Canyon’s direct-to-the-public sales ethos is the kind of thing that winds the bike trade up. After all, it’s not just cutting out the bike shop – it’s bypassing the distributor, too. Makes for a nice saving for riders, but there is a downside – it’s hard to find a bike to test before you buy.
Canyon offers a vast range and from the evidence we’ve seen so far, the bikes are good. Very good. The Nerve XC 9.0 took the What Mountain Bike Trail Bike of the Year award. Canyon's Nerve XC 7.0 is svelte enough to make light work of day-long epics but with enough travel to rip the descents. It would be just another very competent trail full susser were it not for one small thing: the price. Although it’s up against some very impressive competition, none can match the German newcomer’s value for money.
Ride & handling: Accelerates like an XC race bike
The Canyon’s astonishing price and spec advantage over the competition gives it two key performance hop-ups. First, the carefully selected components and relatively light chassis combine to ensure it troubles the scales by around 1.5kg (3lb) less than the best of the rest, enough to make a big difference on the trail. The Nerve XC 7.0 accelerates more like an XC race bike than an AM all-rounder. And it’s lighter to heft on and off a bike rack (or over gates). Your back will thank you and your brain will respond by slapping a smile on your face.
Second, the lack of any obvious cost-shaving in the stop, go and bounce departments endows the Canyon with impeccable trail manners. The numbers say the bottom bracket is on the low side for a 120mm bike, but the Fox springs do a great job of keeping the pedals from grounding at inopportune moments. Slick-shifting gears snick into place without fuss and the brakes have enough oomph to stretch the limits of the tyres’ grip, even on dry and tacky surfaces.
Small details like the internal cable routing and Neoprene-covered driveside chainstay make this one of the quietest full sussers we’ve ridden. The whole lot works together with an impressive slickness that allows the Nerve XC 7.0’s rider to get on with, well, riding. Point, pedal, grin, repeat.
Frame: Clean lines and curved, complex profile frame tubes
Curved, complex profile frame tubes – hydroforming writ large – form the heart of the Nerve XC’s chassis. Canyon calls it Hydro 14. The goal is the same as any other modern bike design – to use preformed tube shapes to save weight where possible, add strength where needed, and do away with the need for the kind of welded reinforcing gussets that became de rigueur with longer travel bikes a few years ago.
Internal cable runs contribute to the Canyon’s clean lines and very quiet presence on the trail. With the kind of attention to detail we’re beginning to associate with the brand, the front and rear gear cables even cross over inside the down tube to minimise rattles. But nothing in life is free – replacing internally routed cables can be a bit fiddly.
Strategically placed sheets of clear adhesive-backed plastic protect the frame at common abrasion and impact points. The main pivot bearing is claimed to be ‘20 times stronger than a conventional industrial bearing’ and the asymmetric chainstays are matched by similar asymmetry in the seatstay department, the thinking being that the left-hand stay has to cope with braking forces while the other doesn’t.
If those chainstay-mounted pivots look familiar, it’s probably because they’re very similar to the heavily patented Horst Link set-up owned by Specialized and licensed to a number of other manufacturers. The patent applies in the US only, though. Since Canyon is a European operation with no sales outlet in the US, it’s able to use the patented design freely.
Equipment: Brand name credibility and Fox-sprung front and rear
DT Swiss wheels, a Selle Italia saddle and Easton bars add a touch of name brand credibility to the spec list, but the Nerve XC 7.0’s coup de grace is the Fox-sprung front and rear. A large volume Float RP2 at the back and 120mm of Fox 32 travel up front comfortably trounces anything the competition can offer, with a blend of build quality, adjustability and control that’s up there with the best. Shame the fork doesn’t feature a QR15 axle to improve steering precision, but we’re splitting hairs now.
For the majority of riders the benefits of 10-speed over nine-speed are tiny. Canyon has specced a cassette with the large 36-tooth sprocket, giving the Nerve XC 7.0 a super low bottom gear of 22x36 teeth. It’s the best way to use 10-speed on a trail bike, in our opinion.
You can’t get around the fact that, if you want a Canyon, you’ll have to order direct. That means no test rides and no friendly shop to pop to if you have a problem. It’s not an approach that’ll work for everyone, particularly if you like to try before you buy. However, the bikes arrive pre-built and all but ready to ride, in a large box with a torque wrench and all the bits you need. There’s also a dedicated UK sales office to take and process your order.