The best ride for an eMTB? Well, we couldn’t pick just one.

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Gone are the days when eMTBs were a single category within the world of mountain biking. There are now almost as many sub-types of eMTB as there are mountain bikes, and it can’t be long before people will be asking themselves if they need an uplift-style eMTB and a trail eMTB, just as now many sheds will hold a hardtail, a full suspension trail bike, and even a downhill or enduro bike for Alpine trips and race days. We took two different Canyon eMTBs out for two different days out.

In association with Canyon UK

For this feature, we’d be setting out on two eMTBs from Canyon, the assisted siblings of the Spectral and Neuron: the Spectral:ON and Neuron:ON. Hannah would be taking the more XC and trail oriented Neuron:ON for a big day out, while Mark would be hitting the bike park for laps on the bigger Spectral:ON. What would the :ON add to their rides, and would both come back feeling they’d been mountain biking?

Two eMTBs, One Plan

Hannah

I don’t get many chances for a big day out on a bike. There’s always the school run bookending my weekdays, and there aren’t many weekends where the planets align to give free time, decent weather, and a fully functional body. With loads of trails just on my doorstep, I tend to keep mixing up those I know in different variations, rather than heading off to new terrain. I mean, what if I pedal out to a new dashed line on the map only to discover it’s just miles of bog, or farm track?

With the instructions to take the ebike and go out for an adventure and a big day out – and to make sure it included a nice pub lunch – I got out my map, unfolded it, and turned it over to reveal the area beyond my usual range. There was a tempting looking loop of dashed green heading out from the top end of what would normally be the fringe of my territory. A bridleway off in the direction of Oxenhope and Haworth – good Yorkshire tourist territory, complete with cobbled streets and steam trains. Tracing my finger onwards, there looked to be a choice of possible lunch spots, including one right up the top of a hill, and just before heading across a lonely looking stretch of moorland that would start to take me back in the direction of home. Hopefully all that could be covered in time to get back to the school run. Maybe it would reveal some classic new trails, or maybe it would lead to something I could tackle on a gravel bike. Whatever I’d find, I wouldn’t mind because with the e-assist, even a tarmac climb or a wrong turn wouldn’t seem like a horrid waste of energy and effort. The opportunities for getting grumpy would surely be few and far between.

Mark

It’s a common misconception that riding downhill doesn’t take much effort or fitness. Skill, yes – there needs to be lots of that but since gravity is the primary source of energy transfer here a level of fitness is often thought to be a secondary concern. I guess that if you are happy to be an occasional dabbler in steep tech or to restrict yourself to the smaller and safer table top jumps then that’s all probably true. But if you want to really step up your gravity game you need to put in the hours ‘sessioning’ the same trails over and over, and especially where there are no uplifts, that takes a lot of fitness.

Riding up the same trail over and over again has always been a big disincentive to me. The number of times I’ve finished an epic descent thinking about how I should have ridden it better are countless. With the best intention in the world all it usually takes is a quick look back up the hill for me to mentally say, ‘Nah! I’m not riding back up there today..”. And I ride on.

The eMTB changes the equation. In much the same way that Hannah can now go explore that new trail without fear of ending up at a dead end at the bottom of hill, I can now look back up the hill and decide to give it another go. And so I decided to do something on this Canyon Spectral:On that I’ve never done with a normal bike. I was heading for a local bike park with no uplift to simply session the best trails and not come away until I had taken my riding up a good level.

Ready, Get Set…

Hannah

I admit I was a little nervous about my trip out into the unknown. I knew enough about the area to know I was heading into some very remote and featureless terrain, where low cloud will often obliterate and sense of direction. I hoped that the bridleways I’d be following would be sufficiently easy to follow not to lead to me wandering in circles, and I also prayed to the Gods of Mechanicals that I’d not have any show stoppers along the way. The chances of there being any passers by were pretty slim, especially on my midweek outing.

I packed accordingly – tools, tubes, a proper pump, an extra layer, spare gloves, and a small first aid kit including an emergency blanket. Even though I was planning for a pub lunch, I packed a stash of gummy bears. And, don’t judge me, I made myself a flask of chai soya latte.

