Gear News

Canyon launches Grail gravel bike with double-decker Hover Bar

Unique cockpit said to improve comfort on Canyon's first dedicated gravel bike

Canyon has filled a significant gap in its range by launching a dedicated gravel bike. The Grail is designed, as the name alludes, to achieve the Holy Grail between road speed and off-road comfort thanks to an 830g carbon frame, 40mm tyres, a mountain bike-inspired geometry and, most significantly, Canyon’s Hover Bar cockpit. In launching a gravel bike, Canyon has torn up the rule book and hopes to define the genre with the Grail.

Up until now, Canyon’s aluminium Inflite has been something of a cyclo-cross/commuter hybrid, with builds to match, and that’s naturally had scope for mixed terrain riding, but the Grail is a specialist machine designed to handle both road and dirt in equal measure.

Let’s deal with that handlebar first, because (to put it mildly) it’s sure to divide opinion. We’ll get into the technical nitty-gritty but the double-decker design has been developed to offer additional flex, and therefore comfort, through the top of the handlebar, while maintaining stiffness through the drops when sprinting or descending.

Otherwise, here’s a quick rundown of what you need to know about the Grail before we delve into more detail:

  • Canyon’s first dedicated gravel bike
  • Double-decker Hover Bar designed to improve comfort
  • Two carbon frames (830g & 1,040g)
  • 42mm tyre clearance (40mm supplied as standard), 700c wheels only
  • Five specifications from Shimano 105 (£1,999) to Shimano Ultegra Di2 (£4,199)
Canyon’s first dedicated gravel bike, the Grail, features a distinctive double-decker ‘Hover Bar’

Defining a genre

Gravel bikes, adventure bikes, all-road bikes – call them want you want, but they’re hot right now. Almost every bike brand has launched a knobbly-tyred, adventure-seeking, drop handlebar bike over the past few years, but no one machine has set the standard as the benchmark machine. 700c or 650b wheels? Oversized road rubber or borderline mountain bike tyres? Suspension or no suspension? Road, cyclo-cross or off-road geometry? Take a look at what’s already out there and you’ll find bikes which offer combinations of all these and more.

Canyon is no different in offering its own interpretation of the gravel bike (that’s the name we’re sticking with for now), but the brand hopes the Grail to define the genre. It’s still a road bike at heart, according to the Grail’s engineer, Daniel Heyder, but is designed to hit that ride sweetspot between tarmac-driven thrill and adrenaline-fueled adventure. “Our development of the Grail has resulted in a bike that’s as nimble and responsive on the road as it is stable and confidence-inspiring off-road,” says Heyder. “We wanted a bike that is at home on any surface, without any compromise.”

Of course, only time will tell as to whether the Grail comes to define the gravel bike or, indeed, if other brands will look to Canyon’s blueprint. What we can tell you for now is how Canyon believes it has found the Holy Grail.

Hover System

The Grail’s Hover Bar is the centrepiece of a three-way Hover System, designed to improve comfort across the key contact points. The handlebar itself is a distinctive design, no doubt about that, but much like the kinked toptube of last year’s key Canyon launch, the carbon Inflite CF SLX cyclo-cross bike, form follows function. “We didn’t want to be constrained by what a handlebar should look like, just because that’s how it’s always been done,” says Heyder. “Instead, we wanted to create something specifically designed for the job.” Whatever your opinion on how the Hover Bar looks, credit goes to Canyon for a forward-thinking approach to bike design.

“Whatever your opinion on how the Hover Bar looks, credit goes to Canyon for a forward-thinking approach to bike design”

The inspiration for the Hover Bar came after realising a fundamental paradox in conventional handlebar and stem design, according to Heyder. “A traditional cockpit is stiffest on the tops, close to the stem interface, but most flexible on the drops, when it should be the other way around,” he says. As a result, the Hover Bar shifts the effective location of the stem onto the lower half of the double-decker design, while the top half has a floating ‘Flex Area’ said to be seven times more compliant than the tops of Canyon’s existing H31 Ergocockpit.

The Grail offers 42mm of tyre clearance, with 40mm rubber supplied as standard

An ambition to improve front-end comfort is nothing new – Specialized’s Diverge gravel bike has the American firm’s FutureShock micro-suspension, while Trek’s top-end Domane endurance bike now has a front IsoSpeed decoupler – but Canyon says its design is lighter, adding a claimed 120g to the cockpit construction, and free of mechanical parts.

Despite its distinctive layout, the Hover Bar is also designed to improve the rider’s control over the bike, Heyder says. The hoods occupy the same position as a conventional road setup, while the drops have a 7.5-degree flare to apparently increase leverage. The intersection of the lower part of the double-decker with the drops is also designed to offer a ‘locked in’ position for the hands, to provide more security over rough terrain. The ends of the drops, meanwhile, are D-shaped to better fit the hand, Heyder adds. “The Hover Bar has been optimised so that no part of the handlebar is round,” he says.

Canyon Grail CF SLX gravel bike

The Hover System also comprises Canyon’s excellent VCLS 2.0 leafspring seatpost, also seen on the company’s existing Ultimate and Endurace road bikes. The leafspring design offers significant shock absorption and, like the Ultimate and Endurace, Canyon has located the Grail’s seatpost clamp at the seatstay junction, increasing the effective bending length of the post by 110mm, and increasing vertical deflection by a claimed 15 per cent. The simplified seatpost clamp is also said to save 15g over a conventional design.

