Canyon Spectral:ON CF 8 review – sorted, lively e-trail bomber

Excellent ride-everything all-rounder from the German online-only brand

The Canyon Spectral:ON e-MTB
(Image: © Rich Owen)

BikePerfect Verdict

If you're looking for a capable e-MTB that will put a serious grin on your face as you hammer up and down everything from trail center runs to off-piste steeps, then the Spectral:ON is one of the best options around. The spec is great value for the price and bigger battery choices means there's plenty in the tank too.

Pros

  • +

    Capable trail hooligan

  • +

    Planted but lively handling

  • +

    Great spec to price ratio

  • +

    Light for its class

  • +

    Battery options give tons of range

Cons

  • -

    Low BB can cause clearance issues

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Canyon's Spectral:ON e-MTB range has evolved significantly since it was first launched in 2018. But despite a host of changes over the years (frame materials, wheel size, battery integration and more), this do-it-all trail bike has maintained a reputation as being a riot to ride. Tech ed Guy gave the second gen Spectral:ON four out of five stars back in 2021 and called it, "a really rounded, good-looking and fun e-trail bike that’s well specced for the money, but it’s not without its quirks".

2022 saw the Spectral:ON get a full update – the big news being a new frame and redesigned geometry, lighter full carbon frames across the range and beefed up battery capacity with 720 and 900Wh options. The recently launched 2023 Spectral:On line-up saw the bikes continue with the same frame and many of the components but switch up from a 150 to 160mm fork and get a motor upgrade from Shimano STEPS EP8 to the brand's latest model – the EP801. Here we're reviewing the 2022 CF 8 model, but aside from the extra fork travel, a change of wheels and the motor upgrade, the rest of the bike is the same, though we will flag up any other differences as we go.

The Canyon Spectral:ON shot showing the underside of the bike

A low slung BB means the odd scrape over things, but handily there's a hefty skid plate beneath (note magically appearing mudguard) (Image credit: Rich Owen)

Design and geometry

All the current Spectral:ON models have full carbon frames (as opposed to a carbon main frame with an alloy rear end) which reduces weight compared to previous versions. My medium test model with a 900Wh battery weighed in at 23.74kg, which is definitely competitive in the best full-fat e-MTB category. 

The 65.5-degree head angle (65 degrees on the 2023 model) is pretty middle of the road for modern trail bikes, while the 460mm reach (on my medium test steed) gave a roomy, but not overly long, out of the saddle position for my 176cm height. A 1,223mm wheel base and low 340mm bottom bracket height helps give the bike a very planted and stable feel on the trail, and the 76.5 degrees seat angle enabled an efficient pedaling position on steeper climbs.

All the bikes in the Spectral:ON range come as mullet wheeled setups (29 front with 27.5-inch rear) designed to give the bikes a more playful rear end feel.

Close of the cockpit of the Canyon Spectral:ON

The EP8 motor comes with a small LCD operation screen mounted to the bars near the stem (Image credit: Rich Owen)

Components and build

Pedal assistance comes from Shimano's well regarded STEPS EP8 motor with 85Nm of torque – the 2023 model gets upgraded to the lighter and quieter EP801 motor. My test bike came with a 900Wh battery, though a 720Wh option is available which slightly lowers the bike's overall weight and price tag. The internal battery housed inside the downtube can be charged in situ on the bike or removed via a hatch near the motor. The charger uses a self-locating, magnetic port that lives under a cover on the non-drive side of the motor. The cover itself is held in place by a male plug that fits into the charging port. A rubber seal sits along the edges of the cover, but it didn't quite line up on my test bike and I expected all manner of crap would find its way underneath. But despite riding through a sodden British winter, crud remained mostly outside the system.

A power switch sits on the on the upper face of the downtube that turns the system on and off, while the amount of assistance given (Eco, Trail and Boost, plus a walk mode) can be selected by a two-button controller next to the left-hand brake. A compact display unit is also mounted on the bars, which shows the current assistance mode and can be toggled to show speed, battery life and distance traveled. If you fancy fettling the motor's power output curve and customizing other settings, you can connect to it via Shimano's E-Tube phone app, and should you own a compatible Garmin smartwatch, you'll also get handy data from the motor and battery automatically displayed on your wrist when recording your rides.

Close of rear brake on the Canyon Spectral:ON

They may not offer the most finesse but the SLX brakes and 203mm rotors scrub off speed very well (Image credit: Rich Owen)

As usual for Canyon, the componentry punches above it's price-point. Suspension comes courtesy of a Fox Rhythm Float 36 fork, with a GRIP damper and 150mm of travel (boosted to 160mm for the 2023 model) and a 55mm Fox Float DPS Performance, EVOL shock.

Wheels come in the form of Sun Ringle's wide rimmed (37mm, 32mm internal), DH-rated, Duroc SD37 Comp (DT Swiss' HLN350s for the 2023 version), shod with a surefooted combo of a Maxxis Assegai 2.5" front and Minion DHR II 2.6" rear – both in triple compound 3C, Maxx Terra guise with Maxxis' mid weight EXO+ sidewalls.

