The Canyon Grail AL 7.0 is one of our Bike of the Year bikes for 2019 and has been crowned best all-road bike. To read reviews of the other contenders and the categories tested across road, mountain and women’s bikes, visit our Bike of the Year hub.
Behind the purposeful-looking all-carbon fork, with its oversized 1 1/4in steerer tube, the hydroformed, double-butted 6061 aluminium frame tubes are intricately shaped.
The top tube is flattened and multi-faceted, while the large down tube is six-sided and reinforced by a gusset between it and the head tube. The lower seat tube is sculpted to increase tyre clearance, and there’s another gusset between the top and seat tubes, filling the space opposite the lowered seatstays.
These are square on the outside and curved inside, slim with an angular kink above the dropouts to gain compliance, and the generally straight asymmetric chainstays are slightly crimped for chainring and tyre clearance.
The Canyon Grail AL 7.0 is fitted with 40mm Schwalbe G-One Bite tyres, and clearance between the bridgeless stays and the fork legs is very good, with room for a little more width if desired.
The Grail is fitted with 40mm Schwalbe G-One Bite tyresDavid Caudery / Immediate Media
There’s a third bottle cage mount beneath the down tube, and mounts for full mudguards and a rear rack as well. All of the cable or hose entry ports at the top of the down tube are superbly well sealed, and they exit before the bottom bracket shell to continue externally.
For the money, the Grail AL 7.0 is very well equipped, sporting a complete Shimano 105 compact groupset, with 50/34 chainset and 11-34 cassette, plus matching hydraulic discs. It gives a 1:1 lowest gear, and tall enough gearing to keep you spinning on 40mph descents, with small, even steps in between, and I had no trouble with chain derailments.
The saddle sits atop a VCLS carbon shock-absorbing seatpostDavid Caudery / Immediate Media
The finishing kit is all Canyon’s own, even the Selle Italia X3 saddle is a special Canyon Edition. That sits atop a VCLS carbon shock-absorbing seatpost, which doesn’t share the incredible flex of the Giant Revolt also on test, but did a very good job of protecting me from constant bump chatter and blunting sharp impacts.
At 80mm, the stem is shorter than expected, but I soon learned to like it, and the sharpened steering effect it produces. Canyon’s gravel alloy handlebar comes with a little extra width and flared drops, both serving to improve steering control.
The Shimano 105 disc brakesDavid Caudery / Immediate Media
Canyon Grail AL 7.0 ride impressions
Much like the Canyon Inflite AL cyclocross bike I recently tested, the Grail AL’s frame feels extremely lively. The cranks seem to accelerate through every pedal revolution, producing an equally positive effect from the frame that just wills you to press harder and go faster.
I had to remind myself constantly of this Grail’s price, because its performance is easily on a par with bikes costing more than double
On tarmac, the Grail is quick, or at least as quick as a bike with 35psi in 40mm gravel tyres can be. It feels taut, torsionally stiff and just wants to get down the road, showing better than average compliance than many aluminium frames.
The frameset’s positive feel helps you to make light work of long climbsRobert Smith / Immediate Media
Letting loose on gravel and rough hardpack, the Grail’s ride has an underlying firmness, but still deals admirably with unrelenting bumps and potholes, with an assured sense of control.
The major factor affecting off-road line choices at speed is grip, and until the surface gets deep and slick and uneven, the G-One Bites reliably do just that, their evenly-spaced shallow tread blocks seeking out every scrap of traction.
The evenly-spaced tread blocks on the G-One Bites hunt out every scrap of tractionDavid Caudery / Immediate Media
The bike comes with inner tubes installed, but a simple tubeless conversion would permit lower pressures and even greater feel and grip.
On paper, the DT Swiss wheelset is fairly ordinary, but here it feels responsive and keen to sustain speed. With its 9.23kg overall mass, this Grail doesn’t climb like a mountain goat, but even long hills aren’t a chore with the frameset’s positive feel. It dispatches rolling terrain efficiently and the 44cm flared drops increase descending confidence, adding to the bike’s stable character.
The Selle Italia X3 Canyon Edition saddleDavid Caudery / Immediate Media
Its 72.25-degree head angle is a tad steeper than some, but still quite relaxed, and the 1,035mm wheelbase is ideal for confident tracking on the rough stuff, particularly if carrying luggage.
I had to remind myself constantly of this Grail’s price, which is significantly less than its equivalent competition, because its performance is easily on a par with bikes costing more than double.
Factor in the usual versatility offered by this bike genre, the frame’s undoubted durability, and all the specification you really need, and the Grail AL is a winner.
Canyon Grail AL 7.0 specifications
The Canyon Grail AL 7.0 is very well equipped for the moneyDavid Caudery / Immediate Media