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Canyon Grizl gravel bike review

12 Aug 2021

Page 2 of 2Canyon Grizl gravel bike: all new carbon off-road bike from Canyon

Verdict:

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

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

Canyon says that gravel is such an established riding discipline now that it warrants specialist subdivision in order to better cater for an individual’s specific riding needs. Want to go fast on hardpack gravel roads? Go for the Grail. But for those riders seeking to tackle longer expeditions over more adventurous terrain, Canyon says its new Grizl is the tool for the job.

The Grizl differentiates itself from the Grail, and indeed many other gravel bikes on the market, in several areas. The first is that the bike, in the sizes up from Small, have been designed solely around 700c wheels – 650b is reserved for the XXS and XS framesets only.

Canyon disputes the dual wheel size concept that many gravel bikes champion, stating that a bike’s geometry gets compromised somewhere if it tries to accommodate both wheel sizes.

‘Larger wheels are faster and roll better, just look at what has happened in mountain bikes,’ says the Grizl’s lead product engineer Matej Sömen, referring to the modern trend of designing framesets around 29in wheelsets. Converting to metric, 29in is the same size as 700c.

Acres of clearance

While 650b wheels and tyres save weight thanks to their smaller diameter, the key tenet behind the current popularity of the 650b wheel size in gravel bikes is its ability to offer more tyre clearance than a 700c setup.

To negate this shortcoming in the 700c-specific Grizl, Canyon has built 50mm of tyre clearance (with 6mm of space either side) into the frame. Therefore the brand says the bike can benefit from all the grip, cushion and capability of really wide tyres with the faster, better rolling ride feel of 700c, albeit with a slight weight penalty.

 

Achieving that impressive clearance necessitated some creative tube shaping around the bottom bracket/chainstay junction, whose overall width is limited by a road Q-factor (the width between the chainset’s crank arms).

The most obvious concession is a dropped driveside chainstay, and both sides are laterally rather skinny at the point they meet the bottom bracket. Sensibly however, Sömen says the depth of non-driveside chainstay has been bulked up, as has the down tube, to maintain a level of frame rigidity that the otherwise thin chainstays would be at risk of undermining.

Mounts aplenty

The Grizl also goes big on mounting points, reasoning that riders opting for this bike would be interested in longer rides in more remote locations, so would therefore appreciate the ability to load the bike up.

Aside from the regular bottle mounts, each fork leg can carry up to 3kg across three mounting points, and there is a top tube mount as well as a mount on the underside of the downtube on all the frames below the top-tier SLX level.

 

In a really neat move, Canyon has printed the bolt specs and torque values for each mounting point by their respectively locations on the frame, so should you need to source a spare there’s no guesswork required to find the right part.

Extra squish

All that tyre clearance allows plenty of scope for comfort to be achieved via low tyre pressures, but unobtrusively boosting that attribute even further is the incorporation of Canyon’s well-proven VCLS seatpost, pinned low in the frame.

 

The post works like a leaf spring to flex fore and aft without altering saddle angle, and the lower fixing point (110mm down the seat tube, rather than at the area the post enters the frame) allows a longer length of the post to flex.

The combination of the two features is used to good effect on both Canyon’s Endurace and Grail bikes already, so it is a welcome and pertinent inclusion on the Grizl too.

Gravel construction

For all the Grizl’s differences to the Grail, an aspect that is somewhat similar is the rationale behind the bikes geometry and component choice.

Long 435mm chainstays stretch out the bike’s rear centre and combine with wider bars (440mm on a size Large) to promote stability, while a steep-for-a-gravel-bike 72.5° head angle combines with a shorter 90mm stem for more reactivity in the corners.

Canyon says the resultant ride position is actually a touch more aggressive than its Endurace road bike, but happily nowhere near the long and low Ultimate lightweight race bike.

 

The Grizl’s weight is somewhat disparate to those race machines too, but that is to be expected. The decision to opt for large 700c tyres, robust aluminium finishing kit and a load-bearing fork inevitably heaps on weight: a size Large CF SL 8.0 Grizl weighs 9.4kg.

If Canyon’s claims are to be believed the frame at the bike’s core is actually pretty light though, coming in around 950g fully painted and adorned with small parts. As a result, buying higher up the range rewards the consumer with a hefty drop in weight. The CF SLX models hover around the 8.5kg mark.

