2021 eMTB SHOOTOUT
CANYON TORQUE ON REVIEW
Photos by Dusten Ryen
Video by Brian Niles/Treeline Cinematics
The brand new Canyon Torque On was one of the bike our team was thrilled to test at our 2021 eMTB Shootout. After having so much fun riding the Canyon Torque and Sender during last year’s Bike Park Review Tour our team was thrilled to see if the new Torque On would just be a motorized version blending those two bikes together. Due to timing and COVID-19 issues, Canyon North America was unable to send us the American spec, Torque On 8, so instead we received the Torque On 9. Canyon felt comfortable with this as frame materials, geometry and drive units are the same, with the only major difference being suspension and some drivetrain spec. We will reference both bikes in our review below, but please note that we are riding the 9, which is currently not available in North America.
While our bike came spec’d with Fox Factory suspension and a SRAM Eagle drivetrain with Code brakes, the Canyon Torque On 8 available in North America has a RockShox Zeb R 180mm fork and a 175mm RockShox Super Deluxe Select rear shock. Drivetrain on the Torque On 8 is Shimano SLX 12-speed with Shimano SLX four-piston brakes. Canyon specs 203mm Shimano Ice Tech rotors with an integrated speed sensor. The Torque On 8 also features DT Swiss H-1900 wheels with 30- and 35mm internal widths, front and back respectively. Canyon Bikes ships the Torque with Maxxis Minion DHF/DHR II tires, however we swapped them over to our eMTB Shootout official test tires, the Schwalbe Magic Mary and Big Betty in a 2.6″ width.
The rest of the spec on the Canyon Torque On 8 is mostly Canyon Bikes’ in-house parts. We were unsure how we’d like the Canyon SD:ON saddle but grew to like once we climbed aboard. The Iridum dropper post worked fine but we wished for more than 150mm of travel. Up front Canyon bars, stem and grips rounded out the cockpit. We’ve yet to have a tester enjoy Canyon’s grips, but we found the bars and stem to be just fine.
When it comes to geometry, we have some very mixed feelings. Our Canyon Torque On was a size large, and all of our testers are between 5’10” and 6’2. The reach is 485mm, which is on the upper end of our comfort spectrum, the stack height is 634mm, the wheelbase is 1,273mm and the chainstays are the shortest tested, at 430mm. But the numbers that polarized our group most come from the bottom bracket height, and seat tube angle. At 74-degrees, the seat tube is relaxed, but not a deal breaker in our opinion. What very well could be however is the 15mm bottom bracket drop, and BB height of xx-mm, just XX-inches off the deck. More on that later.
Canyon Bikes spend a lot of energy creating durable and robust bikes that are up to the task. The Torque On is no exception and the frame meets their highest, Category 5 rating. The same found on their Canyon Sender DH bike. Oversized bearings are used in all frame pivots with a custom grease for smooth actuation and reliability. Canyon Bikes also integrated a neat bottom bracket/motor bash guard and chain guide on the Torque On, which is a nice feature for sure. Optimized Tripe Phase rear suspension has been designed specifically for the Canyon Torque On and the needs of an eMTB. Canyon reduced anti-squat values to decrease pedal kickback and also worked to improve traction and sensitivity at the rear wheel.
Chosen for many reasons like a robust support network, ease of customization through the E-Tube app and ride quality, Canyon spec’d the Shimano EP8 motor system with a 504wh battery. Reminder here, the Canyon Torque On is designed to be a bike park/freeride eMTB, so the theory is riders will be near a trailhead or vehicle to swap batteries or plug in and top-off while eating lunch. This was something we had many discussions about when Torque On riders had to drop down to Eco, while others were still in Boost or Turbo modes. At the time of purchase Canyon offers a discounted price to consumers looking to buy a second battery. If you climb lots, have steep terrain, or want to travel and ride back to back days, this may be worth taking advantage of. Speaking of topping off, Canyon puts a USB-C charge port on the top tube above the power button. It’s a unique and fun feature that we didn’t use at all but, could bring some value to folks on the trail. Of course the downside is, this bike already has a small battery, so we’re not sure we’d want to sacrifice any juice while on the trail.
Before we threw a leg of the Canyon Torque On we spent some time on a Zoom meeting with their team where asked them lots of questions, like can we put a 29er up front, why did they chose to spec a 504Wh battery and why is it so low. Canyon Bicycles does not suggest or even hint at converting this bike to a mullet as it will have some negative effects on geometry. As far as the battery size and geometry are concerned, the Torque On is an eMTB designed for a pretty narrow application. In Europe, many bike parks have shorter operating hours, trail centers are all over and have easy up trails that lead to tons of awesome DH trails. The proximity to power, a backup battery and the groomed nature of the uphills meant that Canyon wanted this bike to do one thing above all else: Shred down hills! And to be fair, it does.
What it does not do well however is offer the ability to pedal on rugged, rocky and natural trails. We’ve seen so many comments poking fun at the “2008 seat tube geometry” but that was far less a concern than the bottom bracket height. Even since returning to Oregon after our testing in St. George, Utah, rides aboard the Canyon Torque On have been frustrating. In fact we also received the new Spectral On and were hoping the 29er front and more “trail” purpose eMTB would be better, and sadly, it’s not.
