How Does the Canyon Spectral:ON Electric Trail Bike Compare to the Regular Spectral? It’s In for Test

The non-electric Canyon Spectral was one of my favorite bikes tested in 2020. Does that same balanced and dialed ride feel come across when a little juice (and weight) is added in? I'm about to find out.

Less than a year ago, Canyon updated the Spectral:ON and brought it to the US market for the first time. Just last month, the brand announced yet another update to the electric trail bike, swapping out the Shimano E8000 motor for the newer EP800. I tested the classic / acoustic / regular / whateveryouwannacallit Canyon Spectral last year and it was easily one of my favorites of 2020. Does that same balanced and dialed ride feel come across when a little juice (and weight) is added in? I’m about to find out.

The frame

If it’s not apparent from the lead photo, the Spectral:ON is a mixed wheel bike, with a 29er in the front and a 27.5-inch wheel in the rear. It’s a bit of a mashup of their non-electric Spectral bikes, which can be purchased in either 29er or 27.5″ versions. The front triangle is carbon and integrates the motor, battery, ports, and cables into a neat package. An aluminum triangle is bolted on the rear and is designed to provide 150mm of travel. There’s room to mount a water bottle in the front triangle, and Canyon helpfully provides a side-loading cage and bottle out of the box. The bottle is a little stubby, perhaps to ensure a fit with smaller frame sizes. My test bike is an extra-large and fits a standard water bottle from the side.

The Spectral:ON is built on Canyon’s Triple Phase Suspension platform. “Sensitive small-bump response provides top traction and control. In the mid-stroke, a stable feel lets you keep momentum and speed out of berms and over bumps. And on big hits, the suspension ramps up progressively through the final third of the travel, for a bottomless feel.” As I test this bike over the next several weeks I’ll be looking to see how these claims hold up.

Canyon ships all the builds with a 150mm fork, giving the bike a 66.5° head tube angle. According to the brand, it would also be OK to run a 160mm fork, though obviously that changes the angles a bit. Combined with the 74.5° seat angle, the bike has a 632mm effective top tube length which is just slightly longer than the average trail bike. Interestingly, the 465mm reach (size large) is slightly shorter than the average trail bike. This could be explained by the comparatively slack seat tube angle, non-electric mountain bike. A steeper seat tube angle is helpful when it’s time to climb, but with a pedal-assist there’s a chance it won’t be missed all that much.

BODY HEIGHT IN CM< 172172 – 183183 – 194> 194
SEAT HEIGHT IN MM (A)639 – 734700 – 845740 – 885780 – 925
SEAT TUBE LENGTH IN MM (B)430440480520
TOP TUBE LENGTH IN MM (C)590612632653
HEAD TUBE LENGTH IN MM (D)100115125135
HEAD TUBE ANGLE (E)66.5°66.5°66.5°66.5°
SEAT TUBE ANGLE (F)74.5°74.5°74.5°74.5°
WHEEL BASE IN MM (H)1,1711,1971,2211,245
STACK IN MM (I)620625635645
REACH IN MM (J)425445465485

The build

The CF 9 build sits at the top of Canyon’s Spectral:ON line. Starting with the suspension, the bike includes a Fox 36 Factory suspension fork with 150mm of travel and GRIP 2 damper. In the rear, there is a Fox DPX2 Factory shock that’s been “E-MTB” tuned, presumably to account for frame weight distribution and drivetrain torque. Canyon notes that a higher volume shock like the Fox Float X2 might not fit given the limited clearance. The Spectral:ON is not designed for use with a coil shock.

Canyon fits all Spectral:ON models with Shimano’s newest motor, the EP800, and pairs it with a massive 630Wh battery. There’s no official range given for the bike, so that’s definitely something I’ll be testing. This is the largest (capacity) electric bike battery Shimano currently offers so I expect it should deliver a lot of mileage — or climbage — on a single charge.

For those who aren’t familiar with the EP800 system, there are three assist modes plus a walk mode that can be activated using a remote mounted on the handlebar. A simple handlebar display shows the current assist mode and speed. As a Class 1 e-bike, the system is designed to stop delivering power at speeds above 20mph, and aside from the low-speed walk mode, power is only delivered when the rider is pedaling. The Spectral:ON features a custom carbon integrated handlebar and stem with routing for the wire between the remote and the display for a nice, clean look. A USB-C charging port for a GPS unit, light, or smartphone is built into the power switch on the top tube.

The rest of the drivetrain gets the full Shimano 12-speed, XTR treatment, with the exception of the crankset which is Shimano’s STEPS Hollowtech e-MTB crank, and the Canyon-branded direct-mount, 34T chainring. Speccing XTR on an electric trail bike seems a little unconventional, given the group’s designation as a racing groupset. However, like racers, high-end e-bike buyers can certainly appreciate the light weight of XTR and its reputation as a durable and reliable set of components.

Canyon chose XTR for the brakes as well, with 4-piston calipers and massive 203mm rotors front and rear. The 203mm rear rotor is a notably larger than the 160mm version specced on non-electric Spectral builds, no doubt to compensate to the increased overall weight of the electric version.

The Spectral:ON rolls on a mixed-wheel platform, with a 29er up front and a 27.5 out back. The wheels are a Reynolds 300-series carbon model with 32 spokes up front, and 36 spokes in the rear. Technically, I’m not sure if I would classify the rear wheel a true 27.5, or 27.5+, or if it even matters. The CF 9 build ships with a 27.5, 2.6-inch Maxxis Minion DHR II tire in the rear, but unlike the 30mm-internal-width rim on the front wheel, the rear bumps the rim width up to 36mm. This should give the rear tire a noticeably flatter and wider shape than the front tire, which is a 2.5-inch Minion DHF.

Another thing to note is that Canyon specs the EXO version of the Minion DHF on the front, while the rear gets the EXO+ version of the DHR II for added pinch-flat protection. Given the nature and intent of this bike, riders might prefer or even expect to see an even burlier Maxxis DoubleDown or e-specific tire in the rear, though unfortunately Maxxis does not offer one at this width. Testing will reveal if EXO+ is enough in the rear, or something tougher is necessary, at least for this rider.

The Canyon:ON CP12 carbon cockpit measures 780mm wide. The stem is a 50mm equivalent, though because it is integrated into the handlebars it’s hard to tell. Suffice it to say the stem length is sufficiently short, though the bar width may leave a bit to be desired, especially on the larger size models.

Finally, there’s a Fox Transfer Factory dropper post with 150mm of travel (sizes medium and up) paired with a Canyon SD:ON, electric-specific saddle. The saddle has a wide, scooped back to provide extra comfort and stability through seated climbs.

All told, my extra large Canyon Spectral:ON CF 9 test bike weighs 50.6lbs. with pedals. The bike retails for $8,500 is the US, and is expected to be available in early May.

Stay tuned for a long term review of the Canyon Spectral:ON CF 9 this spring.

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