Canyon are a German brand who’ve been designing bikes since 1998, having started out as the house brand of a successful bike shop. They’ve got a great reputation on the European mainland but so far have rarely been seen elsewhere.
With a new UK-based customer service setup and the ability to quickly deliver bikes direct from Germany, that’s set to change, and with the 120mm-travel Nerve XC 8.0 Canyon have delivered a winner. If you’re comfortable with the direct-sales setup, you won’t find a better equipped or sweeter-riding bike for the money.
Ride & handling: Does everything you ask of it without fuss
The Nerve is the kind of bike that you quickly forget about – it sits there, does everything you ask of it without fuss or gimmick and sees no need to make its presence felt. With a tapered steerer and through-axle fork there’s no shortage of confidence, and the rear quarters are a lot stiffer than you’d expect too.
The four-bar back end puts in a sterling performance, with a large-volume air can on the Fox shock and well-thought-out pivot placement delivering a fine blend of sensitivity and stability. The Fox RP2 shock only has an on/off lever for the ProPedal platform damping, but we rarely used it anyway so didn’t miss a finer adjustment.
Geometry is entirely conventional for this kind of bike, and while slacker head angles are somewhat in vogue, the combination of stout front end, poised suspension and decently wide bars will see you through pretty much everything. And the respectable weight means it’s never a drag on the long haul.
Frame: Sorted four-bar suspension and trail-friendly geometry
European brands used to have a reputation for eye-searing paint and explosion-in-a-decal-factory graphics, but times change and the Canyon Nerve is subtle and classy. It’s not just the finish, either – the Nerve frame is an impressively clean bit of kit. The head tube accommodates a tapered steerer, with hydroformed top and down tubes following close behind.
The top tube is notable for the ‘fin’ that acts as a strut to support the seat cluster, while the down tube features internal cable routing. Running cables inside the frame is something of a Euro favourite, and while it’s not ideal for cable maintenance, it delivers a sleek look that’s only slightly diminished by the conventionally routed rear brake hose.
Out back is a four-bar suspension setup with chainstay pivots. Only bikes sold in the US are affected by Specialized’s chainstay pivot patent, leaving Canyon (and various other European brands) free to build ‘proper’ four-bars. The tubing in the back end has a slimline look, but it’s solidly put together with asymmetric high/low chainstays, a braced post-mount for the rear brake and clevis-style pivots.
Equipment: Direct-sales model means big value
Canyon’s direct-sales model means that no bike shops are involved in your purchase – visit the website, choose a bike, maybe phone them for a chat, hit the button and wait. A few days later an enormous box shows up at your door containing an almost fully assembled bike. Canyon’s technicians build and test the bikes, and then take a couple of bits off to fit them in the boxes. You’ll need to put the wheels and bars in; a process that will hold no fear for most riders.
If you’re not sure, full, clear instructions showing you how to put things together are provided, along with a handy torque-measuring Allen key to ensure the stem bolts are spot on. The downside of this arrangement is that you can’t go into a shop and sit on or ride a Canyon (unless you fancy a trip to Germany or the Netherlands). If you know what you’re looking at this isn’t necessarily a problem, and there’s a 30-day no-quibble guarantee and UK-based support.
The upside is that you get epic value for money. The spec includes a through-axle fork, a full Shimano XT transmission, DT Swiss wheelset, Avid Elixir CR brakes and branded finishing kit. Everything on it is at least one notch, and often two or three, above most other bikes at this price. There’s nothing you’d feel the urge to change (although not everyone gets on with Schwalbe Nobby Nic tyres) and the whole thing comes in at just a whisker over 27lb (12.2kg).