“The comfort-boosting Hover System also comprises Canyon’s excellent VCLS 2.0 leafspring seatpost and generous tyre clearance”

Tyre size is also key to comfort, of course, and all Grail models come with 40mm Schwalbe G-One Bite tyres mounted to 700c rims with a minimum 22mm internal width. The Bite is the latest in Schwalbe’s line of tubeless G-One gravel tyres, sitting alongside the existing G-One Speed and G-One AllRound designs, and offers a more aggressive tread. However, once again it’s all about balance, according to Heyder. “We developed the G-One Bite with Schwalbe,” he says. “The initial design was even too grippy, and that sacrificed too much speed on the road, so this tyre offers the right balance.”

Two carbon frames – and an aluminium option to come

Heyder is keen to emphasise the Grail’s performance DNA and the carbon fibre frame is at the heart of that. Like many of Canyon’s other carbon frames, the Grail is available in two versions. The flagship CF SLX frame coming in at a claimed 830g, which is extremely light for a gravel bike, and the more affordable Grail CF SL tipping the scales at a reported 1,040g.

That flagship frame forms the basis for the top-of-the-range Grail CF SLX 8.9 Di2 build with electronic Shimano Ultegra shifting. You’re looking at a claimed 8.22kg for the complete bike, and that’s with 40mm tyres and Canyon’s Hover Bar. Impressive. In fact, weights look impressive through the range, with the Shimano 105-equipped Grail CF SL 7.0 still well under 9kg at 8.62kg, according to Canyon.

The carbon frame comes in two versions, weighing 830g and 1,040g respectively

As for some of the finer details of the carbon frame, you’ll find hidden mudguard mounts, a chainsuck plate and chainstay protector to protect against damage, and flat-mount disc brakes, with 160mm rotors and 12mm thru-axles at the front and rear.

Interestingly, an aluminium version of the frame is also in the works, with an expected release date of September/October 2018. That should drop the entry point of the Grail range considerably, and the aluminium bikes will likely come with a conventional cockpit setup.

Canyon Grail CF SLX gravel bike
Canyon Grail CF SLX gravel bike
Canyon Grail CF SLX gravel bike

Gravel Pro geometry

While many of the Grail’s tube profiles bear resemblance to Canyon’s Ultimate and Endurace bikes, the geometry is unique to this machine. The unique design of the Grail means conventional stack and reach measurements aren’t appropriate, so Canyon has adopted a new system, Stack & Reach+, taking the centre of the top of the handlebar as the measuring point instead of the headtube. By using this system, it’s possible to compare geometries and sizes across the Canyon range.

“The Grail’s ‘Gravel Pro’ geometry sits somewhere between Canyon’s existing Endurace and Ultimate layouts”

With that in mind, the Grail’s ‘Gravel Pro’ geometry sits somewhere between Canyon’s existing Endurace and Ultimate layouts. Indeed, the closest comparison is the Endurace, with the Grail positioning the rider approximately 10mm lower than Canyon’s endurance road bike.

As with the Inflite CF SLX that came before it, the Grail’s geometry is also inspired by the mountain bike world, with a long wheelbase to provide off-road stability (the Grail is approximately 40mm longer than an Endurace in size medium) and increase tyre clearance, counterbalanced by a short stem (75mm on a medium bike) to keep the front end agile on technical terrain. The handlebar also jumps up a size from what you’d typically see, with a medium machine equipped with a 44cm cockpit, again to increase off-road control.

The Grail is only available with two-by Shimano drivetrains

Two-by drivetrains and bike-packing bags

We’ve listed the Grail’s various builds below but it’s worth pointing out that Canyon has sought to spec two-by Shimano drivetrains throughout the range. One-by setups may be all the range in the gravel and cyclo-cross worlds right now, but Canyon believes a double chainset allows riders to tackle a range of terrain without big jumps in gears. Each bike comes with a 50-34t chainset and 11-34t cassette to providing a 1:1 gear ratio for steep climbs laden with bike-packing bags.

Speaking of which, Canyon has also partnered with Topeak to develop a range of bike-packing bags (handlebar, toptube and seatpost) specific to the Grail and supplied with protective foils to prevent the straps rubbing against the frame and components.

Canyon Grail 2018 specifications and prices

Canyon Grail CF SL 7.0 (also available in a WMN build with women’s-specific build)
Shimano 105 groupset
DT Swiss C 1800 wheelset
Schwalbe G-One Bite 40mm tyres
Claimed weight: 8.62kg
Price: £1,999.00

Canyon Grail CF SL 8.0
Shimano Ultegra groupset
DT Swiss C 1800 wheelset
Schwalbe G-One Bite 40mm tyres
Claimed weight: 8.4kg
Price: £2,349.00

Canyon Grail CF SL 8.0 Di2
Shimano Ultegra Di2 groupset
DT Swiss C 1800 wheelset
Schwalbe G-One Bite 40mm tyres
Claimed weight: 8.54kg
Price: £2,999.00

Canyon Grail CF SL 8.0 Aero
Shimano Ultegra groupset
Reynolds Assault ATR Disc wheelset
Schwalbe G-One Bite 40mm tyres
Weight: 8.46kg
Price: £3,249.00

Canyon Grail SLX 8.0 Di2
Shimano Ultegra Di2 groupset
Reynolds Assault ATR Disc wheelset
Schwalbe G-One Bite 40mm tyres
Weight: 8.22kg
Price: £4,199.00

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