2022 eMTB SHOOTOUT

2022 CANYON SPECTRAL:ON CFR LTD

Video by Brian Niles / Treeline Cinematic
Photos by Dusten Ryen

The Canyon Spectral:ON was redesigned from the ground-up for 2022. Canyon Bicycles sought to add further capability and range to their ultimate all-rounder eMTB offering. Unfortunately, due to shipping delays we weren’t able to include the previous model in our 2021 eMTB shootout, but we did conduct a long-term review after many months of riding it last year and really like it. Luckily this year we learned that the 2022 Canyon Spectral:ON model would arrive just in time for our 2022 shootout in Knoxville, Tennessee. The crew was excited to see how it would stack up against the rest of the eBikes in the trail segment. Canyon’s Spectral:ON CFR LTD sports both the biggest battery capacity on test and the most individual batteries on a bike thanks to the interesting Flight Attendant suspension tech, SRAM AXS drivetrain and dropper. There’s plenty of batteries and tech to talk about, so let’s dive in and see how the 2022 Canyon Spectral:ON CFR LTD performed.

QUICK HITS

• 155mm Four Bar Suspension
• HTA 65.5
• STA 76.5 (effective)
• REACH 485 (Large)

Price: Starting at $5,999(CF) – $10,500(CFR) / €11,299 (CFR LTD)
Website: Canyon.com

THE LAB

For their newly updated Spectral:ON, Canyon Bicycles wanted to retain the playful nature of their trail eBike we dubbed, “Zee rocket ship”, whilst adding range and capability to push the boundaries of all-rounder performance further than ever before. Key topics include modernized geometry tweaks, a new all-carbon fiber frame with optimized materials and layup, and the on-board tech was tweaked and bolstered to produce a machine that should give a cutting-edge ride.

Canyon Spectral:On CFR LTD Profile Shot - 2022 eMTB Shootout

Canyon’s Spectral:ON continues to roll on mixed wheels, with a 29” front wheel and 27.5” out back. The frame uses a Four Bar suspension system with their “Triple Phase” kinematics, which has been boosted by 5mm to 155mm of travel. The Triple Phase Suspension kinematics produce a bike that is according to Canyon, “Smooth on small bumps, provides a stable mid stroke for maximum power output, and ramps up at the end of its stroke.”

Canyon is offering two full carbon fiber frame options: the entry level Spectral:ON CF starting at $5,999; or the lighter weight Spectral:ON CFR, which shaves roughly 300g without compromising the strength. The carbon fiber rear triangle is new to the Spectral:ON and has been equipped with a bridge between the seat stays to improve stiffness. Canyon also gives the new Spectral:ON enlarged bearings, running on beefy 15mm axles to produce a more durable frame all-round. Up front a 150mm fork is fitted as standard, with the possibility to extend to a 160mm fork aftermarket without voiding the warranty. This is definitely an upgrade we plan on doing to our Canyon Spectral:ON.

Once again Canyon’s Spectral:ON carries over Shimano’s proven and dependable EP8 motor from the previous generation, providing 85Nm of torque and tipping the scales at a relatively light 2.6kg thanks to its magnesium shell. The delivery of this power can be tuned with the E-TUBE app to tailor the Turbo, Trail and ECO modes to your liking. To achieve their goal of increased range, Canyon expanded the battery capacity options. Riders can choose from boosting the 630Wh Shimano battery of the previous generation to either a 720Wh or 900Wh battery, adding up to 42% range. These battery options were designed and optimized by Canyon to minimize the weight and distribute it as low and central as possible, achieved by arranging the cells horizontally. To further reduce the impact of the increased battery weight, Canyon rotated the EP8 motor by 30 degrees, freeing up space to position the battery in front of the motor instead of above it, lowering and centralizing the center of gravity to improve the ride performance.

Canyon Spectral:On CFR LTD Rear Triangle - 2022 eMTB Shootout

It’s worth noting the small frame size is only compatible with the 720Wh size. A fiber-reinforced plastic skid plate sits on the underside of the motor to offer additional protection for the magnesium shell and front chainring. The batteries can be removed easily for charging off the bike, with indicators built into the battery to show the charge level. The charging port is equipped with the Rosenberger magnetic charging interface, which makes plugging in your bike easy and safe.

