Canyon Spectral:ON CF 8 Review
Cons: Motor/battery bulge reduces clearance, non-e-bike specific fork, should come with beefier tires
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Canyon Spectral:ON CF 8
|Price||$6,999 List||$7,500 List||$7,500 List||$5,800 List||$7,499 List|
|Pros||Reasonably priced, great build for the price, 900Wh battery-massive range, well-rounded performance, confident descender||Highly adjustable geometry, super versatile, loads of power, great range||Powerful motor, good distance range, well-rounded performance||Reasonable price (relatively speaking), fun on a wide range of terrain, confident descender, solid distance range||Very competitive price, awesome build, 3 build options, versatile and well-rounded, high fun factor|
|Cons||Motor/battery bulge reduces clearance, non-e-bike specific fork, should come with beefier tires||SRAM Code R brakes, should come with a burlier rear tire, no longer leading the battery wars, motor is a little noisy at high torque||Battery or motor rattle, expensive, sluggish handling at low speeds||Mediocre suspension components, SRAM SX drivetrain, can be a handful in tight spots||Only 540Wh battery option, shorter distance range, some minor motor rattle|
|Bottom Line||A well-rounded performance, 900Wh battery, and a very competitive price make this one of the best electric mountain bikes we've tested||A well-refined and well-rounded e-MTB with unmatched versatility through a highly adjustable geometry||A well-rounded electric mountain bike with a solid distance range||A ripping, versatile eMTB that can tackle the gnarly stuff in a relatively budget-friendly package||A versatile and well-rounded trail/all-mountain eMTB with a great build at a competitive price|
|Rating Categories||Canyon Spectral:ON...||Specialized Turbo L...||Trek Rail 9.7||Commencal Meta Powe...||YT Decoy 29 Core 4|
|Downhill Performance (30%)|
|Climbing Performance (25%)|
|Distance Range (25%)|
|Power Output (15%)|
|E-Bike Controls (5%)|
|Specs||Canyon Spectral:ON...||Specialized Turbo L...||Trek Rail 9.7||Commencal Meta Powe...||YT Decoy 29 Core 4|
|Battery Size (Wh)||900Wh||700Wh||625Wh||630Wh||540Wh|
|Wheel size (inches)||MX (29" front, 27.5" rear)||MX (29" front, 27.5" rear)||29||29||29|
|Motor System||Shimano EP8||Specialized Turbo Full Power 2.2||Bosch Performance Line CX||Shimano EP8||Shimano EP8|
|Motor Power (torque)||85Nm||90Nm||85Nm||85Nm||85Nm|
|Measured Weight (w/o pedals)||51 lbs 15 oz (Large)||51 lbs 3 oz (S4)||49 lbs 10 oz (Medium)||53 lbs 8 oz (Large)||49 lbs 5 oz (Large)|
|Measured Effective Range||38.5 miles||33.1 miles||28.95 miles||26.1 miles||23.2 miles|
|Fork||Fox 36 Rhythm Grip, 150mm||Fox Rhythm 36, 160mm||RockShox Yari RC e-MTB, 160mm||RockShox 35 Gold RL, 150mm||Fox 36 Float Factory E-bike+, 150mm|
|Suspension & Travel||Triple Phase155mm||Future Shock Rear (FSR) - 150mm||Active Braking Pivot, 150mm||Contact System 4-bar, 140mm||V4L Virtual 4-Link 145mm|
|Shock||Fox DPS Performance EVOL||Fox Float X Performance||RockShox Deluxe Select+||RockShox Deluxe Select+||Fox Float DPS Factory|
|Frame Material||Carbon Fiber||M5 Premium Aluminum||OCLV Carbon||Alloy 6066||Carbon Fiber|
|Frame Size Tested||Large||S4||Medium||Large||Large|
