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Canyon Grizl gravel bike review

12 Aug 2021
Verdict:

The worse the terrain, the better Canyon’s Grizl performs

Cyclist Rating: 
Price: 
£2,999
For 
Capability • Comfort • Tyre clearance • Simplicity
Against 
Weight • Tyre size may start to negatively impact handling at the extreme end

The Grizl led me on a merry dance of emotions as I got to know it. At first there was the anticipation of a totally new bike from Canyon. Anticipation turned to excitement when I learned it was a bang-on-trend gravel bike built for exploring.

Better still, unlike the Grail CF, it was a Canyon gravel bike that didn’t use the brand’s double-decker Hoverbar cockpit design, which is a component I’ve never really got on with. The Grizl was winning praise for both practicality and performance from the off.

Excitement turned to delight when I saw it. Despite it having more mounting points than I could ever imagine needing, bikes with the Grizl’s adventurous remit seldom look this elegant.

The bike shares more in appearance with Canyon’s Endurace road bike than its gravel stablemate the Grail. But things took a turn for the worse as I set off on my first few road kilometres.

The Grizl is no featherweight at 9.4kg, its short reach and tall stack sat me up like a sail in the wind, and the combination of the Schwalbe G-One Bite 45mm tyres and Canyon’s leaf-spring VCLS seatpost took the ride quality to the wrong side of sedate and comfortable, towards slow and squishy.

But then I turned off the road and hit my first bridleway. The further off-road I got, the more things began to click back into place. The Grizl’s heft turned into solidity; its un-aero ride position turned into a confident one; those draggy tyres turned grippy and that bouncy VCLS post took such a turn for the comfortable that even the rudest rocks and roots barely disrupted my chosen lines.

On my usual gravel routes I began taking steeper, looser lines for fun as I became confident that the Grizl would let me negotiate around, skip over or, if my ambition exceeded my ability and all else failed, plough straight on through the obstacles that the more difficult route choices tended to generate.

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Grizzly gravel

I put achieving such utility down to a few key features. First is a combination of the bike’s geometry and component spec: a complicated give-and-take mix of longer chainstays and wide bars for stability married to a steepish head angle and shorter stem to keep the front end reactive on tight trails.

The wheels and tyres play their part too, with the Grizl being designed around 700c wheels. Canyon disputes the dual-wheel size concept many gravel bikes champion, apparently taking inspiration from the mountain bike world’s view that bigger wheels are faster and roll better.

A key tenet in the 650b argument is the increased tyre clearance a smaller-diameter wheel affords, so Canyon has sidestepped that issue at 700c size by building 50mm tyre clearance into the Grizl.

At the bottom bracket junction in particular, getting that much clearance in a space constrained by a road Q-factor (the width between the chainset’s crank arms) necessitated some creative tube shaping, with a dropped driveside chainstay being the most conspicuous concession.

Sensibly, product engineer Matej Sömen says the non-driveside chainstay has been bulked up, as has the down tube, to maintain a level of frame rigidity that the otherwise laterally skinny chainstays would be at risk of undermining.

The 45mm 700c tyres this frame allows to be specced as standard have an undeniably positive effect on the bike. They increase the Grizl’s off-road competence beyond many gravel bikes, providing a sense of momentum the equivalent width in 650b doesn’t.

But I may actually be inclined to say maximising the available space with tyres bigger than the ones supplied could risk how stable the bike feels when taking fast turns on loose ground. Given the upright ride position and large tyres, there is a palpable sense of being ‘on top of’ the bike rather than ‘in’ it.

I’m not sure raising that position even higher with bigger 700c tyres would actually result in a net gain in the Grizl’s overall rideability.

The way forward?

Canyon is one of the first mainstream brands with two types of gravel bike in its portfolio: the Grail for those looking to combine road with off-road; and the Grizl for those looking to combine off-road with even further off-road.

There will be those who consider this as a contradiction to the premise of a gravel bike – they will argue that by definition it should be versatile enough to span the riding spectrum – but bear in mind that most brands currently have three distinct types of bike just for riding on tarmac.

Given the diverse nature of gravel as a surface, I must confess I can see gravel specialisation as having merit, particularly when a specialist product is as well executed as this one.

Pick of the kit


Shimano RX8 shoes, £219.99, freewheel.co.uk

On paper, gravel-specific shoes fill a small niche, but in practice I’ve come to view Shimano’s RX8 shoes as the most indispensable pair I own. Shimano has done an excellent job of taking features from its road and MTB shoes to create something comparable to both, but unique in their own right.

The grippy sole tread and rugged upper material imbues the practicality and durability of a mountain bike shoe, while the stiff carbon sole and light overall weight adds road-like performance to the mix, making them comfortable and capable.

Alternatively…

Light and simple

If the weight of the Grizl CF SL 8.0 is an issue, an extra couple of grand buys a Grizl CF SLX 8.0 1x (£4,899), which uses a lighter frame and Campagnolo’s 1x13 Ekar groupset.

Fast forward

If your gravel riding is more about efficiency than exploration there’s the racier Grail. The £5,299 CF SLX 8.0 eTap range-topper boasts such an enviable spec that future upgrades don’t need to be considered.

Spec

Frame Canyon Grizl CF SL 8.0
Groupset Shimano GRX 800
Brakes Shimano GRX 800
Chainset Shimano GRX 800
Cassette Shimano GRX 800
Bars Canyon Ergo AL HB0050
Stem Canyon V13
Seatpost Canyon S15 VCLS 2.0
Saddle Fizik Argo Terra R5
Wheels DT Swiss G1800 Spline DB 25, Schwalbe G-One Bite TLE Evo 45mm tyres
Weight 9.4kg
Contact canyon.com

All reviews are fully independent and no payments have been made by companies featured in reviews