Canyon and COMMENCAL are both known for building innovative, great handling bikes, and both recently added eMTBs to their portfolio. To find out which brand built the better bike, we invited them to a duel: Canyon Spectral:ON 9.0 vs. COMMENCAL META POWER 29.
Canyon and COMMENCAL stand for high-quality, affordable bikes, often offering more value for money than the competition. This is made possible by the elimination of a dealer network: both manufacturers sell directly to customers without intermediaries, allowing them to pass on the savings to the end user. As a customer, however, this means limited testing possibilities in advance and increased effort in the event of a service or repair. In case of a warranty claim, it may be necessary to ship the entire bike back to them. However, smaller repairs can usually also carried out by a normal dealer – sometimes at higher prices or longer waiting times. Ideally, you should be clued up enough to be able to perform minor repairs and have the confidence to dial in the setup yourself.
The Canyon Spectral:ON 9.0 bursts with components and concepts specially developed for eMTBs: mixed wheel sizes, a specially designed saddle, an eMTB carbon wheelset and an eMTB specific fork, to name a few of Canyon’s ingredients for a fun eMTB. At COMMENCAL the thinking is a bit different: racing, speed and performance are at the forefront of many of their bike developments. The META POWER 29 can’t hide these genes either. You won’t find many eMTB specific components or exaggerated bling on the META. Instead, the bike has been given rock-solid componentry to meet the requirements of a potent eMTB. Which concept makes for the better eMTB on the trail? EMTB-specific and lightweight components or tried and trusted mountain bike components? To clarify this question, we surfed the bikes up and down flow-trails, ironed out nasty rock gardens, navigated hairpin bends and rolled over carpets of roots.
Canyon Spectral:ON 9.0
Fork Fox 36 Float Factory 150 mm
Shock Fox Factory Float DPS EVOL 140 mm
Drivetrain Shimano XT Di2
Motor Shimano Steps E8000
Battery Shimano 500 Wh
Brakes Shimano Saint 203/203 mm
Handlebar Canyon H23 Rise CF 760 mm
Stem Canyon V12 60 mm
Seatpost Kind Shock Lev Si 150 mm
Tires Schwalbe Nobby Nic 2,6″/2,35″
Wheels DT Swiss H1200 Spline 27,5″+/29″
More info: canyon.com
|Top tube||582 mm||597 mm||616 mm||638 mm||660 mm|
|Seat tube||420 mm||430 mm||440 mm||480 mm||520 mm|
|Chainstays||430 mm||430 mm||430 mm||430 mm||430 mm|
|BB Drop||33/24 mm||33/24 mm||33/24 mm||33/24 mm||33/24 mm|
|Wheelbase||1151/1149 mm||1161/1159 mm||1183/1181 mm||1208/1206 mm||1233/1231 mm|
|Reach||405 mm||425 mm||445 mm||465 mm||485 mm|
|Stack||605 mm||618 mm||622 mm||634 mm||644 mm|
COMMENCAL META POWER 29
Fork RockShox Lyrik RCT3 150 mm
Shock RockShox Super Deluxe RCT 140 mm
Drivetrain SRAM EX1
Motor Shimano Steps E8000
Battery Shimano 500 Wh
Brakes SRAM Code R 200/200 mm
Handlebar Ride Alpha Aluminium 780 mm
Stem Ride Alpha Alloy 7075 50 mm
Seatpost Kind Shock Lev Integra
Tires Maxxis Highroller II 2,5″ Maxxis Minion DHR 2,4″
Wheels DT Swiss H1700 Spline 27,5″
More info: commencal-store.co.uk
|Top tube||577 mm||599 mm||624 mm||648 mm|
|Seat tube||400 mm||440 mm||490 mm||520 mm|
|Chainstays||440 mm||440 mm||440 mm||440 mm|
|BB Drop||17 mm||17 mm||17 mm||17 mm|
|Wheelbase||1170 mm||1191 mm||1216 mm||1241 mm|
|Reach||415 mm||435 mm||458 mm||481 mm|
|Stack||615 mm||619 mm||624 mm||628 mm|
Round 1: The delivery
The first point goes to Canyon the moment the postman rings the doorbell. The € 5,999 Spectral:ON 9.0 is delivered in a specially developed BikeGuard box which allows you to effortlessly roll the Bike out. The COMMENCAL, on the other hand, comes in a normal bike box and lifting out the 22.5 kg bike requires some muscle. If you have enough space, you should always keep the box to be able to send your eMTB to the manufacturer in case it needs a service or repairs.
