CANYON SPECTRAL:ON CF 9 REVIEW
ZEE ROCKET SHIP
Words by Drew Rohde
Photos by Dusten Ryen
The new Canyon Spectral:ON CF line of bikes are designed to be Canyon Bike’s all-around eMTB that is capable of doing it all with speed, style and a Mullet wheel configuration. Sporting a Shimano EP8 drive unit with a Shimano 630Wh battery, 150mm of travel front and rear, our crew spent a more time on this bike than many other test bikes this spring and summer. We’ve grown intimately familiar with this bike, its many strengths and a couple of weaknesses, one which may be more important to some than others.
Canyon offers the Spectral:ON in three different builds as well as one Women’s version with prices from $5,999 up to this CF 9 model, which retails for $9,000. It’s a high price tag from the German consumer direct brand who are known for having really affordable bikes with solid spec. As with other high-dollar purchases, consumers may be happy to take advantage of a financing plan from Affirm to help break this sizable investment down into more manageable payments.
For those who’ve never purchased from a consumer-direct bike brand, we’d have to rate the Canyon Bikes experience at or near the top of the list as their packaging, community feel and ease of assembly make for a fun and low stress experience. Obviously there is a very strong argument for supporting local businesses and bike shops, and we love doing so whenever possible, however we can’t deny that lots of people are choosing to buy bikes they can’t purchase at shops, take advantage of savings, or possibly want to avoid the often-found pretentiousness found in some shops. (As former bike shop employees many years ago, we’ve witnessed first-hand how snobby some folks can be. If you want to earn customers, do not be a dick, give people a reason to want to support you!) I digress…back to the bike.
Our Canyon Spectral:ON boasts an impressive range with a 630Wh battery powered Shimano EP8 system. The Spectral:ON is a Class 1 eMTB, meaning it has no throttle, only offers assistance while pedaling and cuts off assistance at 20mph. Max torque is 85 Nm and in Shimano’s easy to use E-Tube application, riders can easily and quickly customize either of the two factory presets from their smart phone, even on the trail. If you forgot to charge your phone before the ride and want to be sure you get your Strava on, a USB C port is easily accessible on the top tube just in front of the power button. It’s something we never used, but perhaps riders with long night rides or tech equipment that needs to be charged regularly may enjoy.
For the most part, Canyon nailed the spec on the Spectral:ON CF9 and it certainly has a lot to do with why we love this bike so much. Highlights include: Canyon’s eMTB saddle, Shimano XTR 12-speed drivetrain with Shimano XTR 4-piston brakes, Ice Tech Freeza 203mm rotors and pads, E-rated Reynolds carbon wheels and Maxxis Minion tires. We’re also huge fans of the Fox Factory suspension Canyon used on the Spectral:ON CF9 but felt that perhaps a 160mm fork, and maybe even a 160mm Fox 38 would have been a nice option. Let’s see a Spectral:ON X next year Canyon!
Now to address a couple of shortcomings in the spec. We’re not certain Exo and Exo + were the right call for such a capable all around rig, but perhaps those who live in smoother areas may prefer the weight savings over a DD rear and Exo + front combo. Our team would gladly take the weight penalty to not have to try and fill holes put in the tires by sharp rocks. Next up is the 150mm dropper post height. We think most riders on a large agree, 170 is the place to be. Lastly, the bar/stem/grip combo is a major talking point. Despite our initial concerns, the bar sweep and bend is comfortable and we quickly adapted to it, however everyone has a different bar roll and position and by using a one-piece design, Canyon is eliminating the end user’s ability to fit the bike to their body without needing to make another investment on an already expensive bike. Lastly, the grips. We wanted to try and put this as simply as possible, so we apologize but, our team is pretty certain that Canyon has the worst grips in the industry. Yes they’re usually throw away parts for most, but, we’d like to see an update on their nicer mountain bikes.
Geometry on the Spectral ON, like the spec, is pretty bang on for a lively trail bike, for the most part. Some of those new school guys who live for the slackest, longest and most upright seat tubes may find issue, but those looking to focus on the ride more than the charts and trends will have a hard time criticizing the Spectral ON. We never felt held back by what some would call “short or steep” numbers. The BB height though, that is another story.
