Canyon Spectral:ON 9.0 first ride review

Do the updates to the Spectral:ON translate to success on the trail?

GBP £6,499.00 RRP | EUR €6,999.00 | AUD $11,049.00
Canyon Spectral:ON 9.0 electric mountain bike
Pros: A fun, playful ride that's easy to chuck around and flick about the trail with a composed and confidence-inspiring chassis
Cons: Geometry could do with modernising to match the chassis' capabilities
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Despite only being first launched in 2018 as Canyon’s debut electric mountain bike, just two years on the Spectral:ON is getting its first major update.

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The update sees the integration of the bike’s battery into its down tube, a full carbon front triangle with reinforced carbon bash guard and some minor geometry tweaks.

Canyon Spectral:ON 9.0 electric mountain bike
The battery is removed using a 4mm Allen key or Canyon’s ON Key.
Markus Greber / Canyon

There are four models in the Spectral:ON range — read more about them in our news story here — but I got to ride the top-tier 9.0 XTR and Fox equipped bike that costs £6,499 / €6,999 / AU$11,049.

Canyon Spectral:ON 9.0 frame details

Canyon Spectral:ON 9.0 electric mountain bike
The grey colour scheme is cool and understated.
Markus Greber / Canyon

Built from carbon fibre, the new Spectral:ON 9.0 is claimed to weigh 21.6kg out of the box, just over a kilogram lighter than the outgoing bike.

Because the bike’s now constructed from carbon fibre, Canyon has managed to make it as stiff as the old bike while still losing weight. The underside of the bike has a reinforced carbon fibre bash guard.

Canyon Spectral:ON 9.0 electric mountain bike
The integrated on/off button also has a waterproof USB-C port.
Markus Greber / Canyon

There’s an integrated on/off button on the bike’s top tube that also features a USB-C port that’s waterproof.

The swingarm is made from 6061 alloy and has a QUIXLE rear axle.

Canyon Spectral:ON 9.0 battery and motor details

Canyon Spectral:ON 9.0 electric mountain bike
The bash guard not only protects the motor, it also helps keep the chainring out of harm’s way.
Markus Greber / Canyon

The bike’s chassis is built around a Shimano STEPS E8000 motor with peak assistance of 300 per cent, 70Nm of torque and a 504Wh battery that, Canyon claims, can last up to 100km in Eco mode.

Canyon Spectral:ON 9.0 suspension details

Canyon Spectral:ON 9.0 electric mountain bike
The Fox DPX2 rear shock worked well and once set up correctly provided a great platform to push through turns and ride rough sections.
Markus Greber / Canyon

With 150mm of rear-wheel travel, Canyon tuned the bike’s kinematics to work with a coil shock that naturally gets harder as it compresses by making the leverage ratio fairly linear.

It’s also reduced the anti-squat figure to 70 per cent, which means that the rear end should be more active under power, absorbing bumps while the rider is pedalling. This, it says, should give the bike more grip and make it more comfortable over rough terrain.

Canyon Spectral:ON 9.0 electric mountain bike
For an ebike, that’s a pretty tidy cockpit.
Markus Greber / Canyon

The Spectral:ON 9.0 is fitted with a Fox DPX2 rear shock with a lockout function, low-speed compression adjust and rebound adjustment.

Up front is a 150mm travel Fox 36 Factory Float fork with the FIT4 damper that also has a lockout function and low-speed adjust with a single low-speed rebound adjuster.

Canyon Spectral:ON 9.0 geometry details

The size large I tested has a 435mm long chainstay, a 66.5-degree head tube angle and a 74.5-degree virtual seat tube angle. These are joined by a 1,221mm wheelbase and a 465mm reach.

The bike runs a mullet wheel set up with a 27.5in wheel on the rear and 29in on the front.