…Go!

Hannah

The first part of the route I knew well – a long dragging slog of a climb up some rather uninspiring double track. It felt good on an eMTB to dispatch it in Eco mode without the usual sweaty effort, and I took the time along the way to take in the view, grab some photographs and generally ponder my existence.

As I passed this farm with its generations of Landrovers outside it, I reflected on the fact there’s always technological progress. There are ancient Landrovers still grinding round farm fields, and there are brand new ones queueing in London. Tools, toys, collectors’ items and consumer items. Things move on, and there’s a place for the old and the new.

The Neuron:ON has two matching 29er wheels, but Mark’s Spectral:On has a ‘mullet’ set up of 29in up front and 27.5in at the back, for better handling and rolling over big hits. Which made me wonder what the handling on this tractor might be like. Only, this very friendly sheep wouldn’t get out of the shot, so I took its portrait too.

Mark

Havok bike park is a small, privately run park on the outskirts of Todmorden, on the boundary of Yorkshire and Lancashire. It’s set in a working forest, has no parking spaces but does have a gazebo and a hut for members to sign in.

There’s a jump line and a few enduro trails cut in to the forest, and it’s all very steep and not suitable for beginners. There is no uplift service and the trails to to top are steep enough that you push up rather than ride. Sessioning this place takes a level of fitness I don’t have – certainly not enough of it to ride the trails repeatedly to really advance my skills. That is unless I happen to be riding a long travel, Canyon Spectral:On.

Ross was along for the ride and to take some pictures. He was not electrified on this adventure but then his fitness levels are well above mine. Still, by the time we reached to top of the fire road he was breathing heavily. I’d politely backed off my climb in order to not embarrass him too much. It’s uplift sections like this where boost mode is most useful and what would have taken 15 minutes pushing takes no more than five with a motor.

At the top, instead of hanging around and waiting for the tunnel vision to fade I was ready to ride the first trail from the moment I got there. Ross is a regular here and so he picked the best lines to start with.

Knocking the Canyon eMTB motor into eco – I didn’t want any unexpected bursts of power in the technical parts – we set off. The trail was exceptionally wet but the extra weight of the Spectral:On helped with the control and once up to speed the feeling of riding an eMTB faded into the familiarity of just riding a bike.

 Spectral:ON Neuron:ON Canyon eMTB

At the bottom I was breathing hard – not from having to handle the weight of the bike but simply through the effort of riding downhill hard. The first return shuttle in boost mode on the fire-road gave me the chance to recover. Yes – I recovered on the climb.

Ross next suggested that we take a look at the river gap jump. Terrifying description but really, it’s less a river and more a ditch. Now table tops I’ve never had a problem with – They are just gap jumps with a big flat safety ‘net’ in the middle. But actual gap jumps take another level of courage to hit first as you simply have to get it right first time. This particular gap, while not being particularly big, does span a ditch deep enough to stand up in and still not risk being hit by flying bikes. It was a little intimidation at first look. But this is what I was here to do.

Ross picked his photo spot and I made sure I hit it fast enough to easily clear it. I landed a considerable distance further than the ideal spot and felt that instant relief for not breaking myself in two.

“Again!”, shouted Ross.

“No problem!”, I replied.

Boosting back up the side of the trail I was ready to roll again in under a minute.

This time I landed better, but I was still nervous riding up to it. The gap was followed by a rock garden heap and then a tight left hand muddy berm before it dropped steeply down the hillside. I let the bike roll through the berm before pulling up and heading back to the top.

 Spectral:ON Neuron:ON Canyon eMTB

In total I did this section seven times until it was easy enough to start thinking about tweaking the airtime and throwing in a bar twist. We moved on only because we wanted some more shots further down the trail. I left that gap jump, AND the following rock garden and berm, nailed. I’d sessioned away the fear and I was ready to go bigger.

