Its not often we get to compare the latest release from a bike company with their previous model, especially when it comes to eBikes. Canyons Spectral:On CF8 has been [R] test rider Blake’s daily shredder when he rolls on battery power, a testament to the design and ability of the German manufacturer’s bike. So, it was only right to get Blake on the new model to really see whats changed over the last few years of MTB design…
Reviewer // Blake Nielsen Photos // Matt Staggs
You currently own the previous generation of this bike which is your ‘daily’ e-MTB, which promises to make this a particularly interesting review as you’ll be able to compare the differences from the old version to the new whilst also highlighting how this latest version of Spectral:On handles and performs. So, first up what were some of the most notable changes that you noticed right away when the ‘new’ bike arrived at the office?
Well, on paper the bikes are virtually still the same, same travel, mullet wheel set-up, very similar geometry. But visually the bikes are light years apart even though they still share the same linkage system. With it’s oversized downtube that can house a whopping 900 watt hour battery and super beefy new carbon fibre rear end the new bike looks ultra-modern, it is striking from any angle and has notable changes in almost every aspect.
Check our back to back comparison vid for more insights!
The 2023 Spectral:On line-up comes standard with a 720Wh battery and for an additional $450 customers have the option of upgrading to a 900Wh. Obviously that 900Wh battery is going to allow for gigantic ‘range’ and mega long rides between charges. What size battery did the bike previously come with and how much of a difference does having this new monster make?
We were lucky enough to receive the new bike with the whopping 900Wh battery. This was the first time I’d had such a large battery capacity and I loved it! While it’s no secret that i love the SL e-MTB’s that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy the heck out of the full size and XL batteries. From never having range anxiety on DH lap days or being able to comfortably go out on longer and longer adventure rides there are a bunch of advantages to having the bigger battery.
In the few years between my own Spectral:ON coming out and the new model, the frameset itself has gotten a little lighter, so even with the extra battery capacity the weight difference is pretty negligible.
How much travel does the bike have and has the geometry package changed much with this latest generation of the Spectral:ON?
The geometry has changed quite a lot between the new and the old, the new bike sees a 15mm shorter reach, 5mm longer chainstay, 1-degree slacker headtube and 2-degree steeper seat tube, so nothing crazy bar the reach reduction. This has made the bike feel a bit nimbler and more manoeuvrable over the older version, even with a bit of added weight from the bigger battery. The new bike is sporting a 150mm fork and 155mm of travel from the new carbon rear end, 5mm more in the rear than the old model.
When you first hopped on the new bike and took it out for its first ride how much different did the handling feel compared to the old bike?
The actual behaviour of the bike feels very similar, with the shorter reach it feels a bit nimbler. All in all though the actual feeling of the bike is more refined and as is the theme with e-MTB’s as they progress through evolving year models.
Beyond just the switch from alloy to carbon fibre it looks like Canyon’s engineering team put a lot of fucus into developing the rear half of the new Spectral:On. The bike’s rear end now boasts an ‘enhanced seat stay bridge’ and fat 15mm pivots. Have all of those little upgrades lead to better handling and added performance?
The rear end of the bike definitely feels stiffer and more positive when pushing hard through corners and the larger pivots with larger bearings will make for longer service intervals. Performance aside, this has to be one of the best, beefiest looking rear ends of a bike I have ever seen!
Interestingly, when they redesigned and relaunched the new bike Canyon decided to carry the Shimano EP8 motor across. Does this power unit seem to suit the bike and how would you describe the performance and personality of the EP8?
The previous version of the Spectral:ON was one of the earlier bikes to receive the EP8 motor when it was released a few years ago and to me it is still the best all round motor, I think there are motors out there that have single things that they do better than the Shimano, but Shimano has the whole package. The motor has been very nicely integrated into the new model and performs faultlessly ride after ride.
Did you play around much with the various ‘factory set’ power modes whilst you were out reviewing the new rig?
To be honest, no. That is one of the key factors that Shimano get right from the factory, the difference between their 3 power modes, for me at least, is perfect for the desired applications.
The bike comes standard with a mullet wheel set-up, do you think that combo suits the bike well?
Absolutely, I am a bit biased on this topic being a shorter guy, however I think all e-MTB’s suit a mullet wheel setup due to the nature of where the motor has to be mounted it requires a longer chain stay to fit in a 29” rear wheel. With a shorter chain stay and smaller wheel it makes the bike that bit more agile and feels like it offsets some of the extra weight that comes along with an e-MTB.
Canyons are always known for representing great value for money but in particular this latest generation of the Spectral:On with is state of the art carbon fibre frame, Shimano EP8 power unit and a 720Wh battery as standard across all models, its almost hard to believe that the range starts at just $7499 and even the model that you reviewed here retails for only a thousand bucks more. What’s your take on the price of these bikes and how much bang for buck they offer?
For sure these guys are definitely at the pointy end of value for money, and the Spectral:ON 8 CF is no exception. Interesting to note is that this new model has actually come down in price a little compared to the previous version! There was a few things spec wise that I would have changed pretty quickly if it were my bike, but this could have easily been done and still kept the overall price below that of it’s competitors. Canyon are purely direct to consumer, with no physical shopfront at all in Aus (at this stage at least, who knows in the future) as a whole package though, you will truly struggle to find a better value e-MTB!
To wrap this up do you feel like Canyon have come out swinging with their redesigned Spectral:On line-up and what kind of rider/s would you recommend this bike to?
I really do think Canyon have done a great job with the new version, I was a little surprised at first that they released the new version with the same EP8 motor, I can only guess that this means the next motor from Shimano is still a while off. Once I got the bike out on the trail though it was evident that the changes made are considerable to the performance of the bike, not just a visual update. Falling into the mid travel range, the Spectral:ON is a great all rounder, particularly with its middle of the road geometry it’s very happy to get out for a long trail ride, send big gaps or get rowdy on rough trails. This could be the replacement for the older version in my stable.
Frame: Carbon throughout
Size options: S, M, L, XL
Wheelsize: Mullet; 29” front 27.5” rear.
Travel: 150mm front, 155mm rear
Motor: Shimano EP8
Battery: 900Wh or 720Wh
Components: Fox 36 Rhythm Grip fork, Fox DPS Performance Evolution shock, Shimano XT 12x drivetrain, Shimano SLX brakes.