Canyon Spectral:ON 9.0 electric mountain bike
The all-in-one bar and stem had the right geometry for my tastes.
Markus Greber / Canyon

Canyon says it’s increased the bike’s stack height by adding a longer head tube across the range of sizes. This was after rider feedback indicated that higher front ends were better for tougher descents.

Canyon Spectral:ON 9.0 components and specifications

Canyon Spectral:ON 9.0 electric mountain bike
Canyon’s electric mountain bike specific saddle helps keep your sit bones in the correct place with a raised rear ridge.
Markus Greber / Canyon

This top-of-the-range bike is claimed to weigh approximately 21.6kg and is decked out with some top-spec kit.

Both the brakes and groupset are Shimano XTR and there’s a Fox Transfer Factory dropper post.

It’s specced with Reynolds TRe carbon wheels and Canyon’s all-in-one CF:ON CP0012 bar and stem.

Canyon Spectral:ON 9.0 electric mountain bike
The bar/stem combo has a 50mm virtual stem length.
Markus Greber / Canyon

There are Maxxis DHF and DHRII Wide Trail tyres and Canyon’s electric mountain bike saddle, the SD:ON.

Canyon Spectral:ON 9.0 first ride impressions

Canyon Spectral:ON 9.0 electric mountain bike
The Spectral:ON loved being flicked about.
Markus Greber / Canyon

Canyon invited me out to Barcelona to ride the new Spectral:ON on the natural trails surrounding La Poma bike park.

The trails were dry and grippy thanks to a sandy soil type and interspersed sandstone rocks that also provided plenty of traction.

I managed to get a solid ride on the Spectral:ON and even rode the same trail more than once. However, these impressions are just preliminary findings.

Canyon Spectral:ON 9.0 climbing performance

Canyon Spectral:ON 9.0 electric mountain bike
The Shimano motor certainly helped on the punchy climbs of Northern Spain.
Markus Greber / Canyon

The dominating element of the bike on the climbs is the motor, as is the case with most electric bikes. The assistance provided by Shimano’s E8000 motor is predictable and relatively easy to manage.

In Eco and Trail modes there is a marked gap between when I started pedalling and when the motor engaged. This can be frustrating on techy climbs, especially if I needed to pause pedalling to avoid striking the cranks or pedals on a rock, because the bike’s weight requires significant strength and skill to manoeuvre without the motor’s assistance.

In Boost mode this is less of an issue. After I stopped pedalling, the motor continued to provide assistance for a short period of time, helping me get over tricky obstacles as I re-aligned the cranks.

I managed to complete a 27.3km ride with 1,250m of climbing on one single charge, and with one of five battery indicator bars still remaining. This was in mixed mode usage with a few short bursts in Boost.

Canyon Spectral:ON 9.0 electric mountain bike
This was one of the mellower climbs, but I still felt like the seat tube angle could have been steeper.
Markus Greber / Canyon

The seat tube angle feels like it could be steeper still. Because of the bike’s intentionally high stack and 27.5in rear wheel it feels like the rear end sits quite low and the bars high.

While this is great on the descents, I did find myself compensating by angling the seat nose down and pushing it as far forwards in the seatpost’s rails as possible.

Although Canyon’s SD:ON saddle does a good job of masking the slack seat tube angle, thanks to the large raised section at the rear, this does feel like a band-aid fix.

This bike was built from the ground up on an entirely new chassis, so Canyon could have increased the seat tube angle without any payoffs.

Despite having the seat forwards on the rails when climbing seated, I felt like the 50mm effective stem length and top tube meant that there was plenty of room.

Conversely, the reach figure made standing pedalling a little cramped and I would have liked this to be a bit longer to feel genuinely comfortable. I am only 178cm tall and needed to ride a size large to be comfortable.

Canyon Spectral:ON 9.0 electric mountain bike
The 27.5in back wheel makes the bike pretty playful going up and down.
Markus Greber / Canyon

Overall, the Spectral:ON feels very settled on climbs, even when gradients were impressively steep.

