With an image forged on performance and innovation, German superbrand Canyon finally enter the E-MTB market with their new Canyon Spectral:ON, but can it live up to their reputation?

They say it’s always good to be fashionably late to the party, but timing is crucial. Time it right and you can walk in like you own the joint, crank the tunes up to 11 and light up the dance floor. Leave it too late and you find out that all the good beer has been drunk, everyone is wasted and all the hot dates have been taken. Canyon are open to admit that in the early days of E-MTB they did not see a place for the bikes in their performance focussed lineup, unimpressed with the early iterations of the technology. However, with the release of the Shimano E8000 power plant Canyon designers believed they could produce a bike that fit their brand ethos, the Canyon Spectral:ON project was born.

The 21.55 kg (Large) Canyon Spectral:ON will be available in 6 models, ranging from €3,799 to €5,999.

The new Spectral:ON E-MTB

The Canyon Spectral:ON has been three years in development, a risky strategy in a sector where technology is racing forward at a great pace. Canyon have now decided to define their position in the emerging sector. Targeted firmly at the trail rider who wants to ride everything from long mellow tours to pushing the boundaries on challenging enduro trails, the Spectral:ON is a 150 mm rear travel platform than houses the Shimano 250 Watt, 70 NM torque M8000 drive unit and 504 w/h battery and motor in a chassis that will be familiar to Canyon fans. Surprisingly, unlike many of the latest bikes to hit the market, Canyon has not included an integrated battery design, instead opting for the convenience and ease of charging of an external battery and ability to swap quickly on the trail

Anyone expecting something groundbreaking from Canyon will be disappointed. Canyon have chosen to use a practical external battery design, and focussed instead on handling.

Does size matter?

Canyon think so. The first and most obvious feature of the new Spectral:ON is the use of mixed wheelsizes, a 29” front wheel running a 2.5” tire on the front and a 27.5” wheel on the rear running a 2.8” tire. Supplied with a 30 mm wide front rim and 35 wide rear rim, Canyon claim this blends the increased precision and roll-over ability of the 29” wheel, with brutish grip from the huge contact patch at the rear. Size XS bikes will run 27.5” wheels front and rear with 2.6” tires.

With a 29” front wheel on a 30 mm wide rim and 27.5” rear wheel on a 35 wide mm rim, the Canyon Spectral:ON mixes wheel sizes for maximum performance.
The big 27.5“ x 2.8” rear tire should provide lots of traction for powering up steep climbs.

Geometry of the Canyon Spectral:ON

Canyon repeatedly stress that for them, ride quality is everything. It should come as no surprise to see that the Spectral:ON geometry closely resembles the tried and tested geometry of their conventional Spectral mountain bike. Stretched a little longer to a 465 mm reach, 1208 mm wheelbase and 634 mm stack (size large), the longer front triangle should provide good stability, while the ultrashort 430 mm chainstays tuck the back wheel under the rider for a more playful ride property. For those who like to customise their geometry a little, Canyon have fitted the bike with an adjustable geometry switch, changed by undoing a 6 mm bolt and sliding the spring loaded shuttle to either the high or the low setting. In the high setting the bottom bracket is raised 11 mm and the head angle jumps from 66.8° to 67.6° giving more bite and accuracy to the steering.

Size XS S M L XL
Seat tube 420 mm 430 mm 440 mm 480 mm 520 mm
Top tube (horizontal) 430 mm 597 mm 616 mm 638 mm 660 mm
Head tube 100 mm 95 mm 100 mm 112.5 mm 125 mm
Head angle (low/high) 66°/66.8° 66.8°/67.6° 66.8°/67.6° 66.8°/67.6° 66.8°/67.6°
Seat angle (effective) (low/high) 73.3°/74.1 73.8°/74.6 73.8°/74.6 73.8°/74.6 73.8°/74.6
Chainstay 430 mm 430 mm 430 mm 430 mm 430 mm
BB drop * 20/9 mm 33/24 mm 22/13 mm 33/24 mm 22/13 mm 33/24 mm 22/13 mm 33/24 mm 22/13 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

* XS: low/high S-XL: front low/front high   rear low/rear high

At the front of the shock sits an adjustable geometry switch, simply undo the 6 mm bolt and slide the sprung shuttle to the High or Low setting.
Short 165 mm Shimano crankset give better ground clearance for those who like to pedal up crazy trails, allowing Canyon to keep the bottom bracket low.

Rear suspension of the Spectral:ON

Canyon wanted the ride of the Spectral:ON to closely resemble that of their non-motorised Spectral, and as such wanted to develop an engaging and fun trail bike, offering pop and lively handling. Their new four-bar Triple Phase Suspension system has modified kinematics to handle the increased chassis weight of the E-MTB, sporty not plush. Not forgetting reliability, the Spectral:ON has bigger, solid grease bearings and the Spectral:ON is also tested to a new in-house category 3e standard, not as high as the category 4 of their gravity bikes, but still giving the bike a maximum system weight of 130 kg.

The rear kinematics of the Canyon Spectral:ON are optimised for the E-MTB, offering the same poppy and playful handling that define the Spectral.

Final touches to the Canyon Spectral:ON

Being as this is their first E-MTB, Canyon have spent a lot of time refining the small details of the Spectral:ON. To boost durability and impact protection, a skid plate has been fitted to the underside of the motor, and a taco replaces the chainring, allowing you to thump into rocks with happy abandon. An E-MTB lives and dies by its brakes, so it’s good to see all the models in the Spectral range feature 200 mm rotors front and back, with burly 4 piston DH brakes. Canyon have also managed to squeeze in a side loading bottle cage for a standard water bottle so you can leave the backpack at home if your just heading for a quick after work ride. One innovation we were not expecting was the unusual Canyon SD:ON seat, with a very tall rear support. Canyon feel that E-MTB riders will spend more time sitting upright and powering up climbs, so have built the seat to help lock you into a comfortable position.

The Canyon Spectral:ON uses the same internal seat clamp as found on the latest spectral, clamping the seatpost more securely and without any pressure hotspots.

Delivery and service

It’s not easy to be a direct sales E-MTB dealer, the logistical issues of shipping 20+ kg bikes internationally cannot be ignored and brands like Canyon face some very particular problems. As such, Canyon have spent over a year developing a new E-BIKE GUARD shipping box, a heavy-duty reusable box that protects the bike in transit. Initially Canyon will only be selling the Spectral:ON in five markets, Austria, France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom, with plans to roll out to more markets soon.

We travelled to Nice to test the new Canyon Spectral:ON with Fabien Barel, Ines Thoma and the rest of the Canyon team. After putting the bike firmly through its paces on tough terrain, it’s time to share our thoughts on the new bike.