CyclingSmarter Road Bike Action FIRST RIDE: CANYON GRIZL

FIRST RIDE: CANYON GRIZL



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If you’re one of those people who think consumer direct  sales platforms  will never really take-off nor bring any tangible benefits to the world, prepare to have Canyon Bicycles wreck your day.  By now, most of know the story – Canyon is a German bike brand that upended the industry by not just starting off as consumer direct (aka “mail order” back-in-the-day)  brand and offering lowered prices, but – and this is key – doing so with a level of design, innovation  and engineering that competes with the very best that the traditional dealer based bike industry had to offer.  In short, no other consumer direct brand has amassed the global race winning record that Canyon has  in every segment of pedaling.

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Like everyone else, Canyon too has invested mightily in the gravel category with an eye to dominate the dual-purpose market. It was back in 2018 that their first official gravel bike, the Grail, was launched.

AND NOW THE GRIZL ARRIVES

The  six models (see them all here) of the Grizl will be available in seven  sizes (2XS – 2XL) and priced from $2,199 to $4,899. Thankfully, the six  bike line enjoys nary a single black-on-black color treatment and we are instead treated to a variety of finishes that are model specific. Our test bike was the $2999 GR CFSL 8 with the “Matcha Splash” color (above).

The Grizl’s running gear is a full Shimano GRX 800 2x mechanical drivetrain with a pair of 160mm disc rotors. Key to the new gravel bike is both the ample room for 45mm tires and Canyon’s declaration that contrary to many other bikes, the Grizl is not designed to accommodate a choice of 650b or 700c wheels.  Nope, other than the two small frames that are designed to roll on the smaller-sized hoops, the Grizl geometry is 700c specific.

One nice feature of the new Grizl is the tire clearance that welcomes a 45mm tread with room to spare. The  large  asymmetrical /box-section  chainstays  help make up a stiff  rear end.  The Grizl runs on front and rear 160mm rotors. As accustomed  as we are to running 40mm tires, the 45mm Maxxis Rambler tires provided an appreciable difference in added traction and control rolling through  rock gardens.

When it comes to the numbers, our small size GR CF SL 8 hit the scales at 18.1 pounds with a 103.6 cm wheelbase and 43.5cm chainstays. The geo chart calls out a 71 degree head and 73.5  degree head angle. As if a well-spec’d, good looking $2200 carbon gravel bike isn’t enticing enough, Canyon says they also have a lower-priced aluminum version in the works, but don’t expect anything soon.

As opposed to the Grail which preceded the Grizl by three years, Canyon says the new bike is intended for more hardcore off-road riding .  Alas, to better describe the bike’s intended use,  Canyon saw fit to  create a new category of dual-purpose riding by describing the Grizl’ s real purpose…verbiage they picked up from the “cool kids” called “underbiking”?!

 

The two most talked about features of the cockpit were reservations about the shorty 70mm stem, which, even on a size small frame was a tad on the short side. However, the  sense of elation that the silly “Double Decker” handlebar that distinguishes the Grail was not spec’d was palpable.  For us, the fewer the bike specific parts used on gravel bike the better. The aluminum handlebars sport extra-thick tape and  feature a comfortable (and reasonable)  42mm (on  top ) to  46mm (in the drops) flare.

While we know nothing of what defines “underbiking”  (a subtle admission  that we’re not “cool”),  having been testing gravel bikes for years,  we do know a few things about how  gravel bikes ride. And, silly attempts at newfound naming conventions aside, the Grizl is a solid presentation of of what a purpose-built gravel bike should look like and how it should perform.

Given that  gravel race bikes are enjoy a broader definition than their skinny-tire cousins,  sure, the Grizl too can be a solid race bike.  However, as the modern day gravel bike market continues to be defined by sub-categories,  for us the new Canyon finds itself happily situated in the explorer column. The longer wheelbase  makes the Canyon less of a quick handler.  From the thick handlebar tape to the suspension seatpost and beefy tires, the Grizl can be pedaled through tricky rock and stutter bump sections with eager aplomb.

Of course, it’s those same traits that hold the bike back from being a choice for a group road ride – an option we are still willing to partake  with other gravel bikes  that weigh a skootch less, have a shorter wheelbase  and roll on 40mm tires.  The Grizl’s performance is as much defined by its rough ride capabilities, as it is its level of comfort. Worth noting of course is the variety of mounts for optional  fenders, bags and bottles.

Between the svelte Canyon VCLS 2.0 leaf spring suspension seatpost and the WTB Volt saddle, this my friends is one of the most plush & comfy rides we’ve encountered on a  gravel bike. Canyon has for years said that they would make the seatpost commercially available, but so far it’s still just a production spec item.  The tubeless-ready, aluminum  DT wheels are known for being  durable .

While riders in  the 5’10” range found the small frame fit well, we came away mixed on the short stem. It worked comfortably for some and provided good steering input, but others simply felt cramped. This is where the value of a traditional handlebar/stem combo comes in handy as either component can easily be swapped if needed.

As has become  typical of Canyon, the Grizl maintains a clean, aero-ish  aesthetic with sultry frame shapes and a  compression plate seat “binder” that’s located on the back of the seattube.  One tip we would pass on is to be sure to clean and the inside of the seatpost well and use some carbon paste on the seattube for assembly. On our first ride, the seatpost twisted despite being tight, but by the next ride, with the addition of a schmear of carbon paste, all systems were go.

Coupled with the 48/31t chainrings, the  11-34 Shimano GRX cassette had ample climbing gear for 90% of our climbs, but some riders thought even a tad lower gear would’ve been appreciated owing to the rolling resistance of the bigger tires.

While price alone is never an accurate indicator of any bikes worth (on either the high or low end), as with any discussion of a new Canyon, it’s simply too hard to avoid. For $3000 there was not one test rider who could cast an  unfavorably eye upon the Grizl.  The bikes ship to the consumer in a box that includes  spare innertubes, platform pedals, a  handy torque wrench as well as other assorted sundries (great bottle cages by the way) and the only assembly required was bolting on was the front wheel and slipping in the seatpost. Easy-peasy!

The high-end SLX model with a 2x Shimano Di2 drivetrain hits at just under $5K and is the one frame that does not feature a third bottle mount on the underside of the downtube…but oh that Grape Explosion color!!!

CANYON GRIZL PRICES

GR CF SL 6: $ 2,199.00
GR CF SL 7: $ 2,499.00
GR CF SL 7 1x: $ 2,599.00
GR CF SL 8: $ 2,999.00 (tested)
GR CF SLX 8 Di2: $ 4,899.00
GR CF SL WMN 6: $ 2,199.00

For more: Canyon Bicycles

 

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