The 2019 Canyon Strive is here! It’s a big wheel, long travel trail destroyer with ambitions of EWS domination.

We’ve had a first ride on the bike and it’s time for a first ride review.

The Canyon designers are clearly hard at work these days.

The end of 2018 saw us invited to the launch of the new 29″, short travel Canyon Neuron.

Just a few weeks later and we’ve had another new bike from the direct-to-your-door Germans, the 2019 Canyon Strive.

Join us as Ben takes a first look and first ride on the new German big wheeler.

First ride by Ben Plenge, Photos by Dave Price

canyon strive 27.5"

The previous version of the Strive, with 160mm travel and 27.5″ wheels.

(Re)Introducing the 2019 Canyon Strive

Let’s start with the basics. Like the Neuron, the Canyon Strive isn’t actually a new bike for Canyon’s range. The Strive is Canyon’s longest-but-one travel ‘enduro’ bike, sitting above the Spectral in terms of travel and aggro geometry but below the Torque.

Previously, the bike had 27.5″ wheels, 160mm of travel and was tested and developed by the Canyon Factory Enduro Team including Joe Barnes, Ines Thoma, Florian Nicolai  and (behind the scenes) Fabien Barel.

Whilst Factory Team race results only prove so much, it says something that the bike has won the Enduro World Series Team Championships on two occasions.

And the new stuff for 19.

For 2019, the Canyon Strive gets some pretty significant changes. First, Canyon have swapped 27.5″ wheels for 29″ wheels. Where some models in the Canyon range base wheel size on frame size (smaller frames get smaller wheels), the Strive is thoroughbred 29″ only.

The Strive was previously available in carbon and alloy models, but for 2019 it’s all plastic baby.

Interestingly, there’s not just one type of carbon available. The 5.0 to 8.0 models use the ‘CF’ frame, where as the top-end 9.0 Team and 9.0 LTD frames use the posher CFR carbon fibre, which is 300g lighter.

Canyon say that “the difference between the frames is the layup of the carbon fibre: the type of fibre, the way the fibres and resin are combined, and the alignment of the weave“.

There are 6 versions available to buy, with prices ranging from €2999 to €6999.

And the new Shapeshifter

Before we talk about the all important geometry, let’s explore Canyon’s Shapeshifter system.

Shapeshifter is a piece of technology that lets you adapt the bike’s geometry and suspension to suit (Canyon say) any terrain with just the press of a button.

Canyon developed the system exclusively for their bikes with Fox Suspension and it appeared on the old version of the Strive. The new Strive gets what Canyon are calling ‘Shapeshifter 2.0’.

Merida eOneFortytea

The Shapeshifter is a gas spring that sits alongside the rear shock and is controlled by a trigger shifter on the left hand side of the bike’s handlebar. The shifter lets you activate ‘DH’ or ‘XC’ mode which moves the bike between two pre-set geometry and suspension positions.

In DH mode the bike sits in its longest travel, most aggressive position and has 150mm travel, a 66° head angle, a 73.5° seat angle and a lower BB height and longer wheel base.

In XC mode, the Strive takes on a shape that’s more suited to climbing. The travel drops to 135mm and the suspension stiffens, the head angle steepens to 67.5°, the seat angle moves to 75° and yep, the BB goes up and wheel base shortens.

Sizes and shapes

The Strive won’t win any awards for extreme reach or head angles, but we know better than to write it off on that basis. The 66° head angle feels a little tight for steep, nasty, technical trails but the general size and shape of the bike feels comfortable. The 470mm reach on our large test bike felt like a good fit.

We like Canyon’s approach to making bikes that they think suit the 90% of riders, rather than the “I need a longer bike” 10%.

On the trails

I was excited to get the Canyon Strive ahead of the bike’s announcement, giving us a chance for a quick ride on familiar trails ahead of the launch.

I took the Strive to our favourite secret singletrack in the Forest of Dean and was blessed with dreamy conditions for 30km of natural, technical trails and strangely dry loam.

Whilst it wasn’t a big enough ride to really get the bike pinned down, it was an ideal first date with the Canyon Strive. 

My expectations of the bike were that 29″ wheels and 150mm rear travel with a 170mm fork would give it a big, soft, aggressive ‘plougher’ feeling and that I would be blasting through sections like a monster truck.

With just one trail of my 30km ride done I was surprised to find my expectations were way off. The Strive felt much livelier than I’d expected and much easier to change direction at short notice. Fast, tight turns were easy to nail and I didn’t struggle getting up to pace on my favourite nadgery, awkward trail.

Nipping back up the fire road was surprisingly comfortable and whilst I haven’t weighed the bike, it feels light and easy to get up to speed. The Shapeshifter system is easy to use and genuinely does create a more comfortable position for climbing. I also really like how the dropper post lever is integrated into the Shapeshifter for a neat and tidy setup.

On the faster trails, the bike left me curious to spend more time on the setup. I didn’t feel held back by the geometry but did feel that the suspension needed more nob twiddling.

In fast, rough sections I found the bottom of the travel a few times and I felt the rear end to be a little unforgiving. No complaints whatsoever from the fork however and the Lyrik was outstanding as always.

With just 30km done on the Canyon Strive I know that I want to spend more time on it, get the suspension better dialled in and send it down some black trails at Bike Park Wales. I enjoyed how lively it felt on the trail, the build-kit is excellent and it cuts a striking silhouette.

So far, we like:

  • Light and responsive to ride, meaning it’s fun and easy to throw around
  • Looks great and stands out from the crowd
  • Canyon’s Shapeshifter system works well
  • As with all Canyon’s, it’s excellent value

So far, needs some work:

  • So far, the suspension feels a little unforgiving and needs more setup time.

You can read more about the Canyon Strive over on Canyon’s homepage here.