The Takeaway: Canyon levels-up the 150mm Spectral:ON e-MTB with Shimano’s EP8 motor and a larger battery.

  • Shimano’s STEPS EP8 motor is more powerful, lighter, smaller, and smarter than the E8000 motor it replaces
  • 22-percent larger 630Wh battery
  • Four models priced $5,499 to $8,500.
  • All models use the same frame, motor, and battery.

Price: $8,500 (Spectral:ON CF 9)
Weight: 49.1 lb. (medium, CF 9)

The 2021 Canyon Spectral:ON doesn't look a lot different than last year’s Spectral:ON that was all-new when it launched. That's because the 2021 version is much the same as that new-for-2020 model: same frame, same geometry, and very similar build kits.

Still the 2021 Spectral:ON is very new and very much improved for two good reasons: a new motor and a new battery.

canyon spectralon cf 9
The Shimano EP8 motor is lighter, smaller, more powerful and more efficient than the E8000 motor it replaces.
Matt Phillips

Due to my review bike’s January arrival and a series of snowstorms through the Four-Corners area, I don't have enough time on the Spectral:ON CF 9 to offer a review on launch day. I'll update this post with ride impressions once the trails clear enough to give me the time I need to evaluate this bike properly.

2021 Spectral:ON Motor and Battery Updates

For 2021, the Spectral:ON range sees the 2020’s Shimano STEPs E8000 motor replaced with Shimano’s new EP8 unit. This is a major upgrade: compared to the E8000, the EP8 motor has 21-percent more torque (85Nm max vs 70Nm max), it’s 380 grams lighter, 10-percent smaller, quieter, sheds heat better, and has 36 -percent less drag.

It is also smarter with improved assist algorithms and profiles the rider can tune in Shimano’s E-TUBE smartphone app (Android, iOS).

shimano ep9 e tube app
Riders can tune the EP8’s assist profiles in Shimano’s E-TUBE app.

The battery’s capacity grows 22-percent to 630Wh (it was 504Wh previously). Canyon doesn’t give specific range estimates for their e-bikes stating, “It’s impossible to give a definitive answer to this question since the range (on any e-bike) depends on several factors including the temperature outside, your weight, your cadence, how you use the power modes, how much you are climbing, etc.” Can’t fault them for saying this as it is absolutely true. The closest they give to an estimate is, “up to 100 kilometers.”

Set in trail mode with an almost-full battery, my review bike showed 49 miles of range. That would be a hell of a mountain bike ride, but some of the Spectral:On’s competition give you still more range. The new Pivot Shuttle ($10,999) has a 726Wh battery, while the top Levo models from Specialized have 700Wh batteries.

canyon spectralon cf 9
A USB-C charging port lets you keep your phone, GPS, light or other accessories topped up.
Matt Phillips

That said, Canyon’s Spectral:ON 9 is $2,500 cheaper than the Pivot and much cheaper than the top-end Levo models, so you can buy a second battery (figure about $900 bucks) and still have cash left in your pocket. However, the prospect of lugging a spare 3700-gram battery (weight from my scale) around in a pack for hours on end doesn’t sound... awesome.

Frame Details and Geometry

The Spectral:On has a carbon front triangle with an aluminum rear. Travel is matched 150mm at both ends, with the same Horst-Link four-bar design used on other Canyon suspension bikes found here.

The Spectral:ON is a mixed-wheelsize bike: a 29er wheel up front with a 27.5-inch rear. Canyon’s press info says, “The mixed wheelsize configuration allows you to have a shorter rear center for playful handling, while the 29er front wheel gives you stable handling and the ability to roll over anything that gets in its way.”

canyon spectralon cf 9
The CF8 and CF9 get a one-piece carbon handlebar/stem.
Matt Phillips

I asked Canyon’s representatives exactly how much shorter the Spectral:ON’s rear end can be with a 27.5 wheel than it would be with a 29 inch wheel. Vernon Felton, Canyon's global MTB manager responded, “It’s impossible to say definitively without having a full 29er version to compare alongside it, but the Spectral 29 acoustic bike has 437mm chainstays (2 mm longer) WITHOUT having to squeeze a motor into the package. Once you add the motor, you are adding length. So it’s impossible to say how much shorter the bike is thanks to the 27.5 rear wheel, but it’s definitely significantly shorter.”

Based on the stay lengths of e-MTB trail bikes with 29-inch rear wheels, the Spectral:ON has a tidy rear end. At 435mm, the Spectral:ON’s chainstays are noticeably shorter than those found on a Trek Rail (448mm), the Specialized Levo (455mm), or the Pivot Shuttle (441mm). To be clear, shorter chainstays aren’t always better: Shorter chainstays have their pros (quicker handling, stiffer) and their cons (less stability, less climbing traction). Longer stays have pros and cons, too. Like anything, consider your needs before deciding what’s best for you.

canyon spectralon cf geometry
What? A geometry table?

