The latest gravel race bike from the German direct to consumer brand hopes to build on the success of its predecessor. With the Hoverbar gone, and lots of new innovations, the completely redesigned Canyon Grail CFR is ready to hit the world’s gravel roads. What is the new Grail really capable of, and is it a thoroughbred gravel race bike?
When Carolin Schiff was the first woman to cross the finish line in the pouring rain at Unbound Gravel 2023, many asked themselves who this rider from Germany is. Many people also wondered about the gravel bike aboard which she won the unofficial Gravel World Championship. The as yet unknown and unbranded gravel bike was also piloted by gravel champion Peter Stetina, though he didn’t win the race. There were rumours about a new Canyon Grail, which didn’t come as a surprise. After all, the original version of the bike had been on the market for over five years – first as a gravel bike, then as a gravel race bike – so a new iteration was overdue. But has the new Canyon Grail CFR evolved significantly, or is it just an update on the status quo of gravel race bikes? We put the new Grail to the test on the doubletrack passes of the Dolomites and the gravel roads around Thuringia to find out.
CFR instead of Hoverbar – What’s new on the Canyon Grail CFR
The elephant in the room must go! The iconic Hoverbar was the standout feature of the last Canyon Grail, both visually and functionally, and it was loved, hated, and misunderstood. Because of the look, the double-decker bars were always going to be polarising, although the vibration damping and multiple hand positions were brilliant. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your stance, the double-decker concept no longer features on the new Canyon Grail. Instead, Canyon rely on the CFR carbon lay-up for the frame: the German brand’s highest-quality carbon, boasting a higher tensile strength and increased stiffness. As a result, they’re able to reduce the wall thicknesses, thereby dropping the weight. This means that the new gravel bike will officially join the ranks of the Canyon Factory Racing Team. Other than that, the design of the new Grail is subtle, featuring Canyon’s signature clean-cut look. At first glance, it looks a lot like the Canyon Grizl, characterised by angular shapes and smooth transitions. Just like the new SP0072 COMFORTPOST D-Shape seat post. It promises the same level of comfort as the ever-popular S15 VCLS 2.0, but with less weight. Surprisingly, you can only fit 42 mm wide tires in the frame and fork. While this should suffice for most races, it might not be enough for some hobby riders. Having lots of tire clearance is especially helpful when things get muddy, too, as Peter Stetina found out the hard way at this year’s Unbound.
The concept of the new Canyon Grail is clearly geared towards racing. Therefore, aero optimisation also played a major role in its development, as competitive gravel races take place at high speeds of between 30 and 40 km/h. The higher the speed, the greater the effect of wind resistance and optimised aerodynamics. To that end, Canyon adopted the tube shapes from the Canyon Ultimate and applied them to the new Grail frame, including the D-shaped seat post. Aero doesn’t stop at on-bike storage either, which is where the AERO LOAD SYSTEM comes in, also known as an integrated storage compartment. Fancy name aside, it’s quite substantial! Hidden under a port in the down tube is a bag containing space for a TPU inner tube, CO₂ inflator and cartridge, and tire levers. You’ll also find a bracket for a mini pump and multi-tool attached to the bottom of the somewhat cheap feeling plastic cover. Note: only the multi-tool is included, the rest is available separately. It’s a very convenient way to carry all the essentials, and should be more aero than strapping everything to the frame.
The handlebar, called the Double Drop Bar, is the official successor to the Hoverbar, and promises a reduced frontal area. The new Grail drop bar has a 5° backsweep on the tops with a slightly negative rise. The drops flare out by 5° at the top, increasing to 16° at the very bottom. Furthermore, the cable routing is only semi integrated, entering the frame via the head set. Why not fully integrated like on the new Endurace? According to Canyon, the idea was to make the cockpit more robust, easier to adjust the fit, and to simplify travelling with the bike. Of course, the last aspect is especially important for racers who compete all over the world. There are three different versions of the Double Drop Bar: an extra narrow 400 mm Pro variant, the standard variant with the Gear Groove Interface, and one without it. You’ve also got a choice of widths ranging from 420 to 460 mm, and stem lengths of 60 to 110 mm. The Gear Groove Interface is a system in the middle of the handlebar that can accommodate various accessories, including the Canyon CP0019 Triathlon Flatbar like on the Speedmax CFR, a mount for Garmin and Wahoo bike computers, an SP Connect adapter for a smartphone with a matching case, a special bracket for GoPro mounts, and in-house headlights. This is a super clean all-in-one solution for a bunch of excellently integrated accessories. Unfortunately, all of these proprietary accessories are exclusively available from Canyon, and aero extensions have recently been banned from various – but by no means all – gravel races.
