Since its introduction in 2018, the Canyon Grail has divided the gravel community, but reducing the Grail to its polarising cockpit wouldn’t be fair! With a sportier geometry than its adventure sibling, the Grizl, and a leaf-spring seat post, the € 6,500 Grail CF SLX 9 eTap is marketed as the gravel racer in Canyon’s portfolio, but is it? And if so, what kind?
This bike was reviewed as part of our 2023 gravel race bike shootout. You’ll find a comprehensive group test and test field overview here: Which is the best gravel race bike of 2023? 9 gravel race bikes in review
Canyon probably had a different scenario in mind when the first official UCI Gravel World Championship in Veneto, Italy, was won on a Canyon. But gravel winner Gianni Vermeersch and cyclocross legend Mathieu van der Poel opted against the Grail in favour of the Canyon Ultimate CFR with 33 and 35 mm Vittoria Terreno Dry tires. You could say this is due to the track, but the truth lies elsewhere. If you look at the latest generation of gravel racing bikes, there’s a clear trend towards light, relatively stiff, and road-like bikes. However, the Grail doesn’t take that route. It focuses on comfort and high long-distance performance, dating back to a time when the general public had a different idea of gravel racing. As already described in the intro to our gravel race bike group test, not all gravel racing is equal, and that’s a good thing! So, we were all the more excited to find out how the Grail fared compared to the more aggressive gravel race bikes, who it’s for, and what chances the added comfort gives mere mortals like us of winning.
The Canyon Grail CF SLX 9 eTap – Swan or ugly duckling?
The distinctive design of the Canyon Grail CF is a subject of much debate. The most striking part of it is the Double Decker handlebar a.k.a. Hover Bar or Canyon CP07 Gravel Cockpit CF – whatever you want to call it. The hammerhead look isn’t for everyone, but as always, it’s not all about looks, and beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The special Cappuccino finish is exclusive to the flagship Grail CF SLX 9 eTap model. With its beautiful fade at the rear and abrupt transition into matt black up front, however, this look is further polarising.
Canyon Grail CF SLX 9 eTap
Seatpost Canyon S15
Brakes SRAM Red eTap AXS HRD 160 mm
Drivetrain SRAM Red eTap AXS 1x12
Stem Canyon CP0007 M mm
Handlebar Canyon CP0007 440 mm
Wheelset DT Swiss GRC 1100 Spline
Tires Schwalbe G-One R ADDIX TLE 700 x 40c
Size XXS XS S M L XL XXL
Weight 8,28 kg
low seat post clamp for added flex
paintwork in cappuccino look
In direct comparison to more aero bikes, the Grail looks overbuilt and doesn’t exude an aggressive or fast character. There are mounting points available on the frame, though not as many as on most of the competition. There’s no option of fitting a top tube bag or a third bottle cage on the down tube, for example. But thanks to Canyon’s in-house mudguards, the Grail is suitable for commuters and all-season riders.
The spec leaves little to be desired, and at € 6,499, it is the most affordable bike on test with a power metre, pulling out all the stops with the high-end SRAM RED eTap AXS groupset. The 1x drivetrain with a 40 t chainring and 10–44 t cassette is perfect for the intended use, though you could do with a second chainring on long distances. For the tires, Canyon rely on the 40 mm G-One R from Schwalbe, which provide minimal rolling resistance and lots of grip on dry terrain.
Canyon Grail CF SLX 9 eTap – Comfort cruiser and long-distance racer
The Grail performs the way it looks. It’s not an aggressive race bike but prefers doing its own thing. It’s a comfortable bike for long distances, designed to get you to your destination without unnecessary sprints or other foolery. In short, for big days out! Accordingly, the riding position is upright and balanced. Canyon’s in-house seat post and cockpit do a great job of absorbing impact and bumps. Due to the design of the seat post, it doesn’t provide direct feedback for racers. It also tends to bounce at higher pedalling cadences and on harder impacts. The unusual cockpit doesn’t just define the character of the bike, it also suits the intended use to a tee, with the tops and hoods providing a lot of comfort and compliance. The drops, on the other hand, only offer minimal damping – too little for long, bumpy descents. Added to this is the unfortunate cable routing around the cockpit, which tends to rattle.
Like walking on clouds – the Grail simply irons everything smooth.
The steering isn’t the most agile and feels a bit sluggish, but it offers a lot of stability on a straight line and through long, open corners. In technical terrain, the Grail feels a bit lost, in which case it isn’t precise and responsive enough, though it remains forgiving for beginners. Apart from the handlebar and seat post, the frame is stiff and direct. Due to the comparatively high weight of 8.28 kg, the bike maintains its pace well, and rolls over rough, uneven terrain with a high degree of efficiency – like a steam train that chugs along to the finish line, and it’s not slow either.
The Canyon Grail is sluggish to pull away and it climbs only moderately. This is mainly due to the heavy wheels, which weigh above average in our test. For a livelier ride, we recommend fitting a lighter wheel and tire combination.
Canyon Grail CF SLX 9 eTap
|Seat tube||432 mm||462 mm||492 mm||422 mm||552 mm||582 mm|
|Top tube||513 mm||523 mm||547 mm||569 mm||580 mm||604 mm|
|Head tube||70 mm||88 mm||78 mm||97 mm||125 mm||146 mm|
|Chainstay||415 mm||415 mm||425 mm||425 mm||425 mm||425 mm|
|BB Drop||60 mm||60 mm||75 mm||75 mm||75 mm||75 mm|
|Reach||404 mm||425 mm||442 mm||461 mm||478 mm||497 mm|
|Stack||595 mm||615 mm||638 mm||660 mm||688 mm||709 mm|
Who is the Canyon Grail CF SLX 9 eTap for?
The Grail isn’t for KOM hunters and those who count every second on the clock. It’s perfect for comfort seekers who use their bike for commuting or enjoy long and leisurely group rides. In general, the Grail is made for relaxed rides and racking up the kilometres. This makes it the perfect bike for weekend rides and multi-day outings as well as for long bikepacking events and self-supported races. Anyone looking for a striking, controversial and polarising bike will love the unique handlebar and seat post.
Tuning tips: A different seat post for racers to avoid bouncing and a lighter wheel and tire combination for quicker acceleration.
Our conclusion on the Canyon Grail CF SLX 9 eTap
Visually and technically polarising and somewhat inefficient, the Canyon Grail isn’t the first choice for fast gravel races over short to medium distances. However, it fulfils its purpose very well: neither a double-decker nor a turbojet, but a comfortable long-haul bomber. In short, the Canyon Grail CF SLX 9 eTap is a bike that likes to rack up the miles, prefers to circumnavigate technical terrain, and is accommodating of every skill level.
- high level of comfort thanks to the seat post and Double Decker handlebar
- polarising look with a unique paint job
- great spec at a fair price (including power metre)
- seat post tends to bounce at a high cadence
- poor cable routing rattles and scuffs the paint
You can find out more about at canyon.com
For an overview of the test fleet head to the group test: Which is the best gravel race bike of 2023? 9 gravel race bikes in review
All bikes in test: Argon 18 Dark Matter | Berria Belador Allroad 8 | BMC Kaius 01 ONE | Canyon Grail CF SLX 9 eTap | Factor OSTRO Gravel | Fara Cycling F/All-Road | Ridley Kanzo Fast | Specialized S-Works Crux | Trek Checkpoint SLR 9 eTap
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↩
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Words: Calvin Zajac Photos: Robin Schmitt, Jan Richter