We match up two Bosch-powered, race-proven e-enduro bikes, to find out which offers the ultimate performance away from the race track.
Competition has always accelerated the pace of development, and the discipline of e-enduro racing is no different. This fledgling race category has not been around for very long, but it’s already pushing forward at a relentless speed. Advances in equipment ridden by competitors are continually shaping the bikes we’re seeing hit the showroom floor (and your local woods) in terms of motor choice, battery capacity, travel, geometry and suspension characteristics. Case in point; the two e-bikes tested here came out less than 12-months ago and are both designed specifically for enduro racing at the highest level. They share a remarkable list of similarities, from travel, to frame material, to motor brand, but they ride quite differently on the trails. So if you’re in the market for the best full-power e-bike with the geometry and travel to take on pretty much anything, then this test is for you.
Another reason the Canyon Strive:ON CFR and Orbea Wild M-Team two rivals make such a compelling match, is that they took home the ultimate bragging rights over their rivals by winning the overall 2023 E-EDR Championships. The mullet-wheeled Canyon under Fabien Barel, and the full 29in Orbea under women’s winner Flo Espiñeira. Their racing pedigree is in no doubt then, but we want to find out how they compare away from the microcosm of elite racing, as both will sell more units to riders looking to blast their local trails than enter a World Cup Enduro race.
- Read our full review of the Canyon Strive:ON CFR
- Read our full review of the Orbea Wild M-Team
Normally we like to keep the prices comparable when conducting one of these head-to-head tests, but in this case the differing sales models of Canyon and Orbea made that difficult. Orbea takes a traditional approach through a network of dealers in the UK, and that adds an extra margin to be figured into the price of the bike. Hence the base price of the Wild M-Team is £8,999, with options to adjust that by adding carbon wheels or beefier tyres. You can also reduce the price by £210 by opting for the smaller and lighter 625Wh battery instead of the standard-fit 750Wh unit. There are a couple of cheaper models in the Wild range that retain the carbon frame, starting at £6,999, as well as alloy-framed versions starting at £5,299. While the alloy frame looks very similar to the carbon version, it carries a 1.5kg weight penalty.
By selling direct to the public, and cutting out the dealer margin, Canyon is able to bring better value to its Strive:ON. There are three models in the German brand’s range, and the CFR is the middle option, costing £6,699. That price gets you the smaller 625Wh battery, with the large capacity unit adding £200 to the bottom line. You also need to add on shipping and packaging, which is currently £68.98.
With the same 750Wh battery fitted, the Canyon costs £6,899 compared to the Orbea at £8,999. Choose the smaller battery and the prices drop to £6,699 and £8,789 respectively. Either way, there’s a £2k gap to bridge between the two.
Suspension and frame layout
Both bikes here use four-bar suspension designs, where the Canyon has a Horst Link on the chainstay, and Orbea uses a concentric axle design that’s similar to Dave Weagle’s Split Pivot and Trek’s ABP. In both cases the end goal is to reduce the influence of braking on the suspension action.
Canyon’s Strive:ON uses the seatstays to directly drive the shock, with a swinglink to tie the stays to the front triangle. Because the shock is mounted under the top tube, it’s very easy to flick the climb switch on the Fox Float X2 Performance shock and prop the back end up on steep climbs. Something the Canyon benefits from, as it tends to sink relatively deep into its travel compared to the Orbea. It’s also why we ran less sag on the Strive:ON compared to the Wild (27% vs 33%).
Orbea uses a classic rocker link layout for its shock, where the lower trunnion mount bolts to twin braces that connect the base of the seat tube with the down tube. There are bearings at both ends of the shock, which takes away any rotational friction and ensures a really supple ride. Because it’s been mounted upside down, you’ll need long arms to reach the climb switch. Thankfully the Orbea has plenty of support when climbing, even in the open position, so we didn’t feel the need to use it.
Shock stroke on the Canyon and the Orbea is identical at 65mm, along with claimed rear wheel travel at 160mm. When we measured them they both fell short of those claims, but remarkably by the same amount, maxing out at 158mm. So it was surprising that they both use their travel in quite different ways. The Orbea has a smooth, consistent stroke that feels supple initially and gives good mid-stroke support. On the other hand, the Canyon gets through the early part of its travel with less effort, so gives excellent grip, but settles a little deeper into its stroke than the Orbea. To counteract this we ran less sag, helping to prop the suspension up when climbing and give more support while pumping the terrain for speed. To get the best from the Canyon, we’d recommend running 27-28% sag, which is 17-18mm on the shock shaft. We measured sag in the seated position, with the saddle at its lowest point, which will typically give you more sag than using the standing ‘attack’ position.
Although both bikes get Fox’s Float X2 shock, the Orbea benefits from the four-way adjustable Factory version, while Canyon fits the simpler Performance model. And while we ran both shocks fairly open on rebound and compression, we did notice extra damping control from the posh Factory version, which may have contributed to the greater feeling of support enjoyed by the Orbea.
