Last week saw the launch of the all-new Canyon Grizl, the second gravel bike in the German direct-to-consumer brand’s line up. On a call with Canyon’s Grizl Engineer Matej Sömen, we learnt how this new model sits alongside the existing Grail: optimised for ‘rougher gravel’, with an increased tyre clearance to fit up to 50mm tyres (versus the Grail’s 42mm).
It seems Canyon were keen to keep a similar geometry to the Grail, aiming to combine a fast and responsive ride on smoother terrain and tarmac while still enabling a solid ride when it becomes more chunky. If you think the Grizl will an out-and-out slack bikepacking-centric rig, you’d be mistaken. Rather, it’s a sort of halfway between, or ‘Swiss Army Knife’ – as Canyon put it – of gravel bikes. Race it or bikepack it, the Grizl is placed firmly in the centre of the Gravel Map so you can choose to take it which ever way you like.
Taking delivery of the bike a few weeks before launch, I’ve had the chance to get in a few local gravel rides, one at a more social pace including my go-to gravel testing hillside of Lansdown near Bath (locals will know this rocky double track descent) and a faster ride a little further afield with really mixed terrain.
It wouldn’t be fair to review the Canyon Grizl without loading up and heading off for a few days to test out its bikepacking credentials, so that’s exactly what I did, with a three day ride around my home district of East Devon: think steep climbs, boulder-strewn descents, grassy bridleways and incredible coastal views.
A standard cockpit
The double handlebar of the Canyon Grail was a head-turner for sure, and although in practice it wasn’t my cup of tea, I really can’t dismiss Canyon’s engineers for trying it. The double handlebar reminded us that ‘gravel’ is this wonderful sphere where anything goes, unrestricted from the controlling clutches of the UCI, devoid of seemingly pointless rules about angles and measurements that limit real world creativity and innovation. Look back at the bikes of the 80’s and 90’s: do you really think we’d have got to where we are today without a little experimentation?
As much as I admire Canyon for taking the punt on the double handlebar, I’m glad to see a ‘normal’ cockpit back in action on the Grizl. Easier GPS and light mounting, greater customisation options for fit and better attachment for bikepacking bags, the alloy own-brand cockpit is a winner. The cushy Canyon Ergospeed Gel bar tape helps mop up a bit of trail vibration and give superior comfort over long days.
The sizing here seems spot on: 40cm bars for size XS and a 70mm stem is what I’d typically choose. The cables and hoses were all super neat too, with gromits in the frame revealing a port for a dropper post’s internal cabling too.
Space for bigger rubber
As adventure bikes have developed from skinny-tyred ‘cross bikes towards MTB spec, tyre demands have increased. Many riders now choose to ride over 40mm wide tyres, especially when carrying loads on the bike. The Grizl boasts a good 50mm (1.96″) tyre clearance: an improvement on the 42mm Grail which is more race-orientated, although not quite monster cross territory of 2″ plus.
I was relieved that from the first ride the bike is specced with decent tyres that actually suit our conditions in the UK. I don’t expect every bike that I test to come shod with mud tyres, but when you get something out the box in the wetter months shod with slick tyres it doesn’t make for the most confidence inspiring first impressions. The Schwalbe G One Bite tyres are great in most conditions: certainly fast rolling on the road, with enough grip off-road in all but slick mud… as I found out with a high speed two-wheel drift. Yikes.
I’m always surprised at how much of a difference a few millimetres of tread can make to your ride. Rather than wiggling around roots and rocky features, the 45mm tyres on the Grizl had me playfully aiming for them, testing the limits of the bike (and my bike handling skills).
If you want to fit mudguards, then you’ll need to opt for Canyon’s own here for £62, which will allow you to fit up to 45mm tyres. That’s typically more than you’d pay for an off-the-shelf option, but these do look really sleek and you have the peace of mind that they should fit perfectly.
The tyres are fitted to DT Swiss’ G1800 Spline gravel tubeless centrelock wheelset, featuring a 24mm internal rim diameter that’s ideal for gravel tyres in this width range. At 1,806g for 650b or 1,895g for 700c, these are a good quality wheelset but not the lightest, so if you wanted to upgrade anything from the box spec and were targeting weight saving, this would be a good place to start. The wheels are rated to a system weight (rider + luggage) of 130kg.
160mm rotors are standard, but you could switch out for beefier 180mm if you wanted more powerful braking in the mountains or with heavy loads, for example.
More mounts, please
If there was one stand-out trend for the last couple of years, it would be cargo: pockets in your bib shorts and luggage on your bike. More specifically, bosses, or zits as our pal at Bicycle Pubes likes to call ’em. As well as the two bottle cage bosses inside the main triangle, you can use an extra set under the down tube on the SL models, and triple fork mounts for strapping on luggage or water on the forks too. Unfortunately the higher end SLX carbon frames don’t feature the under down tube set, as this is where the Di2 battery sits.
