We were lucky enough to be invited over to Mountain Bike Connection Winter in Massa Marittima, Tuscany to check out the latest products and technology from a handful of exciting European cycling companies, and to actually ride some of it on the beautiful, well-maintained singletrack of the Trail Brothers’ network. We have a number of first ride reviews from the event coming your way; including this one on the 2022 Canyon Spectral:ON CFR. All photos are credited to Rupert Fowler – Bike Connection Agency, unless otherwise stated.
Canyon has updated the Spectral:ON eMTB for 2022, redesigning this entire bike around their in-house developed batteries. Opting to retain the mixed-wheel platform with a 150mm fork up front, Canyon has added a little extra travel in the rear, boosting it to 155mm. The most notable changes, however, are focused around the engine room of this trail-oriented eMTB.
Developing their own proprietary 720 Wh and 900 Wh batteries, Canyon has been able to address the issue of range anxiety while minimizing the weight penalty associated with that increased capacity. As such, claimed weight for the new XTR-equipped Spectral:ON CFR with a 720Wh battery is 21.84 kg, 610g lighter than its 630Wh battery-rocking predecessor.
Paying great attention to the distribution of that weight, the Shimano EP8 motor seen across the five-model range is tilted up through 30° to allow the battery to tuck in front of the motor, positioning the weight as low as possible. The result? An eMTB with a low centre of gravity that is much easier to handle than its on-paper numbers would suggest. For a deep dive on the bike’s development and the frame details that make up the new Spectral:ON, see our tech post here which also covers pricing and availability information in detail.
Here, I focus attention on my experience of the Canyon Spectral:ON CFR at the Mountain Bike Connection Winter Event in Massa Marittima, Italy. Spoiled with a fully charged 720 Wh battery and only one afternoon to attempt to empty it, I razzed up and down the Trail Brothers’ manicured Tuscan-singletrack, largely, in Boost mode. The bike is slowly making its way over to me in Scotland for a more thorough long-term test. For now, I leave you with my first impressions.
First Ride: 2022 Canyon Spectral:ON CFR
Full disclosure: I am not a regular eMTB rider, but I am a regular mountain bike rider, more stoked on riding down hills than up them. Don’t expect this to be an in-depth account of how the Spectral:ON compares to other eMTBs in its class.
Standing at just 5ft 4″ tall, I rode a Small Spectral:ON CFR, limited to a 720 Wh battery due to its shorter downtube length. Its 435mm reach felt appropriate for both seated pedaling and descending, though with the 760mm wide carbon bar-stem combo it was spec’d with, I’d say I wouldn’t have wanted either any longer.
The CFR model gets a FOX 36 Factory fork with GRIP2 damper; a damper I am familiar with and very comfortable on. A FOX Float X Factory shock takes care of the rear wheel’s 155mm travel. The guys at Canyon were on hand to help set the sag. I ran the rear at the recommended 30% sag (130 PSI), and the front with 70 PSI. For context, I weigh around 60kg in full riding kit.
The Spectral:ON CFR model rolls on a Reynolds TRE309/367 carbon wheelset with a 27.5″ x 2.6″ Maxxis Minion DHR II (EXO) on the rear and a 29″ x 2.5″ Assegai (EXO+) on the front. I opted for 21 PSI in the rear and 20 PSI in the front tire, getting off scot-free with a pleasantly puncture-free afternoon. I am aware at least one of the journalists on this trip punctured the rear, necessitating the use of an innertube. With the added heft associated with eMTBs, I do often wonder why more brands don’t spec a heavier, more puncture-resistant tire such as a DoubleDown.
Massa Marittima’s singletrack varies considerably between fast and flowing, smooth loamy trails, to more technical lines littered with awkwardly-placed, but very grippy (when dry), karstified dolomitic limestone.
Pedaling up Massa Marittima’s primary singletrack climb, aptly named Spaghetti, the assistance of the Shimano EP8 motor took a little getting used to. Braking into uphill corners is something I will never get used to, but over the course of that short climb (less than 300m elevation), I was able to familiarize myself with the power output and adapt my pedaling accordingly.
