The cat is out of the bag: Canyon have announced their very first E-gravel bike, the Canyon Grail:ON CF 8 eTap. This isn’t just a Grail CF with a powerful Bosch Performance Line CX motor and 500 Wh battery bolted on. Instead, it benefits from customised geometry and claims a more comfortable ride. Does the concept work? We tested it for you.
Even at a glance, it’s easy to spot the similarities between the Canyon Grail CF and its motorised brother, the Canyon Grail:ON CF. Carbon framesets featuring similar geometry, VCLS 2.0 suspended seatposts, Schwalbe G-One Bite tires and apart from the down tube and motor, a similarly futuristic look and design. And yes, the polarising Canyon CP07 CF double-decker hover bar has also been carried over to the motorised version of the Grail CF. But Canyon haven’t just bolted a powerful Bosch Performance Line CX motor and 500 Wh battery to the existing Grail CF. By changing some components and tuning the geometry, a comfortable, motor-assisted, off-road escape from the city is claimed to be easier than ever before. Does that work in practice? We were able to test the top-end Canyon Grail:ON CF 8 eTap thoroughly before its official release and can tell you who this bike is and isn’t for.
The Canyon Grail:ON CF 8 eTap in detail
As the name suggests, the top-end Grail:ON CF 8 eTap comes equipped with a wireless SRAM AXS 1×12 Force eTap group. Even with the additional cables for the Bosch Purion remote, the wireless shifting avoids a tangle of cables around the hover bar. The polarising CP07 double-decker cockpit is the same that is fitted to the non-motorised Grail CF. With its built-in flex area in the middle of the upper bar, it is designed to offer increased comfort and compliance when on the tops, while maintaining a stiff and direct feel when riding in the drops. Voluminous 700 x 50C Schwalbe G-One Bite tires, compliant seat stays and the Canyon VCLS 2.0 CF seatpost are supposed to generate additional comfort when riding off-road. Complementing the tires nicely, the DT Swiss HGC 1400 gravel wheelset comes with a generous 24 mm inner rim width – great!
While the rear wheel is built around 12 x 148 mm Boost spacing, the front uses a standard 12 x 100 mm thru-axle. While this no doubt makes sense for this bike, it does make swapping wheels more difficult if you only have a standard 12 x 142/12 x 100 mm road thru-axle wheelset at home. While the wheels and tires are tubeless-ready, our test bike came fitted with tubes. The Bosch Performance Line CX is difficult to hide, while the 500 Wh battery hidden in the voluminous down tube is fairly obvious, especially in comparison to the non-motorised Grail CF – there’s no attempt to hide that this is an ebike. The in-house developed carbon fork has a wider stance and complements the more massive lines of the bike well. If you plan to use this bike for commuting or like to ride in the rain, you’ll be pleased to see the provisions for mudguard mounts. The GPS mount fitted to our test bike isn’t part of the standard build but can be bought separately.
Components and geometry of the Canyon Grail:ON CF range
The Canyon Grail:ON CF is available in three different builds. The most affordable Grail:ON CF 7 with Shimano GRX 600 gearing is also available as a women’s specific WMN Grail:ON CF 7. Both cost € 4,999. The unisex Grail:ON CF 8 with a Shimano GRX 800 groupset and the Grail:ON CF 8 eTap cost € 5,299 and € 5,999 respectively. All models come with a 1x drivetrain, DT Swiss HG gravel wheels and the Bosch Performance Line CX motor. The same applies to the VCLS 2.0 seatpost, the CP07 cockpit and the voluminous 50 mm Schwalbe G-One Bite tires. The disc rotors are 160 mm front and rear, though the front can be sized up to 180 mm with the right adaptor.
