Canyon Strive CF 8.0 Race review£3,347.00

High-spec race bike that's as good as it looks

BikeRadar score4.5/5Find prices on Bicycle Blue Book

Value for money aside, the Strive’s standout feature is its remote control geometry adjustment. We were keen to see whether it’s an unnecessary complication or boosts performance.

Top-class frame with adjustable geo and SRAM-heavy spec

Canyon produces the Strive in both carbon and alloy as well as standard and 24mm longer Race versions. It’s a top-class frame too, with subtly angular lines, moulded protection, neat cable routing and chain guide tabs.

The classic Horst-link suspension layout hides Canyon’s unique ‘ShapeShifter’ under its short-throw rocker. This bar operated, bodyweight actuated system uses a small high-pressure air spring to shuttle the top of the shock forwards, steepening the geometry by 1.5 degrees, raising the BB and reducing travel to 130mm (5.1in) for climbing and XC work.

Unweight the rear end and press the bar button and you’re instantly riding a sharper feeling but still long and stable trail bike:
Unweight the rear end and press the bar button and you’re instantly riding a sharper feeling but still long and stable trail bike:

Unweight the rear end and press the bar button and you’re instantly riding a sharper feeling but still long and stable trail bike

As soon as things get lairy, you can squash the geometry back down, slacken the angles and restore the travel to the full 160mm (6.3in) for serious high-speed swagger.

The shock itself is a RockShox Monarch Plus with three-position low-speed compression damping that matches the 160mm (6.3in) travel Pike RCT3 fork up front. SRAM also provide the 11-speed X01 gearing, RAIL 40 wheels, Reverb post and super-controlled Guide RSC brakes with power-amplifying 200mm front rotor.

The spec list is filled with benchmark kit despite the Canyon’s ultra-bargain price:
The spec list is filled with benchmark kit despite the Canyon’s ultra-bargain price:

The spec list is filled with benchmark kit despite the Canyon’s ultra-bargain price

Race Face cranks add drivetrain stiffness, with an MRP chain guide for extra security. Firm, shaped Ergon grips and a super-stiff Renthal Fatbar and Apex stem dominate the front end feel, while a top-spec Maxxis High Roller front tyre and semi-slick Minion SS rear balance grip and speed on the trail. In other words, you’re getting an exceptional spec for your money, especially as the CF Race frame is £2,449 on its own.

Soft suspension rewards a tweak or two

It quickly becomes obvious that the Strive is an outstanding bike on the trail, not just on paper. Even in slack-and-low mode it’s a tad steeper some of its peers, but the extra reach of the ‘Race’ chassis gives it a planted feel. The static angles are significantly slackened in practical terms by the fact that the shock sits deep in its travel, so the steering felt poised and keen even in our maddest moments.

The Strive feels efficient under power and planted at speed:
The Strive feels efficient under power and planted at speed:

The Strive feels efficient under power and planted at speed

This rear end squat can be irritating, especially when it contrasts with the stiff bar to create a high feeling front but flaccid back end. The spookily silent frame dulls the sensation of speed too, but even early runs were throwing up PB-threatening times so we set about tweaking.

Flicking the shock to ‘pedal’ mode levelled the bike out under cornering loads and finding the rotation sweet spot of the bar helped sync the front/rear feel. Adding two Bottomless Rings to the shock gave a more progressive end to the travel too, though it’s still a bike that’s naturally generous with its suspension stroke.

That said, it pedals efficiently even with the shock fully open if you’re hacking up rooty, rocky climbs, and combined with the slick rear tyre and low weight, this means sustaining or increasing speed is eerily easy under power or just off the brakes. The precise control of the Pike fork, triple-compound front tyre, DH-grade cockpit and richly communicative but never clattery carbon chassis lets you push way beyond usual speeds in total confidence. In fact, every tester smashed their previous times on segments they’d ridden exhaustively.

Top-grade Maxxis rubber adds to the Strive's trail authority:
Top-grade Maxxis rubber adds to the Strive's trail authority:

Top-grade Maxxis rubber adds to the Strive's trail authority

While it adds complexity, weight and cost that pure gravity riders may not want, the ShapeShifter system doesn’t just make the slightly soggy full travel more forgivable. It gives you a climb charging, flat track hammering trail bike at the press of a button.

On a note of caution, we’ve had a few reliability issues with ShapeShifter units in the past, and Canyon’s recent poor delivery record has been well documented.

We’re assured the new factory is rapidly restoring Canyon's promised schedule though, and this test bike remained trouble free.

This article was originally published in Mountain Biking UK magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

Guy Kesteven

Freelance Writer, UK
Guy started filling his brain with cycle stats and steaming up bike shop windows back in 1980. He worked the other side of those windows from '89 while getting a degree in “describing broken things covered in mud" (archaeology). Dug historical holes in the ground through the early '90s, then became a pro bike tester in '97. Guy has ridden thousands of bikes and even more components the world over since then and can remember them all in vivid, haunting detail. Can't remember where the car keys are, though.
  • Age: 44
  • Height: 180cm / 5' 11"
  • Weight: 68kg / 150lb
  • Waist: 76cm / 30in
  • Chest: 91cm / 36in
  • Discipline: Strict sadomasochist
  • Preferred Terrain: Technical off-piste singletrack and twisted back roads. Up, down, along — so long as it's faster tfhan the last time he did it he's happy.
  • Current Bikes: An ever changing herd of test machines from Tri bikes to fat bikes and everything in between.
  • Dream Bike: His Nicolai Helius AM custom tandem
  • Beer of Choice: Theakston's Old Peculier (not Peculiar)
  • Location: Yorkshire, UK

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