The CF 8 gets a Shimano Deore XT M8100, 12-speed mech with a Canyon:ON, 34-tooth chainring, SLX shifter, Deore cassette and Hollowtech 165mm cranks. Braking is also mostly Shimano, with reliable SLX M7120, 4-piston levels and calipers, Ice Tech pads and Hayes 203mm rotors.

Motor details of the Canyon Spectral:ON e-MTB

Despite a not-quite lining up charging plug cover, crud mostly stayed outside (Image credit: Rich Owen)

Ride and performance

First impressions tend to last, and right from the off the Spectral:ON felt like a proper trail hoodlum that wanted to smash trails pointing up, down and across in equal measure. Most modern trail bikes are designed to put you 'in' the bike as opposed to perching on top of it like a road, gravel or old school Canyon MTB from days happily long gone – aka before Fabien Barel got involved with the brand. With its low slung motor and center of gravity, the Spectral:ON plants you right in the heart of the bike more than most. That means a super secure out of the saddle position which massively boosts descending confidence which, in turn, encourages you to hammer the bike ever harder. It was hard not to get caught out at first as I slammed into turns with more far speed than intended. But while trying to scrub off extra velocity when breaking the speed limit into turns can be fun, that planted position is not completely drawback-free. The low BB height meant more pedal strikes than most and I did encounter some BB scrapes over the odd obstacle too.

Hefty wheel rims and high volume Maxxis tires combine with the low center of gravity to provide tons of useful traction and stability in the Maxx Terra compound (though grip fanatics could opt for more by switching to Maxx Grip tires). Relatively short 440mm chainstays and the 27.5-inch rear wheel help keep the ride livelier than many rivals too.

Component-wise, Canyon have picked a competent selection for the bike's planted but playful character and I had no gripes at all, though the wheels and cassette both feel on the heavy side. The suspension gave plenty of progressive support and even when I bottomed out on big hits, I barely felt it – though there's no compression adjustment available.

In addition to the ride itself, one of the most impressive aspects of the Spectral:ON was the range I got from the battery. Yes, it was the 900Wh version, but even on a ride riding long and steep winch and plummet trails for over three hours, I still had half a charge left while my mates hoped they'd make it back to the van without completely running out of juice. 

Close up of rear wheel on the Canyon Spectral:ON

The triple rubber compound Maxxis tire pairing gave plenty of grip even in the Maxx Terra versions here (Image credit: Rich Owen)

Verdict

The Canyon Spectral:ON CF 8 does a fantastic job straddling the line between being a highly capable e-MTB while still giving an agile and engaging ride. 150mm travel suspension isn't massive, but the bike will happily take enduro and DH runs in its stride. The really impressive range means your legs are likely to run out of juice long before the battery.

Test conditions

  • Terrain: Mix of trail center loops, semi-natural steeps, Devon roots, Welsh rocks
  • Conditions: Bone dry, sopping wet and frozen trails
  • Temperatures: 32 to 77 degrees F (0 to 25 C)

Tech specs: Canyon Spectral:ON CF 8

  • Frame: Carbon cat 4e, Boost width
  • Fork: Fox Rhythm Float 36 150mm , GRIP damper, Boost width 44mm offset (160mm for 2023)
  • Shock: Fox Float DPS Performance 55mm, EVOL
  • Motor: Shimano STEPS EP8 (2023 model gets EP801)
  • Battery: Canyon BT002 900Wh (720Wh also available)
  • Head tube angle: 65.5 degrees
  • Seat tube angle: 76.5 degrees
  • Reach: 460mm (medium frame)
  • BB height: 340mm
  • Chainstay length: 440mm
  • Wheels: Sunringle Duroc SD37 Comp, 29"front, 27.5"rear (DT Swiss HLN350 on 2023 model)
  • Tires: Maxxis Assegai 3C EXO+ 29" x 2.5" front, Maxxis Minion DHR II 3C EXO+ 27.5" x 2.6" rear
  • Cranks: Shimano STEPS e-MTB, Hollowtech, 24mm spindle, 165mm length
  • Chainring: Canyon:ON, 34-tooth
  • Derailleur: Shimano Deore XT M8100, 12-speed
  • Brakes: Shimano SLX M7120, 4-piston, Ice Tech pads, Hayes 203mm 6-bolt rotors
  • Bars: Canyon:ON 780mm width, 30mm rise, 35mm clamp
  • Stem: Canyon:ON E-MTB, 45mm length, 35mm clamp
  • Seatpost: Canyon Iridium dropper 150mm
  • Saddle: Fizik Terra Aidon X5
  • Sizes: S – XL
  • Weight: 23.74kg (medium frame with 900Wh battery, tested)
  • Current price: $5,899 / £6,099 / €6,399 (with 900Wh battery, not including shipping)
Richard Owen
Editor, Bike Perfect

Rich has been riding mountain bikes for over 30 years and mostly likes hitting flowy yet technical trails that point downhill. A jack of many trades, he has competed in cross-country, enduro and long distance MTB races. A resident of North Devon, Rich can mostly be found pedaling furiously around his local trails, or slightly further afield in the Quantocks, the Mendips or Exmoor. 


Current rides: Merida One-Forty 6000, Banshee Paradox

Height: 175cm

Weight: 68kg