Up front are a pair of Fox 38 Float forks with 170mm travel. On the Canyon this is standard fit, but on the Orbea there’s a no-cost option to increase the fork travel from 160mm stock, to 170mm. And that’s how our Wild arrived.
As you’d expect from top flight enduro race bikes, carbon is the frame material of choice. Orbea also offers an alloy version of the Wild, but Canyon only makes a carbon Strive:ON, using the brand’s highest quality CFR lay-up.
There are bottle cage bosses on both bikes, but only the Canyon has an additional frame mount for a tool strap. Internal cable routing through the headset is (sadly) standard on the Strive:ON and the Wild, but of our two test bikes the Canyon had by far the cleanest look. By sending our test Wild with the optional Kiox display, and an overlong dropper post cable, the stem area ended up looking a mess. If we were buying a Wild, we’d save £135 and omit Bosch’s screen from the order sheet.
Motor and battery
It’s fair to say that Bosch’s Performance CX is currently the motor of choice among both racers and punters. Racers love its instant response and generous overrun. Punters appreciate its muscular torque and reputation for reliability and support. So it’s no surprise that both of these recently released models are built around the Performance CX unit. Only the top models in the range get the marginally lighter Race motors (with extended boost when coasting) but the standard unit fitted to the Strive:ON CFR and the Wild M-Team is no slouch thanks to 85Nm of peak torque and 600w of peak power. The way the power comes in is very natural, and you can still access all that grunt at lower cadences.
Bosch’s power delivery and response is also fully tuneable via the Flow app. Which also gives you access to some useful security features. The main criticism with the system is a rattle from the internals when coasting, but our two test bikes were much quieter than some Bosch bikes we’ve tested – the luck of the draw.
There are two main battery sizes offered for the Performance CX system, and both Orbea and Canyon give you the option to choose your capacity. Plug in the 750Wh unit for the ultimate range, or save weight and improve agility by using the 625Wh version. On the Canyon the smaller battery saves 700g, while Orbea quotes a 900g difference.
Which brings us on to one of the key differences between the two bikes – removing the battery. With the Canyon it’s relatively easy. A single bolt removes the skid plate beneath the motor, then pull the strap to release the latch on the battery and slide it out. Refitting is a reverse of the process, but you do need to be very careful getting the connection aligned correctly before locking the battery in place. This is not easy since you’re working blind, and there’s nothing to steer the battery accurately into place. The Canyon also cut out on numerous occasions when descending. Which proved to be an issue with the battery moving very slightly and losing connection in the down tube. Bosch has a new latch that claims to fix the problem, and we’ve got one to try out.
At least you can easily take the battery out on the Canyon; on the Orbea it’s akin to open-heart surgery. First you have to take off the skid plate (four fiddly bolts), then completely remove the motor from the frame (six Torx bolts and a couple of loose spacers), and then take out the battery stop. It took us 30 minutes to do this with a brand new bike in a clean workshop, so it’s not the sort of job we can see any Orbea owners tackling on a regular basis.
One area where Orbea has absolutely nailed it is the charging port. It’s fitted with a cap that pulls out and swivels out of the way, which is much more secure and easier to use than the basic rubber flap found on the Canyon.
On the scales
Out of the box we weighed our large Orbea Wild M-Team at 23.7kg, fitted with the 750Wh battery, DH casing Maxxis tyres, and the Bosch Kiox 300 display. Canyon’s Strive:ON sneaked under that weight at 23.6kg, but take into account the lighter 625Wh battery installed, and the thinner EXO+ front/DoubleDown rear tyres fitted, and it’s obvious the Orbea has the edge. When we fitted the 750Wh battery to the Canyon, the weight rose to 24.3kg. Choose the Orbea with the 625Wh battery and you’re looking at around 22.8kg, which is pretty light for a 160mm travel, full power e-bike, with race-ready tyres. We didn’t get a chance to weigh a bare frame, but Canyon claims 3.27kg for a medium Strive:ON and Orbea says a carbon Wild weighs 2.76kg – the 0.5kg difference entirely believable looking at the complete bike weights.
Does that weight advantage give the Orbea the edge in terms of handling? We’re not so sure. Read on to find out why.
Looking at the sizing, Canyon definitely has the edge, being almost a full frame size larger in terms of reach than the Orbea. This means a medium Strive:ON has the same reach as a large Orbea, so you can choose to down size on the Canyon if you wish. The net benefit being a more compact frame with a 15mm lower seat tube than the Orbea and more standover clearance.
What surprised us when we measured both bikes is just how close they are in terms of geometry, especially since the Canyon uses MX wheels, and the Orbea is a full 29er. As you can see above, the main points of difference are 3mm in the BB height (the Orbea is higher), 5mm additional length on the Orbea chainstays, and 2º steeper effective seat angle for the Canyon.
Neither bike has any sort of geometry adjustment, which is strange considering their racing focus, but we didn’t feel like this omission compromised performance in any way.
Orbea has gone all-in for glossy Kashima-coated Fox Suspension on its M-Team model. The biggest benefit of this decision is the four-way adjustable damping on the Float X2 shock, rather than any magic slipperiness from the gold surface. Canyon has been cannier with its spec, getting that same damping control and tuning capability from the cheaper Performance Elite 38 fork. However, the Performance-level Float X2 shock on the Strive:ON only lets you control low-speed damping adjustments.
