The Canyon Grail CF SLX 8 eTap has been a firm fixture in the gravel cosmos since its introduction and has always divided opinions with its unique cockpit design. How will the bike fare in our big 2021 gravel bike group test?
Get an overview of this group test: The best gravel-bike 2021 – 13 models on review
The Canyon Grail CF SLX 8 eTap clearly belongs to the category of marmite gravel bikes that you either love or hate. The German bike brand makes use of SRAM’s Force eTap AXS Wide rear derailleur and offers gravel-friendly gear ratios with a 10–36 t cassette and 46/33 t chainrings. The combination of a huge gear range and small gear steps suits the bike perfectly. Another highlight is Canyon’s proprietary S15 VCLS 2.0 CF seatpost. The added comfort it provides is very noticeable and it is available with either 13 or 25 mm offset. With Canyon’s CP07 Gravelcockpit and its double-decker handlebar, the Grail CF SLX 8 eTap features a unique approach to offering additional comfort on the tops.
Due to the double-decker construction, the drops are attached to an additional cross-bar beneath the shifter levers. This creates an unusual place to rest your thumbs when riding in the drops #loveitorhateit. While the cockpit height can be adjusted by a few millimetres thanks to the spacers, that will compromise the seamless transition between the stem and frame.
Canyon Grail CF SLX 8 eTap
Seatpost Canyon S15 VCSL 2.0 CF 13/25 mm
Brakes SRAM Force 160/160 mm
Drivetrain SRAM Force eTap AXS 46/33 (10–36)
Stem Canyon CP07 Gravel Cockpit CF 75 mm
Handlebar Canyon CP07 Gravel Cockpit CF 440 mm
Wheelset DT Swiss GRC 1400
Tires Schwalbe G-One Bite 40C
Size 2XS XS S M L XL 2XL
Weight 8.22 kg
wide range of different specifications
Proprietary cockpit and seat post
Bolting points for mudguards
Delivery right to your doorstep
|Seat tube||432 mm||462 mm||492 mm||522 mm||552 mm||582 mm||612 mm|
|Chainstays||415 mm||415 mm||425 mm||425 mm||425 mm||425 mm||425 mm|
|BB Drop||60 mm||60 mm||75 mm||75 mm||75 mm||75 mm||75 mm|
|Radstand||998 mm||990 mm||1,020 mm||1,029 mm||1,040 mm||1,063 mm||1,073 mm|
|Reach||404 mm||425 mm||442 mm||461 mm||478 mm||497 mm||516 mm|
|Stack||595 mm||615 mm||638 mm||660 mm||688 mm||709 mm||729 mm|
The large front triangle is a feast for the eyes of all bikepacking fans who want to get a custom frame bag. However, this comes at the cost of standover height.
In addition, the cockpit isn’t compatible with all aftermarket accessories. For example, if you rely on Canyon’s in-house GPS mount (not included with the bike) you’ll have a hard time attaching a handlebar bag. Lights and bells that are made to be clamped to a round handlebar won’t work here either and while changing the cockpit is technically possible, it wouldn’t make much sense as the frame is designed around these bars and you’d end up with a very aggressive position. And, after all, it’s one of the bike’s USPs. Canyon rely on a set of 700 x 40C Schwalbe G-One Bite tires fitted to a DT Swiss GRC 1400 wheelset. The frameset offers a comparatively scant maximum tire clearance of 700 x 42C. Our size M test bike weighs in at 8.22 kg and is available for € 4,779.
Like last year, the Canyon’s handling is intuitive and extremely composed with a balanced level of agility, making it suitable for gravel fans of all skill levels. Regardless of the speed you’re riding, the Grail CF SLX 8 eTap responds predictably to input from the rider. Speaking of speed, we were impressed with the gravel bike’s efficiency, both on flat terrain and in the mountains, as well as its responsive acceleration. Models like the ARC8 Eero or the S-Works Diverge are a bit livelier but the Grail will easily sprint its way into the leading pack of the test field.