|Wheelset||SunRingle Duroc SD37 Comp||Specialized 29 Alloy||Bontrager Line Comp 30||Spank Spike Race 33 rims with Formula hubs||Crankbrothers Synthesis Alloy e-MTB with I9 1/1 hubs|
|Front Tire||Maxxis Assegai EXO 29 x 2.5||Specialized Butcher GRID TRAIL GRIPTON T9 29" x 2.6"||Bontrager XR5 Team Issue 2.6"||Maxxis Minion DHR II EXO+ 2.4"||Maxxis Minion DHF EXO 29" x 2.5" WT|
|Rear Tire||Maxxis Minion DHR II EXO+ 27.5 x 2.6||Specialized Eliminator GRID TRAIL GRIPTON T7 27.5" x 2.6"||Bontrager XR5 Team Issue 2.6"||Maxxis Minion DHR II EXO+ 2.4"||Maxxis Minion DHR II EXO+ 29" x 2.4" WT|
|Shifters||Shimano SLX 12-speed||SRAM GX Eagle 12-speed||SRAM NX Eagle 12-speed||SRAM SX Eagle||Shimano XT 12-speed|
|Rear Derailleur||Shimano XT 12-speed||SRAM GX Eagle 12-speed||SRAM NX Eagle 12-speed||SRAM SX Eagle||Shimano XT 12-speed|
|Crankset||Shimano STEPS||Praxis M30||SRAM X1 1000||E13 E*Spec EP8||Shimano XT M8150|
|Cassette||Shimano Deore M6100 12-speed||SRAM XG-1275, 12-speed, 10-52t||SRAM PG1230, 11-50T||SRAM SX Eagle||Shimano XT M8100 12-speed, 10-51T|
|Chain||Shimano CN-M6100||SRAM NX Eagle||SRAM NX Eagle||SRAM NX Eagle||Shimano Hyperglide+|
|Saddle||Fizik Terra Aidon X5||Specialized Bridge Comp||Bontrager Arvada 138mm||Fabric Scoop Flat Sport V2||SDG Bel Air 3.0 YT Custom, 140mm|
|Seatpost||Iridium, 175mm (size Large)||X-Fusion Manic 175mm (S4/S5)||Bontrager Line Dropper, 150mm||KS Rage-I||YT Postman, 150mm (size Large)|
|Handlebar||Canyon:ON HB0057 Riser||Specialized Alloy 780mm||Bontrager Comp Alloy, 780mm||Ride Alpha R20 E-Bike, 780mm||Renthal Fatbar 35, 780mm|
|Stem||Canyon:ON ST0031||Specialized Alloy Trail||Bontrager Rhythm Comp, 60mm||Ride Alpha Freeride 50mm||Renthal Apex 35, 50mm|
|Brakes||Shimano SLX M7120 4-piston||SRAM Code R 4-piston 220mm front and 200mm rear rotor||Shimano M6120 4-piston||SRAM Guide RE 4 piston 200mm rotors||SRAM Code RSC, 200mm rotors|
|Grips||Canyon Lock-On||Specialized Trail Grips||Bontrager XR Trail Comp||Ride Alpha DH||ODI Elite Motion V2.1|
|Measured Effective Top Tube (mm)||637||611||626||612|
|Measured Reach (mm)||485||477||450||485||463|
|Measured Head Tube Angle||65.5||Adjustable between 63.5 and 65.5-degrees in 1-degree increments||64.9 High /64.5 Low||64.5||66.3 High/ 65.8 Low|
|Measured Seat Tube Angle||76.5||76.2-degrees||75||77.5||77.5 High/ 77 Low|
|Measured Bottom Bracket Height (mm)||36-drop||350mm||344||345 High/338 Low|
|Measured Wheelbase (mm)||1252||1255||1220||1279||1241|
|Measured Chain Stay Length (mm)||440||442||447||453||458|
Our Analysis and Test Results
Canyon updated the Spectral:ON for the 2022 model year, making some pretty dramatic changes to its already popular trail e-MTB. While it would be safe to assume it's essentially an electrified version of the Spectral 29, it's actually quite far from it. The new Spectral:ON rolls on mixed wheels with 155mm of rear wheel travel paired with a 150mm fork and an updated geometry that's modern but looks almost conservative on paper by today's standards. Canyon stuck with the reliable Shimano STEPS EP8 motor system, but they changed its orientation in the frame slightly to accommodate for the massive 900Wh battery that comes standard on all but the small frame sizes (CF 8 and CFR models). The result is one of the best all-around electric mountain bikes we've ever tested, and thanks to Canyon's consumer direct sales model, it's a great value too.
