Gear News

Canyon Inflite AL 8.0 S – first look

Cyclo-cross bike in winter bike disguise

The Canyon Inflite AL was unveiled at Eurobike 2013 as the German company’s first cyclo-cross bike but, in reality, it’s the latest addition to a growing market of road-‘cross hybrids.

Cyclo-cross bikes are popular with some riders to use on the road during winter – such a build came together on the RoadCyclingUK forum this winter – thanks to the inherent toughness of a ‘cross machine, and the generous clearance required for mud and knobbly tyres when on off-road duty.

The Canyon Inflite AL 8.0 S is a cyclo-cross bike in winter bike disguise

Some manufacturers have sought to exploit that by adding mudguard mounts to cyclo-cross frames and touting their suitability for use on a muddy ‘cross race track, on the commute to work, or on a winter training loop. A change of tyres and, perhaps, wheels, and you have the option to do-it-all.

Canyon, however, are the first brand we can think of to offer a road-specific model as part of a wider cyclo-cross range. Three bikes make up the Inflite AL collection: two with knobbly tyres (the Inflite AL 8.0 and Inflite AL 9.0) and the third, the Inflite AL 8.0 S we have on test, with 28mm road rubber.

It seems a smart move, giving the rider the option as to whether they start with a cyclo-cross bike or a road bike. After all, why pigeon hole a machine from the outset by only offering it as a ‘cross bike if versatility is at its heart?

For that to be successful, however, the Inflite has to succeed as a road machine, and not just as a jack-of-all-trades ‘cross bike which happens to be able to turn its hand to faster riding. Dependability is, of course, the most important personality trait of a winter bike but most riders will want enough flare to inspire their riding throughout winter and we’ll find out whether the Inflite AL has that over the course of our test.

The Inflite AL frame has concealed mudguard mounts

An aluminium frame is at the heart of the Inflite AL. Canyon have forged a reputation for producing high quality, performance-focused aluminium frames, and the Koblenz-based firm say they’ve used that knowledge and experience to develop the Inflite AL.

All three bikes in the Inflite AL range use the same frame, with a lean claimed weight of 1,480g, and concealed mudguard mounts front and rear. The slim Maximus seattube, said to improve comfort, is a similar design to that found on RoadCyclingUK’s 2013 Bike of the Year, the carbon fibre Canyon Ultimate CF SLX, and up front Canyon’s One One Four SL Disc Fork slots into a tapered headtube.

As you’d expect, there’s plenty of mud clearance around the tyres, fork and chainstays, cables are touted along the top of the toptube, as is customary on ‘cross bikes to keep them out of harms way. The PressFit bottom bracket promises plenty of stiffness.

Canyon offer the Inflite AL in six sizes. The geometry is a little more relaxed than their road bikes, with a 72 degree headtube angle and 73.5 degree seattube angle on our size medium test bike, which also has a 553mm toptube, 545mm seattube and 145mm headtube. The lengthy 425mm chainstays and 1,014mm wheelbase should make for a stable ride.

Continental’s 28mm Grand Prix 4-Season tyres are ideal for winter riding

The spec is good for the money, as we’ve come to expect from a brand which cuts out the middle men (a national distributor and the retailer) by selling direct through its website, We previously discussed the virtues of that sales model when reviewing the Ultimate CF SLX.

Back to the Inflite AL and the 8.0 S is dressed in Shimano’s mid-range, 10-speed 105 groupset, with a compact 50-34t chainset and 11-28t cassette to provide a wide spread of gears. Shimano 105 is a long-time favourite thanks to its superb balance of performance and value. It’s a setup we chose for our 2012 winter bike, the Kinesis Racelight TK3, and has served us well since.

The only deviation from the groupset are the Shimano BR-CX77 mechanical disc brakes. For the eagle-eyed, our test bike is specced with Avid BB7’s owing to an earlier product recall of Shimano’s stoppers but production bikes come with the BR-CX77.

The UCI aren’t bowled over by the prospect of disc brakes in professional road racing but they’ve been legal in cyclo-cross racing for a few years now. Are disc brakes the future on roads bikes? Most likely, as far as hydraulic disc brakes are concerned, though mechanical discs like those found on the Inflite seem something of a halfway house on disc-equipped machines until Shimano’s R785 hydraulic road disc brake becomes more widely available (and cheaper), and SRAM’s equivalent returns from its product recall.

Canyon’s slim Maximus seattube is said to improve comfort, while the PressFit bottom bracket promises plenty of stiffness

On a winter bike, disc brakes have an appreciable application on the steep descent of a slick, mud-covered country lane, ridden in the driving rain which seems ever-present in the UK at the moment, so we’ll await with interest to see if cable-actuated disc brakes offer any advantage over mechanical rim brakes.

Otherwise, disc-specific Mavic CrossOne Disc wheels are wrapped in Continental’s Grand Prix 4-Season tyres, a popular choice for UK riders who want a one-tyre-fits-all solution. They’re well-suited to winter, not least in the plush 28mm width here. The combination of disc brakes and fat tyres has seen the the Inflite AL 8.0 S shrug off the filthy country lanes – either flooded or scarred by the debris left by floods – on a handful of initial test rides.

Canyon’s provide the own-brand carbon fibre VCLS seatpost, which is infused with basalt as its fibres are said to offer more elasticity and, therefore, comfort, while Ritchey supply the aluminium Curve Comp handlebar and WCS stem. A Selle Italia XI saddle completes the spec sheet and all that makes for sub-9kg build.

It’s important to point out that Canyon say the Inflite AL’s concealed mudguard mounts are only compatible with the SKS-manufactured ‘guards sold through the Canyon website. Also, the 8.0 S isn’t initially specced with ‘guards and you have to purchase them as an optional extra when buying the bike. That seems a shame as mudguards are the calling card of a winter bike, and that’s what the Inflite AL 8.0 S is, but it does leave the decision of whether to fit them with the consumer, even if the choice is very limited.

That aside, the Canyon Inflite AL 8.0 looks every inch the winter bike on paper, with a tough-as-nails aluminium frame and a sensible build which makes use of the extra clearance of a ‘cross frame. It’s also good value for money at £1,149 but that value will only be realised if the performance is there to match. We’ll find out.

Price: £1,149
Sizes: XS-XXL
Website: Canyon

Newsletter Terms & Conditions

Please enter your email so we can keep you updated with news, features and the latest offers. If you are not interested you can unsubscribe at any time. We will never sell your data and you'll only get messages from us and our partners whose products and services we think you'll enjoy.

Read our full Privacy Policy as well as Terms & Conditions.