Round 2: The bikes in detail
The aluminium frames of both bikes feature some unusual details, but it’s Canyon who show they are one of the few manufacturers capable of accommodating an external battery and a bottle cage in the front triangle. Excellent!
The shock of the COMMENCAL META POWER 29 is semi integrated into the top tube and the rear brake calliper is tucked securely behind the seat stay. Within the first few meters of trail, you’ll notice that both bikes are very quiet – apart from the noises the motor makes. This is mainly due to the soft chainstay protectors, which minimise chain noise.
However, we would have liked a higher quality finish, with the weld seams on both frames looking quite rough. Also, the speed sensors on the chainstays are unprotected and permanently exposed to being bombarded by rocks.
COMMENCAL has adapted the geometry of the META POWER to 29″ wheels and given the bike a steep seat angle and long wheelbase. The linkage driven single-pivot rear suspension provides 140 mm of travel, which in combination with a 150 mm fork should provide sufficient reserves.
Depending on the model, the Canyon Spectral:ON comes with 150 mm or 160 mm travel forks. Our top-end model has a 29″ wheel on the front with a 150mm fork, while the rear end features a 27.5″ wheel and offers 140mm of travel.
Round 3: The Componentry
When it comes to the spec, only the best is good enough for the Canyon Spectral:ON 9.0. Electronic Shimano XT Di2 gears, a FOX Factory fork optimized for ebikes and a carbon wheelset are the stuff of bike wet dreams. The differently sized DT Swiss HXC 1200 SPLINE wheels immediately catch the eye. In the front, you’ve got a 29″ wheel, while the rear clearly rolls on a 27.5 + wheel. The thin-walled Schwalbe Nobby Nic tyres with their low profile tread raised some scepticism. In future, however, Canyon will spec Nobby Nics with the more durable Super Gravity casing. The 2.6″ wide tyre on the rear promises to provide traction when climbing, while the narrower 2.35″ front tyre should offer precise steering. FOX Factory suspension consisting of a 36 fork and DPS FLOAT shock, controls the 150 mm of travel front and rear. In terms of propulsion, the Spectral:ON relies fully on electricity and Shimano. The power of the STEPS E 8000 motor is transmitted to the rear wheel via the electronic Shimano XT Di2 drivetrain. Both draw power from the external 500 Wh battery, attached to the top of the down tube. The Shimano Saint brakes with 200 mm rotors at the front and rear offer more than enough stopping power, easily coping with long descents. The extra-wide Canyon SD:ON saddle is raised at the rear to provide support on steep climbs. The cockpit combines a 60 mm stem with a “merely” 760 mm wide carbon handlebar from Canyon.
COMMENCAL’s € 700 cheaper META POWER 29 comes with tried and trusted components. The 29″ wheel/tyre combination consisting of grippy MAXXIS Aggressor and HighRoller II tyres and a reliable DT Swiss H1700 SPLINE wheelset convinced us entirely. Like Canyon, COMMENCAL also relies on the Shimano STEPS E-8000 motor with an external battery. Although the SRAM EX1 eight-speed drivetrain was developed especially for eMTBs we find it less desirable for use on the trail because of the large gear steps. The brakes also come from SRAM and thanks to the 200 rotors at the front and rear, the Code R is plenty powerful. Compared to the Shimano Saint, the Code R is easier to modulate but requires considerably more finger force to generate the same braking power. “Black is beautiful” is the motto of the RockShox suspension; a 150 mm Lyrik RCT3 fork and a Super Deluxe RCT shock, eliciting 140 mm of travel from the rear linkage. A 50 mm long RIDE ALPHA stem completes the cockpit with a 780 mm aluminium in-house handlebar.