The front wheel did wonder when my concentration lapsed, but generally speaking the bike was easy to control and point in the correct direction.

The 27.5in rear wheel and tyre provided plenty of grip and the suspension felt particularly supple on flat and climbing sections – both of these elements helped me to climb quickly and proficiently.

Canyon Spectral:ON 9.0 descending performance

Canyon Spectral:ON 9.0 electric mountain bike
The mullet setup makes it easy to initiate and control drifts.
Markus Greber / Canyon

The Spectral:ON took a while to set up correctly for the descents and I ended up relying on higher shock and fork pressures than recommended to keep the bike propped up in its travel.

I also added a fair amount of low-speed compression to the rear shock to help this further. I did find the FIT4 fork damper to be underwhelming at best, however, and relied on spring pressure rather than the damping adjustments to keep it performing how I wanted.

Once it was set up, though, it rode confidently and playfully with plenty of support from the bike’s suspension. This made it easy to push hard through turns and up take-offs as well as through rough sections of trail.

Canyon Spectral:ON 9.0 electric mountain bike
It was dusty and dry during the testing period.
Markus Greber / Canyon

The ride characteristics lean towards playful rather than planted, but that’s no bad thing. This feels like it is generated by the mullet wheel configuration for the most part and it’s easy to initiate drifts around turns and then hold them there predictably.

Although, when the dial gets turned up to 11, higher speeds do highlight some limitations of the bike’s geometry.

While the chassis’ construction eggs you on, the geometry can hold you back; the short chainstays, relatively short reach and fairly steep head angle do indicate that this bike is a rugged trail bike rather than an enduro or all-mountain rig.

But as long as you’re riding the types of trails the geometry is designed for there are no problems. The low-slung weight of the motor also helped the bike to feel more controlled and more stable than it would have done otherwise.

Canyon Spectral:ON 9.0 electric mountain bike
It handled most of the terrain I rode in Spain with ease.
Markus Greber / Canyon

The Canyon CF:ON CP0012 bar and stem felt good and the rise and sweep were spot-on for my tastes.

However, the trails I rode weren’t rough enough for me to be able to comment on whether they were too stiff or well damped. More testing on rougher trails should provide some decisive analysis here.

Canyon Spectral:ON 9.0 early verdict

Canyon Spectral:ON 9.0 electric mountain bike
It was stable in the air and easy to jump thanks to the supportive suspension.
Markus Greber / Canyon

On the delightfully grippy and enjoyable trails in Spain, the Spectral:ON 9.0 showed itself to be a tremendously fun bike to ride, especially when you’re cruising or not riding as fast as you can.

Do the updates to the Spectral:ON translate to success on the trail? The geometry encourages a playful demeanour on the bike and the way it rips is undoubtedly helped by its low-slung weight.

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Overall, it’s a fun shredder — something that an electric mountain bike probably should strive to be — but it’s never going to be a trail destroying machine thanks to geometry limitations.

Product Specifications

Product

Price AUD $11049.00EUR €6999.00GBP £6499.00
Weight 21.6kg (Large) – Claimed weight
What we tested Canyon Spectral:ON 9.0
Year 2020
Brand Canyon

Features

Available sizes Small, medium, large, extra-large
Bottom bracket Shimano DU-E8000
Brakes Shimano XTR 200mm discs front and rear
Cassette Shimano XTR
Cranks Shimano 34 tooth
Fork Fox 36 Factory FIT4
Handlebar Canyon CF:ON CP0012
Motor Shimano DU-E8000
Rear derailleur Shimano XTR
Rear shock Fox DPX2 Factory
Saddle Canyon SD:ON
Seatpost Fox Transfer Factory
Shifter Shimano XTR
Stem Canyon CF:ON CP0012
Tyres : Maxxis Minion DHF 2.5 WT EXO (f), Maxxis Minion DHRII 2.6 WT EXO Plus (r)
Wheels Reynolds TRe carbon