Our test bike – the flagship Canyon Grail:ON CF 8 eTap
Groupset SRAM Force eTap AXS, 1 x 12, 44 t
Cassette SRAM XG-1295 Eagle, 10–36 t
Brakes SRAM Force AXS, 160/160 mm
Wheelset DT Swiss HGC 1400
Tires Schwalbe G-One Bite, 700 x 50C
Seatpost Canyon VCLS 2.0 CF, 25 mm offset
Cockpit Canyon CP07 hover bar cockpit, 440 mm / 75 mm
Motor Bosch Performance Line CX, 85 Nm
Battery Bosch PowerTube, 500 Wh
Display Bosch Purion
Weight 15.9 kg in size M
Price € 5,999
The motor remote is well-positioned on the bars. You can actuate it regardless of where your hands are on the bars:
Canyon offer a total of seven different sizes, meaning no rider has to miss out. While the 2XS, XS and S sizes roll on 650B wheels and have shorter chainstays, sizes M, L, XL and 2XL roll on 700C wheels. The head angle and stem length has been modified to match each size and the crank length and bar widths are also size-specific.
|Seat tube||432 mm||462 mm||492 mm||522 mm||552 mm||582 mm||612 mm|
|Top tube||534 mm||561 mm||569 mm||577 mm||585 mm||610 mm||620 mm|
|Head tube||110 mm||119 mm||137 mm||122 mm||143 mm||166 mm||189 mm|
|Chainstay||425 mm||425 mm||425 mm||440 mm||440 mm||440 mm||440 mm|
|Wheelbase||1,023 mm||1,034 mm||1,043 mm||1,053 mm||1,059 mm||1,082 mm||1,090 mm|
|Stack||512 mm||524 mm||541 mm||561 mm||582 mm||605 mm||628 mm|
|Reach||392 mm||406 mm||409 mm||411 mm||413 mm||431 mm||434 mm|
With a wheelbase of 1053 mm in size M, this bike has grown in length compared to the Grail CF. Together with the 15 mm longer chainstays, this E-gravel bike is supposed to offer an even calmer and more secure ride. A shorter reach results in a comfortable riding position, though the seat and head tube angles haven’t changed.
Canyon Grail:ON CF 8 eTap first ride review
Concept and impression of the Canyon Grail:ON CF 8 eTap motor
It’s not just during our last gravel bike group test that we became aware of a significant truth in gravel: not all gravel is created equal. While for one person it might be a mix of asphalt and gravel paths, another might see it as a mix of gravel paths and easy singletrail. Add a motor and opinions will split yet again. The fact is, that less fit riders who ride mainly on gravel and forest paths will not only be able to double or triple their range onboard the Grail:ON CF, but can also ride with fitter friends and enhance their own riding experience. On top of that, sweat-free commutes to the office will be possible too, though that’s not to say that you’ll be limited to the 25 km/h assistance limit on the way home.
A Bosch Performance Line CX motor, already updated to Bosch’s 2020 firmware release is at the heart of the E-gravel bike, making the bike an off-road rocket with 85 Nm torque on tap. You can find more information about the 2020 software update at our sister magazine E-MOUNTAINBIKE. With so much power available, the motor, which was originally designed for eMTBs, is probably best used in ECO or TOUR modes for the majority of riders. In this setting, the Grail:ON CF accelerates linearly while requiring enough input from the rider to elicit a light sweat when riding actively. Ride faster than the 25 km/h assistance limit the motor modulates its power down before fading away completely at 27 km/h. In ECO mode, the transition from E- to muscle-powered riding feels a lot more natural than the more powerful modes. The reengagement of the motor is similarly smooth. In contrast, as you fly past the assistance limit in Turbo mode, the transition feels anything but natural. You’ll suddenly have to deal with a lot more input required from your legs than you were only moments before. If that happens on a slight incline, it can feel a bit like a slap in the face. Get through those two or three seconds, keep on pushing forward and you’ll quickly forget about that though. Once you’re up to speed, the Grail:ON happily stays there. Sprint from a standstill with full motor power and you’re catapulted straight to the 25 km/h threshold. This is how Mario Cipollini must feel in the pedals – breathtaking. Exceed that magical threshold and the pedalling resistance flattens off between 25 and 27 km/h, before abruptly increasing as the motor’s assistance disappears completely above 27 km/h. Due to how the motor modulates its power at the threshold, relaxed riding results in a very natural ride feel. However, more active riding overwhelms that illusion, sapping some of the joy from sprints with the motor fading in and out a bit of a distraction. But, after all, an E-gravel bike isn’t really designed for sprinting. Unfortunately the Grail:ON doesn’t feature the progressive eMTB mode which regulates the assistance of the motor based on the rider’s input. Your local Bosch dealer will be able to add this functionality for you. The only question is whether they will be willing to do so if you turn up with your direct to consumer ebike.
