Like most people Having passed the half-century mark, I fluctuate between fantasy and reality when it comes to my physical fitness. My fantasy is that I am as fit and strong as I was when I was 25. The reality: I’m not. And while I like to think I’d never replace my human-powered mountain bike with an electric-powered version, Canyon’s new Spectral:On makes me feel like I’m 25 again. And who wouldn’t take that opportunity?
The first-generation e-MTBs I tested years ago were tough beasts that were hard to handle on the trail. But like the rest of the ebike multiverse, off-road machines have steadily evolved with lighter and smaller motors, more powerful batteries and more balanced frame shapes (or ‘relaxed geometry’ in bicycle parlance) that make for an overall better riding experience. These evolutionary steps make e-MTBs more and more tempting, especially if I want to do long cabin trips through the Utah backcountry into my 80s.
There are five versions of the 2022 Spectral:On. Compared to previous Spectral models (the original launched in 2018), all of these new bikes have more range, more power and a stiffer, stronger full carbon frame that places the rider closer to the rear center of the bike, a setup that ensures for more stability and balance. They are all mullets, meaning they combine a more stable 29-inch front wheel that can roll over just about anything with a 27.5-inch rear wheel that adds playfulness to the ride.
Canyon also tilted the bike’s motor—a 5.7-pound, magnesium-coated Shimano EP8, which delivers 63 foot-pounds of torque, quadrupling the pedaling power—to a 30-degree angle. This solution allowed Canyon to move the battery lower in the frame, which in turn lowers the bike’s center of gravity, a major reason why the bike acts more like a motorless mountain bike.
Canyon then fully carbonized the frame, including the rear triangle, making it lighter and stronger; increased reach by 25 millimeters per frame size, slackened the head tube angle by one degree and added 5mm to the chainstays, all of which add stability in the saddle. Then Canyon took 20mm out of the seat tube, allowing for the installation of the longer dropper seatposts, preferably on tougher descents.
Then there’s that precise German attention to detail: the battery has a magnetic charging plug, making it easier to lock even in a dark, crowded garage. Wiring is routed through the handlebars and stem, reducing cockpit clutter. Best of all, the dash is color-coded so the rider knows at a glance which of the three pedal assist modes they’re in; and at the touch of a button, they can cycle through mph, distance, odometer, available range, maximum speed, average speed, cadence and time of day.
The only choices consumers have to make when choosing between the five versions are frame size, component quality and battery size. You can choose between a 720 or 900 Wh battery, and the small frame comes with only the 720-WH battery option, as the larger 900-WH battery won’t fit. All of these options determine the final price, which ranges from $6,000 to $10,500.