The Spectral:ON CF 8 is a well-rounded performer on the descents with travel numbers and geometry that lean more towards the trail riding and all-'rounder side of the spectrum. While fairly modern, the middle of the road-ness of its geometry and smaller rear wheel also help to keep it feeling lively, maneuverable, and somewhat playful, yet it remains stable and composed in nearly all situations on the descents. Despite the massive 900Wh battery, Canyon did a great job keeping its weight well distributed, and this bike handles better than you'd expect for tipping the scales at just over 50 lbs.
Canyon gave the Spectral:ON CF 8 a relatively modern geometry that's geared towards trail riding as opposed to pure downhill performance. That's not to say that it doesn't perform well on the descents, because it certainly does, it just doesn't really have any extreme numbers that are becoming more common these days. It seems clear to us that Canyon wanted this bike to be more of a versatile all-around trail riding machine, and we think they hit that nail right on the head. The 65.5-degree head tube angle is the sweet spot for trail riding, where steering and handling remain responsive at a wide range of speeds and the bike still feels adequately slack when rolling into steeper, aggressive terrain. The 485mm reach on our size Large test bike provides a nice roomy cockpit while the 1,252mm wheelbase and 440mm chainstays promote stability at speed without detracting much from its maneuverability. Likewise, the 27.5-inch rear wheel helps to keep the rear end feeling sporty and nimble. The weight of this bike certainly comes in to play, but we found it to be an asset mostly. The low position of the weight doesn't make the bike feel like too much of a handful, and it contributes to outrageous traction in the corners. At the same time, we found it to feel relatively quick side to side, easy to get off the ground, energetic, and downright fun and flickable in the right terrain.
We're accustomed to most modern bikes having slightly more travel in the front than the rear, but that's not the case with the Spectral:ON CF 8. This bike has 155mm of rear wheel travel that's paired with a 150mm travel fork. Five millimeters is a very marginal difference, and something that most people, our testers included, would hardly ever notice. We found that amount of travel to be great for, well, pretty much everything, even the more aggressive descents we tackled during testing. The rear suspension has a supple feel and relatively good mid-stroke support, but we did experience a few bottom-outs of the rear suspension when running 30% sag. We bumped up to 25% sag to get a little more bottom-out resistance and we'd likely experiment with a larger volume spacer to add a little more progression at the end of the stroke. The Fox 36 Rhythm fork works well enough, but we found it to feel a bit flexy under heavy braking and rough section at higher speeds. Overall, the suspension components are adequate and get the job done, although they don't offer much adjustability and a beefier fork would certainly be an asset to this bike. Those looking for a little more front-end travel could consider putting a 160mm travel fork on the front. In addition to 10mm more travel, this would slacken the head tube angle by about 0.5-degrees and raise the bottom bracket slightly.
It's worth noting that the large bulge forward of the bottom bracket created by the motor and battery does reduce your clearance in that area. When combined with the relatively low bottom bracket height at sag, and even lower during compression, the likelihood of smashing the skid plate into obstacles on the trail is higher than with most other bikes. We experienced this a few times on the first couple of test rides before adapting and compensating for it. Like anything, it takes a little getting used to before you barely even notice, but we could certainly see it leading to some harsh bottom outs and broken skid plates.
Climbing aboard the Spectral:ON CF 8 is a generally pleasant experience that's backed up with loads of power. The geometry is comfortable for the rider and lends itself to responsive handling and agility despite its weight and overall length. Whether blasting up fire roads or negotiating winding singletrack climbs, the Spectral:ON feels right at home. Clearance is a bit of an issue in super technical terrain with the larger motor/battery bulge and low bottom bracket height, but that's really our only gripe.
The geometry of the Spectral:ON CF 8 lends itself to a comfortable climbing position. The 76.5-degree seat tube angle is adequately steep, lining the rider up nicely above the cranks and avoiding having the rider too far out above the rear wheel. When combined with the generous, but not too roomy, reach of 485mm on the size large (reach increases in 25mm increments between sizes), we found ourselves in a balanced climbing position that avoids feeling too stretched out. The 65.5-degree head tube angle helps to keep the steering feeling relatively sharp, not prone to wandering the way some slacker bikes can, while the moderate length chainstays and smaller rear wheel keep the rear end easily maneuverable. With a 1,252mm wheelbase, the overall length of the bike does come into play in tight technical terrain and sharp switchbacks but generally speaking, it handles most climbing situations quite well. And when in doubt, there's always the power on tap to blast up and over most things you encounter. One caveat is the prominent motor/battery bulge and fairly low bottom bracket. This can come into play in ledgy rock gardens or tricky up-and-over moves, so some caution needs to be taken in those situations to avoid pedal strikes and bottom-outs on the skid plate.