When it came time to climb trails, even obstacles riders thought were way too small to worry about were catching toes, pedals or crank arms. It wasn’t just slight taps or scrapes either. It was full on crank arm bottom outs that resulted in the bike and rider being pole vaulted to the side, getting your ankle twisted into the chainstay or other straight up frustrating experiences. Perhaps it was our fault for taking a bike park bike, built for groomed uphills out into natural mountain bike terrain, but we really weren’t expecting that. Small and Medium sized Torque Ons come with 160mm crank arms, and perhaps that would help marginally, but we doubt it’d be enough. We just got a set of 160mm cranks that we’ll be installing on our new Spectral On, in hopes of improving that bike’s pedaling abilities, and we think that may be just enough since it’s not quite as low.
Moving on from the huge climbing hang ups we had with this bike, we’ll discuss where it excels. Any time your pedals are even and you’re going downhill! This makes sense since the bike was designed to shred bike park after all. When it came time to let this bike flow, fly and flick back down the trail, it started to make sense. The insanely short 430mm chainstays certainly don’t help on vertical hill climbs, but get the back end sideways and moving around obstacles with a little hip movement and a tap of the brake if needed. The 485mm reach and slack 63.5-degree head tube angle had our testers comfortably in the center of the bike, feeling relaxed and stable as we charged over huge rocks and loose boulders.
Aiding to the downhill composure and confidence, our testers all really loved the Canyon Torque On’s suspension platform. The 175mm of eMTB-tuned suspension was an absolute treat and blended many of our favorite traits together nicely. Canyon made the Torque feel light and lively while also progressive enough to handle big compressions while not being overly stiff off the top. When our testers were charging down high-speed sections of embedded rock, the rear end remained composed and quickly reacted to each undulation. We didn’t get a ton of feedback in the pedals or handlebars. When it came to some smoother trails where random square-edge rocks waited around blind corners, we were able to let the Canyon Torque On plow into them or give a nice preload and sky out of the corner and land both tires downtrail in the gnar.
On the few jump trails we were able to find that had booters and drops, the Canyon Torque On was equally capable. As a bike designed to be a self-shuttle park bike, Canyon has done a good job giving this eMTB the overall feel to go big and push hard! Without a doubt, this bike is one of our favorites when it came time to push the limits, try new things and see who could gap into a downhill rock garden the farthest.
The Wolf’s Last Word
If we had to give the Canyon Torque On a mascot, it would be Batman’s adversary, Two-Face. On one hand it’s a bike that can not climb rugged, raw mountain bike trails without aggravation, constant crank/pedal strikes and a much slower overall speed due to having to stop pedaling to avoid obstacles. Flip the coin and it’s one of our test crew’s favorite eBikes to shred downhill trails with. Maybe we’re being harsh critiquing a bike in a setting that it wasn’t intended to see. However, we’re glad we did because chances are there are customers out there who would be interested in purchasing this bike for big, burly backcountry rides or super chunky terrain.
While we think Canyon has done a really good job making a downhill-biased, bike park or groomed trail center shredder of an eMTB, we think they may have gone too far and closed themselves off to a huge market of riders in North America who climb multi-use trails that have deep ruts, rocks or roots. If that’s not you, and you have smooth, easy to climb service trails that get you to the gnarliest DH trails, big jumps and you love snapping your bike around, then the Canyon Torque On is absolutely a bad ass bike! Our test staff was torn on the overall rank of this bike because some riders live for rugged terrain while others would gladly sacrifice climbing performance for how good it is on newer school terrain. When it comes to jumping, popping and absolutely ripping trails, the Torque On kills it. If we had to summarize the bike in one very long sentence it would be: A polarizing bike with nearly unmatched downhill performance and capability that can not be denied, but who’s lack of “mountain biking” capabilities drew big critique.
Price: $5,399 (Canyon Torque:ON 8 / US Only)
Weight: 54.1 lbs
SPECIFICATIONS | TORQUE:ON 8
Frame: Aluminum | 175mm
Fork: Rockshox ZEB R | 180mm
Shock: RockShox Super Deluxe Select
Motor: Shimano EP8 | 250 W, 85 Nm
Battery: Shimano E-8035 | 504Wh
Display: Shimano SC-EM800
Brakes: Shimano SLX 4-piston | 203mm
Shifter: Shimano SLX | 12spd
Handlebar: Canyon:ON HB0056 | 780mm, 20mm Rise
Stem: Canyon:ON | 40mm
Saddle: Canyon SD:ON
Seatpost: Iridium Dropper
Wheels: DT Swiss H-1900 Spline
Front tire: Schwalbe Magic Mary 27.5 x 2.6″
Rear tire: Schwalbe Big Betty 27.5 x 2.6″
Cranks: Shimano | 34t | 160mm
Cassette: Shimano SLX | 10-51t | 12spd
Derailleur: Shimano SLX | 12spd
Chain: Shimano M6100 | 12spd
One of the best descenders
Killer suspension feel
Snappy, fun, spritely
BB is WAY too low
Constant crank/pedal strikes while pedaling
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