CANYON SPECTRAL: ON CFR

The direct-to-consumer brand knows what consumers are looking for

Despite their later-than-most entry into the e-MTB market, as we would expect from the progressive German brand, they’ve made quick strides to catch up in the market with some bold designs and technology. The new Spectral:ON would be a prime example. 

Canyon has made a bold industry-leading step in 2022 and have introduced a 46-pound, 900Wh all-mountain e-MTB. The Canyon Spectral:ON CFR sits as Canyon’s mass-market e-mountain bike, appealing to all types of users. As one of the few lucky journalists to have gotten to test one before launch, you can read on to discover what we thought and how these headline-grabbing numbers translate onto the trail. 

THE BIKE

Canyon completely redesigned the Spectral:ON. We tested the CFR version, which is the reserve carbon frame. It’s slightly lighter than the normal carbon frame, which has the designation “CF.” The headline-grabbing 900Wh battery has been accommodated in a very similar way to how Specialized designed their Turbo Levo. 

The motor has been rotated and shifted up, and the battery slung low underneath it. The battery is inserted from the bottom of the bike and is held in place by two screws and an easy-to-access battery/motor cover. It even has magnets to hold loose screws during the removal phase. The power connector has moved to the left side and is easy to disconnect for charging. 

The long-standing Shimano display is still good, clear and protected behind the bar.

The frame layup is extremely well-finished and exceptionally well-integrated, with cables running in through the stem into the frame through special channels that make maintenance easy. There is a knock block to prevent fork damage on the frame, which also allows geometry to be maintained as the fork doesn’t need to be accommodated if it rotates. 

The rear end of the bike has been redesigned and is now full carbon. It is robust in style with a four-bar linkage design. The shock mounts under the downtube and is easy to access for all setting adjustments. The seat tube is fairly modern with a pedal-optimized angle, keeping efficiency and progress as the key trail-riding characteristic. 

This power button is actually mechanical. It contacts directly with the power switch on the battery. It avoids the need for extra wiring harnesses.

We like to look at the numbers, but what is more important is how it feels on the bike. Sitting down and tuning our setup position, we found a very modern geometry setup. Out of the box, the bar feels quite high and gives an immense feeling of security from any action that may be happening up front. We, however, were able to drop the bar a few millimeters and found our more aggressive setup, which we feel is better for experienced riders. This, though, is the point: you can make changes if you need to. There are plenty of settings available. 

Next, we move onto the cockpit length. It feels actually surprisingly similar to other top brands, not too aggressive, not too upright. This makes sense when you look at the rear end, which is not as short as it could be. We like aggressive; its our preference, but here Canyon has found a neutral point. However, on the trails with the 27.5-inch rear wheel the bike, feels exceptionally stable and easy to ride uphill and downhill, which brings us onto the 900Wh battery placement.

The Shimano power switch is a firm favorite that’s robust and easy to use.

To fit a monster battery, the motor has been moved up slightly, and the battery runs the full length of the downtube, inserted from beneath. Surprisingly, this keeps the weight down low, and we felt handling was not negatively impacted by a large battery, which actually weighs the same as a Bosch 750 Wh. Clever integration and design have kept the battery casing minimal and the geometry subtle. The bike feels normal, despite this epic power supply.

THE PARTS

Suspension on our test model was from Fox—front and rear factory units with a 150mm 36 up front and an X2 on the rear. These units all have the adjustments that will enable all riders to find their perfect settings. 

The Component package on our test bike was stellar. Full Shimano XTR, brakes, gears, cassette, Shifters, no short cuts. XTR performance is some of the best out there. Shifting is precise and basically perfect. The wheel package relies on Reynolds e-bike-ready carbon rims wrapped with Maxxis tubeless Assegai tires. The hubs use Shimano Center Lock discs for easy brake-disc mounting. 

The Fox Transfer post is one of the best on the market, and it looks good as well.

THE MOTOR

The Shimano EP8 is a well-established motor with 250 watts of nominal power and 85 N/m of torque. It is a natural-feeling motor, and we have covered more than 2000 miles in the last year using this motor. During our testing we felt that it has undergone some minor upgrades, as the motor was quieter on descents compared to previous units we have tried. The motor uses Shimano’s very nicely executed control system and display, which can also be connected via Bluetooth to a smartphone app, where the user can modify and personalize the motor’s performance settings in each mode, creating a personal riding experience. We have written extensively about this motor in the past, and on climbs we feel it is the closest feeling to bionic legs that there is out there. 

