Canyon’s gravel-specific carbon Grail comes in two versions: the superlight SLX chassis and this SL version, which in itself isn’t exactly a porker.
What the two CF Grails share, however, is the gravel-specific cockpit. This dual-design bar (called the CP07) is designed to offer suspension-like compliance at the front without resorting to a heavier shock-type design, like you’ll find on Specialized’s Diverge, or the lefty fork on Cannondale’s Slate, or even gravel-specific suspension forks from the likes of Fox.
The idea is the integrated bar and stem part of the bar is rigid, while a secondary bar above the lower section is designed with flex in mind.
Canyon’s CP07 bar integrates the bar and stem. David Caudery / Immediate Media
This offers vibration-nulling effects while providing a more endurance-friendly upright riding-position and, at the same time, avoiding compromises in an overly long head tube or high-rise stem.
The section above is claimed to allow more float above the rigid structure and it only bears a 120g weight penalty over the H31 ergo-cockpit you’ll find on Canyon’s awesome Inflite cyclocross bike.
Bike of the Year 2020
The Canyon Grail CF SL 8.0 eTap is part of our annual Bike of the Year test.
Head to our Bike of the Year hub for the full list of winners, categories and shortlisted bikes, as well as the latest reviews – or read our behind-the-scenes feature on how we tested Bike of the Year 2020.
From the side, the Grail looks like a purposeful, aggressive machine.
The angular top-tube and stem integration is reminiscent of Look’s radical RS road machines and the sloping top-tube squared-off profile flows into a substantial seat-tube junction and down into a generous clearance rear triangle.
The slender straight-legged fork matches the frame well and, overall, it’s a great-looking machine.
There’s enough room in the generous rear triangle for the 40mm Schwalbe G-One Bite tyres. David Caudery / Immediate Media
Canyon Grail CF SL 8.0 eTap specifications
Canyon can always be relied on to kill the competition when it comes to specification and that’s the case here too.
The classy Fizik Aliante saddle is the ideal companion for gravel, its curvy shape holds you in place well and the padding’s minimalism hides a very generous level of comfort. This sits upon the clever VCLS post with its split design that offers masses of comfort-giving flex.
Fizik’s Aliante R5 saddle on a Canyon S15 post. David Caudery / Immediate Media
The Grail rolls on DT’s gravel-specific alloy G1800 spline wheels, which are DT’s entry-level gravel wheel. At 1,806g a pair they’re not the lightest but they are seriously tough and the very broad inner dimension of 24mm means they shape larger volume tyres perfectly.
They can also be run tubeless with compatible tyres and tubeless kit in place – thankfully that’s the option Canyon has gone for and, when combined with Schwalbe’s G-One Bite (40mm), it proved to be an excellent pairing.
I set up Schwalbe’s aggressive G-One Bite tyres tubeless. David Caudery / Immediate Media
The G-One Bite has more of an aggressive tread than the standard G-One, including more depth to the shoulder blocks.
But like most gravel tyres, wintry, wet, muddy conditions aren’t its friend, but because I set them up tubeless, I could drop the psi down into the 30s for when the going got muddy, allowing for a bit of tyre spread to aid traction.
Canyon Grail CF SL 8.0 eTap kit
The drivetrain is where Canyon has got creative, using a mix-and-match approach to a 1x drivetrain.
Up front, SRAM’s excellent Force AXS shifters match to Force brakes, but at the back you’ll find SRAM’s mountain-bike X01 Eagle AXS rear mech and dinner-plate-sized 10-50 cassette! Driving this is a 50-tooth single chainring mounted to a carbon Force crank.
SRAM Force eTap AXS HRD brakes with Centerline rotors. Russell Burton
This gives a fast top gear of 50/10 and a super low 1-1 ratio 50/50 at the other end, making steep slopes a breeze and descents as fast as you dare.
The Eagle rear mech has a clutch built-in just like the Force AXS unit and the chainring is SRAM’s patented narrow-wide design, which holds the chain with a limpet-like grip.
The chainguide offers more security over rough terrain. Russell Burton
Canyon has been a little belt-and-braces here adding a mountain-bike-style chainguide mounted where the front mech would be, to offer further chain security.
The shifting is slick and quick and, while the drivetrain can get a bit noisy, when the grime sets in, it never missed a shift or put a foot wrong at all throughout testing.
Canyon Grail CF SL 8.0 eTap ride impressions
On the road the Grail feels like a great endurance bike and, because of its high stack of 688mm (thanks to the unique bar setup and long reach of 478mm), it manages to be relaxed when you want it to be yet racy too.
The Grail feels great on the road. Russell Burton
The upper back is set back and high, reducing the reach and heightening the stack, whereas the lower bar and lower part of the drop is longer in reach, so when you’re down in the drops with your thumbs resting on the lower bar, it feels like quite a racy bike – you can maintain a fair pace on tarmac even with the chunky G-One tyres.
Off road, the Grail is well mannered with a racy 72.8-degree head angle and steep 73.5-degree seat angle, yet matched to a long wheelbase of 1,063mm makes it handle with mountain-bike-like stability.
The bike’s geometry gives it confident handling. Russell Burton
It’s not quite the nimble thrill-seeking handling you get from the Cervélo Aspero, but the ride is very similar.
The rear-end compliance is impressive with the luxury comfort of the Aliante saddle and VCLS post working harmoniously together.
What did come as a slight surprise, however, was the front end. When you’re up on the tops cruising along a gravel road, you can feel the bar comply and smooth out the bumps, but in the most often-used position on the hoods it’s not quite so comfortable.
The front end is a bit of a mixed bag depending on where your hands are positioned. Russell Burton
I found the D-Fuse cockpit on the Giant Revolt offered a far better bump-smoothing ride, and it doesn’t get anywhere close to the smoothness afforded by the road-going Specialized Roubaix, Trek’s Domane, or even Giant’s Defy, when taking these down the same stretch of gravel.
In the drops the CP07 bar is race-bike stiff and, on a fast gravel descent with plenty of water-bar ruts, I got plenty of chatter and jolts through my hands.
So, while I have masses of admiration for the endeavour shown in developing the CP07 bar, I’m just not convinced by the execution in respect to the suspension.
The Grail is a superb all-rounder. Russell Burton
You shouldn’t let that put you off, though, because the Grail still has stable handling, an awesome drivetrain and on- and off-road manners on all but the raggedy edge. This makes it a superb all-rounder.
I don’t believe the cockpit should be thought of as some sort of suspension substitute, if you think of it as a bar with more hold options rather than a standard bar with a comfortable cruising hold on the very tops for a bit of mid-ride relief, then it’s a winner.
The Canyon Grail has a radical design which combines race and recreation very well. Russell Burton
Canyon Grail CF SL 8.0 eTap geometry
Sizes (* tested): XXS, XS, S, M, L*, XL, XXL
Seat angle: 73.5 degrees
Head angle: 72.5 degrees
Seat tube: 55.2cm
Top tube: 59cm
Head tube: 12.5cm
Bottom-bracket drop: 7.5cm
With thanks to…
BikeRadar would like to thank 100%, Q36.5, Lazer, Garmin and Facom for their support during our Bike of the Year test.