Canyon Nerve XC 5.0 review£1,149.00

Understated all-rounder

BikeRadar score4.5/5

Canyon bikes are a new entry to the UK for 2011, and the brand has quickly made an impact. The Nerve XC 5.0 shares a frame with the Nerve XC 9.0, despite being about half the price.

Ride & handling: Top-notch performance on the trail

Canyon sells the Nerve XC frame on its own for £1059, so by buying this bike you can think you’re getting all the parts for almost free. And they’re far from shabby parts. Canyon’s managed to equip the 5.0 with a full Shimano SLX 3x10 transmission, with the exception of the rear mech, which is an XT one.

The wheel package is a particular highlight of the bike’s spec, with bladed-spoke Mavic Crossride wheels shod with Schwalbe Nobby Nic tyres that are great all-rounders. All the finishing kit is branded stuff from Easton and Selle Italia, and you even get lock-on grips.

Like the Boardman, this is a level of equipment that makes you wonder why  you need to spend more. Truth be told, unless you want to save a bit of weight or demand a thru-axle fork, you don’t. At a whisker over 28lb, it’s not as if the Nerve is overweight – it’s the lightest bike here by almost a pound, and nearly four pounds lighter than the GT Sensor.

This is the only bike here with the Fox RP2 shock that’s pretty much the industry standard on more expensive bikes, and while we were pleasantly surprised with the performance of the competitors’ various budget shocks, the Fox is still a cut above. The Nerve’s back end stays composed, capable and quiet. It’s a similar story up front, with a RockShox Recon Gold Motion Control fork being less wheezy than the cheaper variants.

Canyon has kept things conservative with the numbers, with the Nerve eschewing the growing trend for super-slack head angles. The common-sense geometry is reflected in the neutral, confident handling, and with chassis stiffness in abundance, and the most controlled suspension here, the Nerve will tackle all but the most ludicrous of trails with aplomb. It’s not a bike that draws attention to itself – it sits there and does all you ask of it in a vice-free and transparent manner. No idiosyncrasies, no gimmicks, you can just get on and ride it.

Frame & equipment: Amazing value for money

Canyon makes the most out of the Nerve XC frame, using it on seven bikes in its extensive range. The most expensive one is over £3500, so it’s no surprise that the frame has high-end construction and finish that’s a significant step up from its price point competition. You don’t see many anodised frames at this price for a start.

Under the hard-wearing black finish is a well thought out frame, with subtle tube shaping, a tapered head tube and a traditional four-bar back end. Oversized chainstays and neatly-braced seatstays  with a post-style rear brake mount form  the back end, with clevis-style pivots at  the drop-outs and rocker. The rocker link  is forged in two pieces that interlock to  boost stiffness. The bottom end of the long-stroke shock mounts to a small  forged bracket that includes a neat strut  to direct loads down to the bottom  bracket area.  

A direct-mount front mech makes set up easy and makes it easier for Canyon to package the suspension into the often-crowded bottom bracket area, while the long strip of frame protector tape under the down tube is a reassuring detail.

It’s a struggle to find anything wrong with the Nerve. The Juicy 3 brakes are merely okay, and a little bit more mud room at the back wouldn’t go amiss, but that’s it.

Internal cable routing: Running gear cables inside the frame tubes is a popular arrangement on European bikes, but the added frame complexity makes it a rare feature at this price. You get clean looks and limited dirt ingress, although cable maintenance is trickier.

Motion control: While the Canyon’s Recon fork may look the same as that found on several other bikes here, this one has RockShox’s Motion Control damping inside. It’s more sophisticated, more adjustable and quieter than the Turnkey set-up in the cheaper forks.

Tapered steerer: Using a fork with a steerer tube that’s 1.5in at the bottom and 1.125in at the top makes for a stiffer front end, stronger fork and more head tube/down tube weld area. It’s an unusual thing to find on a budget bike, though.

This is one of the best value bikes that we have encountered at any price. With the possible exception of the brakes, there isn’t a weak spot in the parts list. Canyon’s  Nerve XC 5.0 is a great performer that embarrasses bikes that cost several hundred pounds more.

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