Carbon bike with automatic transmission

Canyon Precede:ON in test: attractive design bike made of carbon with full equipment

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With a bang, Canyon unveiled their new line-up of urban e-bikes about a year ago — and in addition to the Commuter:ON we already tested here, the Precede:ON in particular attracted attention. No wonder, because such a stylish e-bike with full equipment suitable for everyday use is rarely seen. Whether the bike can also convince in other aspects — apart from it’s design — will be shown in this test.

Design

An extravagant carbon frame, fully integrated technology and a clean design — such attributes are more familiar from purist sports bikes than from a fully equipped urban bike. And yet Canyon succeeds with the Precede:ON exactly this balancing act of futuristic design and yet functions suitable for everyday use.

An essential part of the outer appearance is the frame of course, where you also have to include the fork and especially the cockpit. Thanks to the carbon construction, such smooth transitions are possible here. For example, the handlebar-stem unit looks like an integral part of the frame.

And especially here at its cockpit Canyon shows what is now achievable in terms of component integration: all cables are routed directly inside the handlebars, the brake lines are even not visible at all. And even the Kiox display of the electric drive system fits flush into the handlebars, as well as the mounting of the headlight is integrated there.

Im Unterrohr befindet sich der Akku, am Tretlager der Motor – und trotz ihrer recht goßen Abmessungen fallen beide Komponenten nicht wirklich störend auf, da auch der Rahmen selbst recht wuchtig geformt ist. Filigran präsentiert sich hingegen die Sattelstütze, ebenso aus Carbon gefertigt und mit federnder Funktion. Doch dazu später mehr.

Like the seatpost, all other add-on parts are also kept in black, which puts the frame — here in the Champagne colorway — even more in the spotlight. However, you should not overlook the many small details: for example, the sturdy, yet elegantly attached rear rack, whose bracket runs parallel to the seat tube. Or the seatpost clamp, which is invisibly hidden from the outside. And especially the kickstand, which is hardly noticeable when closed and fits perfectly flat along the chainstay.

Speaking of chainstays, the model tested here is equipped with a belt drive instead of a bicycle chain, and a continuously variable gear hub in the rear wheel is used for shifting. These two components also contribute to the bike’s clean look.

However, with such a fully integrated design, you have to be aware that subsequent adjustments in terms of your own body size and seating position are hardly possible. Apart from the height of the saddle, nothing can be changed on the Precede:ON. It is also not possible to replace the stem and handlebars with other components. But you hardly need to worry too much about that — as a direct marketer, Canyon has many years of experience when it comes to the right geometry of a bike. With my 1.85 meters the Precede:ON in size L fits perfectly.

Equipment

Canyon uses the Enviolo Automatiq shifting system on the tested Commuter:ON CF 9, a continuously variable hub gear with a range of 380%. The suffix Automatiq refers to the ability of the gears to shift automatically — accordingly, there is also no shift lever on the handlebars.

There you will find only two brake levers of the TRP disc brakes and the center-positioned Kiox display with a thumb switch for Bosch’s drive system. In addition, there is another, small button: with this the high beam of the Supernova Mini 2 headlight is switched on, the low beam is activated as usual from the Kiox display.

The rear light also comes from Supernova and is attached to the wide aluminum mudguard from Wingee — as well as the rack, which offers attachments for Ortlieb’s Quick-Lock3.1 system. The reason for those wide mudguards are of course the tires, because Schwalbes G-One Allround are mounted here in the size 27.5″ with a mighty width of 57 mm.

When it comes to the motor, Canyon also relies on size and installs Bosch’s flagship Performance Line CX with 85 Nm of torque. The PowerTube battery in the down tube offers a capacity of 500 Wh and can be removed for charging or be charged right in the bike. The transmission to the rear wheel is done by Gates’ Carbon Drive.

The extensive equipment is completed by a kickstand, Ergon handlebar grips and a Knog Oi bell. And also the Selle Royal Essenza saddle, which is sitting on Canyon’s S25 carbon seatpost. Thanks to a patented design of two leaf springs, this seatpost is to provide up to 20 mm of travel.

Interesting info for those who want to use a trailer with the bike: the Precede:ON is officially approved by Canyon for the trailers of Croozer and can also be ordered directly with a matching hitch axle — which was also used here in the test.

Operation

Even a glance at the uncluttered cockpit suggests that operating the Precede:ON should be quite simple. And it is: the electric drive is controlled via the thumb switch on the handlebar. This has a very good pressure point, and the five buttons can be used to make various settings — logically represented on the display. You can easily change the desired speed level (Eco, Tour, Sport and Turbo are available) or display various information on speed, range, riding time or wattage. The display can even be used for navigation: with Bosch’s smartphone app, desired routes can be transferred directly to the display, and the directions are then displayed with arrows.

But there is another setting: a desired cadence can be set. And this is where the automatic Enviolo circuit comes into play, which is supposed to enable driving with the same pedaling speed (cadence) at all times. For example, if you prefer to ride at a cadence of 70 rpm, you enter this value. Now the gearshift tries to adjust the gear ratio so that this cadence is kept with as constant a pedaling force. The set desired cadence remains saved, but can be changed again at any time. This is a complex technology, but the user doesn’t notice anything about it — after all, you just have to start pedaling, and the gearshift does the rest on its own.

