Spectral vs. Hardtail on XC trails

A buddy and I are the same size and ride style and he just got a fancy new Canyon Spectral bike, 150/150, slack head tube, nearly an enduro bike. But the thing pedals really well so he thought…what if I put xc tires on it?

Today we rode a few loops to compare the bikes. He has the garmin single sided pedals, I have a quarq. He ran his suspension open and I have a cane creek sussy post (don’t make fun, I’m in my 50’s LOL)

Now…these weren’t crazy trails, just flat florida with some bumps, roots, and a lot of turning. Overall…he was putting out 10% less power.

After riding them back to back it started to really feel like the bumps were holding the hard tail back, especially the fast choppy rooty stuff. The back wheel just feels slow in the rough(er) stuff. I’ve got 18#f, 19#r with inserts at 195# so I’m not running high tire pressures or anything.

We’re gonna run more loops switching his pedals back and forth and see if we get similar results, maybe he just puts out 10% more power with his R leg or something.

Anybody try anything like this? Could cushy 6" bikes be faster over mild to moderate terrain vs. hardtails? I’ve got “new 6” bike fever"


I don’t think it’s that the long travel bike is faster. I think full suspension is faster almost all the time unless it’s tarmac and/or uphill where it’s very weight critical.

It’s so hard to lay the power down smoothly on a HardTail by comparison.

It’s similar to the argument for and against lockout systems. If I only had to use one thing, it’d be full suspension, fully open. The loss of efficiency is very small these days and the power delivery is smoother IMHO, especially when you can look at the ability to power away over the small to medium chunk and roots.


I thought the suspension post was pretty good at letting me stay on the power over chatter but I agree, full sus makes it easier so maybe that is the difference.


I wouldn’t read too much into that, there are many factors such as differences in weight, tires and riding style among other things. Oh, and a leg imbalance, which alone could account for the 10 % difference. The other thing is that to my knowledge Florida is relatively flat, so I reckon you haven’t tried long, sustained climbs.

As a general rule all other things being equal, modern full sus bikes are faster in most circumstances. But more importantly than that, what kind of bikes do you enjoy riding? I am itching for a hardtail even though I have a fully now. Can’t explain why. On the other hand, on more challenging terrain, an XC+ fully would be another choice if I had unlimited financial resources.

What feels better to ride? Before you answer 150 mm, I’d recommend you try out a few more bikes.

since you haven’t mentioned racing, one stupid question: what is your goal?

Same (body) weight, similar tires, and we rode together at the same pace.

Ha that is an understatement! It’s super flat around here! But looking at the math, adding 5# to your bike doesn’t make any difference on climbs. I mean, obviously it makes some difference but when you look at the numbers, it’s shockingly small when you go from 200# + 35# vs. 200# + 28#s. Now you notice it in the way the bike handles and when you pick it up but if the heavy bike is just a little faster up or down it’ll be faster overall.

100% agree on this and I hope we can get this issue sorted.

It’s an excellent question “What’s the fastest bike for me on my terrain?” Modern XC bikes are 120mm with 2.4" tires. Well that’s great for 140# UCI pros but what about 200# 50 year old dudes (mostly) flat terrain? I’m not into huge hucks but I get more than 60cm of air like 100 times on our trails so do I want a condition 3 bike or condition 4 bike? The big bike was so much more comfortable to ride it was ridiculous!

The body position is another big difference, I feel like I can really lay down the power on my bike, on the 150mil bike it’s super upright. So…power output is another factor, our rides on day 1 to testing were pretty chill.

Rain this weekend then work then … it’ll be middle or end of next week before I have more data.


Managed to get out today and run some laps switching the garmin power pedals. I rode laps 2 and 3, he rode laps 1 and 4 and the HR is his HR for all 4 laps

lap 1 14:36 183w ave 145bpm
lap 2 14:13 153w ave 161bpm

lap 3 14:25 160w ave 160bpm
lap 4 14:18 152 ave 160bpm

Not sure what happened on lap 1 but based on this…I ordered a spectral. Heck, I wanted one anyway right? LOL

I’m planning on doing more laps switching cranks (quarq power) and wheels so we’ll have more data in the future.


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I think it’s fantastic you ordered a bike that you wanted, but I can’t make heads or tails of your comparison data lol. Looks like it took significantly more Watts lap one, and about the average lap four?

I hear you about lap 4, he rode it 7 seconds faster on 8 watts less. Not sure about that either but a little variation is probably to be expected. If I can get like 10 laps on each bike with the same powermeter it might start to show some real trends.

As for a lot of laps…how much do you think different days matter? Like if I ride a bunch of laps one day on one bike then ride a bunch of laps on the other bike on another day, how much of the variation will be due to the day vs. variations between the bike?


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I think the variance is massive for making genuine, measurable differences. That doesn’t mean you can’t feel the difference in your ass-ometer and in smiles-per-minute.

I know you said you’ve already ordered, but considering you’re riding (presumably) XC stuff, would the Lux Trail be a better fit?

That’s just it, the big bike feels so much slower than the hardtail it’s ridiculous but it’s not testing that way!

Well I’m perfectly willing to accept that a 120/120 bike is faster for a 150# UCI pro on a cross country course but when you look at 200# regular guys, how much do you give up going to a 150/160 bike? That’s the question I’m trying to answer.

The big bike is way more fun to ride, that’s certain!


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If it makes you feel good, that’s the number one requirement.

I’m surprised that you find the long travel bike more fun, if it also feels slower (even though it’s not measurably so).

I’m a firm believer in the 120/120 67°HTA bikes being perfect for a lot of us. I love the idea of having a long travel bike to take on some more gnarly trails. The truth is though, I’d never use it as my riding is all XC and when I come down the black trails it’s just slower than my mates on their 170mm rigs.

I like your tack though, HardTails are for the lightest of riders and those with a contrarian bent :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:. Full Suss is the best.