Geometry, suspension kinematics and spec are the three most important ingredients for a killer bike and Canyon’s chefs certainly know a thing or two about being in the kitchen. Our size large was snappy, playful, zesty and comfortable. Our only wish for the Canyon Spectral ON was that it has a taller bottom bracket height. Granted, we regularly ride in terrain some others may not, but those who ride stair-steppy trails, in rain ruts, over tall roots or embedded rocks will likely find themselves striking pedals and crank arms. We actually installed some 5mm shorter FSA cranks and were pleased with the added confidence in pedaling over obstacles. By going up to 10mm of travel up front, we also slackened the 66.5-degree head tube angle a bit and raised the BB even further, of course the downside is we also slackened the 74.5-degree seat tube angle, but not enough to where we could not make climbs.
There are a couple of eBikes that missed our eMTB Shootout this year and without a doubt, the Canyon Spectral:ON is one of those. Right out of the box this bike was swinging and had everyone of our testers hanging on for dear life. It is fast as F! The mullet wheels are a blast and with a 465 reach and 435 chainstays, snapping this bike into corners comes naturally. Unlike many of the super long, slack bikes of today, this bike is rewarding to handle and takes input with ease. A slide point of the hips and head and you’re on a new line. No need to muscle the bike, worry about weight distribution or ensure you’ve got enough of your upper body over the bars to keep a wandering front wheel tracking. The Spectral:ON simply shreds.
All of our frustrations experienced during those early climbing days were soon erased as the amount of fun and feeling of speed overwhelmed. We talked with Canyon’s team about our crank-striking concerns and found we were about 1.5mm off on sag, at which point in time we aired up, and combined with the shorter FSA cranks we installed was in improvement, but still not as good as other eBikes when it comes to climbing over obstacles. Once again, if you’re not regularly climbing over embedded features, in ruts or other stair-stepped or terraced terrain, you may not be as critical of this. Aside from that climbing is natural, and fun. The Spectral ON is comfortable in the saddle, and the shorter reach made it fun to tackle technical and vertical features.
Once it came time to hit the downhills and jumps, Canyon’s Spectral:ON let us know it was ready to party. The suspension is absolutely dialed on this bike, and it blends small bump sensitivity with bigger hit capabilities quite well! This 150mm 36-equipped bike was putting down times and hanging on the heals, even leading bikes with Zebs and 38s with 10mm more travel day in and day out. It is an absolute flyer and loves going fast and getting sideways. It reminds us that having the most slack and long bike isn’t always the fastest, or the most fun. What’s great about the bike not being overkill in the geometry department is that for a great majority of riders who aren’t regularly sessioning downhill trails on 25% grades, the Spectral:ON will be a ton more fun than the tranquilized race horses with 63-degree head tubes and 490mm reaches.
The Wolf’s Last Word
It we had to pick a single last word (or two), it’d be, hot damn! We have a couple of notable and legitimate criticisms with the Canyon Spectral:ON but they are small in comparison to the amount of awesome this shred weapon yields. Without a doubt the Canyon Spectral:ON CF 9 is a top of the line eMTB that excels in almost every condition, and with a minor part swap or two, can be even more versatile. Our testers all gravitated towards this bike and even when we were taking 160-170mm eMTBs out to some gnarly and super steep DH tracks, the Spectral ON was right in the mix with sideways high-speed drifts and big grins. The suspension feel is awesome, the mix of playfulness and confidence is superb and we’d gladly recommend this eMTB to a lot of our friends and strangers alike.
Frame: Carbon front triangle, aluminum rear end, Triple Phase Suspension design | 150mm
Fork: Fox 36 Factory Grip2, 150mm
Shock: FOX FLOAT DPX2 Factory
Motor: Shimano Steps EP8
Battery: Shimano BT-E8036 | 630WH
Display: Shimano Steps SC-EM800
Brakes: Shimano XTR | 203mm
Shifter: Shimano XTR, 12-speed
Handlebar: Canyon:ON CP12 carbon (Integrated Stem)
Saddle: Canyon SD:ON
Seatpost: FOX Transfer Factory | 150mm
Wheels: Reynolds TR 309 E 29er (f), Reynolds TR 367 E, 27.5″ (R)
Front Tire: Maxxis Minion DHF, 29×2.5″
Rear Tire: Maxxis Minion DHR II, 27.5×2.6″
Cassette: Shimano XTR | 12-speed (10-51)
Cranks: Shimano Steps Hollowtech e-MTB, 34t | 165mm
Derailleur: Shimano XTR, 12-speed
So. Much. Fun.
Snapping into corners
Worst grips ever
LEAVE A COMMENT | WIN FREE STUFF
Want to win some free schwag? Leave a comment and vote up the most thoughtful comments and each month we’ll pick a winner. The person with the smartest and most helpful replies will earn some sweet new gear. Join the Pack and get the latest news and read the latest reviews on the top mountain and electric mountain bikes.