Canyon’s mid-travel Nerve full-susser has been a well rounded, attractively priced alternative to the mainstream for a few years now. Switching from 26in to 650b wheels gave Canyon the excuse for a frame refresh. Does the new version still stand comparison with the big brands?
Frame and equipment: a looker – but not just a looker
The classic double diamond bicycle frame is probably one of the best examples of form following function. Adding suspension has tended to take the purity of the form away, leaving riders to accept that great performance sometimes just doesn’t look that nice. But the Nerve AL just looks ‘right’. There isn’t a tube junction, curve or angle out of place here. The seatstays flow seamlessly into the shock rocker, which continues the line through to the dropped top tube.
Internally routed cables and a bolt-on chainstay protector keep it all tidy, and there’s internal routing for a ‘stealth’ dropper post should you want to upgrade. Our only gripe is with the bolted thru-axle, which boosts rear end stiffness but does make it more of a fiddle to bundle the bike into your car or fix a puncture.
The Nerve AL 7.0 is Fox-sprung front and rear, shod with Schwalbe rubber on Mavic hoops, stopped by Avid’s mid-range Elixir 3s on sensibly sized rotors and powered by Shimano’s peerless Deore XT kit, all of which makes its price look like a misprint. Big-wheel-specific chainrings keep the gearing sensible for climbing too.
The four-bar suspension set-up and Fox shock soak up the bumps nicely out back
A classic four-bar, Horst Link style suspension set-up holds up the Nerve’s rear end. It’s always been one of the bike’s biggest strengths, giving the sort of pedal bob- and braking jack-free ride that’ll be familiar to anyone who’s ridden one of Specialized’s FSR bikes, or one of their licensed spin-offs. Canyon’s lack of North American sales means they can use essentially the same system without bothering the patent lawyers.
Ride and handling: almost a complete all-rounder
With Fox’s Float CTD shock taking care of rear damping duties, the result is a competent trail warrior with a firm, precise feeling rear end that’s extremely hard to unsettle. In contrast, though it’s good to see a tapered steerer on the fork, its lack of a thru-axle can leave the front end feeling vague and a bit twangy. It’s only noticeable because the frame is so precise and it’s understandable when you take into account the Nerve AL 7.0’s relatively diminutive price tag. But still, the front loses the plot way before the back end calls time and that, ultimately, limits the AL 7.0’s downhill performance.
The lack of a thru-axle up front means the Nerve's gravity-assisted performance is a slight Achilles heel
This tiny niggle aside, the Canyon is an easy bike to warm to. Competent at everything you’re likely to throw at it on a big day out on the trails, without excelling at any one thing in particular, the bigger wheels and refined chassis design have just added to the Nerve AL’s appeal. It’s a very good trail bike at a price that’ll be hard to beat.