Amazing attention to detail
The Canyon Spectral:ON is sporting 150mm of rear wheel travel and short 432mm chain stays that mirror the regular Canyon Spectral bike.
From the outside looking in, Canyon had gone from not having a single e-mtb to delivering a range of six bikes almost overnight.
A range that includes everything from an entry-level bike at £3,499, two women specific options, and a headline grabbing Fox Factory equipped model at £5,499.
Canyon Spectral:ON 8.0 review
Take a closer look at the specifics of the new Spectral:ON e-bikes however, and it is clear that this isn’t some kneejerk reaction, Canyon has a clear vision and it’s driving e-bike development forward.
All models in the Spectral:ON range share the same solid aluminium frame that’s been sculpted around the popular Shimano STEPS 8000 motor. A compact system that doesn’t force Canyon to abandon its preferred suspension layout or geometry.
The STEPS motor has also been clocked to give more ground clearance, handy given that the BB height on our Spectral:ON 8.0 test bike was ground huggingly low. It’s why the Canyon also gets stubby 165mm crank arms and a second shock mount under the top tube that offers an 11mm increase in BB height with a corresponding forward shift in the head and seat angles. Handy for raising your game on step, techy climbs.
But it’s the mismatched wheel sizes that really set the Canyon apart. The 29in wheel and 2.5in tyre up front improving roll over, while the wider 2.8in tyre on the 27.5in rear wheel boosts traction. Even the rim widths on the e-bike specific DT Swiss H1501 wheels have been tailored to optimise the different tyre profiles. Probably the strangest thing about having different size wheels though, is just how normal it looks.
And it’s not just the wheel sizes that don’t match up on the Spectral:ON 8.0, Canon has also opted for a 160mm Fox 36 Grip suspension fork that has 10mm more travel than the rear end. With the extra volume EVOL negative air spring the Fox fork is super sensitive, but the damping is not as controlled or as stable as the rear suspension, so it introduces a slight imbalance to the ride.
We’ve got not complaints with the rear suspension though, and just like the regular Spectral that won our Trail Bike of the Year test the e-version is supple off the top with good mid-stroke support and ample bottom out resistance. And that’s not where the similarities end. Both bikes are sag sensitive, go too soft and you’ll be clipping pedals left, right and centre. Set the sag correctly however and the Canyon Spectral:ON 8.0 is a fun, playfully bike that simply loves to rail turns.
Given that Canyon seems to have sweated every single detail on the Spectral:ON 8.0, it makes it even more surprising that it got something as simple as the stem length wrong – the stock 55mm stem making the steering feel overly floppy with the odd wheel sizes. Stranger still, when we first rode the Spectral: ON 8.0 at the launch in France the bike was equipped with a much shorter stem. Why this hasn’t made it to production is anyone’s guess but it’s a very easy fix.
In the low geometry setting your feet feel incredibly close to the ground and this gives the Canyon an amazing sense of stability. Factor in the 160mm fork and bigger 29in front wheel and even with the long stem you have the confidence to push the front end of the bike into compression and blind drops, safe in the knowledge that you’ll roll out the other side without getting ejected over the bars. In fact, the riding position, geometry and attitude of the Spectral:ON 8.0 are much closer to the Canyon Torque than its namesake.
Thanks to the poppy nature of the rear suspension, and a little extra loft coming from the higher volume rear tyre, the Canyon is still incredibly agile. And with so much rubber on the ground out back climbing and breaking traction are both first-rate.
For Canyon’s first e-mtb the Spectal:ON 8.0 hasn’t simply hit the trail running, it’s power up it in Boost mode. The geometry, sizing and handling are all on point, and details like the adjustable geometry, odd wheel sizes, tyre specific rim widths and short cranks make Canyon a market leader rather than a brand that’s simply playing catch up. With a Fox 36 Fit4 fork the Spectral:ON 8.0 would probably have won the test, the more basic Grip damper never having the measure of Canyon’s superb rear suspension. And when Vitus is producing such a competitively priced bike, that’s all the edge it needed.