Canyon Spectral:ON first look

Canyon may well have nailed the e-MTB at its first try

Canyon has just launched one of the most anticipated e-MTBs in the past year or two, with the Spectral:ON — one of what will be a family of e-MTBs that’ll be appearing in the coming years.

Based on the new Spectral, launched late last year, the Spectral:ON is a Shimano driven trail bike with 150mm of rear wheel travel, 150mm or 160mm of fork travel and, distinctively, a 29in wheel up front and a 650b+ at the back.

With motor, hardware and software technology changing constantly, and with early e-MTBs arguably having relatively poor performance, Canyon has waited for things to settle down a bit before bringing a bike to market.

Canyon Spectral:ON design overview

The Shimano battery is mounted reasonably low in the bike and slides out very easily
The Shimano battery is mounted reasonably low in the bike and slides out very easily

The Canyon Spectral:ON range contains six bikes: four unisex models and two female specific versions. All the bikes currently feature an alloy frame.

Canyon says that a semi-integrated battery is lighter and easier to integrate in to the frame, and also makes removing the battery easier

Shimano’s motor was chosen because Canyon thinks that it currently offers the best ‘feel’ through the pedals of any motor on the market. It wanted to build a bike that felt more like an assisted mountain bike than a motorized mountain bike, so the natural ride feel of the Shimano motor, thanks to its power and torque delivery, made it Canyon's natural choice.

Canyon also liked the structure of the motor, with a low overall size and weight, and regular Q-factor (width between the pedals), meaning there are fewer geometry compromises to make. Canyon also managed to convince Shimano to make a 165mm crank for its bikes to aid a lower bottom bracket with fewer pedal strikes.

Arguably the most interesting feature is the mis-matched tyre sizes on the bikes. Canyon wanted a bike that maximized climbing traction (because climbing on an e-MTB is one of their biggest strengths), yet also still felt precise for technical descending.

As such, all but the smallest size will have a 2.8in 650b tyre on the rear, while the front runs a 2.5in 29in wheel. The XS size gets 650x2.6in rubber front and rear.

Up front a 2.5in 29er tyre offers precision
Up front a 2.5in 29er tyre offers precision

Canyon believes that plus tyres on the front of the bikes tend to roll around too much on the rim when the terrain gets technical and steep — no doubt influenced by the terrain and riding around Fabian Barel’s testing grounds outside of Nice. Though not much smaller, the 2.5in Wide Trail tyres offered by Maxxis give that more precise feel and control.

At the back, however, the benefit of a wide, grippy tyre is best maximized by an e-MTB. Because the outer diameter of the tyres isn’t all that different, it’s easy to build a balanced geometry.

Chunky tyres are fitted at the back for extra climbing grip
Chunky tyres are fitted at the back for extra climbing grip

Canyon also says that with an e-MTB, the weight of the wheels and tyres is a lower percentage of the overall bike weight, so fitting burly, relatively heavy tyres doesn’t have such a negative impact on the feel of the bike.

Unlike some, Canyon hasn’t integrated the battery in to the down tube. Canyon says that a semi-integrated battery is lighter and easier to integrate in to the frame, and also makes removing the battery easier.

The battery can also be mounted lower in the frame, for better weight distribution, according to Canyon.

Canyon Spectral:ON geometry

There's a relatively standard four-bar linkage, though the Horst link itself is located higher than the rear axle
There's a relatively standard four-bar linkage, though the Horst link itself is located higher than the rear axle

Canyon wanted the bike to feel as much like a trail bike as possible. Having chosen the Shimano motor it's been able to keep the chainstays to a short 430mm, and the front end is like a regular 29er trail bike.

Canyon says it wanted to create a bike with a ‘playful rear and balanced front’ feeling – hence the shorter stays and a long-ish front end of 645mm (Large) combined with the 29in wheels.

Up front the geometry is basically what you would expect a 29er trail bike from Canyon to be like — and there’s nothing funny going on with fork offsets (standard 51mm used), head angles or stack.

Sliding the shuttle alters the geometry
Sliding the shuttle alters the geometry

The short rear end is there in order to keep a playful, agile feel. Canyon says that longer stays are good for climbing, but hinder the playful feel of a bike. With the weight of the motor and battery in front of the cranks this helps keep the front wheel planted on technical climbs, Canyon claims, yet still allows the rider to lift the front wheel over obstacles easily.

Canyon has also added a geometry adjust shuttle on the top mount of the shock, giving 11mm extra bottom bracket height and 0.8 degrees steeper head and seat angle for longer climbs. It’s a neat spring-loaded shuttle that can be adjusted easily on the trail.

This means a head angle of between 66.8 and 67.6 degrees, and a seat angle of 73.8 or 74.6 degrees.

Canyon Spectral:ON suspension

Canyon has taken care to spec burly forks on all the models
Canyon has taken care to spec burly forks on all the models

Canyon has taken inspiration from its non-powered bikes for the feel of the Spectral:ON’s suspension.

There’s a touch more progression added to the mid-stroke as this helps you pump the bike on smoother terrain, and also helps you control the bike when you’re getting through towards the end of the travel, when you need that stability as a get out of jail card.

Canyon has kept the anti-squat characteristics as consistent as possible through the travel because it believes you’re more likely to challenge yourself on an e-bike in all gears when climbing.

