Canyon Grand Canyon AL 29 5.9 review£746.98

Classy looks, light and lively

BikeRadar score4/5Find prices on Bicycle Blue Book

The Grand Canyon AL is Canyon’s mid-range aluminium 29er hardtail, and the 5.9 we’re looking at here is the cheaper of the two models that are available.

Canyon bikes are sold direct rather than through shops – you order online and your bike is assembled and sent to you in a box. You just need to put the stem, wheels and pedals on.

Frame and equipment: high value kit for a mid-range price

Canyon usually manages to turn out frames that look like they ought to cost a lot more than they do, and the Grand Canyon certainly doesn’t buck that trend. It’s a lovely-looking thing, even when you get past the smart matt black and orange finish – and the frame construction is top notch too.

Hydroformed top and down tubes head back from a machined tapered head tube. Even the bottom bracket shell is externally relieved on its centre section to trim a bit of weight. The top of the seat tube has three slots around its circumference to spread the clamping load on the seatpost, and the sleek, anodised aluminium seat quick-release is a neat finishing touch. This is a level of attention to detail that we don’t take for granted on £800 bikes. All the cables go along the top tube and there are rack and mudguard mounts at the back, should you need them.

Canyon’s direct-sales approach means a high-value spec, which includes a rockshox fork:
Canyon’s direct-sales approach means a high-value spec, which includes a rockshox fork:

Canyon’s direct-sales approach means a high-value spec, which includes a RockShox fork

If we’re being picky then a little more rear tyre clearance would be no bad thing, but there’s room enough around the 2.2in tyres supplied. Shorter riders will be interested to know that the Grand Canyon comes in a teeny XS size, with 650b wheels instead of 29in ones, to fit it all in. This isn’t a unique sizing strategy, but is still fairly unusual from a mainstream manufacturer. There’s also a women’s version with the same spec and price but slightly tweaked frame geometry.

Canyon’s direct-sales model means that their bikes always offer impressive value for money. The Grand Canyon's transmission parts are from Shimano, though they’re a bit of a mix-and-match affair. The shifters and front mech are SLX, but the rear mech gets an upgrade to Deore XT – although we’d have preferred it if Canyon had stuck with SLX but opted for a clutch-equipped Shadow Plus derailleur instead. While the triple crankset is drawn from the Deore group, it’s an outboard-bearing two-piece unit, which elevates it above most offerings at this price.

One of our few niggles is that the Grand Canyon would be improved by the addition of a clutch mech

The presence of a RockShox fork is always reassuring, though at this level the XC 30 doesn’t really offer any performance benefits over the Suntour forks found on other bikes at this price. Slightly disappointingly, despite the tapered head tube on the frame, the fork has a straight steerer (there’s a reducer lower headset race to fit it). For many riders that’ll make little difference, and at least the frame will take a fork upgrade without too much of a problem.

Ride and handling: agile and surprisingly zippy

We rather liked the cockpit on the Canyon. The 720mm bar isn’t particularly wide and the 90mm stem is definitely on the long side (though our bike was a size large), but the bar has a fair bit more backsweep than most, which brings your hands significantly further back than you’d expect. The Grand Canyon’s geometry is XC-orientated, with a long, forward-set riding position.

That makes it agile on the trail, but unlike some bikes of that ilk, it manages not to lose its composure as speeds rise and the terrain gets trickier. That bar and stem set-up (and big wheels with largish tyres) temper the underlying agility of the frame and give you an extra bit of confidence as the trails get trickier.

The potentially nervous xc geometry is tempered by a mid-width bar with a fair bit of backsweep:
The potentially nervous xc geometry is tempered by a mid-width bar with a fair bit of backsweep:

The potentially nervous XC geometry is tempered by a mid-width bar with a fair bit of backsweep

The Canyon’s low weight – it’s a whisker over 12kg – helps a lot too. The Grand Canyon has real zip under power, which you might not expect considering the big wheels. It’s actually the wheels where a lot of the weight saving resides, though they’re solidly-built hoops and there’s little in the way of distracting twang.

It’s a pretty comfortable bike too. You get a head start with the terrain-flattening 29in wheels and big tyres, but the relatively slender tubing in the rear triangle and the low top tube (which gives lots of seatpost extension, allowing it to flex) help too. The Grand Canyon’s a great choice for covering big distances.

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

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