Canyon are one of those German firms who make high quality bikes and e-bikes and still seek to give value for money with competitive pricing. In this, they seem to fall into the same bracket as Cube and Haibike. Canyon's Pathlite range is described in terms of 'adventure', 'hybrid' and 'touring' – in other words it is pitching itself as a capable all-rounder.
The electric Pathlite:ON range starts at £2,599 for the Pathlite:ON 4 SUV with model ranges 5-8 bridging the gap before we get to the top of the range model reviewed here, the Pathlite:ON 9 LTD SUV at £5,200. Like many of Canyon's e-bikes it features a powerful Bosch mid-drive, but also gets top end features such as ABS braking and electronic, wireless gear shifting. It also arrived just at the right time to take a look at the latest (just over-the-air updated) Bosch Smart System features to see how their much-heralded wirelessly connected system is developing.
What's SUV about the Pathlite:ON 9 LTD SUV?
As you probably know, SUV (sports utility vehicle) is a term taken from the world of motor vehicles where it has no precise meaning. SUV cars will make a nod to off-road capability with features such as raised ground clearance or even four wheel drive. They are often marketed as family 'adventure' style vehicles with plenty of storage space handy for family activities.
This top end Pathlite certainly has some off-road trail capability thanks to its SR Suntour MOBIE35 BOOST EQ front fork. This gives 100mm of air suspension that can also be locked out for road riding and comes alongside tough Maxxis Crossmark II EXO TR 27.5 x 2.25" tyres, that are fast on hard surfaces and offer good grip on moderately firm off-road surfaces (deep mud doesn't appear to be their forte).
Equally importantly, it features Bosch’s most powerful motor and biggest 750Wh battery (all other Pathlite models have 625Wh capacity). That should give it plenty of climbing power and a decent range, whether you are venturing on or off road. But what sets the ON 9 LTD SUV apart from the rest of the Pathlite range are the premium features of SRAM X01 Eagle AXS wireless gear shifting and Bosch's anti-lock braking system (ABS).
As with all the Pathlite:ON range, the 9 LTD SUV uses Bosch’s Smart System. Bosch clearly see this 'connected' system as a way of digitally future-proofing the bike, as over-the-air updates mean it has the ability for extra software to be added over time. For example, when I updated the bike software it gained enhanced navigation features that included voice commands.
The Smart System is also needed for the latest version of Bosch's ABS, which is designed to prevent front wheel lockout, freeing the rider up to use the front brake to its maximum effect without fear of an overbraking-induced accident. Other Smart features include the ability to alter the power delivery profiles of the different levels and an electronic lock with GPS tracking
There will be more detail on all the above aspects in the testing section, but note getting the most out of the Smart System relies on you having Bosch's eBike Flow app installed on your smartphone and having it Bluetooth connected to the bike whilst riding. If you love your smartphone and want to use it at every possible opportunity then read on. But if want to leave the smartphone at home, or at least switched off in your pocket, then Bosch's Smart System probably won't be for you.
Pathlite:ON 9 LTD SUV on road and trail
As you would expect from Bosch's most powerful mid-drive motor, there is tons of smooth and effective power on tap. I've tried lots of Performance Line CX motors, but this is the first that's linked to the Smart System allowing you to customise the four preset power levels of Eco, Tour+, Auto and Turbo.
The two middle levels are semi-automatic. Tour+ delivers a step up from Eco, though when the power is not needed and you are not pressing hard on the pedals it will throttle power back to Eco. Auto mode aims to keep your speed the same, whatever the riding conditions and will be a little heavier on the battery. There’s also the ability to tweak the various aspects of the power output of each level using Bosch’s e-Bike Flow smartphone app, which I found useful in getting the most out of the Smart System for my style of riding and local terrain.
This all makes sense - especially the Tour+ mode which has the potential to extend the range of the battery whilst giving you a bit more power when needed. Over very challenging terrain it seemed that the new Smart software now coaxes even more climbing ability from the Performance Line CX mid-drive if you enter the customise screen in the app and dial everything up to max in Turbo mode.
