Canyon Grand Canyon AL5.9 review£732.00

Budget hardtail built with cross-country in mind

BikeRadar score3.5/5Find prices on Bicycle Blue Book

Given how many Canyon hardtails we see lined up at cross-country races, we weren’t surprised that this affordable Grand Canyon is unashamedly speed focused and aggressively quick. Kit levels aren’t as ridiculously good as we’ve come to expect from Canyon though, leading to some undeniable compromises in its handling.

The frame is certainly high quality, with carefully manipulated tubing under a tough anodised (rather than heavier, painted) finish. It’s lightweight, upgradeable and race ready – though not exactly bang up to date.

Related: The best mountain bikes under £750

Okay, the quick-release rear axle is forgivable on a race bike at this price. But the less adjustable IS rear brake mount is disappointing and under-top tube cabling looks much more untidy than internal routing.

You do get rack mounts for useful workday utility, and the XS and S sized bikes roll on 27.5in wheels rather than 29s to keep them proportionally balanced.

It's impressively nimble without being too nervous, despite its steep 70-degree head angle:
It's impressively nimble without being too nervous, despite its steep 70-degree head angle:

Fast, nimble, but let down by its fork

Speaking of wheels, Shimano SLX hubs mated to Alex rims are mileage-proof if you keep them properly adjusted, and the Continental X-King SL treads are seriously fast and reasonably grippy, if fragile.

The 70-degree head angle means that handling feels as racy as the bike looks, with quick-witted turning for holeshot responsiveness and precise front wheel placement when climbing. Fortunately though, we didn't find it to be so sharp that it trips over it’s front wheel at speed.

The 100mm travel RockShox 30 Gold TK fork gets a remote control lockout, which stops distracting bounce when you’re driving hard on smooth surfaces too. Critically, while it comes with a straight steerer, it uses a reducer ring in a tapered head tube – so upgrade potential is unlimited.

Unfortunately, the grand canyon is held back by a noodly fork that limits your ability to push the bike as hard as it'd otherwise be capable of:
Unfortunately, the grand canyon is held back by a noodly fork that limits your ability to push the bike as hard as it'd otherwise be capable of:

That's a good job too, because that RockShox fork doesn’t even have a thru-axle to tighten up the steering accuracy of its 30mm legs. When you start to push it, things are liable to get a little too flexy for comfort – pretty quickly.

Octalink splined cranks and separate bottom bracket are also a surprise. That’s not only because they’re not the stiffer thru-axle version of the Deore crank, but also because they have a triple rather than a lighter, racier double ring set up and had 175mm arms even on our small 44cm sized sample bike.

Considering Canyon’s reputation for killer value gained from bypassing shop costs with a box delivered straight to your door, it’s all a little underwhelming in terms of outright spec level. You do get a good looking Iridium bar and stem as well an XT/SLX gear mix, but we can’t help thinking the money would have been better invested in upgrading the fork and crank.

This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.

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: 45
  • 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 than 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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