CANYON GRIZL CF SL 8 REVIEW
It’s true, over the course of each year, we get some pretty cool bikes to ride. And, admittedly, some of the bikes get us pretty excited just by looking at them. Canyon’s new entry-level Grizl gravel bike is one such bike, although possibly not for the reasons some might assume. In a word, handlebars.
Canyon is, of course, not new to the gravel market, and we’ve tested their high-end Grail before (RBA, March 2019). Funny thing about that bike, while it checked all the boxes—cool design and carbon abound—there was that one component that left us scratching our heads. Again, in a word, handlebars.
In their attempt to innovate and stand out in the crowd, Canyon engineers devised a unique dual-plane handlebar for the Grail that’s designed to provide added rider relief over the rough stuff. It was cute but ineffective. Worse, since the handlebars were part of a baked-in bar/stem system combo, Grail riders were stuck with the novelty handlebar. No thanks.
The Grizl is sort of a monster gravel rig that has room for huge 50mm (29×2.0) tires and plenty of mounting points for adventures of all types. This is a solid addition to the Canyon lineup, as the Grail is really targeting the race-oriented crowd. Most of the Grizl line is the SL mid-level carbon and, currently, they only offer one model with the higher-tier SLX layup.
Our size-small Grizl test rig has a wheelbase of 103.6cm and chainstay length of 43.5cm. The chainstays are asymmetric with the drive side dropped. To make room for the large tires, there is an axle to crown of 41.5cm, but this is matched with a short 11.8cm head tube at 71 degrees. There is a frame reach of 39.7cm and a stack of 55.6cm.
The frame is dropper-post- and suspension-fork-compatible if you’re into that sort of thing (Canyon offers one model with a 1x drivetrain and dropper post). The frame uses the PF86 bottom bracket standard that, in our opinion, is better than a BB30 type.
On paper, the $3200 build is a solid offering for the price. Shimano GRX RX810 offers mechanical shifting paired with hydraulic flat-mount brakes. The 2x crank has 48/31 rings but shorty 170mm arms. In the rear is a Shimano Ultegra 11-34 cassette for a good spread for a wide range of terrain. Most important, the easiest gear is well below our 1:1 minimum ratio for most gravel.
A set of DT Swiss G1800 spline wheels are wrapped with Maxxis Rambler 45mm tires. A WTB Volt saddle with steel rails tops the Canyon S15 VCLS 2.0 CF carbon suspension seatpost that offers both 13mm and 25mm setback. The bars and stem are also supplied by Canyon but in the form of an alloy ergo bar with 70mm of reach and alloy 70mm stem. Both are of a standard type with 1 1/8-inch steerer and 31.8mm round bar.
Just as we’ve relied on in the past, we used the Canyon website to choose the bike size for our 5-foot-10 to 6-foot test riders, and it suggested a size small Grizl. That didn’t seem off because we usually get the same size for their road bikes. Oddly, the bike is spec’d with 170mm cranks and a 70mm stem. The reach isn’t long at only 70mm, so the whole setup felt cramped and the saddle a bit higher than normal. After only a few miles the cranks didn’t bother us, but the stem was definitely too short and we needed to go to 100mm.
“Between the ‘unsystem’ handlebar/stem combo and room for three bottles, the whole team would choose the Grizl over the Grail hands down.”
Even with only 32 psi in the tires, they did much better on the road than we expected, and we easily kept up with most other riders on skinny tires. Sure, in the fast group rides the tires were not ideal, but when they are in their element, you can’t go wrong. As soon as you detour off the paved roads onto the dusty back roads, the bike comes alive. The large tires eat up imperfections and mute bad line choices. The ultra-flexy Canyon seatpost also added another layer of appreciable compliance in the rough stuff.
The bike’s geometry is a great balance of long overall with a short rear end. This left it feeling nimble in tight trails or technical climbs that were steep and rough. When the speeds turn up and you point it downhill, the longer 103.6cm wheelbase kept things in control and confident. The longer axle to crown is offset by the shorter head tube for a bike that still felt neutral over the front end and not high like many adventure-oriented bikes do.
The aluminum DT Swiss G1800 wheels are spot-on for a bike at this price. The alloy rim is only 25mm deep. They are tubeless-ready, and the 24mm internal dimension is a perfect pairing for tires between 30 to 50mm. We haven’t had them long enough to say for sure, but these seem like they will go the distance and would only need to
be upgraded if you wanted to go carbon or maybe needed more hub-engagement points.
The difference between a 40- and 45mm tire may not sound like much, but the difference in traction and control that the Grizl tires provided in the dirt versus our more frequently used 40s was substantial.
The bike responds well, and no matter what your style of riding is, the Grizl is well-equipped for a broad spectrum of riding. The racer types were impressed with the stiffness and handling, while the adventure types enjoy seemingly endless mounts. Canyon also offers an optional Apidura bag set that fits the Grizl perfectly. Most of the time we only opted for the top tube pack, but both the frame and saddle bags are great options for a long weekend of bikepacking.
“Sure, in the fast group rides the tires were not ideal, but when they are in their element, you can’t go wrong.”
We love that 45mm tires fit with plenty of room for debris and mud. The larger rubber also offers more traction when things get rowdy. We have been really loving all the bikes with 2x drivetrains, and the Grizl is no different. It allowed for a more versatile bike when on the paved roads but offers more than enough range in the dirt.
We know there’s a trend for gravel bike geometry to not be as stretched out as a road bike, but the combination of the 70mm stem and bar reach was too short for us. And while, yes, pedal strikes in the dirt can be an issue, the shorter cranks necessitated a taller saddle height. Between the “un-system” handlebar/stem combo and room for three bottles, the whole team would choose the Grizl over the Grail hands down. Did we mention that it’s almost an unbeatable deal at $3200?
• All that for how much?
• Grizl > Grail
• Are we really a size small?
Weight: 21.94 pounds
Sizes: 2XS, XS, S (tested), M, L, XL, 2XL