After taking the Canyon Strive for its first ride back in January, Ben has been hammering it to see what the race-inspired machine can do.

A long travel, race-inspired 29er should be a recipe for some serious speed. Ben has been putting Canyon’s new Strive through the mill to see how the ‘one from the top’ model handles day-to-day riding.

Photos by Dave Price.

  • 29″ wheels
  • Top Spec CFR Carbon layup
  • 170mm fork, 150mm rear travel
  • Shapeshifter 2.0 travel and geo adjust
  • SRAM XO1 Eagle 12-speed drive
  • £4,999.99 RRP

Designed and developed for the Canyon Factory Enduro Team to tackle the burly tracks of the Enduro World Series, the new Canyon Strive promises to be a fast and capable bike.

Back in January my early impressions of the bike were pretty good. You can watch a short video and read about them here.

Since then I have logged plenty of miles on the Canyon, including plenty of wet, nasty, steep riding around my usual South Wales and Forest of Dean haunts.

The frame is a beautiful bit of kit in my opinion. I’m not a big carbon fan-boy and usually appreciate a metal bike, but the lines and finish on the Strive are really striking. The paint looks really smart and proved very durable despite plenty of gritty mud and a few crashes along the way. When I gave it back, it still looked brand new. The internal cable routing was totally silent and chain slap was kept to a minimum with the rubber protection on the chainstays.

The geometry is pretty bang on for a bike with these intentions, although I would prefer a slacker head angle than 66 degrees. On the size chart it says that at 177 cm (5’10”) I should ride a medium, but I found the 470mm reach size large to be perfect for me, with plenty of stand-over clearance and a 150mm Rock Shox Reverb dropper post fitted.

The chainstays are 435mm which is pretty short for a 29er. They certainly let you skip the back end around but they also reduce the amount of stability at speed. The Strive can carve a pretty tight arc around a turn and leans in well, especially when I ran it with less sag later in the test period. Having said that, I do prefer bikes that have a long reach to also have longer chainstays to help balance things out and to weight the front tyre more easily, giving more confidence in quick and rough corners.

The build kit on the CFR 9.0 Team is top of the line and nothing needed swapping out or fiddling with. The SRAM Code RSC brakes were super powerful and reliable throughout and the SRAM Eagle XO1 Eagle groupset was slick and crisp. It was also nice to see short, 165mm cranks being specced, decreasing pedal strikes through awkward and rocky sections.

Steering is taken care of by a Canyon own brand G5 40mm stem and 780mm wide G5 carbon bar. This setup worked really well for me and I found the bar to be nice and comfortable, unlike some cheaper carbon bars that can be overly stiff. I got on OK with the Ergon GD1 grips, but they are not my favourite as I like to ride without gloves and prefer a bit more squish in a grip. The Ergon saddle was also a bit flat for my bum and long rides were quite uncomfortable, but that is a personal preference and we all have very different bums.

It was refreshing to see a bash guard and chain guide from E.13 in place. Even with narrow/wide chainrings and clutch mechs, chains can still be dropped and in a race run that will immediately take you out of contention. The added security is worth the few extra grams.

Merida eOneSixtytea

One component that really stands out visually is the Mavic Deemax Pro wheelset complete with a bright yellow spoke on each wheel to remind you where the valve is. They are a little conservative with 28mm front and 25mm rear internal widths but felt solid and accelerated well. These are the wheels that Sam Hill has developed and piloted to 2 EWS titles in 2017 and 2018 so they should be absolutely bomber.

During the test they didn’t need any attention from a spoke key and were totally straight, but I didn’t get to ride them anywhere very fast and rocky or anywhere that would be likely to break wheels. Their low weight picks up speed easily and they hold a line as well as any other quality wheel without feeling stiff or harsh. Just make sure you have a couple of spare spokes if you go on a riding holiday as spares can be hard to come by.

The Rock Shox Lyric RC2 with 170mm of travel was a class act from start to finish. It is supple and controlled and just so easy to set up. It gives you confidence going into sections knowing that you have all that composed travel to sort things out if you get a bit wild and loose.

The rear suspension was a slightly different story though as I found it hard to get a setup that I really liked until late in the test period. It just felt a bit over damped and I struggled to get the plush and forgiving feeling that a long travel bike typically has. At 30-35% sag I found the back wheel a little skittery underneath me, instead of sitting into its travel and smoothing out the trail.

Over a period of a few weeks I continually let out more air pressure from the Rockshox Super Deluxe shock, looking for a more forgiving ride. Starting at 30% sag and ending up a fraction under 40% sag, I eventually found a setup that worked for my riding style.

Once set up to my tastes the Strive was a lot more fun and capable, especially in the steep and rough sections where it sat deeper in the travel and gave me plenty of grip. This let me feel like I was “in” the bike rather than perched on top. Over off cambers and wet roots the frame does seem to have some lateral compliance, aiding grip and helping you to hold a line where other, stiffer bikes end up struggling. Despite running 40% sag and regularly using all the rear wheel travel, it never bottomed out harshly, and I didn’t have any negative effects from the high sag number.

Shapeshifter 2.0 is Canyon’s newest version of their travel and geometry adjusting system. Simply push one lever and the top shock mount moves forward, sitting the bike higher in the travel, steepening the head and seat angle and reducing travel to 135mm. In this position it certainly climbs well. It is just more comfortable, easier to keep the front wheel on the floor and feels more efficient.

With a shift of the second lever, the shock sits back into its normal position and the geometry becomes downhill-focussed with a full 150mm of travel on tap. I am a skeptic about these things to be honest and always appreciate simplicity on my bikes. One less lever and hose is usually a good thing in my eyes, but with Shapeshifter 2.0 I found myself using it all the time. It was well made, perfectly co-located with the Reverb lever and I quickly got used to flicking it on and off without any effort or thought.

Having ridden Scott’s Twinloc and Cannondale’s Gemini systems, this is the only one that I would keep on my bike and continue to use. I didn’t have it long enough to talk about durability and servicing, which would be my only concern.

Whilst it is billed as a full on enduro bike, I feel like the Strive is more of a long travel trail bike in the way it rides. Being picky? Maybe, but in my eyes it is just not focused purely enough on DH speed. It is not as forgiving or as capable in chunky, gnarly terrain as other long travel enduro bikes like the Cannondale Jekyll 29, Nukeproof Mega 290 or the Merida 160.

What do we think?

The Strive excels on smoother, tighter terrain where the nimble, lightweight feel of the bike lets you pump turns and every root and undulation. It is a fun ride, just not the most forgiving. It climbs better than any of the bikes listed above, and I would choose it for all day epics, and trail centre blasts but it lacks that single-minded, “down hill as fast as possible” edge that a pure race bike needs.

We love:

  • Light and responsive to ride.
  • Faultless, quality spec
  • Canyon’s Shapeshifter system works well
  • Excellent value

Not so good:

  • Rear suspension feels over-damped.

You can check out the full Canyon Strive range, including the CFR 9.0 Team seen here, on Canyon’s website.