If you want, you can also adapt the gearshift even more precisely to your own preferences: With Enviolo’s own app, you can not only update the firmware of the gearbox, but also define numerous settings for the shifting behavior. The fact that this effort can be worthwhile will be discussed in a moment.

The battery is located in the down tube and can be easily removed from the precisely shaped opening. However, if you want to charge it inside the bike, you have to open a rubber cap on the bottom bracket — unfortunately, this is not precise at all, but rather fiddly to operate.

The rest of the bike’s operation is also self-explanatory and does not leave any questions: The button for the high beam is easy to reach and lights up in blue when activated, just like in a car. The spring-loaded seatpost requires no maintenance, nor does it need to be adjusted to the weight of the rider.

Riding impressions

The first few meters with the Precede:ON were somewhat sobering: Starting up felt like stepping into the void. The gearshift responded with hectic, high-frequency sounds. And the Bosch motor hummed loudly and harshly. What’s going on here? Once in ride, the bike then already felt more “normal”. And a little later came the pleasant realization of what a huge benefit in comfort such a continuously variable automatic transmission can offer after all. Many contrasting impressions, time for an analysis.

Those who use the stepless and automatic Enviolo shifting for the first time may have similar experiences. And indeed, you have to adjust and adapt to this technology a bit. For example, you should get rid of your habit of using a lot of power when starting from a standstill — because the gearshift automatically engages a low gear when stopped, which only requires a little power to start. So you can take a relaxed approach when accelerating, and you shouldn’t tend to rush during the ride either. Due to the fact that the Enviolo Automatiq tends to adjust the appropriate gear ratio rather leisurely, and feels slightly delayed.

But once you get used to this way of operation, you quickly learn to appreciate the advantages of the system: Especially in urban traffic with many stoplights, it is a pleasure not to have to shift gears at all! The Enviolo always sets the right gear ratio and thus takes a lot of “work” off your hands. To describe the operation of a gearshift as work may sound overdone — but it is actually much more relaxing to drive without it.

Let’s talk about the sound: If you start off relaxed with the Enviolo gearshift, its generated noise also calms down — and you hardly notice it during the ride anyway. The hub’s freewheel is completely silent, and the same applies to the belt drive.

The update of the Enviolo firmware also brought a noticeable correction: it not only improved the performance of the transmission, but also the volume of the motor. While the Bosch Performance Line CX was almost annoyingly loud at first, it is still hearable after the update — but now quite acceptable.

The performance of the motor is undoubtedly convincing: with its high torque, the Precede:ON can be moved effortlessly. And not only on the flat, but also on steep climbs — and there even with a loaded bike trailer! Especially those who plan to use a trailer, can take confidence in this motor-gear combination.

With its long wheelbase, fat tires and wide cockpit, the Precede:ON rides safely and stably, and can also be moved fast. However, tight corners and winding trails are not its preferred terrain, which is also due to the weight: In size L, the bike weighs 22.6 kg — so it is not a lightweight, but compared to the equipment, this figure is quite good.

Bumps such as cobblestones are already successfully dampened by the wide tires, the carbon leaf spring seatpost then increases the comfort even more. The soft saddle and Ergo handlebar grips also ensure a comfortable ride. Plus, of course, the upright seating position, which is significantly less sporty-stretched than on the sister model Commuter:ON.

Conclusion

With the Precede:ON CF 9 Canyon offers a true all-round talent with an almost futuristic design. The extensive equipment leaves absolutely nothing to be missed when using in the city. More even: with solid rack, trailer option and additional options such as a front rack, it even becomes a cargo carrier. And that such a practical bike can come up with this fully integrated design makes the Precede:ON really special!

High-quality components such as the Supernova headlight with high beam function or the carbon seatpost suspension underline that this bike wants to be among the best in its class. This also includes the Bosch motor, which is known not to be one of the quietest of its kind. But it compensates with plenty of power, which means that you can cover almost any route quite effortlessly with the Precede:ON.

Enviolo’s automatic transmission offers a high level of comfort: No longer having to shift gears is a real luxury, especially in the city, and one that you quickly and happily get used to. This is ideal, for example, for commuters who simply want to cycle home relaxed after a stressful day at work. However, this gearbox also needs some time to get used to, since the characteristics are quite different from usual derailleurs.

In line with the design and the components, the quality feel and workmanship of the Precede:ON CF 9 are also top-notch – which is then also reflected in the price at 4,999 euros. Customers have a choice of three frame sizes and two colors. In addition to the Chamagne of the test model, the bike is also available in blue-gray Anchor Grey.

For a more comfort, Canyon also offers the Precede:ON series with the suffix “ST” as a step through comfort frame. And those who struggle with the automatic transmission and prefer the most direct and responsive gearshift, should look at the slightly cheaper Precede:ON CF 8: here a conventional 12-speed derailleur is installed.

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