Hannah

I took in the first descent and the final bit of familiar territory, then turned left where I usually turn right and set off into the unknown. As the tarmac climb turnded into doubletrack, the old pack horse stones showing through here and there, I wondered whether a gravel bike might have been a better tool for this outing. The climb led me up into the cloud, the wind, and the back of beyond. Cresting the hill, I was just about to start cursing my over biked state when the trail suddenly steepend, and with it the power of erosion took over. I was on just the right bike – plenty of grip and cushioning from all the loose rocks and rutted trail that unfolded below me. I let loose, had some fun, and then it occured to me that I was still a long way from anywhere and the ground was quite hard, so maybe I ought not to go full beans. A fairly significant water feature also caused me to take things a little easier – I hadn’t fitted a mudguard and didn’t want to end up too cold and wet.

As the route turned to some classic local singletrack pack horse trail, it was hard not to get carried away. A muddy rut led to a chunky uneven stone staircase descent, and back up to more wiggly slippery singletrack and a climb. It was all really rather fun, if cast in hues of grey and brown. A brief patch of colour and company came from a gaggle of ramblers in coats of many colours, who cheerfully – if not sincerely – noted it was a ‘great day for it’.

I paused at a junction to consult my map and have a sip of fortifying chai soya latte, only to discover that I’d left the lid open and my map was looking a little like an ancient treasure map round the edges. Sucking coffee from both flask and map, I established that there was probably time – and certainly battery life – for me to make it into Oxenhope and along the bridleway to Haworth, which would surely provide some scenic opportunities for taking pictures of my bike. Against all my usual instincts I sped down the road and into the village, past the steam trains, and along where there ought to be a bridleway. Only, I could find a footpath, and an overgrown path to a locked gate… but apparently no bridleway. Resolving that I wasn’t about to play at trail breaker and jungle hacker with an ebike in tow, I aborted my route extension and retraced my route back up the road. In normal circumstances this might have been cause for some very grumpy grumbling, a dose of gummy bears, and and extra swig of chai soya latte, but with the e-assist my diversion had been a mere curiosity rather than an annoyance.

I was now to be reminded that a Canyon eMTB might make the climbs easier, and even make getting lost less painful, but it doesn’t stop you needing your wits about you. First of all, I missed a turn off that would have taken me to the moors. Checking my watch and feeling a little hungry, I decided that I wouldn’t waste time trying to find the offroad route, and I’d continue my ride to the pub on the road – after all, I was out for fun, not punishment. Also, the moors had disappered in a big cloud again, and I was worried I’d miss out on a Yorkshire pudding opportunity if I got lost in there.

The Yorkshire pudding turned out to be just that… vegetables were extra. It was all a bit prawn sandwiches on white bread and strange decor. Luckily there were roaring fires and good beer to make up for the pub disappointment. Lesson 1: you might not need to plan a route precisely, but you should research your pub choices carefully. Humph. I abandonded plans for dessert in the home of finding a nice bakery further along the route.

Having taken on carbs, protein and salt, but little vitamin C, I returned to moors for what promised to be a long moorland descent. With the low cloud warping my sense of distance, I came to a junction that wasn’t quite where I expected it to be. The ramblers I’d seen before were huddled in little groups like sheep, in corners and behind walls, trying to keep out of the wind as they sought to eat their sandwiches before their fillings blew away. They scoffed at my suggestion that I’d rather have spent my lunch huddled like them than eating a sub standard pub lunch by a fire, but were soon distracted by talk of my bike. I admitted that while it was making the ride easier, it wasn’t doing anything for my navigation skills, and did they know exactly where we were on the map. The walk leader whipped out her phone and showed me exactly where we were using her Ordnance Survey App. Once again, the march of technology. I folded up my slightly damp OS map, and continued on to the moor.

 Spectral:ON Neuron:ON Canyon eMTB

The trail proved to be much more interesting than I’d hoped. Large slabs of rock were marked with grooves – presumably from ancient carts or ropes? As the rock was left behind, I follow ribbons of ruts, which were interspersed with the kind of drops that lead to puddles, which turned out to frequently be of wheel swallowing proportions. I sent a text ‘This is a lot more technical than I was expecting, and the cloud has really come down. It would be a bad place to die’. It turned out to be rather prophetic.