The rear suspension on the Spectral:ON CF 8 is fairly active when climbing, and it does a fine job of soaking up trail chatter and vibration. The rear shock does have a compression damping/climbing switch, but other than some steep paved road grinds, our testers chose to leave it open to enjoy the exceptional traction available. The bike's weight also comes into play here, helping to keep the rear wheel grounded and the tread knobs digging deep into the trail surface. The overall weight of the bike is a bit more noticeable on the uphills, particularly when muscling the bike through tricky moves and up steep ledges, but again, Canyon did a good job keeping the weight low and feeling well balanced.
With a whopping 900Wh battery, it stands to reason that the Spectral:ON CF 8 should have an outstanding range and potentially help get rid of range anxiety altogether. For comparison, the Canyon has a full 200Wh more than the Specialized Turbo Levo Comp with its 700Wh battery. That's 28% more! To see how it performs, we did a range test on our standardized test for comparison, and we took it for many long trail rides to see how that translates to real-world riding.
In the Boost setting, our range test rider rode the Spectral:ON CF 8 for 38.5 miles with 5,292 vertical feet of elevation gain. That's a pretty impressive distance to travel, particularly when using the highest output setting the whole time. In fact, it's a little over 5 miles farther than we rode the Specialized Turbo Levoon the same course. This test is great for comparative purposes, but since most of us don't do laps on e-MTBs on pavement, we took it for some battery-draining rides as well. One particular ride involved 33.8 trail miles with 6,246 vertical feet of climbing while using the power gratuitously in boost and trail modes, and our tester finished with a full bar of battery to spare. We think it's safe to assume the battery had roughly another 5 miles and 1,000 vertical left, and that we could've stayed out even longer with more conservative pedal assist usage. That ride would've killed the batteries of pretty much any other bike we've ever tested, and we would have spent the last few miles worrying about the battery dying. Not the case with the Spectral:ON.
Shimano's EP8 motor is quite common in the world of electric mountain bikes, and after testing it on several different models, we think it works great. While it may not have the highest torque on the market, it is fairly compact, reasonably lightweight, relatively quiet, and plenty powerful, in addition to providing three customizable levels of pedal assist support with smooth power delivery. Our biggest gripe continues to be the minor rattling noise that comes from the gears within the motor when coasting, but that is typical of all EP8 motors.
The EP8 motor has a nominal output of 250W with up to 500W of peak power along with 85Nm of torque. This is just a bit shy of Specialized's Turbo Full Power 2.2 motor that boasts 90Nm of torque and 565W of peak power, but honestly, that difference is minimal and we never found the Spectral:ON CF 8 to feel underpowered. The three levels of assist, Eco, Trail, and Boost provide a nice spread of support to suit varying needs, terrain, and preferences, and of course, those levels are customizable through the Shimano E-Tube app so you can set them just the way you want. When riding in the flats, it's easy to get it going up to its top assisted speed of 20 mph when riding in Boost mode, and there's plenty of power on tap to grind your way up impossible climbs. We found the power to come on smoothly when the cranks start turning and to shut off almost instantly when they stop. Shifting between support levels also felt nice and smooth with no jerkiness but a noticeable increase/decrease in support. Of course, when you reach 20 mph and the motor cuts out it is quite obvious, not super abrupt but definitely noticeable if you try to accelerate on a 50+ lb bike.
The Shimano E-Tube app allows you to make changes to the pedal assist support settings. The default settings are actually quite good, but those who like to tinker will be happy to know they can dial them in exactly to their preferences. In addition to setting up two separate profiles, you can alter the support levels in three ways. Assist character is the overall level of rider support that can be changed from Eco to Powerful in ten increments. Maximum Torque is pretty straightforward and it can also be adjusted in ten increments from a minimum of 25Nm up to a maximum of 85Nm. Assist Start changes the sensitivity of the motor at the initial part of the pedal stroke with 5 settings from mild to quick. It's easy enough to just ride the Spectral:ON CF 8 in its default setting, but it also isn't that hard to optimize the pedal assistance for your riding style, terrain, and preferences.
