Canyon, the direct-to-consumer brand behind the outstanding Spectral CF 7.0 and the Grail AL 7.0 SL gravel bike – both winners of T3 2019 awards – has just unveiled its first ever electric flat-bar road bike, and it's a stunner.
Based on the non-electric Canyon Roadlite, the new Canyon Roadlite:ON adds electric assist in the form of a Fazua Evation drive system which consists of a battery in the bike's downtube and a motor in the bottom bracket. That system weighs 4.6kg, which brings the whole build to 15kg, and the battery is removable to you can take it out and charge it at your desk (and ride the bike without the battery, should you wish).
The frame is aluminium with internal cable routing and the bike features a carbon fork and disc brakes. In terms of other components, you get a 1x Shimano mountain bike drivetrain (so one chainring at the front rather than two), a Canyon-engineered one-piece cockpit and plush 35mm Schwalbe G-One Allround tyres to take the pain out of those city potholes. If you ignore Canyon's recommended 6mm tyre clearances, you could even go up to 38mm, should you wish.
Having a 1x drivetrain makes sense: because of the assistance you get from an e-bike there's less need for lots of extra gears, and the lack of a front derailleur means one less thing to adjust or potentially go wrong.
Flat-bar road bikes make the ideal urban commuter rides. They benefit from the lighter frames and generally better spec'd components that you also get on a drop-bar road bike, while the more upright seating position improves comfort and visibility in traffic.
The hardest thing about this style of bike is Googling for them as there's no consistency on what manufacturers call them. We use 'flat-bar road bike' because that's basically what they are. Canyon uses 'fitness bike' – or in this case 'e-fitness bike' – while other brands call them 'hybrids', or even simply 'city bikes'. Confusing, eh?
Anyway, regardless of what they are called, Canyon says the motor in the Roadlite:ON provides "significant assistance but assistance that always feels natural and unobtrusive," so we took it for a spin on the streets of London to find out what it's like to ride.
First ride: Canyon Roadlite:ON review
Canyon is well aware that 'fitness e-bike' sounds like an oxymoron. But the company is confident that the addition of a motor will help riders push themselves to go further, or cycle more frequently than they otherwise would – safe in the knowledge there will always be help available should they need it. Actual science backs that up, with studies showing that e-bike riders actually get more exercise than cyclists.
That brings us to the Canyon Roadlite:ON, which the company believes will be ideal for commuters looking to improve their fitness on the journey to and from work every day. And after trying the bike, it's difficult to argue with that pitch.
Everything about the Roadlite:ON feels polished. The gentle curve to the handlebars to stop your arms from tiring on a long ride home from the office is a nice tweak. Then there's the ability to lock-off the touch sensitive panel used to switch between power outputs so that rogue drops of rain can't accidentally send you lurching forward unexpectedly. And the fact that Canyon has designed a companion smartphone mount so you can watch every stat in real-time. All of these small details result in an extremely well executed e-bike.
The removable 250Wh battery means you can really treat yourself on a Friday and commute under nothing but your own steam, or if you're faced with a pretty daunting commute during the week, you can take out the battery at weekends to shed 3.5kg for shorter rides, or for different fitness training.
Canyon describes the Roadlite:ON as two bikes for the price of one, although after our time with the bike, we're not sure why you would ever want to take the battery out.
Riding the Roadlite:ON is just fun. Something that can't often be said about commuting. Powering along with the help from the motor leaves a stupid grin permanently etched on your face as anyone who has ever ridden an e-bike will be aware.
Changing the amount of oomph you'll get from the motor is handled via the touchpad on the downtube. Canyon said it didn't fit the controls to the handlebars because most e-bike riders don't chop-and-change between modes, but stick with one. Canyon offers four different modes – no assistance whatsoever, Breeze (highlighted by green lights on the downtube) for the longest range, River (blue lights) for 1-2 hour rides, and Rocket (pink-ish lights) for maximum support at the price of battery life.
We tested all these modes and it should be no surprise to learn that Rocket was comfortably our favourite. On this setting, the push from the motor means you'll always be able to get yourself home from the office – no matter how tiring your day, no matter what kinds of hills, and no matter how much stop-start traffic is between you and home.
Canyon told us it designed the different modes so that it would never have to see someone pushing this bike uphill... and we don't think it ever will.
The acceleration on the Canyon Roadlite:ON isn't jarring, but builds naturally as you put in the effort yourself. That said, if you stand up on the pedals when the lights turn green and really give it some, you'll easily be able to pull away from the huddle of cars waiting impatiently behind you no matter what gear you were on when you stopped. It's truly impressive stuff.
Better still, Canyon is developing its own app that will bring a select number of the statistics from the Fazua app into a more digestible user interface for people who aren't necessarily bothered by the temperature of the battery pack during their Thursday morning ride to work, for example. For an extra fee – subscription or in-app purchase, Canyon hasn't yet finalised its pricing – you'll even be able to see a real-time comparison between the amount of power you're putting in, compared to what the Roadlite:ON is putting down on the road.
Statistics like that will be invaluable for anyone trying to get a little fitter on their commute with the Canyon Roadlite:ON. It's a shame this feature isn't available at launch, with Canyon targeting spring next year at the earliest. At least it shows the company plans to continue evolving for its fitness e-bike with new functionality months after you buy it.
Canyon Roadlite:ON price and availability
The Canyon Roadlite:ON will be released as part of Canyon's 2020 range and will be available in three variants – Canyon Roadlite:ON 7.0, 8.0 and 9.0 – priced £2,499, £3,049 and £3,449. From today, you can sign up to receive further information about the bike's availability at Canyon.com.