Refreshed with more contemporary sizing and geometry and the Bosch Performance CX motor and battery, Canyon's Neuron is back and built for even more adventurous, er, adventures.
Canyon has another new e-bike; the redesigned Neuron:ON. But does it complement the recently released Strive:ON, Torque:ON, and award-winning Spectral:ON, or does it just muddy the waters? We take it for a spin to find out. Looking for an e-bike? Check out our buyer’s guide to the best electric mountain bikes and the best budget electric mountain bikes.
Need to know
- Trail-orientated e-bike with 140mm travel
- Aimed at covering distance over varied terrain
- Bosch Performance CX motor with a choice of either 750Wh or 625Wh battery
- Bigger battery adds £200 to the price
- Carbon frame options starting at the CF 7 for £4,599 (alloy bikes use old frame and Shimano motor)
Can you have too much choice?
How many of you have fired up Netflix after dinner and next thing you know it’s 10pm and you still haven’t chosen something to watch? Decision paralysis is an increasingly common symptom of modern life, and while a wasted evening in front of a TV is annoying, it doesn’t have the financial consequences of choosing the wrong bike.
There’s a fine line between serving specific customer needs more appropriately, and ensuring you don’t confuse them into inaction. So with three high power, full-suspension e-bikes already on the books at Canyon, adding a fourth bike to the mix needs to be done with crystal clarity. The bike in question is the updated Neuron:ON, a machine built for – in Canyon’s own words – “adventure” and graced with Bosch’s popular Performance CX motor, 140mm of travel, 29in wheels and a choice of battery capacities.
What is a category 3E bike?
Let’s face it, adventure can mean different things to different people, but if we look past the marketing spiel, one way to more precisely decipher intended use is through a small, often ignored frame sticker. It consists of a number inside a square and it is the ASTM international standard for bicycle classification. While it’s hardly a hot topic of conversation in the pub after a ride, the numerical designation from 1-5 is carefully crafted to make sure every bike is engineered to match its intended use. The strongest bikes – freeride and downhill rigs – have to meet, and hopefully surpass, category 5, which is defined as “a set of conditions for operation of a bicycle that includes Conditions 1, 2, 3, and 4; extreme jumping; or downhill grades on rough trails at speeds in excess of 40 km/h (25 mph); or a combination thereof.” For e-bikes the rules are even stricter, as the system weight is higher and bikes tend to experience greater mileages.
The Neuron:ON sits in category 3E which includes rough, technical trails and small drops (less than 61cm). Knowing this, if you’re planning to spend most of your time riding downhill tracks and bike parks, it stands to reason that the Neuron:ON will not be appropriate and you should choose the Torque:ON instead. On the other hand, if big jumps are not your bag, and you’re more interested in exploring wild trails and getting out into the big beyond, the Neuron:ON will be a perfect fit. The important takeaway being, those stickers actually mean something, and choosing a bike that’s overbuilt or underbuilt for the type of riding you intend to do is not recommended.
Another, more commonly used way of choosing a bike is through weight. However, the proportional differences between e-bikes are relatively small, especially given the extra power on tap. Case in point, there’s a 700g gap between the Neuron:ON CF 8 (22.6kg) and the Spectral:ON CF 9 (23.3kg) with similar capacity batteries – insignificant on a bike that weighs over 20kg. Another great leveller is the 25kph speed limit, because pedalling above this when the motor has cut-out is basically just as arduous on all full power e-bikes, regardless of weight, motor or intended use. Again, this just reinforces the natural equilibrium.
The same can be said for travel – reducing travel as a way of making an e-bike faster and more efficient is arguably pointless when the limiting factor is weight and motor drag. So while the Neuron:ON is the most XC-focused e-bike in Canyon’s range, it still puts out a healthy 140mm travel. This is complemented by versatile geometry that allows for confident descending but without going to the extremes that compromise long distance comfort and slow-speed manoeuvrability. Across the four frame sizes, the reach spans from 435mm to 510mm in 25mm increments. But top tube lengths are kept relatively spacious to help comfort when seated along long sections of flat singletrack and fireroad. The seat tube angle is slacker than more hardcore models and seat tube lengths are slightly longer.
Scan down the components and you’ll notice Fox 34 forks (or RockShox Pike) have been fitted, with smaller stanchions and lighter chassis that save between 200 and 300g over a burlier 36 or a Zeb. This would be significant on a typical analogue trail bike, but it’s mostly inconsequential on an e-bike. And due to the mass, there are still four-piston brakes and 203mm rotors, so no weight savings to be made there.