Canyon’s new 2022 Spectral:ON CFR LTD features one of the newest suspension tech products on the market: RockShox’s Flight Attendant. This is an automatic suspension system which tailors the performance of the suspension to the terrain and rider activity. Based on the sensors aboard the bike, the Flight Attendant-equipped RockShox Lyrik Ultimate 150mm fork and RockShox Superdeluxe Ultimate rear shock react near-instantaneously to stiffen up or unlock. If you exit a corner and start pedaling hard, the suspension will firm up, giving you acceleration and platform. Round another corner and drop off a ledge or hit an abrupt impact and the sensors react fast enough to give you all the travel you need. It takes a little getting used to but is quite impressive.

Adding Flight Attendant to the Spectral:ON CFR means three more batteries are added to the four that serve the SRAM XX1 Eagle AXS gearing and Reverb AXS dropper post, bringing the total to eight on the LTD build. Although this is a lot to keep track of, it should reward those confident in tech with the potential to unlock the most out of the Canyon up, down and along the hill.

The rest of the spec may be less space age, but it’s suitably high-end to satisfy the $11,299 price tag of the CFR LTD. SRAM’s CODE RSC brakes stop a pair of 203mm rotors, and a Rainbow-color XX1 Eagle cassette gives the 10-52t equipped bike the capability of climbing up a wall. A DT Swiss HXC1501 carbon fiber wheelset offer snappy acceleration and the durability required to support hard eBike riding. The wheels are wrapped in a Maxxis Assegai/DHR2 tire combination but were swapped out for Schwalbe Eddy Current eBike tires for the shootout. We had Schwalbe on board as an official tire sponsor for the shootout to ensure consistent and dependable performance across the bikes in each category, allowing us to eliminate a key factor that can produce variation in bike feel.

Rounding out the spec is the polarizing Canyon CP12 integrated cockpit, which combines the bar and stem into a single piece and foregoes any bar angle adjustment. This allows for a very neat integration of the Shimano STEPS display into the handlebar and allows for the wires to be routed into the Acros headset to effectively hide them from sight. A neat upper chainguide bolts directly into the frame to keep the chain in check on rough descents, and SRAM’s Universal Derailleur Hanger makes finding a spare stress free.

To keep the new 2022 Canyon Spectral:ON relevant and up to date, Canyon Bicycles gives the geometry a solid nudge towards the longer, lower and slacker end of the spectrum, but didn’t go crazy in a bid to maintain the playful nature of the outgoing model on mellower terrain. Reach values begin at 435mm on the small size with 25mm jumps per size up to 510mm on the XL, and stack ranges from 634mm to 661mm respectively. These are paired with low 420mm-480mm seat tube lengths to allow most riders to choose from a couple of sizes to suit their riding style and terrain. Constant through the size range is the 65.5-degree head angle, 76.5-degree seat tube angle, 440mm chainstay length and 27mm bb drop (average). The size large tested had a 485mm reach, 652mm stack and 460mm seat tube, producing a total wheelbase of 1,252mm. This is around average for the Trail category, matching the Santa Cruz Heckler and Specialized Levo.

Santa Cruz Bronson V4 CC Rear Triangle

The updated Canyon geometry shifts the reach values towards the upper end of the spectrum for the trail category, but a relatively short rear end and the steepest head angle on test prevent the wheelbase from restricting its agility too much on the trail.

Canyon Spectral:On CFR LTD - 2022 eMTB Shootout

THE DIRT

We were excited to get on board the new Canyon Spectral:ON for a good head-to-head thrashing with the four other competitors in the Trail category at the 2022 eMTB shootout in Knoxville, Tennessee. Throughout the week of testing, the Canyon was passed between all of our testers to give it a healthy amount of trail time, and the experiences of all eight testers form the basis of the opinions contained in this review.

On first impressions the Spectral:ON CFR LTD is stunning, with the two-tone matte/metallic paint and ultra clean lines and cables. Seven of the eight crew members who got on board the Spectral:ON had the same initial reaction – a dislike for the integrated bar/stem combo. The “roll” of the bar felt too far forward for all but one of us initially, and with no option to change it – neither before buying or once owning the bike – a buyer would be out of luck. Swapping this bar/stem combo would require a considerable expense and effort, so it’s a shame to see a single fixed option for the geometry. Once you’ve ridden the bar for a while you can begin to get used to it, but it’s still far from optimal for most of us.

