Just gorgeous! In visual terms, the 2021 Spectral:ON CF 9 has very little in common with Canyon’s first eMTB. The latest version features several technical innovations, including the new Shimano EP8 motor, 630 Wh battery, sexy carbon frame and one-piece cockpit. Has it managed to maintain its fun character through all those changes?

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For an overview of the test fleet head to the group test: The best eMTB of 2021 – 25 models in review

Canyon Spectral:ON CF 9 | Shimano EP8/630 Wh | 150/150 mm (f/r)
21.80 kg in size L | € 7,599 | Manufacturer’s website

Only last year Canyon introduced the new Spectral:ON carbon frame platform. For 2021, the German online retailer has upgraded the motor to the new 85 Nm Shimano EP8 motor and swapped the old battery for a significantly bigger 630 Wh model. Apart from the drive unit, Canyon have only made a few minor changes, staying true to the concept of a playful eMTB designed to deliver uncompromised trail fun. The ingredients? A slightly tilted motor to allow the shortest chainstays possible (the shortest in our test field), mixed wheel sizes, 150 mm travel and a weight of just 21.80 kg. A further visual highlight is Canyon’s elegant in-house one-piece carbon cockpit, combining stem and handlebar in one part and helping to reduce weight. This also features an integrated display mount which allows for seamless integration of the Shimano EP8 remote and display – the cleanest and most discreet solution in the entire test field. To round off the tidy look, Canyon integrate the speed sensor into the rear of the frame, where it’s protected from impacts and twisting. Details such as the extra-wide saddle or the USB charging port on the top tube prove that the new Spectral:ON is aimed at a wide spectrum of riders, including tourers.

The spec of the Spectral:ON CF 9 is top-notch

For the € 7,499 top-of-the-range Spectral:ON CF 9 model, Canyon rely on the finest components. The spec includes FOX Factory suspension with a 36 GRIP2 fork and DPX2 shock, a top-end Shimano XTR drivetrain and XTR brakes with 200 mm ICE-TECH rotors front and rear. Not quite as high-end are Canyon’s in-house grips, which are made of hard plastic, providing little to no damping and making our fingers go numb on several occasions. Like MERIDA and Santa Cruz, Canyon opt against a super fat tire despite running an MX setup. The 27.5 x 2.6” MAXXIS Minion DHR II rear tire is only marginally wider than the 29 x 2.5” Minion DHF at the front. Both come in the thin EXO+ casing and are mounted on Reynolds carbon wheels. Heavy and fast riders should consider upgrading to more robust tires or using a tire insert to protect the rims, especially on the rear.

Elegant
The carbon cockpit of the Spectral:ON is made from one mould. No other bike integrates the Shimano motor remote and display as neatly.
Well-integrated but simply too long
The saddle clamp is nicely integrated into the seat tube. The latter, however, is simply too long and restricts freedom of movement, which isn’t helped by the extra-wide saddle.
More connections than your next iPhone
A stylish cap hides a USB-C port that can be used to charge a mobile phone or GPS device – there are also increasingly more USB-powered headlights on the market. However, the non-standard shape of the cockpit could make it difficult to attach various mounts.

Canyon Spectral:ON CF 9

€ 7,599

Specifications

Motor Shimano EP8 85 Nm
Battery Shimano BT-E8036 630 Wh
Display Shimano SC-EM800
Fork FOX 36 Factory GRIP2 150 mm
Rear Shock FOX DPX2 Factory 150 mm
Seatpost FOX Transfer Factory 150 mm
Brakes Shimano XTR M9120 200/200 mm
Drivetrain Shimano XTR 1x12
Stem Canyon:ON CF Cockpit CP0025 45 mm
Handlebar Canyon:ON CF Cockpit CP0025 780 mm
Wheelset Reynolds TRe Carbon 29"/27.5"
Tires MAXXIS Minion DHF/DHR II (EXO/EXO+) 2.5/2.6"

Technical Data

Size S M L XL
Weight 21.80 kg
Perm. total weight 130 kg
Max. payload (rider/equipment) 108 kg
Trailer approval no
Kickstand mount no

Specific Features

One-piece carbon cockpit
USB charging port


No key but lots of noise
To release the battery and its cover you can use either a conventional Allen key or Canyon’s specially developed and discreet ON key. Cool! Not so cool, on the other hand, is the constant rattling noise caused by the plastic cover and the motor when riding on rough trails.
Hey Bosch, this is how you do it!
The Shimano EP8 motor and XTR brakes allow for neat integration of the speed sensor. The magnet is integrated directly into the brake rotor.
Important upgrade
Alongside the motor, Canyon have upgraded the fork of the new Spectral:ON, which now comes with a GRIP2 damper instead of the FIT4 of the previous model – the difference on the trail is noticeable!

Canyon offer the Spectral:ON in four sizes. Given the compact reach (465 mm in L) and steep 66.5° head angle, in theory, it would make sense to pick the next frame size up, especially if you’re looking for more composure. However, in practice that’s not a good idea because the overly-long seat tube (480 mm in L) restricts the choice of frame size and freedom of movement, even riding the recommended size. On flat trails, the slack seat tube angle and upright riding position provide a high level of comfort. That being said, the unusual SD:ON saddle divides opinions, especially on long rides. While some testers found it to be very comfortable, others didn’t like the wide, raised tail.