Seeing that the Spectral:ON CF 8 comes equipped with the Shimano EP8 motor, it comes as no surprise that it is also equipped with relatively standard Shimano controls and the E7000 display. We've grown accustomed to this system, and find it to be one of the best around. The controls are low-profile and have good ergonomics, the display shows you pertinent info at a glance, it can also be synced with the Shimano E-tube app to customize your settings. The battery is housed in the downtube of the frame, and it can also be removed by sliding it out from the bottom.
The main power button is located on the top of the downtube and it is used to turn the bike's power on and off. The charging port cover also needs to be properly closed for the bike to turn on, as it serves as the connection between the battery and the motor. The small control unit is located on the handlebar next to the left grip, and this low-profile unit has two buttons to shift up and down through the pedal assist levels. We've used these controls many times before, and they have good ergonomics and allow for plenty of clearance for typical 1x style dropper post levers. The bottom button also engages the bike's walk assist which pushes the bike forward at a walking pace when you press and hold it.
At this point, we're quite familiar with Shimano's E7000 display. This little monochrome unit mounts to the handlebar next to the stem in a relatively easy-to-see location, and it shows your remaining battery charge, pedal assist setting, and current speed. Remaining battery life is displayed as a small battery graphic with 5 bars, each of which represents approximately 20% of the battery charge. While this works fine, we think it would be really nice to also have that information shown as a more accurate numerical percentage. Pressing the small button on the bottom of the display brings you to additional data pages, but we found the default page to be the most useful while riding. Realistically, once you get used to riding an electric mountain bike, you don't really need to look at the display much anyway. You can also sync to the bike through Shimano's E-Tube app where you can customize the pedal assist settings or set up two distinct profiles. Adjustments can be made to assist character, maximum torque, and assist start (how quickly the power ramps up) to all three support levels, Eco, Trail, and Boost, so you can make the pedal assist feel exactly how you want it to. Firmware updates and troubleshooting error codes can also be done through the app.
A 900Wh battery is quite large, and to fit it within the frame of the Spectral:ON CF 8, Canyon designed their own battery packs andshifted the EP8 motor's orientation slightly. This allows them to position the thin but wide battery as low as possible in the frame to keep the center of gravity low to have as little effect as possible on the bike's handling. In fact, the bottom portion of the battery sits in front of the motor. The charging port cover in on the non-drive side of the frame near the bottom of the downtube, and it serves not only as the cover but also as the electrical connection between the battery and motor. We found it quite easy to line up the magnetic Rosenberger-style plug for charging. We have heard complaints from other users that the charging cover can easily be dislodged by your foot while riding, but we didn't experience that while testing. Should that happen, however, it would shut down power to the motor. Removing the battery from the frame is possible, but you'll need access to the bottom of the bike to flip open the large plastic skid plate that protects the battery and motor. Once this plate is open, the battery can be pulled out from the bottom to be swapped out or for charging off the bike.
The "CF" in Spectral:ON CF 8 stands for carbon fiber, and not surprisingly, this bike features a full carbon frame. Given the ever-increasing prices in the mountain bike industry over the past few years, the fact that the Spectral:ON comes with a carbon frame and is still reasonably priced (relatively speaking) is very impressive. A Horst Link or 4-bar suspension system controls the 155mm of rear wheel travel, and that is paired with a 150mm fork. The Shimano EP8 motor has been angled slightly to make room for the huge 900Wh battery and to position the weight as low as possible in the frame. This results in a larger than usual bulge at the bottom of the downtube/in front of the bottom bracket. Otherwise, the frame has clean lines, internal cable routing, and chainstay and motor/battery bulge protection. The frame can accept a bottle cage, but you'll need to get a proprietary one directly from Canyon. It comes in 4 sizes, S-XL, with 900Wh batteries coming standard on all sizes except for small which comes with a 720Wh battery and costs a few hundred dollars less.
