I will start by saying that I pretty much always hate skin wall tyres. I can’t help it, but I do. When the Grail turned up I was stoked on the raw aluminium frame and matte black finishing kit, but I couldn’t help wishing it had black tyres on. On the whole this is a clean looking bike, with simple, straight lines and a stance that places it closer to the road end of the spectrum, than the heavy duty adventure bikes that are becoming increasingly popular.
I was riding a medium which was bang on for my 5’10” frame, and I found myself in what I would call a, ‘neutral’ riding position. It was neither too flat and racy, nor too upright like I was going to the shops, it was just right for long rides and comfy commutes. Mounted on the raw aluminium frame were a range of top value components given the £1699 price tag.
As someone who either runs flat pedals or clips with the cleats all the way back, I have been annoyed in the past by clipping my toes on the front wheel of road and gravel bikes. Fortunately the wheelbase and 72.5 degree head angle gave my feet ample room, preventing me from catching my foot and falling over as I attempt to track stand at the traffic lights. The rear of the bike is also long enough to fit a pannier and not hit your heels, although there are no upper bosses to mount one to, so an aftermarket seat clamp with bosses is necessary in this case.
A highlight of the spec was the DT Swiss C1850 wheel set with 22mm internal rim width, tubeless ready and a silky smooth rear hub that made just enough noise so you know it is quality. Mounted to the matte black rims were a set of Schwalbe G-One Bite tyres in 40mm width, featuring an unusual ‘dimple’ like tread pattern that was surprisingly versatile.
Braking and shifting was handled by SRAM, with a single ring Rival 1 group set performing flawlessly throughout the mostly dry summer test period. The SRAM hydraulic disc brakes were bang on as well, super reliable and predictable and not so much as a squeal out of them on the few wet commutes that we did together.
The bar and stem setup was from Canyon and varies from size to size with the largest sizes having a 100mm stem and 460mm bars and the smallest a 70mm stem and 400mm bars. My medium bike had an 80mm stem fitted to the 440mm wide drop bars.
The silver Canyon is a spritely climber, no matter what surface you put it on. It feels light and efficient and the dimpled tyres are surprisingly fast on the rough tarmac roads around Bristol and North Somerset. Out of the saddle, the bike feels stiff and direct, partly due to the solid aluminium frame and partly down to the tightly laced and robust DT Swiss wheels.
The 430mm chain stays can mean the front goes a bit light on steeper off road climbs, but at this point you are probably going to stand up and power over the crest of the hill anyway, so it is not a big deal. Off road climbs were surprisingly good actually and I found that the tread on the Schwalbe gravel tyres had a decent amount of bite, on loose and natural surfaces as well as fire roads.
On longer rides the front of the bike is pretty comfy, with the carbon fork from Canyon doing a good job of damping the road. The rear of the bike is certainly not harsh or uncomfortable, but is clearly does not have the compliance of a steel or well engineered carbon frame.
The Grail AL 7.0 blends road and off road geometry well to make it pretty enjoyable and capable in most situations. On the road it is well behaved and I prefer the less skittish handling compared to outright road bikes. Off road, you have to remember it is not a mountain bike, picking the smoothest lines, and keeping the speed under control, but on the right trails it is a lot of fun which basically describes most gravel bikes to be honest.
When I think of the other gravel bikes I have ridden, I think the Canyon’s character fits nicely in between the expensive and light weight carbon Merida Silex + 6000 and the big and burly Nukeproof Digger. It is lighter and more forgiving than the Digger, but heavier and less comfy than the carbon framed Merida. Where the Nukeproof literally feels bombproof, and the Merida feels light and athletic, the Grail sits in between.
What do we think?
The Grail really does feel like a jack of all trades. Simple, fun, capable and great value for money, I have really enjoyed buzzing about town and country on it.
Direct sales value for money
Comfy and fun ride
Could Do Better:
Skin walls divide opinion
No upper pannier bosses
You can check out the entire Canyon Grail range on their website here.
Read all our other bike tests on our Bike Reviews page here.