The rest of the geometry is a little surprising for a 150mm e-MTB launching in 2021. The Spectral:ON has a fairly steep head tube angle (66.5 degrees), a fairly slack seat tube angle (74,5 degrees), and is not as long as you’d expect a modern 150mm e-bike to be. If you were expecting an electrified version of the Spectral 29, you will be disappointed, but if you like the feel of a quicker handling bike, the Spectral:ON’s geo seems to hint at that.

The 2021 Spectral:ON Line

In the USA, the new line consists of four models:

Spectral:ON CF 7
Canyon Spectral:ON CF 7
$6,299 at Canyon

Shimano SLX/XT drivetrain and Deore brakes, RockShox Yari RC fork, RockShox Deluxe Select R shock, Canyon Iridium dropper, Race Face AR30/35 rims with Shimano MT400/510 hubs, Canyon ON aluminum bar and stem, Canyon ON saddle

Spectral:ON CF 7 WMN
Canyon Spectral:ON CF 7 WMN

Shimano SLX/XT drivetrain and Deore brakes, RockShox Yari RC fork, RockShox Deluxe Select R shock, Canyon Iridium dropper, Race Face AR30/35 rims with Shimano MT400/510 hubs, Canyon ON aluminum bar and stem, Canyon ON WMN saddle

Spectral:ON CF 8
Canyon Spectral:ON CF 8

Shimano XT drivetrain and brakes, Fox Performace 36 Grip 2 fork, Fox Factory Float DPX2 shock, Canyon Iridium dropper, DT-Swiss H1800 wheels, Canyon ON CF one-piece carbon bar/stem, Canyon ON saddle

Spectral:ON CF 9
Canyon Spectral:ON CF 9

Shimano XTR drivetrain and brakes, Fox Factory 36 Grip 2 fork, Fox Factory Float DPX2 shock, Factory Transfer dropper, Reynolds Tre Carbon wheels, Canyon ON CF one-piece carbon bar/stem, Canyon ON saddle

    The rest of the world gets six models, adding a CF 6 and CF 6 WMN to the lineup. Here’s where things get confusing. The models called CF 7 and CF 7 WMN in the USA are the global line’s CF 6 and CF 6 WMN. The rest of the world’s CF 7 (4,599 €) and CF 7 WMN (4,599 €) do not land in the USA. Thankfully, this is all figured out for you when you go to your country’s Canyon website. I happen to think the USA’s line makes a bit more sense as the rest of the world’s 6 and 7 models are more similar than they are different.

    All models use the same 150mm frame with carbon front triangle and aluminum rear triangle, the Shimano EP8 motor, and the 630Wh battery.

    canyon spectralon cf 9
    The CF 9 is the only model with carbon rims
    Matt Phillips

    All USA models get Shimano 12-speed drivetrains, Shimano disc brakes with 203mm rotors front and rear, Maxxis Minon DHF 2.5 front tire with EXO casing and Maxxis Minon DHR 2.6 rear tire with heavier duty EXO+ casing.

    Comparable Bikes

    I'm not going to pretend that the $8,500 CF 9 I got in for review is a cheap bike. But stack it up against some of its competition and it looks like a hell of a value. It is literally thousands of dollars cheaper than bikes with comparable (or comparable-ish) builds like the Specialized S-Works Turbo Levo ($14,000), Pivot’s Shuttle, ($10,999), Trek’s Rail 9.9 XTR ($11,500), and the Santa Cruz Heckler CC X01 RSV MX ($10,999).

    Headshot of Matt Phillips
    Matt Phillips
    Senior Test Editor, Bicycling

    A gear editor for his entire career, Matt’s journey to becoming a leading cycling tech journalist started in 1995, and he’s been at it ever since; likely riding more cycling equipment than anyone on the planet along the way. Previous to his time with Bicycling, Matt worked in bike shops as a service manager, mechanic, and sales person. Based in Durango, Colorado, he enjoys riding and testing any and all kinds of bikes, so you’re just as likely to see him on a road bike dressed in Lycra at a Tuesday night worlds ride as you are to find him dressed in a full face helmet and pads riding a bike park on an enduro bike. He doesn’t race often, but he’s game for anything; having entered road races, criteriums, trials competitions, dual slalom, downhill races, enduros, stage races, short track, time trials, and gran fondos. Next up on his to-do list: a multi day bikepacking trip, and an e-bike race.