Canyon Spectral: ON, the crème de la crème of electric mountain bikes

Considered by many specialists as a benchmark for high-end E-MTBs, the Canyon Spectral: ON has been renewed this year by adopting Shimano’s latest engine, the EP8. With this latest modification, the German manufacturer hopes to have erased one of the star’s rare weaknesses in its mountain bikes. Is that the case ? To be sure, we tested it!

The best (and most expensive) Canyon does

Admittedly, the 2021 version of Spectral: ON does not bring as much change as the previous one. Indeed, its real revolution, Canyon made it in 2020 by completely integrating the battery into its frame and by changing the front triangle by a carbon version, which resulted in a total gain of one kilo on the balance. In appearance, the Spectral: ON 2021 is therefore the same, with its full suspension, its precisely profiled tubes with polished welds and its crisp cable passages. Let’s face it without a hitch, this bike is magnificent and the perfect integration of its central motor gives it an impression of finesse that would almost make you forget that it is an electrified model. Without a doubt, the Spectral is a top-of-the-range mountain bike, especially in its CF9 version, the most expensive in the catalog.

Indeed, the prices of the Spectral: ON vary according to its four trim levels. Concretely, the base of the bike, that is to say the frame and the battery / motor unit, does not change. These are all the accessories around (transmission, suspension, wheels) that oscillate the price between 4,699 euros and 7,599 euros. This will be the other key point of our test, namely: is it really useful to opt for the premium version of the bike?

EP8: such an important change

Until then, Canyon equipped its Spectral: ON with the Shimano E8000, the previous generation of the Japanese engine. 4 years old and suffering from comparison with the latest Bosch productions, the engine was rightly seen as the main weakness of the German ATV. With the EP8, the evolution is to say the least noticeable. With a torque of 80 Nm, the latest Shimano engine allows the Spectral to erase its main flaw and endows it with one of the most interesting assistances of the moment. Indeed, the particularity of the Japanese engine is to be particularly progressive in its electric assistance. Thus, it is not enough to put your foot on the pedal to take off, the response of the motor is proportional to the intensity of the effort. The result is very interesting since the behavior of the bike is very similar to that of a muscular version. Although present and active, the motor has a tendency to be forgotten, which makes it possible to concentrate on the sensations perceived elsewhere.

As for the three assistance modes, they are configured in a fairly basic but devilishly effective way. The eco mode offers limited assistance, but preserves the range beyond 100 km. The boost mode, meanwhile, delivers full engine power almost immediately. It is ideal for the steepest passages or for the mountain. But in general, it is the intermediate mode, the trail, which will be used the most. It offers an excellent compromise between level of assistance and autonomy.

The only aspect on which Shimano still struggles to compete is that of the display. That of the Spectral has the advantage of being well integrated into the handlebars, of not hindering driving, but what Bosch has been offering for a few years with the Kiox or more recently the Nyon.

Finally, the change of engine and the transition to the EP8 does a lot of good to the Spectral. Canyon certainly has one of the best engines around and this highlights a particularly successful setting.

The art of being forgotten

Excellent in its construction and in the choice of its equipment, the Spectral: ON also excels from the point of view of its behavior. Indeed, it is on this point that Canyon makes the difference with its competitors. The know-how of the German manufacturer in terms of frame and integration is undeniable. Its electric mountain bike is not only dynamic, playful and easy to control, but above all it gives the impression of being very light. What probably surprised us the most is how close the sensations, when driving, on this E-MTB are to a muscle bike. Despite an obvious overweight (23 kg on the scale), the Spectral plays the field with disconcerting ease. On this point, it is of course the quality of integration of the battery and the engine, but also the expertise in terms of weight distribution of the manufacturer that must be commended.

Although the trails are his favorite playgrounds, we couldn’t resist the temptation to try the Spectral: ON in town. Of course, its big tires and its huge handlebar are not the most suitable for shining on the cycle paths. And yet: thanks to its exemplary suspension and its engine, the Canyon mountain bike is doing more than adequately. Concretely, what we lose in speed (about 2 minutes less on our 20 km test trip) is offset by the gain in comfort and driving pleasure.

Attention big battery

As with all the electric bikes we test, the range score is indicative. Indeed, it varies according to the level of assistance, the size of the cyclist, the type of terrain or even the tire pressure and the outside temperature. However, with its integrated 630 Wh block, the Canyon Spectral: ON is equipped with a large capacity battery, which allows its owner to consider long outings or to opt more easily for the assistance mode. more greedy. In our case, we essentially rode in trail mode, the intermediate level and in a relatively hilly forest. Under these conditions, we managed to exceed 80 km in one charge several times. Obviously, in eco mode, the 100 km mark should be crossed without worry.


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