Which leaves the one area where Canyon can really influence the Neuron:ON’s strengths and weaknesses and help differentiate it from the Spectral:ON; wheels and tyres. As such the Neuron:ON rolls on 29in wheels front and rear, compared to the mixed wheel set-up of the Spectral:ON, giving it the ultimate in bump rollover and efficiency at cruising speeds in return for a slight reduction in agility and bum clearance on steep descents.
As for the tyre choice, Canyon has fitted some of the fastest rolling rubber on the market; the Schwalbe Nobby Nic. Simply put, it’s a choice that delivers significantly better range along with more speed on shallow gradients where it’s tough to outpace the motor by pedalling. On the other hand, they are a lot more prone to punctures, especially if you start to get a bit overexcited on rocky tracks, and the ultimate grip is not up there with the Maxxis tyres fitted to the Spectral:ON range. But if epic days in the saddle are on your horizon, it’s a spec choice that will help the Neuron:ON to go the distance.
The small print
Now, before moving onto the ride, there are two important points to make. Number one, the battery in the Neuron:ON is not removable (unless you want to unbolt the motor). So if you prefer to remove your battery for charging, or you don’t have power in your bike storage, the Neuron:ON probably isn’t for you. Number two, although there are some temptingly-priced aluminium models, they are effectively the old bike, and don’t have the more modern geometry or the Bosch motor of the new carbon models.
How it rides
In a nutshell, the new Neuron:ON manages to be highly effective at covering ground on a variety of off-road surfaces, but it also can be ridden out of its skin on technical trails. To be honest, I was shocked at how much fun it was on fast, flowing singletrack. The ridiculously zippy tyres kept my eyes watering on the descents, and lightened the load on the motor and battery on the fireroad sections that linked them together. Keeping air in the tyres was more tricky – lots of people punctured on the press launch – but running higher pressures helped reduce the risk of a flat and improved rolling speeds.
There’s less progression to the rear suspension on the Neuron:ON compared to the Spectral:ON, but I found it still exhibited plenty of pop to keep it lively and exciting. Equally, while there’s more anti-squat on the Neuron:ON, it bump compliance is good and it didn’t feel like suspension performance had been compromised in the pursuit of pedalling efficiency.
As usual the Bosch motor responded with urgency and grunt when needed, and the intuitive controls are within easy reach so that I could rapidly toggle between conserving range and unleashing power. My test bike (and others) were quite rattly while coasting, not unlike a Shimano EP8, which was slightly annoying, but as a trait of the Bosch motor, it’s forgivable given how good the system is in almost every other aspect.
I had plenty of fun on the climbs, too, even if I didn’t get to assess the Neuron:ON’s prowess on really technical steeps. The power and overrun of the motor, combined with the rapid tyres, supple suspension response, and slacker seat angle meant it was possible to drift into uphill turns, letting the ruts catch the back wheel, before powering out the other side.
Things I didn’t like about the Neuron:ON? The fork needed to be run with almost 30% more pressure than recommended to prevent it falling through the travel. This lack of support is common to the Fox 34 Performance, but it’s a supple, comfortable fork, so it works well over undulating terrain and contouring trails. There’s a fairly restrictive steering limiter on the Neuron:ON that is somewhat annoying when turning the bike in tight space. On the size large frame there’s no need for it either – the fork crown and handlebar come nowhere near the frame. Fortunately you can easily run the bike without it, and on the smaller frame sizes it does prevent damage in a crash. You can’t, however, ditch the headset routed cables. Yes, they tidy up the front end to a degree, but they add unnecessary complication to routine maintenance.
Complaints aside, the Neuron:ON exceeded my expectations. It was thoroughly enjoyable to ride and remarkably capable given its intended use. Even so, there are a few details that I don’t like, and the non-removable battery would be a deal breaker for me. But zooming out slightly, what I can’t quite shake from my mind, is that there’s now a lot of overlap through the Canyon e-bike range. Having ridden, and raved about, Rotwild’s latest lightweight, short-travel R.X275 e-bike with TQ motor recently, I wonder if the Neuron:ON might have been better served up in a similar guise. As a mid-power, lightweight model weighing sub-20kg, with a low-drag motor that could be ridden with or without assistance, Canyon could have offered something really distinctive from the other three models in its range, and generated a presence in a segment of the market that’s starting to really come into its own.