Getting the RockShox Flight Attendant suspension setup on the Spectral:ON CFR LTD requires a couple of extra steps compared with a “normal” suspension system. After connecting the system to the SRAM AXS app, the set up process is as follows: the air pressures are set as normal in the fully Open mode, with 30% sag out back and the recommended air pressure in the RockShox Lyrik fork. Next you stand on the bike in the neutral position on a level surface, you then hold a combination of buttons on the Flight Attendant control module on top of the fork to enter the calibration mode. You hold the bike still in an upright position until the lights on the module flash, then tilt the bike over to the non-driveside and hold until it flashes again. The system should now be calibrated, and the suspension ready to rip the trails.

Canyon Spectral:On CFR LTD - 2022 eMTB Shootout

Using the app, you can alter the bias of the system (how it favors the open, pedal and lock modes, with five options to tailor it to your preference); change the compression settings for the fork and shock independently; and even set up an AXS shifter or dropper lever to add a function that forces the suspension into your preferred mode on the fly. After some figuring out, both the calibration process and general operation of the Flight Attendant system were rather straightforward, and the difference on the trail is quite interesting.

As we’ve come to expect from a bike equipped with Shimano’s EP8 motor, the Canyon Spectral:ON proved to have good – but not incredible – power to climb just about anything. The standout descriptor for the Shimano EP8 is the controlled and natural feeling power delivery. Trail mode on the Shimano system continues to improve as they learn more about the needs of the eMTB rider, and so it performed well in the standard tune, with enough grunt to clear technical climbs when called upon and impressive grip on loose terrain.

The 900Wh battery life was impressive, allowing the Spectral:ON to run laps around the competitors with smaller units. We would likely pick the 720Wh to save us about 1.5lbs and we simply don’t have enough free time in our lives to make use of the 900Wh, sadly.

Canyon Spectral:On CFR LTD - 2022 eMTB Shootout

In order to determine the effects of the Flight Attendant suspension on the pedaling characteristics, we were sure to test the 2022 Canyon Spectral:ON CFR LTD with the suspension fixed on OPEN, as the majority of customers will ride a model without the automating tech fitted. Thankfully for those of you with shallower pockets than the LTD spec level’s pricetag demands, the Spectral:ON pedaled pleasantly in the OPEN mode. That’s not to say it was ultra-firm under power without the extra compression damping kicking in, but it felt acceptably peppy whilst generating good grip and comfort on loose and rough climbs.

Turn the Flight Attendant on though, and the effects are quite profound. It took a couple of goes for us to get the system to work as desired, with the calibration seemingly quite sensitive to your body position on the bike. It’s worth making extra-sure you’re in a neutral position on the bike when calibrating, otherwise you can create a natural bias that will encourage the bike to tend towards one end of the spectrum between open and locked out. Of course, you can tune this bias on the trail, but ideally you want to be able to adjust from a middle ground so that you can change the behavior of the bike to suit the terrain in question.

Once the calibration was dialed in, the Flight Attendant began to work its magic, for the most part. When climbing it would kick in after a couple of seconds and enter the pedal or lock depending on the angle and how you’re pedaling, taking the Spectral:ON from “acceptably peppy” to a rocket ship. Whether it was placebo, genuine saved energy, or simply the encouraging feel of a firm pedaling platform, the result was a bike that felt instantly snappier. This is great on the smooth climbs, but the biggest improvement came on the technical rock-strewn climbs where the Pedal mode kept the average bottom bracket height up and helped to keep the otherwise slammed BB from causing quite so much havoc.

Canyon Spectral:On CFR LTD - 2022 eMTB Shootout

That said, it wasn’t able to work miracles and we still found ourselves clipping pedals more than on many other bikes – we’d look to fit a shorter 160mm crank, and potentially look to bump up the fork travel to 160mm if it were our rig. An occasional secondary effect of the locking out was that the initial hit or two of a rough climb could sometimes catch the system in locked mode, transmitting considerably more feedback through the bike than we desired. For the most part though the Flight Attendant system did a great job at boosting the overall energy of the Spectral:ON without compromising the downhill performance.