Uphill, the Shimano motor convinced on both bikes. In trail mode, the system cleverly controls the power and provides a natural riding experience. On the Canyon, you take a seat on the wide SD:ON saddle, which is raised at the rear, enabling you to comfortably ride all day and up steep climbs. The seating position is slightly more stretched than on the compact COMMENCAL. Nevertheless, both bikes manage the balancing act between a comfortable and an efficient pedalling position when seated, which makes them both suitable for long days in the saddle.
If you’re climbing on singletrack, there are bigger differences between the bikes: in flatter terrain, the Canyon gets up and over steps and large roots with ease and little physical effort. The META POWER 29 also easily conquers small to medium-sized obstacles, the plush rear suspension generating massive amounts of traction. However, it’s a bit lazier than the Spectral:ON 9.0 and without enough momentum, getting through twisting, narrow sections can be challenging.
Thanks to the relatively steep seat tube angle and the long chainstays, the front wheel of the META POWER 29 only lifts off the ground when things get really steep. The Spectral:ON reaches its limit earlier and requires a lot of work from the rider to keep the front wheel grounded due to the high front end. Unfortunately, the rear tyre lacks grip despite its width, resulting in a loss of traction. In a duel against COMMENCAL, the advantages offered by the mixed wheel size on climbs aren’t fully exploited by the Canyon.
Group B Rally Car vs Monster Truck. That’s what a direct downhill comparison between the playful Canyon Spectral:ON and the extremely composed COMMENCAL META POWER 29 feels like.
On the Canyon, you feel like you’re standing in instead of on the bike. The 29″ wheel on the front keeps the cockpit high, and in combination with the low bottom bracket, you’re stood upright despite having a low centre of gravity, inspiring a lot of confidence. Also, the top tube is nice and low, offering a lot of freedom to throw your weight around in all directions. Thanks to the long-stroke dropper seat post, the exceptionally wide saddle doesn’t get in the way. Thus integrated, it’s easy to throw the Spectral:ON into corners. The suspension offers so much support that you can push the bike into a berm and shoot out of the other side faster than you entered. The 21.3 kg Canyon goads you to pull off ledges and roots, inviting you to jump instead of ride over obstacles. It’s a good thing too because, during fast consecutive blows, the suspension gives you more feedback than you might like. Even beginners should find it easy to chuck the Canyon playfully from one turn into the next. Unfortunately, the tyres reach their limit too quickly. The Nobby Nics offer little traction, especially on the brakes, unable to transfer the brute force of the Saint brakes to the ground.
The Canyon Spectral:ON 9.0 is so agile and playful that each root turns into a jump
While the tyres on the Canyon reduce the overall performance of the bike, the MAXXIS tyres with their durable Double Down casing and soft rubber compound make the META POWER 29 almost feel like a downhill bike in terms of grip and puncture protection. Together with its balanced weight distribution, the COMMENCAL generates an enormous amount of grip in corners, filling you with confidence out on the trail. You will need all the confidence and grip you can get, however, as you’ll only reach the limits of the META POWER 29 at extremely high speeds. After all, the suspension irons away almost everything in its path, generating an extreme amount of grip and begging for speed. The COMMENCAL holds its line with ease, steering with speed and precision. On less demanding trails, however, the plush suspension can feel a little vague. Compared to the Canyon, the COMMENCAL is less agile and lazier on flowing stretches. On the other hand, it easily drops the Canyon on rooty passages and is much more confidence inspiring and stable over larger jumps.
The COMMENCAL META POWER 29 flattens everything like a monster truck and begs for speed
So who wins the duel, Canyon or COMMENCAL? The Canyon is clearly the more playful and agile bike, inspiring you with its natural handling. Unfortunately, however, it doesn’t perform as well at high speeds and on steep climbs. The COMMENCAL META POWER 29 is the monster truck in this duel, ironing over everything in its path, both uphill and downhill, giving the rider an unexpected speed-rush. On top of that, it costs € 700 less and convinces with its reliable and sensible spec. Although it was a close call, the Canyon Spectral:ON 9.0 has to admit defeat against the COMMENCAL META POWER 29. The lower priced Spectral:ON 8.0 offers more travel and less luxury at a lower price than the COMMENCAL. So if you prefer a playful and manoeuvrable bike, go for the Canyon – but not the top-end model.
This article is from E-MOUNTAINBIKE issue #014
Words: Felix Stix Photos: Valentin Rühl, Felix Stix