German brand Canyon has arguably done a better job than anyone else at combining superb quality bikes with unbelievable pricing for those who don’t mind getting their bike in a box rather than the local shop.
Nothing shows that more clearly than this, the firm's most affordable full suspension bike.
Frame and equipment: outrageous value for money
The Nerve AL frameset is a previous What Mountain Bike Trail Bike of the Year and multiple bike test winner, and it’s easy to see why. The heavily shaped tubeset is light enough to build into an 11kg race weapon. Even though the AL 6.0 gets QR hubs and axles front and rear rather than the 15mm front and 142x12mm rear of the AL 7.0, the tapered head tube and shaped tubing still give reasonably tight tracking. Double rear brake clips can be used for a dropper seatpost cable/hose while internal routing keeps the gear cables tucked out of sight.
What’s blindingly obvious is the outrageous value for money you’re getting delivered in Canyon’s signature robust, reusable cardboard crate. Simply put, if this bike cost almost double we wouldn’t be grumbling with the XT highlighted Shimano transmission and RockShox Reba fork.
The Nerve 6.0's Evo spec Fox shock isn't perfect, but knocks spots off what most of the price-bracket competition come with
The Evo spec Fox shock is occasionally notchy rather than predictably plush, but the 120mm of travel is still far better controlled than most discount dampers you’ll find on the Canyon’s price competitors though. You also get a three position CTD damping lever for Climbing lockout, efficient Trail feel or soft and squishy Descend settings.
Canyon has always been impressively on trend and the Nerve’s been brought bang up to date with 650b wheels without affecting its trademark efficiency. Canyon has even managed to spec full PaceStar triple compound Evolution series tyres, and these impressively quick yet trustworthy German all-rounders are a great match to the bike.
Ride and handling: fast, light and responsive
In fact Canyon has done such a good job keeping the Nerve AL’s signature speed and responsiveness that at first we didn’t even realise they had made the change to 650b. It leapt out of corners and scrabbled up climbs more like a 26in bike than a 650b.
The handling is fast and light like a smaller wheeled bike too and even the suspension is tuned to be pert and skippy over smaller bumps rather than smothering the trail in a soft pillow. That does mean more clatter and slightly less traction than it’s mid sized wheel peers but if you want a bigger stride and a smoother ride, the Nerve AL 7.9 29er is every bit as outstanding in terms of detail and value for money.
There's ample steering speed and authority to get stuck into twisty singletrack
The 720mm bars and 80mm stem give enough steering speed and authority to make twisty technical singletrack fun, even if there’s noticeable twist with the QR skewer-tipped Reba. However if you’re worried about losing your Nerve, Canyon’s all-new Spectral 650 and 29er bikes are specifically designed to push the pace harder on more challenging trails and comes with screw-thru axles and 140mm of travel as standard.
In summary, Canyon’s new Nerve – and the 29er and Spectral bikes – are a lesson in why it's worth not getting stuck at three figures if you can possibly help it when shopping for a mountain bike. Pushing your budget a few hundred quid past a grand can get you a far better specialist bike that’ll properly ignite your riding.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.