Shimano XTR mechanics and cassette are the most precise system we have tried recently and gives smooth shifting under power.

Depending on model, the battery is a Canyon 900 Wh or 720 Wh unit that has been certified by Shimano and carries the STEPS logo. This means the battery comes under Shimano’s global service network and provides full support to Shimano customers. This is an epic move by Canyon, and the unit is both slim and quiet and weighs 4.5 kilograms, or 9.9 pounds. It is charged via the favored Rosenberger connector and takes around five to six hours from completely discharged to recharged via the 4-amp charger. 

The big question is, what is the range? Depending on the type of riding you do, we can estimate that few users will be worried about running out of power. So far, we have charged it every two to three rides. Depending on the elevation gain, our most recent ride we did about 3000 feet and 20 miles, constantly in Boost mode and all off-road. 

The Shimano EP8 motor is now silent downhill as well as uphill. We think Shimano has made some changes inside to improve the noise.

WHO IT’S MADE FOR

This bike is quite a generic bike in the sense that, if you are a gentle trail rider, you will quickly appreciate it. Likewise, if you want to climb big hills and descend on some rocky lines, then you also won’t go too far wrong if you keep the speed reasonable. Price-wise, it will retail for about 30 percent less than other brands that have the same build, so it’s going to appeal to people who like the online purchasing experience and want those extra savings. It actually felt like an easy bike to ride, and I would be surprised if someone didn’t like it. We have to say, Canyon has done well producing a bike with probably the widest riding appeal that we’ve ridden. 

THE RIDE

The geometry keeps the rider on track to have a whole heap of fun for some very long days in the saddle with virtually no range anxiety. The bike handles well in all conditions, and the front end stays in contact well with the ground. The EP8 motor is powerful enough to satisfy most riders, and its power delivery has been tuned well to maintain grip. The motor has power surges well under control and responds probably more smoothly than almost any other motor we have tried. 

Being an all-mountain bike, we found the limits of the Spectral:ON were mainly that of the rider’s ability, except on very rocky enduro-type descents where it felt like you had to pay attention and go more slowly to make it through super-rough sections. However, with only 150mm of travel, no one is complaining. Despite the heavy battery, the weight distribution was fine, and we did not feel like we were riding a tank. Cornering was normal and planted, and the ability to move the bike around quickly was as we would expect from any all-mountain e-bike. The Spectral was super quick in corners and stable, and we felt we could trim our body position as we wished. The bike felt like there was plenty of margin for slightly different body positions and riding styles—again, it felt like it had a very wide appeal in many types of conditions.

The Spectral liked it best on rolling, loamy trails with lots of quick corners and fun rolling jumps. It was quick to respond and makes good use of the mullet setup to balance high-speed attack abilities with quicker cornering. While we liked the mullet spec, we do prefer bikes with similar-sized wheels, because to really notice the difference with mixed wheel sizes you have to have some great bike skills. Most riders probably won’t appreciate the feature or be able to tell the difference. 

If we were to highlight any weaknesses, it would be based around the fairly low bottom bracket, which did lead to some pedal strikes every now and then, but nothing that couldn’t be adapted to. 

THE VERDICT

Canyon has designed an excellent e-bike with the latest technology and an excellent ride feeling with currently one of the biggest batteries on the market. The finished product is top-notch, and nothing seems out of place or ill-conceived. The only other brand that we feel achieves this level is Specialized. So, big ups to Canyon for providing end users with a great top product. Both the build quality and parts spec are top level, the price is super competitive, and the overall product feeling is one of quality. If you are an all-around rider, it would be hard to find a better all-mountain e-bike on the market, price for performance.

SPECS

CANYON SPECTRAL:ON CFR

Price: €11,000

Frame: Carbon   

Fork: Fox 36 150mm travel

Rear shock: Fox X2

Motor: Shimano EP8 250W 

Battery: 900Wh Canyon/Shimano battery, 720Wh for small
size bikes 

Controls: Shimano 

Charge time: 5–6 hours

Top speed: 25 km/h (EU spec) 

Range: 40-75 miles (tested)

Rear derailleur: Shimano XTR

Chain: Shimano M9100 XTR

Brakes: Shimano XTR 200 mm discs. 

Saddle: Fizik

Seatpost: Fox Transfer

Rims: Reynolds carbon 29” front, 27.5” rear. 

Hubs: Reynolds TRE

Tires: Maxxis tubeless Assegai

Weight: 51.7 lbs

Color choice: Black

Sizes: S, M, L, XL

www.canyon.com