The seatpost on the Canyon feels like a magic carpet ride as it absorbs small vibrations as well as larger impacts, spoiling the rider with a lot of comfort at the rear. However, we can’t say the same about the front. In terms of comfort, Canyon’s unique cockpit design only works when you’re riding on the tops. But this riding position is so upright that you’re putting minimal weight on the handlebars and it only dampens high-frequency vibrations. Unfortunately, the bars are far too stiff in all other hand positions. The comparatively low-volume Schwalbe tires don’t do much to add to the bike’s overall comfort level either. The imbalance between front and rear compliance on the Grail has a negative effect on the rider’s confidence. In the most comfortable position, the tops, you’re not ready to brake. When switching from the drops to the tops, you have to open your hands more than usual due to the crossbar that your thumbs rest on, which can also lead to fumbling in tricky situations. Apart from the cockpit peculiarities, the Canyon does instil the rider with confidence on smooth paths due to its straight-line stability, even when you’re riding fast.
Tuning tip: faster tires with better damping to round off the bike and make it more comfortable
If you mainly ride on compact gravel highways with wide, open corners and choppy asphalt roads, you will find the Canyon Grail CF SLX 8 eTap to be an efficient gravel bike at a fair price. The bike’s limited off-road performance and the lack of adjustability of the cockpit detract from its all-round capabilities. To ensure a good fit with the cockpit, you should study the geometry very carefully before buying and ideally take it for a test ride first. The latter is difficult to do with a direct to consumer bike.
- intuitive and composed handling
- efficient on flat terrain and carrying speed
- comfortable seat post
- limited cockpit adjustability and compatibility
- imbalanced comfort
- limited off-road capabilities
Not sure which gravel bike you should buy? This guide will help you for sure: gravel bike buyers guide.
You wonder what tires to put on your gravel machine? We recently tested the best gravel tires against each other in our gravel tire group test.
More information: canyon.com
A quick overview of this group test: The best gravel-bike 2021 – 13 models on review
All bikes on review: 3T Exploro Race EKAR 1X13 (Click for review) | ARC8 Eero (Click for review) | BMC URS 01 ONE (Click for review) | Cannondale Topstone Carbon Lefty 3 (Click for review) | Canyon Grail CF SLX 8 eTap | Fustle Causeway GRX600 (Click for review) | OPEN WI.DE. (Click for review) | Ridley Kanzo Fast (Click for review) | Ritte Satyr (Click for review) | ROSE BACKROAD FORCE ETAP AXS LIMITED (Click for review) | ROSE BACKROAD AL GRX RX600 1X11 (Click for review) | Specialized S-Works Diverge (Click for review) | Trek Checkpoint (Click for review)
No, it’s not about perfect race tracks, it’s about efficiency. Fast, fleet-footed and efficient – those who want to speed along high-speed passages need a defined and spritely bike that accelerates with ease and efficiency. Nevertheless, reliable components are important too. We interpret “Smooth tarmac” bikes as follows: Hard efforts at high speeds with a maximum efficient bike on a consistently well-paved road. Effort-joy ratio: 80:30 (not everything has to be 100%!)↩
… also known as bike riding. Broken-up roads in the hinterland, deadlocked gravel roads, loose surfaces – sometimes muddy, sometimes bone-dry. For this, it takes bikes with super all-round, handling and wearing qualities uphill and downhill. Effort-joy ratio: 50:50↩
If you want to use your bike almost every day, you usually do not need an extremely tuned racing machine. Solid components, which are able to cope with the rigours of continuous usage in any kind of weather, are part of the basic equipment. At the same time, the bike should have practicable details: integrated fenders/assembly options, luggage racks/attachment points and a light system or at least the option of installing bike lights. The position on the bike should be rather relaxed, the overall comfort high, so that the Afterwork Ride becomes a cure and not a curse. Effort-joy ratio: 30:70↩
Did you enjoy this article? If so, we would be stoked if you decide to support us with a monthly contribution. By becoming a supporter of GRAN FONDO, you will help secure a sustainable future for high-quality cycling journalism. Click here to learn more.
Words: Photos: Valentin Rühl