The list of innovations goes on! There are three openings in the front triangle for three magnetic pins, allowing you to attach the tailor made frame bag within a second. During a race, the old, emptied frame bag full of rubbish can be quickly removed from the bike at a supply station and replaced with a new bag filled with fresh snacks and fluids. Super practical and insanely fast! Even for non-racers, it’s a clean, convenient feature that puts an end to fiddling with Velcro straps and having unsightly scuff marks on the frame. Due to the seamless fit of the bag in the frame, there are no corners and edges to create turbulence and thus increase drag, instead helping to reduce drag. But that’s not the end of the accessory fun on the new Grail: the matching mudguards attach to the thru-axles and two other mounting points via quick-release mechanisms for speed and convenience. You’ll also find bosses for three bottle cages and a top tube bag on the frame. Canyon have developed a kind of adapter sleeve for the fork, which attaches to the fork legs via three screws each. They can carry up to 3 kg of gear per side with the help of straps or cages. While not an option for short one-day races, they can come in handy if you plan to use the Canyon Grail as a bikepacking bike!
Not one for all and all for one – The builds and geometry of the new Canyon Grail
The new Canyon Grail is available in three different ranges. The three flagship models of the Grail CFR range all come equipped with the integrated multi-tool and feature the best carbon that Canyon have to offer. These include the Canyon Grail CFR Di2 with a 2x Shimano GRX 815 Di2 drivetrain, the Canyon Grail CFR AXS with a 1x SRAM Red AXS XPLR groupset, and a special edition called the Canyon Grail CFR Pro LTD, featuring the GRVL DZZL finish. The latter is identical to the Grail CFR AXS in terms of the components, just donning the “Razzle Dazzle” camouflage look. This model is limited to 70 bikes. Prices range from € 6,999 for the Di2 variant to € 10,000 for the LTD version. Unlike our test bike, none of the models come with a power meter.
Below that is the Canyon Grail CF SLX range with two build options: the Canyon Grail CF SLX 8 Di2 also relies on the Shimano GRX 815 Di2 groupset, paired with a set of DT Swiss GRC 1400 wheels. The Canyon Grail CF SLX 8 AXS is specced with a SRAM Force AXS groupset and Zipp 303 Firecrest wheels. You can expect to pay € 4,999 for the Shimano variant and € 5,299 for the SRAM variant. The Canyon Grail CF SL 7, Canyon Grail CF SL 7 AXS and Canyon Grail CF SL 8 models mark the entry into the new Grail world. The main downgrade here is the absence of the integrated storage compartment and the Gear Groove Interface on the handlebar. The most affordable Grail costs € 2,699.
Specs der Canyon Grail-Modelle
|Model||Canyon Grail CFR Di2||Canyon Grail CFR AXS||Canyon Grail CFR Pro LTD||Grail CF SLX 8 Di2||Grail CF SLX 8 AXS||Grail CF SL 7||Grail CF SL 7 AXS||Canyon Grail CF SL 8|
|Carbon layup||CFR||CFR||CFR||CF SLX||CF SLX||CF SL||CF SL||CF SL|
|Groupset||Shimano GRX Di2||SRAM Red AXS XPLR||SRAM Red AXS XPLR||Shimano GRX Di2||SRAM Force AXS||Shimano GRX 620||SRAM Rival AXS XPLR||Shimano GRX 820|
|Wheelset||DT Swiss GRC 1100||DT Swiss GRC 1100||DT Swiss GRC 1100||DT Swiss GRC 1400||Zipp 303 Firecrest||DT Swiss Gravel LN||DT Swiss Gravel LN||DT Swiss G1800|
|Price||€ 6.999||€ 7.999||€ 10.000||€ 4.999||€ 5.299||€ 2.699||€ 3.499||€ 2.999|
In frame size M, the geometry of the new Canyon Grail has been slightly adapted to suit its gravel racing ambitions, though it’s not overly progressive. The wheelbase has been extended by 27 mm. The head tube angle now sits at 71.5° and is thus 1° slacker. The stack-to-reach ratio of 1.43 also points to the gravel race bike’s competitive orientation. Overall, however, the geometry is still much more relaxed than on purebred racing machines.