Size S M L XL
Seat tube 430 mm 440 mm 480 mm 520 mm
Top tube 590 mm 612 mm 632 mm 653 mm
Head tube 100 mm 115 mm 125 mm 135 mm
Head angle 66.5° 66.5° 66.5° 66.5°
Sitzwinkel 74.5° 74.5° 74.5° 74.5°
Chainstays 435 mm 435 mm 435 mm 435 mm
BB Drop 33 mm 33 mm 33 mm 33 mm
Wheelbase 1,171 mm 1,197 mm 1,221 mm 1,245 mm
Reach 425 mm 445 mm 465 mm 485 mm
Stack 620 mm 625 mm 635 mm 645 mm
Helmet MET Roam | Glasses Oakley Flight Jacket | Backpack Fox Utility Hydration Pack
Jersey Fox Ranger | Shorts Fox Ranger Shorts | Kneepad POC Joint VPD System Knee
Shoes Leatt DBX 4.0 | Socks Fox 8″ Trail Cushion | Gloves Norrona Skibotn Flex1

How does the Canyon Spectral:ON CF 9 perform on the trail?

The concept plays to its strengths on the climbs, where the supportive tail of the saddle actively helps you shift your weight forward when trying to keep the light front end down. The Spectral:ON playfully winds its way up flowing climbs and flat trails and delivers tons of fun in the process. However, on technical terrain and steep gravel ramps, the bike reaches its limits. The super short chainstays, which benefit the agile handling of the Canyon cause the front to lift too easily, especially when riding with the dropper at full extension. If you’re still determined to tackle challenging terrain, you should lower the dropper and shift your weight far forwards.

In full flow mode the nimble Canyon Spectral:ON delivers endless fun on smooth and flowing trails but doesn’t handle high-speeds too well!

Tuning tips: softer grips | possibly a narrower saddle

Downhill, the Canyon offers good traction and plenty of pop, allowing you to build up speed in corners and pop off edges with ease. The handling is outstanding and makes the Spectral:ON feel incredibly nimble and direct! The shape of the one-piece cockpit forces you into an active and aggressive riding position, letting you playfully carve through fast open corners with plenty of traction on both wheels, even if you’re not a top rider. However, this can become a problem on steep sections of trail where gravity tries to pull you over the front end and the saddle gets in your way, limiting your freedom of movement. To prevent this, we recommend using the maximum number of spacers under the stem. Unfortunately, the Canyon:ON CP12 cockpit doesn’t allow for further geometry tweaks. All these factors, combined with the twitchy character of the Canyon at high speeds, push the Spectral:ON to its limits on technical, chopped up terrain and fast bike park tracks.

Riding Characteristics

7

Agility

  1. sluggish
  2. playful

Stability

  1. nervous
  2. stable

Handling

  1. demanding
  2. balanced

Riding fun

  1. boring
  2. lively

Motor feeling

  1. digital
  2. natural

Motor power

  1. weak
  2. strong

Value for money

  1. poor
  2. top

Application

Forest road

1

Flow trail uphill

2

Flow trail downhill

3

Technical single trail uphill

4

Technical single trail downhill

5

Downhill tracks

6

Conclusion

No other bike in the test field integrates the Shimano EP8 motor system as neatly as the Canyon Spectral:ON CF 9 – both visually and technically. On flowing trails, the lively handling is excellent, whether you’re riding uphill or downhill. If you’re looking for a lively eMTB for fun singletrack sessions, the Spectral:ON might be exactly what you’re looking for. However, this bike isn’t designed for alpine terrain, KOM-hunting missions or fast-paced bike park laps.

Tops

  • lively and fun handling
  • best cockpit integration of the Shimano system

Flops

  • steep up- and downhill terrain
  • twitchy at high speeds
  • rattling battery

You can find out more about at canyon.com

The test field

For an overview of the test fleet head to the group test: The best eMTB of 2021 – 25 models in review

All bikes in test: Cannondale Moterra Neo Carbon 1 (Click for review) | Canyon Spectral:ON CF 9 | CENTURION No Pogo F3600i (Click for review) | CUBE Stereo Hybrid 140 HPC SLT Nyon (Click for review) | CUBE Stereo Hybrid 160 C:62 SLT Kiox (Click for review) | Ducati TK-01 RR (Click for review) | FLYER Uproc6 9.50 (Click for review) | FOCUS JAM² 6.9 NINE (Click for review) | GIANT Trance X E+ 1 (Click for review) | Haibike AllMtn 7 (Click for review) | KTM Macina Kapoho Prestige (Click for review) | Lapierre Overvolt GLP 2 Team (Click for review) | MERIDA eONE-SIXTY 10K (Click for review) | Mondraker Crafty Carbon XR (Click for review) | Moustache Samedi 29 Trail 8 (Click for review) | ROTWILD R.X375 ULTRA (Click for review) | Santa Cruz Bullit X01 RSV Air (Click for review) | SCOTT Ransom eRIDE 910 (Click for review) | SIMPLON Rapcon PMAX (Click for review) | Specialized S-Works Turbo Levo (Click for review) | Specialized S-Works Turbo Levo SL (Click for review) | STEVENS E-Inception AM 9.7 GTF (Click for review) | Thömus Lightrider E2 Pro (Click for review) | Trek Rail 9.9 X01 (Click for review) | Whyte E-150 RS 29ER V1 (Click for review)


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Words: Felix Stix Photos: Various

About the author

Felix Stix

Felix is chief of testing and undoubtedly one of the best test riders in the world. With a degree in sports engineering, excellent mountain bike skills, his love of technology and as a certified bike guide, Felix has everything it takes to make comprehensive and fair assessments of bikes. His legendary group tests are internationally known and feared, though they tend to be a bit longer due to his love of detail and technical deep dives. Every year, he reviews around 100 bikes, specialising in the subject of tires, motors and suspension, before putting on his skis come winter! His know-how is incorporated into each of our reviews, ensuring the quality of our work stays high!