With downhill and enduro race legend Fabien Barel and the Barnes crew aboard Canyon for this season, they’re obviously taking their gravity riding seriously. The Strive AL 8.0 looks like excellent direct-buy value on paper, but is not so impressive on the trail.
Ride & handling: Fork and narrow bar undermine cornering stability
Setting the sag via the little dial is easy, and the back end feels outrageously smooth and sensitive, even with relatively high pressures, so comfort and small bump tracking is excellent.
Unfortunately, the super fluid, needle bearing mounted shock movement and its linear damper tune mean it slams right through its travel with minimum provocation. Even our 7st (45kg) tester pushed the stroke indicator ring right to the stops off small drops when it was set up with 10 percent sag for an 11st (70kg) rider. The fork is similarly linear.
Even in Trail mode the combination of thumping bottom-out and little to push against in the shock also makes it really hard to pump and flow through rolling boulder or rhythm pack sections, and we regularly stalled out unless we stabbed the pedals where we could.
The steep seat angle also means rider weight and position is pushed forward. The result is that even though the wheelbase, bottom bracket height and steering angles look right on paper, the Strive actually feels much steeper and shorter on the trail.
The 725mm RaceFace pipe felt decidedly under leveraged, so when the Strive lost the plot it was much harder to grab it back. This resulted in regular super sketchy moments as the front end tucked under in drifty corners and repeated checking that we hadn’t accidentally stuck the fork in short travel mode.
Things got better in terms of ride stability if we over-pressured the fork and stuffed the rear shock with volume-reducing spacers but, unsurprisingly, that really compromised bump control.
To slacken things out, we also tried a 2.25in rear tyre rather than the massive 2.4in Ardent, which added more steering confidence but at the expense of ground clearance.
Canyon Strive AL 8.0
The suspension and bar issues are a real shame too, as in terms of stiffness the Strive is absolutely excellent, with no trace of flex across the back wheel through the massive low-set chainstays. Weight is decent too, considering it’s got a dropper post and massive tyres and with the fork and shock locked it cruises back up fireroads very efficiently.
When we spoke to Canyon they confirmed: “The Strive is set up for average riders who want to have a plush rear end and use the travel in a more linear way. For racers or those guys riding harder we will offer 2014 models with other shocks (RockShox Monarch Plus and Fox Float X), which are more progressive and give more feedback in the middle stroke for better cornering and hard G-outs.”
A much improved 2014 34 fork will also improve the front end in a few months, so we reckon it’s well worth waiting a while in order to get next year’s bike, which should ride much more aggressively than this year’s but still be a serious bargain.
Frame & equipment: Excellent stop-and-go equipment list
The swoopy hydroformed mainframe pipes and chainstay are reinforced with a riot of extra hollow gusset sections. ISCG, post-mount brake and 142x12mm axle boxes are all ticked, though, and tyre clearance is good. Internal gear cable and Stealth post routing keeps things neat, while the front mech cable even has a swivelling stop for perfect alignment.
The needle bearing mounted shock is driven through a low set 270 Box linkage complete with a neat red anodised sag indicator wheel. Welding quality in some areas was definitely not as neat Canyon’s usual excellent standards dictate, though.
Direct selling from Germany via a check over at the UK service centre means Canyon rolls out what looks like a top value equipment package. Shimano XT gears are driven by an e*thirteen crank with LG1 chainguide, while Avid’s latest four-pot X0 Trail brakes are matched to Elixir 7 levers.
A RockShox Reverb Stealth dropper post comes as standard under the SDG saddle, and the Maxxis DHF front and Ardent rear tyres are a favourite combo in super-sized 2.5in and 2.4in versions respectively. Sun Ringlé Charger wheels are colour matched, structurally tough and tubeless-ready, and recent bearing changes have helped previous reliability issues.
The 725mm RaceFace bar is narrow for the category, though, and the Fox dampers are a disappointment too.
This article was originally published in Mountain Biking UK magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.