Can be tossed from one corner to another like it's 5kg lighter thanks to the capable build and excellent progressive suspension
The redesigned Canyon Spectral:ON e-bike has 150mm travel front and rear; mismatched wheels (29in front, 27.5in rear); 203mm rotors and four-piston calipers; clever kick-tail saddle.
Canyon Spectral:ON need to know
- Canyon’s e-bike gets a lighter, full-carbon frame and internal battery
- Direct-sales pricing gives you high-end spec for your money
- Three bike range starts at £4,299
- Mixed wheel sizes, carbon frame and Shimano E8000 motor
Canyon took a brave pill when it came out with the first Spectral:ON e-bike in early 2018. Not because it was the brand’s first assisted model when e-bike sales had been saving the industry’s bottom line in Europe for several years already. No, the most controversial aspect of the mullet-wheeled Spectral:ON, even back then, was that the battery was mounted externally above the down tube. It took some flak as a result, with criticism primarily aimed at the bike’s aesthetics. As e-bikes scrambled to disguise their heft and corset their middle-aged spreads, Canyon bucked the trend, flaunting its battery like a badge of honour. There was good reason too; the substantial mass of the powerpack was optimised centrally in order to improve the handling. So, the Spectral:ON may not have looked as sleek as some competitors at the time, but it handled like a dream, getting closer to a non-motorised bike than anything else at the time.
Judging by the new Spectral:ON CF though, function has conceded defeat in its battle with form, because the 504Wh battery now resides within the down tube. It’s what the market demands, Canyon admits, with a hint of resignation in its voice. However, all is not lost, as concealing the battery within this new carbon frame does bring some added benefits – namely the ability to run both a remote reservoir shock and a water bottle within the main triangle and a welcome 1kg weight loss. If I was to take an educated guess, it also future-proofs the frame ready for the inevitable release of a new Shimano motor and larger capacity battery – the E8000 unit is now four-years old after all.
The rest of the bike has been left relatively untouched and will be familiar to anyone who has ridden the old Spectral:ON. The geometry is also largely unchanged, although the old flip-chip adjustment has gone, with the new head angle a tad more relaxed than the slackest position on the old model. There’s also a slightly steeper seat angle (74.5° effective, measured to an average seat height) and 5mm longer chainstays to help generate more traction when climbing.
Bolted to the base of the down tube and seat tube is the trusty Shimano E8000 motor. I say trusty, but as Paul Burwell has found out with his longterm Norco e-bike, it’s not immune to electrical gremlins, and now noticeably lags behind Bosch and Brose in terms of power, torque and battery life. The unobtrusive display unit remains a highlight though, as does the push button control remote, but it’s difficult to gloss over the deferred response when you stop pedalling for a brief moment. Forget the steeper seat angle and longer chainstays – on technical climbs, this can make the difference between riding to the top and having to get off and push.
Up front a futuristic new one-piece bar and stem steals the show. It’s a dead ringer for the Syncros Hixon unit found on some Scott bikes, but integrates both the Shimano display mount and remote wiring for a cleaner cockpit than Scott could ever dream of. There’s only one ‘stem’ length (50mm) and you’re locked into a single hand position, so the sleek unit won’t be for everyone, but thankfully it’s only standard issue on this top CF 9.0 model.
How it rides
Canyon is not known for sticking its neck out when it comes to sizing and geometry, and the angles on the Spectral:ON are very much in safe trail bike territory, yet that doesn’t hold it back one bit when it comes to its performance on the trail. Just like the previous model, this is a bike you can take by the scruff of the neck and throw down pretty much anything with casual abandon. There’s rock-solid high-speed stability from the chassis that gives you the confidence to release the brakes on fast, chundery descents, yet it can be tossed from one corner to another like it’s 5kg lighter thanks to the capable build and excellent progressive suspension. Moving the battery into the down tube and adding length to the chainstays has put more weight over the front wheel, yet it’s just as easy, if not easier, to manual than its predecessor. Canyon is careful to categorise this as ‘all-mountain’ or ‘trail’ yet you can rally it as hard as any enduro bike. So much so that we’d love to see what it could do with a short offset 160mm fork and a 40mm stem.
The handling, then, is a highlight. Like a can of Pringles, once you’ve popped you don’t want to stop. At which point the red light comes on the display to warn you that the battery is almost drained and you have to limp back home. It happened to us on the launch after only 22km and 900m of climbing – nowhere near enough to sate our appetite. And herein lies the biggest problem with the Spectral:ON – without the luxury of a second back-up battery, or the self-control to keep it in Eco, you can never get too carried away. Riding it will always feel like a snack rather than a three-course meal.