The Pathlite 9 LTD SUV certainly put just about every other legal e-bike we've tried to shame up our extended hill climb by a margin of several seconds. It was also tied at the top of out ultra-steep climb league table. In effect the tuning seems to get max power out of the motor in Turbo in just about every situation you might put it in. I reckoned on getting 45-50 miles out of the 750Wh battery, which might seem a little modest, but if I had tweaked the power profiles downwards for a bit more exercise I would undoubtedly have exceeded that figure.
Stopping was equally impressive. Descending my local 25% plus cycle path gradient and using the front brake to the max, I could actually feel the ABS locking on and off extremely quickly to provide smooth and controlled braking. The ABS comes with preset software according to the bike it's used on. The Pathlite uses the ‘Allroad’ setting, but there are also cargo and e-MTB options which are presumably more aggressively set to cope with the bigger loads in those applications.
The large volume tyres with grippy tread combine with that ABS and the front and seatpost suspension systems to create a bike that is comfortable and effective over moderately demanding off-road terrain. Note if you want the best 'comfort' option there is a step-thru frame version too
I loved the SRAM wireless, electronic gear shifting which proved slick and reliable, even through several changes at a time (just make sure you keep the removable battery that comes with the gear unit charged up!) This is a premium feature and undoubtedly adds considerably to the cost of the e-bike, but if it continues to work in a similar vein to my pretty brief test time with the bike I'd certainly count it as something that added value. What's more, the 12 derailleur gears give a massive 520% gear range. That 52-tooth bottom gear will climb anything and allow you to haul a hefty amount of cargo too (if you really want to transport everything but the kitchen sink, note Canyon sell an optional trailer hitch mount for the rear thru-axle that will let you pull Croozer trailers).
The electronic bells and whistles aspects of the Smart System worked pretty well - the only real downside being the extra time needed fiddling with a smartphone to install the app, pair it with the bike and then alter the app settings as required. As an e-bike tourer, I could see particular potential in the Navigation features which allow syncing with routes from online apps Strava and Komoot. The display showing turn by turn directions and the voice commands proved accurate, but the auto route selection was a little hit and miss - sometimes showing me quiet local routes I'd overlooked, but other times seeming to be overly long or to use bridleways that were in very poor condition. There’s an option to spec the bike with a smartphone grip if you prefer to use your own phone as a display instead of the Kiox 300.
The electronic locking worked well, as did the proximity smartphone auto-unlock feature - but this can be turned off if you don't trust yourself to always have a charged up smartphone handy. I would have liked a more alarming and louder tone for the alarm though. It sounded a bit like a lorry reversing and wouldn't necessarily attract too much attention.
An integrated Bosch ‘Connect’ module allows tracking should the bike actually be stolen and it comes with a free 12-month subscription (implying that you will have to subscribe after this period is up). This worked well at the local level at least, but I didn't take the bike hundreds of miles away to test how well it could track a truly itinerant thief.
It's not all high end digital features - this is a really impressive e-bike in terms of capability and flexibility too. The incredibly strong feeling frame and stable yet powerful ride is complemented by a 25kg rated pannier rack, very powerful hardwired lights, strong alloy mudguards and a kickstand.
Value for money?
The Pathlite:ON 9 LTD SUV, with its combination of ABS braking and wireless, electronic gearing is, as far as I know, a unique proposition, so there is no directly comparable e-bike in terms of spec. Given that the wireless shifting is a very expensive piece of kit on its own, the £5k-plus price tag certainly looks in the region you might expect. There are certainly numerous pricier e-bikes that don't feature it (though full suspension often appears at such price levels). Given the hefty price tag it would have been nice to see the derailleur's electronic actuation powered by the e-bike battery rather than the derailleur having its own battery and battery charger.
It really all depends on whether you like the direction many high-end e-bikes appear to be heading, which is to say a world of ever more connectivity with a smartphone acting as an important control and tuning hub for the e-bike and its performance. Tech enthusiasts will see a future of more functionality and performance enhancements in this bike whilst naysayers will see software with potentially limited support life and more time spent looking at a screen rather than riding. Whichever camp you are in, one thing is for sure, Canyon's Pathlite:ON 9 LTD SUV is at the cutting edge of this wirelessly inspired trend.