In ECO mode it was fairly easy to simply keep pedaling right the way around turns without fear of tucking the front wheel or indeed wheelie-ing, but in TRAIL mode this required a little more “teasing”, I would say. There is a very subtle lag between applying pressure at the pedal and receiving assistance from the motor, and there is a minimum threshold pressure that needs to be applied, too.
Again, it didn’t take me too long to adapt my climbing style to be able to get around some of the tighter, steeper corners on the singletrack climb with ease. As for the straight line affairs, the Spectral:ON fired up steep, rocky sections of singletrack with no fuss at all, giving me that “I can do anything” feeling that I only really get on an eMTB.
Though we had a beautiful sunny day, the terrain was wet under the tires thanks to an almighty deluge the day before. The Spectral:ON CFR I rode didn’t have a front fender, but it genuinely didn’t need one either thanks to the vastness of the downtube.
I did notice that, when riding in the smallest sprocket of the cassette, the chain drags along the chainstay protector. Canyon tell us this is by-design; the fact that the chain sits on the stay means it cannot continually oscillate up and down as you ride over rough terrain.
I guess, if it can’t swing down, it won’t have the momentum to swing back up, and so on. Canyon say this reduces noise from chain slap. Of course, any Watts lost via the chain dragging here are fairly academic, given the 85Nm torque of the Shimano EP8 motor. The only consideration then would be the durability of that chainstay protector, something we can’t yet comment on.
The Spectral:ON’s 65.5° head tube angle could be considered a little conservative by some, but I felt it struck a good balance. It wasn’t so slack that I had to fight the front wheel on steep technical climbs, and it wasn’t so steep that I felt vulnerable when pointing the front wheel down some fall-line sections.
In the flatter, less-supportive corners on the hillside, the Spectral:ON took a little getting used to. I found it required an exaggerated, more considered setup on the way into turns to get the bike to roll onto the tires’ edge. A couple of times I was taken by surprise, finding myself under-steering out of corners. I don’t doubt that a little more fettling with the rear shock low-speed compression settings would go a long to resolving that.
A big takeaway for me was just how easy it was to unweight the bike’s front wheel over roots and rocky sections. The bike goes up into a manual effortlessly. A 440mm chainstay length isn’t super short by any means, but the bike’s very low center of gravity thanks to the careful positioning of the battery low in the downtube, gives it a lively fee. It certainly carries its 22.39 kg weight very well, not deterring me from pre-hopping small features to pump the backside of rolling drops.
Riding the faster, rougher trails of Massa Marittima, it was evident that both the shock and the fork could have done with a volume spacer to give more end-stroke ramp, as I found the suspension bottomed-out a little too frequently for my liking. I also noticed a pronounced rattle from the the motor region, which I suspect is coming from inside the motor itself.
That’s about all I was able to glean from an afternoon spent on the 2022 Canyon Spectral:ON CFR. I look forward to delivering a more in-depth account of how it rides, and how it performs over time, in Fall of this this year when this model is due to be available in the US. It will retail at $10,500 USD with the 900 Wh battery only (save for the Small which is limited to the 720 Wh only).
Editor’s Note: We got in touch with Shimano to feed back on the rattle of the EP8 motor. Here is what they had to say about it: DU-EP800 may generate a light rattling noise from inside when the bike is exposed to vibration while the gears in the drive unit are not loaded during coasting. DU-EP800 is a product that achieves high torque, light weight, compactness, quietness, efficiency, heat resistance and low drag. All components of the drive unit are optimally designed to balance these performance requirements of the drive unit at a very high level. This can result in rattling noise in certain situations, but this phenomenon does not affect the function and durability of drive unit. Based on the feedback from our customers, we are making daily improvements to make our products better. The feedback we received from customers regarding rattling noise will also be reflected as information to improve the product.
What about the actual weight?
Well, we were a bit surprised by this one, as were the folks at Canyon. Their claimed weight for a medium Spectral:ON CFR with a 720 Wh battery is 21.84 kg. Meanwhile, we weighed our small Spectral:ON CFR at 22.39 kg on a Park Tool scale, without pedals. Such a big difference makes us think there was potentially something wrong with the weighing process. We will update this after re-weighing the bike when it finally arrives with us in Scotland.