Speaking of downhill performance, we’re happy to report that the Spectral:ON has retained a healthy dose of the “play” in its character that we loved in the outgoing model. Given the 900Wh battery has added up to 42% in range to the Spectral:ON, the impact on the ride character is impressively insignificant, with handling that’s more agile than many bikes with considerably smaller batteries, namely the Trek Rail and Norco Sight VLT. When the Flight Attendant system sensed we were on a descent, OPEN mode produced a smooth and controlled suspension response, with a good amount of pop to switch lines and boost side hits on the trail as you please. It didn’t offer quite the same level of composure on the bigger hits as the likes of the Norco Sight VLT or Trek Rail, but certainly held its own as a trail eMTB.

Cornering was an absolute joy thanks to the low bottom bracket and relatively tight rear end, snapping round tight berms on a dime and dancing its way through tight and technical descents with ease. That said, we’d likely pull the reach in a touch to further improve this agility. The head angle was the steepest on the test, and when things got rowdy the reduced composure to the steering was noticed, placing the fast-chunky and steep terrain confidence on the Spectral:ON lower than many of the competition. Another reason we’d put a 160mm fork up front.

If this was to be our rig for the long term, we’d look to swap out the bar/stem combo to separate units with the geometry we prefer. We’d also bump the fork up to 160mm travel, which we would expect to help alleviate the issues we faced when riding the Spectral:ON down the steepest, fastest and roughest downhills. The taller fork would raise the BB slightly, slacken the head tube angle about half a degree, shorten reach and add some steering stability. Otherwise, the spec wants for nothing, as you would hope from a bike with this price tag.

Canyon Spectral:On CFR LTD - 2022 eMTB Shootout

The Wolf’s Last Word

As a fun loving, undulating terrain-crusher, the 2022 Canyon Spectral:ON CFR LTD has serious merit for the right kind of rider, but we’d imagine that the majority would be just as happy on a lower priced, more conventional model as their daily driver. Hitting the top spot for tech lovers in our shootout, and with some excellent handling traits for riders not so eager to get involved in steep or gnarly terrain, the Spectral:ON is a seriously fun bike that represents a worthy follow up to the previous generation.

Price: €11,299 (CFR LTD Europe Only) / $10,500 (Standard CFR)
Weight: 51-lbs 10-oz.
Website:
Canyon.com

VISIT CANYON TO GET YOURS!

CANYON SPECTRAL:ON CFR LTD SPEC:

CHASSIS
Frame: CFR Premium Carbon; 155mm
Fork: RockShox Lyrik Ultimate Flight Attendant | 150mm | 44mm Offset
Shock: RockShox Superdeluxe Ultimate Flight Attendant

ELECTRONICS
Motor: Shimano EP8 | 250 W, 85 Nm
Battery: Canyon Removable | 720Wh/900Wh
Display: Shimano Steps SC-EM800

COCKPIT
Brakes: SRAM Code RSC, 200mm Centreline rotors
Bar/Stem: Canyon:ON CP12 carbon cockpit
Headset: Canyon/Acros custom
Seatpost: RockShox Reverb AXS S:125mm | M:150mm | L/XL:170mm
Saddle: Fizik Terra Aidon X5

WHEELS
Hubs: DT Swiss 240 Ratchet EXP, Centerlock
Rims: DT Swiss HXC1501 carbon, 30mm, 29”F/27.5”R

DRIVETRAIN
Cassette: SRAM XX1 Eagle; 10-52T
Cranks: Shimano STEPS e-MTB, 165mm
Shifter: SRAM Eagle AXS Rocker; 12s
Derailleur: SRAM XX1 Eagle AXS; 12s

Canyon Spectral:On CFR LTD - 2022 eMTB Shootout

We Dig

Undulation crushing tech
Neat integration
Agile and poppy
Rails the corners
Disguises big battery
Looks awesome

We Don’t

Flight Attendant isn’t for everyone
Bar/stem combo geometry
Overwhelmed in fast chunky and steep gnarly trails

OUR 2022 eMTB SHOOTOUT WAS MADE POSSIBLE
THANKS TO THESE GREAT SPONSORS:

Canyon Spectral:On CFR LTD - 2022 eMTB Shootout

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