-mountain bike review, Keep It Stable enduro trail riding, slow-speed

photo by Roo Fowler

Going into slower corners, I could feel the spring trying to work a bit against my steeper handlebar turns. But going faster through loose turns it seemed to give more grip, the more the spring was doing something. The mechanism for this sounds like it was been explained to me mostly that the KIS system is pulling the back wheel inline more with the turn, helping me have a more balanced position on the bike to get better grip from both wheels together.

Canyon Spectral K.I.S. all-mountain bike review, Keep It Stable enduro trail riding, self-aligning in the air

photo by Boris Beyer

The one really odd sensation is when the bike is in the air, and you are riding playfully. Most times when I would jump off a hip in a turn or whip the bike a little bit over a straight line jump, I tend to turn the bars a bit, sometimes pointing the bike in the direction I want to land. But put it into the air, and Canyon Spectral with the KIS steering stabilizer inside would always want to straighten itself out.

Canyon Spectral K.I.S. all-mountain bike review, Keep It Stable enduro trail riding, air time

photo by Bengt Stiller

Without friction from the ground keeping the backend where it was, you get the bike in the air with the bars turned, and the spring will make it straight again. The odd part is less the straightening, but more that it equalizes the bike. If you don’t really actively resist, the KIS system will move the bars half way back straight AND the rear end of the bike halfway back straight to line it up. It wasn’t entirely equal, but it was a bit unexpected at first.

With that said, it’s not a bad sensation, just something you have to get used to.

Syntace KIS steering stabilizer reimagines MTB handling for Liteville & Canyon, photo by Boris Beyer

photo by Boris Beyer

I wasn’t confident enough on my first rides to really push the bike past the edge of grip on unfamiliar trails to experience the full 2-wheel drift that Fabien Barel was describing as like he experienced on skis. But after turning through the air, I can get a sense of what that will feel like with the bike wanting to keep itself aligned.

Canyon Spectral K.I.S. all-mountain bike review, Keep It Stable enduro trail riding, climbing

photo by Roo Fowler

So yes, the bike feels like it helps stabilize down technical trails. And while it didn’t magically make me a better climber, I did feel good climbing up loose trails with less force needed to keep the bike straight.

Is it a game-changer? Maybe. Certainly, 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. I think even most current Spectral owners don’t need a KIS-equipped version.

But the riding feel is unique. And it certainly could be appealing to a wide range of riders – whether that is riders who lack some of the confidence needed to really attack the most technical trails, or on the other end of the spectrum, those technically-skilled riders looking to push it a bit further and a bit faster down the gnarliest trails.

I’ll leave it with this… I want to spend more time on this bike. When more of them are available after this coming winter’s snow melts, I’m gonna try to put in a bunch of rides on the new Canyon Spectral KIS to see if it can reshape how I ride a mountain bike.

Canyon Spectral CF 8 Cllctv KIS – Pricing & availability

2022 Canyon Spectral CF 8 CLLCTV KIS carbon all-mountain bike with steering stabilizer

Curiously and as a pleasant surprise, adding innovative tech doesn’t add a ton to the overall cost of the bike. As Syntace describes it, their KIS system itself is relatively simple & lightweight, so a lot of the added cost is in integrating it seamlessly into the bike.

In the end, adding KIS to the Spectral increases cost by 500€, bringing the total to 4999€ – under the 5k mark. More critical will be its availability. For the first year, Canyon has exclusivity for the KIS tech outside of Syntace/Liteville, but volumes are still pretty low to start. Canyon suggests that just about 150 of these Spectral CF 8 KIS bike are available today at launch, with more expected in the early spring.

2022 Canyon Spectral CF 8 CLLCTV KIS carbon all-mountain bike with steering stabilizer, complete

2022 Canyon Spectral CF 8 CLLCTV K.I.S.

The limited edition 2022 Canyon Spectral CF 8 CLLCTV KIS is available now in 3 or 4 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 KIS-equipped, steering-stabilized all-mountain bike sounds like your kind of bike, you better act fast to snag one…

Canyon.com

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Cyclingengr
Cyclingengr
1 month ago

I’ve had steering assist on my Kona Minute since 2014. I think cargo bikes have had it for a long time.

Astro_Kraken
Astro_Kraken
1 month ago
Reply to  Cyclingengr

I had one but it wasn’t super useful. Now that cane creek dampener headset? game changer.

NegativeYoda
NegativeYoda
1 month ago

I guess needle bearing headsets, steering dampeners and … shoot, just straight up indexed headsets were too difficult to monetize so they came up with this solution to some nebulous problem

Deputy Dawg
Deputy Dawg
1 month ago

But put it into the air, and Canyon Spectral with the KIS steering stabilizer inside would always want to straighten itself out.”

So it fights the small, mid-air corrections that are made on two out of three jumps for mere mortals> I’m probably missing something here, but I can’t see much of what I’m typing anyway, due to the Fuji popup ad…..