|Seat Tube||420 mm||450 mm||480 mm||510 mm||540 mm||570 mm||600 mm|
|Head Tube||123 mm||129 mm||145 mm||163 mm||187 mm||207 mm||230 mm|
|Chainstay||425 mm||425 mm||425 mm||425 mm||425 mm||425 mm||425 mm|
|Wheelbase||1.021 mm||1.024 mm||1.034 mm||1.057 mm||1.080 mm||1.092 mm||1.118 mm|
|Reach||372 mm||385 mm||394 mm||411 mm||427 mm||435 mm||454 mm|
|Stack||545 mm||556 mm||573 mm||591 mm||613 mm||633 mm||655 mm|
Not just another gravel bike – The Canyon Grail CFR in review
Okay! The list of innovations and special features on the Canyon Grail CFR is long and reads exceptionally well. But does the bike’s performance back it up? The short answer is: yes! How so? For one, you can just climb aboard the new Canyon Grail and ride. Thanks to its intuitive handling, there’s no learning curve or need to get used to the bike. Once you swing your leg over the saddle and grab the bars, you’ll instantly feel at one with the Grail. The riding position is well-balanced, offering the ideal combination of aggressive, dynamic, and relaxed. That way you can ride comfortably for hours while maintaining a consistently high speed. This is underlined by the new cockpit: it’s top notch ergonomically, at least on the hoods, the tops, and in the hooks. Unfortunately, the drops don’t run parallel to the ground – the ends point at the ground – so you must always keep your wrists slightly bent in the drops, and it feels a little like your hands want to slide down. However, the angles are generally very pleasant and put your arms in a comfortable posture.
The compliance is generally very impressive, too. The level of bump absorption that Canyon Grail CFR offers without resorting to active suspension and despite the stiffer carbon layup is excellent. The new D-shaped seatpost, coupled with 24 mm wide rims and some carefully engineered frame flex absorb small bumps and vibrations effectively, and without bouncing. Whether on well-groomed forest paths, rough gravel, or something in between – the Grail simply takes the sting out of most bumps. This spares your muscles and joints, which pays off especially on long rides.
The ride feel and handling are also more than convincing. The Canyon Grail CFR delivers excellent power transfer. You get the feeling that every contraction of your muscles is instantly converted into speed. It encourages you to give it your all on the climbs, especially considering the low weight. Our Shimano GRX Di2 equipped bike weighs just 8.58 kg, including the completely outfitted AERO LOAD SYSTEM. The fast rolling Schwalbe G-One RS tires add to the bike’s fast and equally fun ride qualities. However, due to the smooth tread and lack of shoulder knobs, they quickly reach their limits when cornering on loose surfaces. For more traction and minimal loss of speed, you can swap the front tire out for a Schwalbe G-One R. The handling of the Canyon Grail CFR is very balanced and best suited to long gravel roads. It feels smooth and composed even at high speeds. That puts it on the more stable end of the spectrum, though it’s also relatively easy to chuck into the corners with a little encouragement.
Who is the Canyon Grail CFR for?
The new Canyon Grail CFR is a bike for fast rides and gravel races. It makes easy work of gaining and maintaining speed. Clever features like the AERO LOAD SYSTEM and the magnetic frame bag are incredibly convenient and advantageous in a race setting. At the same time, the new Grail is a well balanced and super fun gravel bike that performs just as well when you’re not racing against the clock, be it on long all-day rides or fast post-work jaunts. The only drawback is the limited 42 mm tire clearance, at least when you head into the rougher end of the gravel spectrum. It won’t let you get too wild on demanding off-road terrain.
Our conclusion on the new Canyon GRAIL CFR
Canyon present an impressive range of new features on the latest Grail, proving that there is still room for real innovations in cycling. It currently sets the standard in terms of attaching accessories and storing your essentials on a gravel bike, showing what the future might hold. Added to that is the fantastic ride quality and relatively fair price. The new Grail is sure to excel on long gravel races of 100 miles or more, as well as many other use cases. It’s fun, fast, and a worthy successor. Chapeau, Canyon!
- innovative implementation of onboard storage
- one-piece cockpit with countless integrated functions
- outstanding compliance of the frame, seat post, and wheels
- excellently balanced and fun handling
- Plastic cover on the AERO LOAD SYSTEM has a cheap feel compared to the rest of the bike
Tuning-Tipp: For more cornering grip on fast descents, fit a G-One R tire up front
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Words: Martin Staffa Photos: Jan Richter, Martin Staffa