Versatility

Despite Canyon stating that gravel riding requires specialisation, within the Grizl’s niche the brand has attempted to make sure the bike is as adaptable as any rider could likely need.

There is the internal routing provisions for a dropper post, 1x or 2x gearing fit the same frame, and the fork will even accept the calliper position to run 180mm rotors if the rider requires some serious stopping power.

Canyon has also worked with Apidura to produce some dedicated bikepacking bags (seat pack, frame pack and top tube pack) that fit the geometry of the Grizl frame neatly.

Most importantly, Canyon has opted to spec a conventional stem and bars on the Grizl. Its Grail CF sibling uses Canyon’s ‘Hoverbar’ cockpit, which offers a unique solution to that area but is not the most adjustable. By speccing a regular stem and bars, Canyon makes it much easier for the Grizl user to make adjustments in this area.

 

Pricing

As the Grizl is an entirely new platform for Canyon, it comes in a range of specs to suit different budgets. All are typically good value, using complete groupsets and high quality finishing components. Prices start from £2,199 for the Grizl CF SL 6 and go up to £4,899 for the Campagnolo Ekar-equipped Grizl CF SLX 8.

Canyon says a Grizl AL is in development too that will reach a lower price point to ensure all areas of the market are covered.

Canyon Grizl: First ride review

Given the Grizl’s clean looks (which is an admirable achievement, given the bike’s adventurous remit and how many mounting points are on the frame), you’d be forgiven for thinking the bike should dispatch on-road riding as quickly as Canyon’s Endurace.

The Grizl’s extra weight and huge tyres hold things up in comparison however – while the bike is capable on road, its ride feel can only ever be favourably described as sedate. I have found it is only once you venture off-road that the Grizl begins to come into its own, shining brighter the tougher the riding conditions become.

 

For tackling really rough stuff, Canyon’s decision to design around 700c wheels and tyres is undeniably a good one. You are afforded all the grip and comfort of wide tyres but gain a sense of momentum that a 650b setup tends to lack, which helped carry me over, around or occasionally just straight through obstacles.

Naturally though, the larger diameter wheels aren’t quite as reactive so although the Grizl feels harder to push offline once going, getting up a head of steam isn’t quite as easy as with a 650b setup.

I’m also inclined to suggest maximising the available tyre space might not necessarily be the best thing overall. Canyon’s product managers deserve significant praise for consistently speccing their bikes fantastically appropriately, and yet another example of this considered approach is in the 45mm tyres.

They hit a sweet spot of increasing the bike’s competency off-road beyond many gravel bikes without affecting ride position too much. Canyon says the Grizl shares a BB drop figure with the Grail, so using bigger tyres means the Grizl is physically higher off the ground.

The BB drop hasn't been adjusted apparently because it affords the Grizl extra ground clearance, but I think going any tyres bigger than 45mm I think would work against the bike’s short and high ride position to potentially undermine the bike’s stability taking swooping corners on loose ground.

I can’t say I’ve had enough time abroad the Grizl to confidently commit to either opinion though and Canyon’s Matt Leake is able to offer some context around changing the tyre size.

‘The difference in the tyre diameter between 40mm and 50mm tyre at 700c is 17mm,’ he says. ‘Those are real dimensions measured in our workshop, tested at max tyre pressure, so the difference in height is 8.5mm when you would run the same tyre pressure.

‘However, the same rider can (and should) ride a lower tyre pressure at 50mm in comparison to a 40mm tyre. Therefore the tyre flexes a bit more at 50mm and sits lower than the 40mm tyre. This means that the actual difference is less than the theoretical 8.5mm.’

The height difference isn’t large, but perhaps enough to sway the individual rider one way or another. For my money, I’d be inclined to opt for the narrow tyre and lighter rotational weight it would provide – in my personal experience 45mm is more than enough width for anything I’d comfortably attempt on a gravel bike.

I do concede that other riders may not share my opinion though, so ultimately it is good to see that riders have the option and is another instance of the Grizl’s uncommon levels of utility.

My first impressions of the Grizl suggest that Canyon’s stance on subdividing gravel seems legitimate. Be sure to read my full review in Cyclist issue 114, on shelves 19th May.

Price: 
£2,999

Page 2 of 2Canyon Grizl gravel bike: all new carbon off-road bike from Canyon