The suspension on the Spectral:ON CF 8 is adequate, but it's one place we found fault with the build. That said, considering the price of this bike, we aren't complaining too loudly. The 150mm of front suspension is controlled by a Fox Rhythm 36 fork. In general, this fork works well enough, particularly on high speed flowy descents and larger single hits. In successive hits, high-frequency chop, and fast chunky sections of trail, we noticed a bit of flex, which we attribute mostly to the fact that this fork does not appear to be the e-bike-specific version with the beefier crown. We don't consider it a deal-breaker, but it is certainly notable and would likely be the first thing we'd upgrade. The rear shock is a Fox DPS Performance EVOL, and while not particularly flashy, it performed its duties admirably with only a handful of bottom outs on particularly flat landings. We ended up running 25% sag to get a little more support ad bottom out resistance.
The drivetrain duties are tasked to a Shimano SLX/XT combo with a 12-speed XT derailleur paired with an SLX shifter, a Deore cassette, and 165mm Shimano cranks. The shifting performance was great, and there's plenty of range for all situations. We'd normally gripe about the weight of the Deore cassette, but with all that power, we don't really think it matters all that much. Braking duties are tasked to a set of 4-piston SLX stoppers paired with 203mm Hayes rotors front and rear. These brakes work as well as their more expensive counterparts and provide ample control and stopping power for this heavyweight bike.
Canyon equipped the Spectral:ON CF 8 with a handful of house brand parts in the cockpit. The short, stout stem clamps onto a modern width Canyon riser bar and has a very clean and aggressive look. Cables are routed through the headset, and while this certainly provides a clean setup, we could see it presenting issues when it comes time to do some maintenance. We also don't love the proprietary stem spacers but have to admit that the whole setup looks great. At the back of the bike, the 175mm Iridium seatpost (drop length varies by frame size) works well to get the saddle low for descents and didn't cause us any problems, and we found the Fizik Terra Aidon X5 saddle to be plenty comfortable.
The Spectral:ON CF 8 uses a mixed-wheel setup. This consists of a set of tubeless-ready SunRingle Duroc Comp SD37 wheels with a 27.5-inch in the rear and 29-inch up front. The rims have a 32mm inner width that works well with modern tire sizes, and we found them to be surprisingly resilient during testing. A beefy 2.5-inch wide Maxxis Assegai EXO provides outstanding cornering and braking traction at the front of the bike while a 2.6-inch Maxxis Minion DHR II EXO+ is the perfect pairing as a rear tire. While we love the performance of this tire setup, we feel the casings chosen are a little under-gunned for the weight and hard-charging capabilities of this bike. Fortunately, tires are an inexpensive upgrade.
Should I Buy the Canyon Spectral:ON CF 8?
Anyone seeking a well-rounded electric mountain bike for trail riding or those looking to put in serious miles should definitely consider the Spectral:ON CF8. With 155/150mm of travel, a balanced trail riding geometry, and a great build for the price, this bike can handle virtually anything that comes down the trail with confidence and composure. The massive 900Wh battery basically does away with range anxiety, making this a great choice for those who want to go on big adventure rides or bang out as many laps as possible without fear of killing the battery. It's also very competitively priced, with a carbon frame and solid spec that goes for less than alloy models with less impressive builds. We think you'd be hard-pressed to find a better e-MTB at this price.
What Other Electric Mountain Bikes Should I Consider?
With a killer all-around performance, an amazing range, and a competitive price, the value proposition of the Spectral:ON CF 8 is really hard to beat, but there are other great options. The Specialized Turbo Levo Comp is another great bike with the powerful Turbo Full Power 2.2 motor, a sizeable 700Wh battery, and 150/160mm of travel. It costs a bit more with an alloy frame and a similar but slightly less impressive build, but it performs just as well on the trail and has a highly adjustable geometry that we feel makes it a bit more versatile overall. If you're on a tighter budget, the Commencal Meta Power TR Ride will set you back quite a bit less. While its build is a bit more budget-oriented, we found it to perform well on the trail and its 630Wh battery serves up a relatively impressive range. With the EP8 motor and nice frame, it would make a great starter e-bike to upgrade over time.
— Jeremy Benson, Joshua Hutchens
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