A bit Pete Tong

Leaving the pick-your-way-along ruts behind and hitting a loose and rocky ‘ooh this is fun!’ descent at full pelt, I suddenly caught my front wheel on something and spat myself into the air. Landing on my shoulder with full force, I heard a sound I’d never heard before from my shoulder. A break? A dislocation? I wasn’t sure, but I was sure that it hurt, a lot. I was also sure I didn’t have long before the adrenaline wore off and I’d be at risk of being cold and slow on a remote part of moor, all alone. Luckily the bike seemed unhurt, and I made myself get back on the bike and ride, barely holding on with my left hand, but covering as much ground as I could before my brain fully realised what I’d just done. So much for getting back in time for the school run, or buying nice baked treats – a trip to A&E was on the cards.

Reflections on two eMTB adventures

Hannah

The crashing was entirely my fault – it could have happened on any bike – but I did find that there was an unexpected advantage to the Canyon eMTB after the crash – I was able to stick the bike in turbo and soft pedal my way to hospital, steering one handed in relative ease and comfort. Not a recommended selling feature of an eMTB, but an unexpected benefit nonetheless.

 Spectral:ON Neuron:ON Canyon eMTB

My ride didn’t quite end as I’d planned it – there’s still a final section of bridleway to home that I need to go and check out. The trails I did discover were certainly fun enough to be worth a big pedal out on another day, and now I know what’s there I’d know it’s definitely mountain bike territory. I’d happily do it all again on an eMTB for the sake of less effort, or less time stress. Especially in poorer weather, the eMTB lets you even up your temperature – there’s no need to sweat up a hill then get cold as your sweat cools, making for a more pleasant experience overall. Alone and in a remote space, I felt reassured that I was able to wear and carry enough layers that hypothermia was less of a risk than I’d have had without them. Without the eMTB, I’d likely have waited until a warm summer’s day before taking on such a wild solo ride into the unknown as this one.

I had an adventure, a big day out, found some trails, got lost, hurt myself, got muddy… it’s mountain biking alright. Choose your tool, or toy, and make your fun, however you find it.

Mark

I’ve grown up riding bikes in the hills. For me it was always about where a bike can take me and the simple fact that I can see more, experience more, on two wheels rather than on foot. Rides have generally been loops where you get past one obstacle or section and move on to the next. ‘Sessioning’ has always been the preserve of the young and those lucky enough to be close to an uplift service. Improving your skills when you hit every trail just once in a ride is obviously possible, it just requires that you ride a lot and regularly. Progression is steady… slow.

But having an eMTB changes that. What was simply not an option now is. Now, turning around mid ride and looking back up the descent you barely made it down offers up the practical option of just nipping back up and doing it again… and again. Now, I know that was always an option but the reality is that on a normal bike those opportunities are rarely taken up. Precious energy often needs to be conserved for the long ride still ahead.

eMTBs offer us as mountain bikers a new way to ride the same trails we’ve always ridden. With built in uplift the word ‘session’, a word that’s rarely used outside of bike parks, now sits in the verbal repertoire of riders with no local uplift options. I progressed more in that two hours at Havoc Bike park than I have in more than a year of general trail riding. I’m a better rider now and the next park I visit, be that electrically assisted or not, I’ll be ready to take on the gaps rather than sticking to the tables.

Canyon eMTB Tech Specs

Canyon Spectral:ON 9.0

Mark was riding the Canyon Spectral:On 9.0 in a size medium.