For the fork mounts, you can choose from a variety of cargo cages or direct mount bags like the Ortlieb Fork-Packs, or choose not to use them and leave the little secure rubber bungs to seal up the bosses. There’s a maximum load of 3kg per side, which should be more than enough. I used a large Tailfin Cargo Cage on each side for either water bottles or carrying extra things with a voile strap (very handy for packing out odd-shaped camp litter).
Sizing up for different riders
One thing that I’ve been really impressed with on the Canyon Grizl has been the sizing for a wide range of riders. All too often I have to opt for the smallest size in a bike range and bodge it a bit to make it fit, switching out for smaller saddle packs to compensate for tiny exposed seat posts or putting up with toe overlap. As an average height British female, at 5ft4 or 165cm, it makes you wonder what the reality is for shorter riders (regardless of gender), which all too often means a very reduced selection of bikes to choose from, or even more bodging…
For the Canyon Grizl, sizes XS and 2XS use 650b wheels and S to 2XL use 700c, just like with some of their road models. Canyon believe that wheel size should be proportional to the rider, not dictated by frame clearance, or which rubber you want to run. I find this approach really refreshing, and put into practice I found it really works too; no toe overlap, and a ride that feels in keeping with the bike size, rather than trying to shoehorn in something that doesn’t work.
With a gently sloping top tube, there’s plenty of exposed seat post. Not only does this offer more compliance, especially when teamed up with Canyon’s VCLS split carbon seat post, but also yields a greater area for attaching a seat post bag. I opted to run my larger Ortlieb frame pack for my tour, which gives me much more space for kit on this smaller bike than the smaller pack that I sometimes have to opt for when there’s less seat post on offer.
Up front, you’ll notice that I’ve been running a fair few spacers, in more of a long distance touring set up for me. Not only does this give a more upright position which can be more comfortable for longer days, but also raises the handlebar bag up over the front wheel which can be really handy for smaller riders. Not once did I notice bag rub on either front or back when fully loaded up, which was a major plus.
One last thing that I noticed that was a great touch was the inclusion of a smaller torque alan key in the starter pack. For the smaller sizes, the integrated seat post clamp falls down behind the rear wheel so it’s impossible to adjust without removing the rear wheel with the standard supplied Canyon torque tool (the one that looks like a sailboat, you know what I mean). So for the smaller sizes, Canyon also supply this smaller 5nm torque tool so you can easily adjust the saddle height without having to remove the rear wheel. There’s also a little bung supplied so you can stop this bolt getting filled up with mud when out on the trails.
Geared to gravel?
I won’t dwell too much on the drivetrain options with Shimano GRX as most will be pretty familiar with the brand’s new gravel specific groupset, and perhaps the 800 series featured here: the top-tier mechanical option equivalent to Shimano Ultegra for road. The Canyon Grizl CF SL 8 is also available in a 1X set up for a £50 less, as an alternative to this 48/31 double with the 11-34 cassette.
For general gravel riding, it’s hard to argue a better option than this: a good range of gears for both off-road and linking roads, teamed with powerful and confidence inspiring braking. However, once you load up with bikepacking bags and try to do the same steep climbs, you ideally need more easier gears. I’m sure this will be something that Shimano will be working on to cater to the growing bikepacking market (at least I hope). Until then, you can pair a 1X 36T Wolftooth chainring on GRX cranks and use a XT Di2 rear mech with an 11-42, should you want those extra climbing gears (at a hefty Di2 conversion cost)…
Classic Canyon matte
In typical Canyon style, this gravel bike comes in a matte paint job: named Matcha Splash. The graphics are pretty cool with the darker chain stays and BB, but I’m afraid I can’t say I enjoy much more than that. The upper pale minty colour is too pale for my liking, stained from a couple of days of East Devon clay, and I can imagine longer term this would be a real pain to keep looking good. Even after washing, you have to wipe down the bike to make sure not a single bit of slightly muddy water will leave a mark. If you’re like me and have to wash down the bike after every mucky ride bar a few dusty months in peak summer, I could imagine this would get tiresome pretty fast.
Canyon supplied one of their frame protection kits which worked well to prevent bag rub, which is especially important with off-road touring, but the muck just tended to collect along the edges of the helitape-esque patches and look grimy. If it were up to me, I’d definitely plump for a darker colour way or even better, the Earl Grey gloss paint which should be much easier to clean and keep looking good longer term.