The Shimano XT drivetrain and brakes are very similar across both models. Orbea has fitted an XT chain and cassette, while Canyon saves a few pennies with an SLX cassette and Deore chain, but it’s not a choice that has any great bearing on performance.
Canyon also economises with SLX brake rotors, while Orbea fits third party Galfer units. The Canyon runs a larger 220mm front rotor whereas Orbea sticks to 200mm front and rear. Despite these minor differences, braking on the Canyon and the Orbea was consistent and powerful throughout the test, with no one bike having a noticeable edge.
We like the fact that Orbea gives you multiple options to configure your Wild before you buy, which will save money at point of sale by effectively only charging you the difference. One box we would definitely recommend ticking here is for Maxxis DH casing tyres front and rear, which costs an extra £25. In contrast, Canyon fits the same tread combo (Maxxis Assegai front, Minion DHR II rear) but using lighter casings that help on the scales but might not suit heavier/more aggressive riders on rocky terrain.
There’s not a lot to choose between in terms of saddle, grips, cockpit, and dropper post. We do like Canyon’s adjustable dropper, which lets you customise the drop without using any tools. But you can also choose your perfect length seat post FOC when you order a Wild, so potential Orbea customers are not at too much of a disadvantage.
Right from the first ride, the Orbea was a really easy bike to get along with. There was nothing quirky about the suspension, so we could just set the sag to 33% and get cracking. Likewise there was excellent front to rear balance, so even though the front end is high compared to the Canyon, it works perfectly on the trails.
Although the seat angle is not quite as steep as the Canyon, the Wild’s climbing prowess was aided by extra ground clearance from the higher dynamic BB height and shorter cranks. Likewise, the Orbea’s soft compound tyres gave excellent traction, so the two were almost neck-a-neck on technical ascents.
In some situations the Strive:On shined brighter, as the more diminutive frame and smaller rear wheel helped us navigate tight spots with more dexterity, but equally we had to be more conscious of our pedals and the rear wheel position to avoid hooking up on obstacles.
The Orbea exuded composure on the descents. A smooth, predictable suspension response allowed us to blast into chunder with no concern that the Wild might get bounced off-line. It felt stable under braking, balanced in the turns, and eminently confidence-inspiring in the air.
We took a bit longer to get the Canyon dialled. With less support from the shock, and a suspension kinematic that feels much eager to get moving, we initially felt like we were languishing down in the depths of the travel. So we ended up running less sag (27%) and adding a volume spacer to give a bit more bottom-out resistance. This seemed to do the trick, although we could never shake the feeling we were running more dynamic sag than on the Orbea. It was a sensation exacerbated by the difference in front end heights. As such, the Orbea felt like a Dakar off-roader, and the Canyon a Moto GP racer.
The other area where the two bikes really diverged was sheer agility. Equipped with the same 750Wh batteries, ridden back-to-back on the same tracks, it was significantly easier to change direction and lift the front wheel on the Canyon than the Orbea. If a playful, rewarding bike is high on your list of priorities, then the Strive:ON is the answer.
Picking a winner from this test was not easy. I preferred the suspension performance of the Orbea, and it always felt predictable and confidence-inspiring, whatever situation I threw at it. But the Canyon has more progressive sizing, a removable battery, and it’s better value, even if that means you can’t walk into a local dealer and sit on one to size it up. In the end, while those points helped sway the pendulum towards the Strive:ON, it was riding the two bikes back-to-back that really cast my vote in favour of the Canyon. The Strive:ON loves to go fast, but it also knows how to have fun. You can chuck it about in ways that would quickly drain your energy reserves on the Orbea. Whether this is down to better weight distribution, or the mullet wheel configuration, or a combination of both, is hard to pinpoint. But compare them directly on the same terrain, and it’s clear that the Canyon has the dynamic edge. Providing the problem with the motor cutting out is fixed, it’s an amazing e-bike that is a blast to ride on a wide variety of trails.
Test winner’s stablemates: Options for different budgets
Canyon Strive:ON CFR Underdog £5,499
The entry-level Underdog model gets the same frame, motor, and battery combo as the CFR, but gets a smaller volume piggyback shock in the shape of the Fox Float X EVOL. There’s still a Fox 38 fork, but it comes with the more basic Rhythm GRIP damper. A Shimano Deore drivetrain and SRAM DB8 brakes take care of stopping and going, and you still get the same great Assegai/Minion DHR II tyre combo with Maxx Grip compound and EXO+/DD casings.
Canyon Strive:ON CFR LTD £8,999
For the same price as the Orbea Wild M-Team you can have the exact spec ridden by Fabien Barel – well, maybe minus the Vivid Air shock and some secret prototype bits. That means the Bosch CX Race motor with lightweight magnesium casing, increased power, and extended overrun. There’s also wireless SRAM AXS T-Type Transmission, a RockShox Zeb fork, and Pirelli tyres.