SizeXSSMLXL
Body Height
< 166 cm 166 – 174 cm 174 – 183 cm 183 – 191 cm > 191 cm
Seat Height
644 – 724 mm 655 – 755 mm 664 – 782 mm 704 – 822 mm 744 – 862 mm
Seat Tube Length
420 mm 430 mm 440 mm 480 mm 520 mm
Top Tube Length
582 mm 597 mm 616 mm 638 mm 660 mm
Head Tube Length
100 mm 95 mm 100 mm 113 mm 125 mm
Head Tube Angle
66° 66,8° 66,8° 66,8° 66,8°
Seat Tube Angle
73,3° 73,8° 73,8° 73,8° 73,8°
Chainstay Length
430 mm 430 mm 430 mm 430 mm 430 mm
Wheel Base
1.151 mm 1.161 mm 1.183 mm 1.208 mm 1.233 mm
Stack
605 mm 618 mm 622 mm 634 mm 644 mm
Reach
405 mm 425 mm 445 mm 465 mm 485 mm
Stand-over Height
771 mm 778 mm 780 mm 785 mm 787 mm
Bottom Bracket Offset
20 mm 33 mm 33 mm 33 mm 33 mm
Spacer
20,0 mm 20,0 mm 20,0 mm 20,0 mm 20,0 mm
Stem Length
40 mm 40 mm 50 mm 50 mm 50 mm
Handlebar Width
740 mm 760 mm 760 mm 780 mm 780 mm
Crank Length
165,0 mm 165,0 mm 165,0 mm 165,0 mm 165,0 mm
Seat Post Diameter
30,9 mm 30,9 mm 30,9 mm 30,9 mm 30,9 mm
Seat Post Length
360 mm 400 mm 447 mm 447 mm 447 mm
Maximum Seat Post Insertion Depth
184 mm 223 mm 271 mm 271 mm 271 mm
Seat Post Insertion Depth
104 mm 123 mm 153 mm 153 mm 153 mm
Wheel Size
27,5″ 29″/27,5″ 29″/27,5″ 29″/27,5″ 29″/27,5″
Disc Size
200 mm 200 mm 200 mm 200 mm 200 mm
Front Fork Travel
150 mm 150 mm 150 mm 150 mm 150 mm
Rear Suspension Travel
150 mm 150 mm 150 mm 150 mm 150 mm

Canyon Neuron:On 6.0

Hannah was riding the Canyon Neuron:On 6.0 in size medium

SizeXSSMLXL
Body Height
< 166 cm 166 – 174 cm 174 – 183 cm 183 – 191 cm > 191 cm
Seat Height
644 – 724 mm 655 – 755 mm 664 – 782 mm 704 – 822 mm 744 – 862 mm
Seat Tube Length
420 mm 430 mm 440 mm 480 mm 520 mm
Top Tube Length
562 mm 584 mm 611 mm 635 mm 659 mm
Head Tube Length
95 mm 100 mm 110 mm 125 mm 140 mm
Head Tube Angle
66,3° 66,3° 67,5° 67,5° 67,5°
Seat Tube Angle
74° 74° 74° 74° 74°
Chainstay Length
438 mm 438 mm 440 mm 440 mm 440 mm
Wheel Base
1.136 mm 1.158 mm 1.172 mm 1.198 mm 1.223 mm
Stack
584 mm 588 mm 614 mm 628 mm 641 mm
Reach
395 mm 415 mm 435 mm 455 mm 475 mm
Stand-over Height
760 mm 764 mm 779 mm 785 mm 788 mm
Bottom Bracket Offset
20 mm 20 mm 30 mm 30 mm 30 mm
Spacer
20,0 mm 20,0 mm 20,0 mm 20,0 mm 20,0 mm
Stem Length
50 mm 50 mm 50 mm 60 mm 60 mm
Handlebar Width
740 mm 740 mm 760 mm 760 mm 760 mm
Crank Length
170,0 mm 170,0 mm 170,0 mm 170,0 mm 170,0 mm
Seat Post Diameter
30,9 mm 30,9 mm 30,9 mm 30,9 mm 30,9 mm
Seat Post Length
360 mm 400 mm 447 mm 447 mm 447 mm
Maximum Seat Post Insertion Depth
184 mm 223 mm 271 mm 271 mm 271 mm
Seat Post Insertion Depth
104 mm 123 mm 153 mm 153 mm 153 mm
Wheel Size
27,5″ 27,5″ 29″ 29″ 29″
Disc Size
203 mm 203 mm 203 mm 203 mm 203 mm
Front Fork Travel
130 mm 130 mm 130 mm 130 mm 130 mm
Rear Suspension Travel
130 mm 130 mm 130 mm 130 mm 130 mm

This Canyon eMTB feature was produced in association with Canyon UK


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