Thanks to a huge geometry overhaul in 2022, Canyon's Spectral:ON CF8 naturally excels when the terrain gets steep and technical. It’s one of the lighter e-MTBs around and this has resulted in it being a lively yet well-mannered bike and a genuine segment contender among the best e-MTBs. However, it is lacking in one area: its uphill behaviour.
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Canyon Spectral:ON CF8 - Technical details
The current Spectral:ON is a very different-looking beast compared to the last version. In a bid to improve the bike’s potential range without sacrificing weight, Canyon has given it a full carbon frame which has helped reduce overall weight and improve rear-end stiffness thanks to the addition of a chunky seat stay bridge.
Boosting stiffness further is the fact that the main and seat stay pivots rotate around large 15mm thru-axles that utilise larger bearings than before. Canyon also claims that this improves durability.
That’s not the only change as the motor has been tipped upwards, similar to what we’ve seen on the Whyte E-160 RSX 29 not to mention a few others. Doing this allows the battery to be mounted lower in the frame which improves the bike’s overall centre of gravity.
Canyon has also fettled with the Spectral:ON’s geometry, bringing it up to date with modern standards. We tested a large framed bike (pictured here) that benefits from a 485mm reach, a 65.5-degree head tube angle, and a 76.5-degree seat tube angle. The chainstay measures 440mm, resulting in a 1,252mm wheelbase. While the brand admits that it’s not gone wildly progressive, it’s firmly modern.
The seat tube has been shortened by 20mm of each size, too, allowing shorter riders to size up that bit easier or for others to fit a longer dropper post.
The Spectral:ON was one of the early adopters of the mullet wheel configuration, running a 650b wheel at the rear and a 29-inch hoop at the front - and that’s no different here. As for suspension travel, there’s 155mm at the rear and 150mm at the front but we’re told that the frame can happily accommodate a 160mm fork.
Elsewhere, this bike gets internal cable routing through the head tube and its battery is removable but it gets a hint of german engineering that makes life a bit easier. Let me explain. Two bolts secure the battery in place, and there are a couple of magnets to keep them safe whilst you fettle with the battery. It’s simple and small in the grand scheme of the bike but it’s a very handy feature.
As for this bike’s specification trim, it runs a Shimano Steps EP8 motor with a 720Wh battery offering up to 85Nm of torque through three tunable power modes. Fox handles the suspension on this CF8 model with a 36 Rhythm Grip at the front and a DPS Performance Evol shock at the rear.
Shifting is sorted thanks to Shimano - and Canyon has been smart here. To keep the price as low as possible without affecting shifting performance, Canyon has specced it with an SLX shifter and XT rear derailleur. There’s a Deore 12-speed cassette and 165mm Steps cranks. The four-piston brakes are also provided by Shimano: SLX M7120s with 203mm rotors at either end.
The bike’s wheels come from SunRingle with the Duroc SD37 and SD42. Those come wrapped with a 2.5in Maxxis Assegai at the front and a 2.6in Minion DHR II at the rear. The finishing kit comes from Canyon’s own range with a 780mm bar and 45mm stem, both with 35mm clamp diameters.
When hung on the scale, the Spectral:ON CF8 weighs in at 23.23kg, which is vert respectable in this category.
Canyon Spectral:ON CF8 - Performance
The Spectral:ON is a trail all-rounder with a bias towards descending. Before getting into the good stuff, access to the battery is as straightforward as possible. Pulling a rubber strap from its home allows you to remove the cover. It's then a simple case of undoing two Allen bolts and sliding it out. To stop you from losing the two bolts, there is a handy pair of magnets placed on the inside of the cover that keeps them safe while you're working with the battery, which is a really nice touch.
Aesthetically, the bike is one chunky number. Each tube feels a bit overbuilt compared to its analogue counterpart. Its motor configuration does little to slim its figure but its fat tube profiles are no bad thing and I think the whole package looks really good and purposeful. Canyon seems to have gone back to its tall headtube days slightly, fitting this bike with a rather lofty 135mm measurement.
The 76.5-degree seat tube angle gives a very upright riding position which is ideal if you suffer from back pain and will help long days in the saddle. It does pose something of an issue when climbing, however, as weight distribution is rearward biased. Pull the relatively short chainstay (although lengthened from the previous model) into the question and this rearward-biased weight is ever clearer.