A yoke mounted metric length shock controls the back end
A yoke mounted metric length shock controls the back end

Adding too much anti-squat also compromises the feel through the pedals, Canyon says, and improves the handling when sprinting out of corners. That said, its figures never go above 100 percent anti-squat because there’s also a motor helping to drive the bike forwards.

In terms of anti-rise, Canyon has kept it low at the beginning of the suspension stroke to maintain suppleness under braking.

For more information on anti squat and anti rise, read Seb’s guide to suspension.

Fox's Grip damper on my test bike handles things fine on an eMTB
Fox's Grip damper on my test bike handles things fine on an eMTB

Canyon Spectral:ON strength testing

Canyon claims that it's put the Spectral:ON through even more rigorous testing than its usual bikes, because e-MTBs are heavier and tend to be ridden further than standard bikes — around 1.5 times as far.

As such, it's worked on horizontal and seat tube fatigue improvements. As you’re sat down more on an e-MTB, more stresses are put through the seat tube, while the additional weight means forces acting on the frame from the leverage of the fork are said to be increased.

Apparently, Canyon’s new e-bike testing standard has 150 percent more test cycles, while also doubling the industry-wide testing standards by 200 percent.

Canyon Spectral:ON fine details

Canyon's new saddle helps you stay in place on steep climbs
Canyon's new saddle helps you stay in place on steep climbs

To complement all the work on the bike, Canyon has added what look like some pretty neat details to the Spectral:ON.

The saddle has an elevated tail, which adds extra butt-support when you’re pedaling up steep climbs that are now possible thanks to the motor and grippy rear tyre.

The two skids should keep the bike sliding over trail obstacles nicely
The two skids should keep the bike sliding over trail obstacles nicely

It's also developed a plastic shroud for the motor, which offers a pair of skid plates to help the bike slide over steppy rocks and logs. It extends below a 34t chainring, and also has extra vents to prevent overheating of the motor.

The skid plate protects a 34t ring
The skid plate protects a 34t ring

Canyon Spectral:ON delivery and service

The bikes will be delivered in Canyon’s new bike box, which has been designed so that consumers don’t have to lift the bike out of the box. Instead, the top section lifts off leaving the bike able to be assembled while still in the base — needing just the bar and front wheel attaching.

Canyon has trained its tech staff on how to best look after e-bike customers, and there’s a quick-start guide in each box with links to videos on how to assemble the bikes.

The bikes will be available direct from Canyon from 8 March.

Canyon Spectral:ON specification and pricing

Short-ish stems and wide bars appear across the range
Short-ish stems and wide bars appear across the range

All the bikes will come with a number of common specifications. For example, brakes have 200mm rotors front and rear. All suspension forks have 35mm or 36mm stanchions. The cranks are all 165mm long, bars are wide and stems short, and all the wheels are e-bike friendly Hybrid series wheels from DT Swiss, with 30mm internal width rims at the front and 35mm at the back.

Canyon believes 200mm rotors are a necessity on an e-MTB
Canyon believes 200mm rotors are a necessity on an e-MTB

At launch the bikes will only be available in the UK, Germany, France, Austria and Italy, but availability will grow globally with time.

Canyon will also be offering woman's versions
Canyon will also be offering woman's versions

Spectral:ON 6.0

This is the base model, across both the unisex and female versions. It comes with a RockShox Yari RC with 150mm travel and a Super Deluxe R shock. There’s a Shimano SLX/XT mix drivetrain and Magura MT Trail Sport brakes. The wheels are DT Swiss H1900 with Schwalbe Magic Mary and Nobby Nic tyres — the women’s model gets Nobby Nics front and rear.

Spectral:ON 7.0

This comes with a 150mm RockShox Lyrik RC, an XT drivetrain and Zee brakes, H1700 wheels and Maxxis Minions front and rear.

Spectral:ON WMNs 7.0

This is the top women’s specific model and comes with a Fox 34 fork, though it’s the e-optimized version with a stiffer chassis. It gets the Shimano XT drivetrain and Zee brakes of the unisex 7.0, but Nobby Nic tyres front and rear.

Spectral:ON 8.0

The Spectral:ON jumps up to 160mm forks here with the Fox 36 Performance Elite fork and a Float DPS Performance Elite shock. The wheels are upgraded to DT Swiss H1501 and you get the SRAM EX1 8-speed groupset.

Spectral:ON 9.0

The top-spec bike gets full Fox Factory suspension: a 36 fork and DPS shock. It comes with a Shimano XT Di2 electronic groupset, H1200 wheels and Nobby Nic tyres.

Tom Marvin

Technical Editor, Tech Hub, UK
Tom's been riding for 15 years, and has always chopped and changed bikes as soon as his budget allowed. He's most at home in the big mountains, having spent nigh on 30 weeks riding the Alps, as well as having lived a stone's throw from the Scottish Highlands for four years. Tom also enjoys racing events like the Strathpuffer and the Trans Nepal.
  • Discipline: Mountain
  • Preferred Terrain: Steep and super tech or fast and flowy
  • Current Bikes: Canyon Spectral, Pivot Mach 429SL, Mondraker Vantage R +
  • Dream Bike: Transition Scout
  • Beer of Choice: Gin & tonic
  • Location: Bristol, UK

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