In collaboration with Apidura
A change from their previous collaboration with Topeak for luggage for the Grail, Canyon teamed up with bikepacking bag market leader Apidura to create a series of Grizl-specific bags. These smaller bags are designed for big days out rather than a multi-day bikepack, as Apidura already has those covered with their Backcountry range (review coming soon)…
Instead, the top tube bag, frame pack and saddle pack are a hybrid of the Racing and Backcountry Series, blending robust builds with streamlined shapes. The bolt-on top tube bag has a capacity of one litre and with a magnetic closure is really easy to use on the fly. You don’t even need any tools to screw the bolts in internally, as they have large shaped heads that are easy to secure using your hands, and the bright pink liner makes finding little items inside a breeze.
The frame pack has a capacity of 2.4 litres (a larger 4.5 litre pack fits sizes XL and 2XL) and is shaped to fit the tubes of the Grizl. Although well made and totally waterproof as tested in several downpours (thanks, Devon), I found that on this size XS it really interfered with the down tube bottle. Therefore, when I loaded up for a few days, I put one bottle on the seat tube and the other on a fork leg using a Tailfin Cargo Cage, so it didn’t interfere with the frame pack. A side-loading cage would help a bit here.
The down tube straps aren’t a quick release type, so a little more fiddly to get on and off: I’d suggest the bag is better for leaving on your bike for extended periods rather than putting on and taking off a lot.
The saddle pack is the most generous of the three, suitable for a change of clothes, warm down jacket or some #coffeeoutside apparatus, perhaps, with a five litre capacity. It’s a tried and tested design, although you’re less likely to choose this over a larger saddle pack if you’re planning an overnighter.
|Canyon Grizl CF SL carbon frame, internal cable routing, three sets of bottle cage mounts, Canyon mudguard mounts and 142 x 12mm thru-axle
|Canyon FK0087 CF Disc fork, 12 x 100mm thru-axle and triple fork bosses (3kg limit per side)
|Token Ninja Lite BB4124 PF86.5 thread fit (BB86 Road standard compatible with 24mm axles)
|Shimano GRX RX810, 11-speed levers, Shimano RT800 Centerlock 160mm rotors
|Shimano GRX RX810 2X 48/31, Shimano Ultegra HG800 11-34 11s cassette, HG701 11s chain
|Canyon Ergospeed Gel
|Alloy Canyon HB 0050 Ergobar AL, 70mm reach, 130mm drop, 40cm width (size XS)
|Fizik Argo Terra X5
|Canyon S15 VCLS 2.0 CF carbon split seat post, Fliphead saddle attachment
|Canyon V13 (70mm size XS)
|Schwalbe G-One Bite 45mm (tubeless, set up tubed)
|DT Swiss G1800 Spline 11 speed, 24mm internal rim diameter, 650b for XS and 2XS
The Canyon Grizl verdict
Price-wise, the UK has undoubtedly taken a beating thanks to Brexit, but at £3k I still think that this bike is reasonably priced for the ride and spec. Compared to the Specialized Diverge I reviewed last year that comes out £1000 more for the same GRX 800 group, for the extra Specialized FutureShock stem (undecided on that one) and the SWAT down tube storage (cool, but not essential), I think that it represents a fair price. Not to mention that the tyres are infinitely better too!
I wouldn’t say I’m totally anti-suspension for gravel bikes, but I think that a lot of complication can be avoided by getting the right tyre pressures. I’m glad to see Canyon haven’t gone down that route with the frameset, but the split VCLS seatpost does noticeably give some trail dampening, which is certainly no bad thing when it comes to longer days or even consecutive days in the saddle.
So how does it ride? It’s cliché to put simply that it’s fast, but the light and nimble handling of the Canyon Grizl does put it among one of the most responsive gravel bikes that I’ve had the pleasure of riding. Wide, low tread tyres are perfect for this time of year: fast on the road and confidence inspiring when you veer off it. The Grizl has been a real joy to climb on, and although carbon fibre wouldn’t typically be my frame material of choice due to sustainability issues, you can really notice the weight saving on unladen rides, especially when pointing uphill.
The Canyon Grizl is neither the ultimate gravel race bike, nor the ultimate bikepacking bike, and that’s okay. Let’s face it: most of us aren’t taking on GBDURO or vying for a podium place at Gritfest. This happy middle ground will allow you to do both, with options to change the spec to suit exactly what you want to get out of your ride. Looking for an alternative to carbon fibre? We’re told an alloy model is in the works for later this year, as well as SRAM-equipped builds.
Canyon Grizl CF SL 8£2,999, €2,799, $2,949
- Generous tyre clearance gives more options for rubber and comfort for loaded riding
- Brilliant fit for shorter riders with 650b
- Extra mounts give more packing options for bikepacking
- Light, matte paint job doesn't wear well
- Carbon fibre only (alloy to follow later in the year)
Last modified: 20th May 2021