Tuning tips: Get your local dealer to install eMTB mode
The motor assistance modes are selected via Bosch’s Purion display, which is mounted on the left side of the bars where it displays your essential ride data. The control unit can be actuated without any issues from all positions on the Hover bar. As practical and utilitarian as this positioning is, we would have wished for a more sleekly integrated solution. The typical hum of the Bosch Performance Line CX motor is noticeably audible. However, after some time getting used to it, it becomes less present.
How far can you ride on the Canyon Grail:ON?
There’s no blanket statement that we can make regarding range as it depends on countless factors including temperature, rider weight, route profile, the assistance mode used, tire pressure and distance ridden above the 25 km/h threshold. You can read more in an article by our sister magazine E-MOUNTAINBIKE which discusses the truth about lab tests.
This is how the Canyon Grail:ON CF 8 eTap rides
On the flats and in particular on asphalt roads, you’ll quickly pass the 25 km/h assistance limit if riding sportily. Accelerate past it and the weight of 15.9 kg is noticeable, though once you reach your cruising speed, the Grail:ON stays there surprisingly willingly. However, if you’re in a group road ride you’ll find it (very) hard to keep up. This is where the concept of the large battery and motor reaches its limits as a result of the system’s high weight. Leave the paved roads and Canyon’s E-gravel bike feels very happy – it’s right at home on gravel. Here, the 700 x 50C Schwalbe G-One Bite tires together with the VCSL 2.0 suspension seatpost and the DT Swiss HG 1400 wheels generate lots of comfort. In addition, this is where the advantages of the motor concept really come to the fore. Stay on the top of the bar in the flex area and vibrations and small bumps are effectively absorbed, with a good balance of comfort between the front and rear. Unfortunately, if you prefer to ride in the drops you might end up cursing the hover bar design. Due to the additional strut, you’ll end up with an unusual platform to rest your thumb on and next to no damping for your hands. The Grail CF 8 eTap is intuitive and good-natured in its handling and with its stable ride feels secure and not at all demanding. Relaxed cruising is just as possible as more aggressive riding at high speeds. The relaxed riding position is also well suited to long days in the saddle.
Turn off the gravel and onto the trails and you’ll benefit from the bike’s agile and direct steering. However, it does impact on fast direction changes. Your thumbs will also suffer while riding in the drops, eliminating any of the thrills of rooty sections. You’ll be better off staying on the hoods. Annoyingly we had the motor turn off more than ten times when hitting hard bumps while riding. While the motor usually sprung back to life immediately, the desired assistance mode usually had to be reselected. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to determine whether this was symptomatic of a loose contact or a more serious problem during the timeframe of our testing. That said, during numerous tests for our sister magazine E-MOUNTAINBIKE of exactly the same Bosch motor, we’ve never experienced any problems. Canyon will be figuring out what was going on to remedy any issues before going into series production.
Canyon Grail:ON CF 8 eTap conclusion
The Canyon Grail:ON CF 8 eTap is a high-end E-gravel bike equipped with the best parts and a powerful motor at a fair price. It targets less fit gravel fans who want to go out for longer rides and are looking for the requisite tailwind on steep climbs. With its predictable and balanced handling and plenty of comfort off-road, it’s perfect for new gravelistas. Due to the bars and high weight, trail demons will be less happy here.
- value for money
- predictable and intuitive handling
- rear end comfort
- riding position for long distances
- varying comfort depending on hand position on bars
- high weight
- motor turned itself off when hitting bumps on the trail
For more information head to canyon.com
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Words & Photos: Jonas Müssig