While this plants a good chunk of weight over that rear wheel, resulting in consistent traction on the climbs, the front end requires some management as the head tube is so tall. On steeper climbs, the front needs to be weighted to top the front wheel from floating and when the climbs aren’t so ferocious the front wheel can wander. Of course, there’s some adjustability in the stem spacers, and speccing a lower-rise bar would remedy this but you can only go so far.
The Spectral:ON’s suspension kinematic has been designed to offer a soft-start stroke, a supportive mid-stroke and a lot of bottom-out resistance towards the end. On this bike, that translates into a very active platform while pedalling, which amplifies traction on the climbs and makes for a comfortable ride when traversing flatter sections. It also complies with small bumps incredibly effectively.
Even though Canyon has designed it to be more of a trail all-rounder, it’s on the downhills where the Spectral:ON finds itself most at home. What was a vague front end on the climbs, becomes a surefooted and massively confidence-inspiring bike. Pair that with a properly set up fork and the taller head tube becomes super encouraging when tipped towards steep trails.
This is one area where that mullet wheel setup comes into its own, too, as it offers even more space over the rear of the bike so you can get properly rowdy without worrying about catching your derierre on the rear wheel.
As expected of the mullet wheelsize, that small rear wheel also helps when cornering, encouraging the bike to lean more agressively. It's superb.
But what makes a surprisingly large impact on the bike's cornering characteristic is that motor and battery configuration.
Because weight is that bit lower in the frame, it takes much less effort to initiate a lean, making corner-to-corner antics much less of a chore. However, because the bike is so encouraging of hard cornering and the frame is so laterally stiff, it becomes clear that the wheelset on this bike doesn’t quite keep up. Even though the SunRingle Duroc wheels are e-bike specific, there’s a noticeable hint of flex when pushing hard into berms. It’s by no means a bad thing as it can enhance grip when cornering but those who ride especially hard might find themselves wanting a bit more stiffness.
Touching on the suspension kinematic again, once it’s pushed past the sag point it meets a heft of mid-stroke support, a known characteristic of the Spectral platform. This further improves the bike’s cornering etiquette.
Even though its modern geometry isn’t particularly progressive by today’s standards, it helps the Spectral:ON devour spicy, downhill sections at speed and confidence. Its sorted reach figure makes for a stable ride when pointed in a straight line, encouraging the rider to stay off the brakes and allow the bike to work at its best. Then the respectable head angle offers up a more than useful level of support when the gradient falls away, while supplementing stability.
Spec-wise, there’s nothing to complain about. While it’s not mega blingy, it effectively compliments the frame’s performance. However, I really didn’t get on with the Fizik Terra Aidon X5 saddle. I found it so harsh that it put an early end to a couple of rides. Saddles are very personal though, so I’ll let Canyon off here.
Canyon Spectral:ON CF8 - Verdict
With Canyon’s recent price drops, the Spectral:ON CF8 shows great value, especially considering that it comes with a full carbon frame and a 720Wh battery as standard.
We can’t talk about Canyon without comparing it to its closest german competitor, YT Industries. The Decoy 29 Core 2 offers an even lower point of entry, asking for a hair short of £5,000. For that money, you’re getting a similar level build with a RockShox Yari RC but it gets a lower-end Shimano Deore drivetrain, understandably. Geometry-wise, it is a very different bike as the large size gets a 463mm reach, 65.8-degree head tube angle but a steeper 77-degree seat tube angle. This means it's not as aggressively shaped but it does come with a shorter head tube length of 105mm.
If you’re looking for more modern geometry, the Decoy doesn’t compare. Its standard battery is smaller too, at 540Wh.
Though against brands who don’t operate solely on the direct-sales model, the Spectral:ON CF8’s value looks seriously good. Using the £5,500 Specialized Turbo Levo Alloy as an example, you'll get an alloy frame, a less sophisticated RockShox 35 Silver fork and a spec that doesn’t really match up to the money you're spending.
At £5,450, the Trek Rail 5 625W Gen 3 gets a similar spec to the Specialized, further solidifying the Canyon Spectral:ON CF8’s great bang-for-buck qualities.
The Canyon Spectral:ON CF8 is a bike that devours descents without compromising its all-round trail manners. While its tall front end requires some attention on particularly steep climbs its real appeal is nestled within its descending prowess. Add to that its relatively lightweight build and great value for money and it's a no-brainer as far as bargains go.