[Charlie] Well, according to my statistical data, I’ve put (we’ve put) 200 miles on our Canyon Grails. While this isn’t a year long review, I’d say that 200 miles is a sufficient distance for someone to reveal what their initial thoughts on a bike are. I will say that Malorie and I don’t have another gravel bike to compare the Grail to. We’ve ridden mountain bikes. We’ve ridden road bikes, and we’ve ridden these, these beautiful, striking steeds we call gravel bikes. It’s not fair to compare them across their respective categories so we’ll just tell you what we think of them compared to nothing. My opinion may differ from Mal’s since my bike came with the VCLS 2.0 flip head seat post and hers didn’t despite the fact that the Canyon website said it did (we currently have a VCLS 2.0 seat post in the mail on the way to her).
First things first, what the FUCK is this goofy looking handlebar? Canyon’s hoverbar on the Grail was either loved or hated amongst internet “experts” while people that ACTUALLY rode the bike generally enjoyed the handlebar. Canyon says that they experimented with different suspension systems similar to the Specialized Diverge and Roubaix’s future shock but instead chose to go with a different system. They claim that their new hoverbar offers seven times more vertical displacement than a traditional stem. It’s hard to truly notice a difference if you’re not riding two different bikes on the same trail but I’ll take their word for it. I’m fairly sure that 7x vertical displacement is only on the upper bar too as the drops feel like they have similar stiffness to that of a traditional setup. I know that when I hit a shitty, washboard road, my hands immediately go to the upper bar and I pray to Hey Zeuss that I don’t crash. The upper bar definitely feels like it has SOME small bump compensation for sure however, I can’t confirm this since I’m not an engineer or a scientist. While you’re using the drops your thumbs have to sit on top of the lower horizontal bar which doesn’t personally bother me while I know Mal says that it’ll take her some adjusting.
Mal and I were initially considering the Specialized Diverge and while the Diverge is one of the more popular gravel bikes, we found that Canyon’s direct to consumer style of selling bikes was the more beneficial route for us to take. What is direct to consumer you ask? Direct to consumer is exactly what it sounds like, there are no dealers, no middlemen, nothing. There is the manufacturer, and there is the buyer (us/you). The direct to consumer sales model is cheaper than traditional means and Mal and I were able to get a lot more bang for our buck ordering bikes through Canyon. Mal and I took the dog for a walk one night and spontaneously decided to order the bikes. We measured ourselves in the kitchen and punched the numbers into the Canyon website where our suggested sizes were generated. Mal, who is 5’8 (5’10 if you ask her) got a small and I was given the suggestion of a medium. I looked at the components of the medium and saw that the crank arm size didn’t correlate with my Stages power meter so I decided to bump up to a large. My measurements were right on the line between medium and large so the change wasn’t a drastic departure from what I’m used to. I like my bikes a little bigger.
We ordered the bikes on Monday night, received a call from Canyon on Tuesday (the purchase of two identical bikes was flagged) and received Mal’s bike by Thursday and my bike on Friday. We were super stoked to get the bikes early but our experiences with Canyon customer service were, “meh”. We’ll talk about that later.
When Mal’s bike arrived via FedEx on Thursday, it came in a massive box from the Canyon warehouse in California. The bikes are shipped mostly assembled and the buyer has minimal work to do when the bike arrives at their house. We ordered Mal the copper red color scheme which, online, has a rusty copper type of look to it. When we opened the box we were both shocked at how beautiful the bike looked. The copper red really pops in person and has to be seen to really be appreciated. The box comes with your standard bike stuff, tools, stickers, manuals, etc. The supplies also include a “torque” wrench so you can torque your bolts to spec. I’ll let Mal talk more about her bike later.
My bike showed up a day later and after setting up Mal’s bike the day before, my setup went quick and smooth. Like I said earlier, I upsized my bike to a large so my 175mm Stages power meter would fit, but when my bike arrived I was surprised to see 172.5mm crank arms instead of the 175mm that was spec’d on the Canyon website. I wasn’t too concerned since the length isn’t really noticeable and my road bike had 175mm Ultegra crank arms so if I wanted to, I could just use the road bike crank arms instead of the ones that came with my bike. We immediately called Canyon and, after a little bit of a hassle with one of the employees, we seem to have the issue resolved. Mal will elaborate more on that later. I ordered the grey metallic since the carbon copper was out of stock and I’m glad I did. Even the grey and black pops and looks good.
The Grail comes stock with a Fizik Aliante R5 saddle which, at my first glance, I assumed I would immediately have to replace. After putting over 200 miles on the saddle, as much as I wanted to hate it, I couldn’t. The saddle isn’t terrible and during long stints on the bike, my gooch never really had to pay the price. That being said, I’ll still probably upgrade to something like the Ergon SM men or something similar.
The Shimano Ultegra drivetrain that accompanies our builds of the bikes is a great drivetrain. If you’ve ever used it on a road bike, no surprises here. High quality and smooth. I’m not sure why I still have to mess with a press-fit bottom bracket instead of a threaded one but that’s a small price to pay for a quality product I guess. If I could go back and do it all over again, I’d probably purchase the SRAM Force setup. Minimizing the amount of moving parts on a bike is important to me and I really feel like SRAM’s 1x setup on the mountain bike side of the house offers me all of the gears I could ever need and eliminating the front derailleur is always a plus. Honestly, the only reason I stayed with Ultegra for this build was because my Stages power meter is the Ultegra version and I didn’t want to be out $600.
The bike comes stock with Schwalbe G-One 40mm tires which I feel have been great tires so far. They come with a tube installed but are tubeless ready, making the transition pretty painless which, if you know me, is a big deal (read about my tire problems in our Kansas post). I rode the Grail for roughly 100 miles with the tube in and never experienced any pinch flats or flats at all to be honest. The day before our first big ride, Malorie and I converted to tubeless though just for the peace of mind. Aside from the hoverbar and VCLS seat post, I felt that converting the tires to tubeless (which allowed us to run lower tire pressures) also provided a little more supple ride. When the G-Ones wear out I’ll probably experiment with some other tires but as of right now they’ve been fantastic.
Not having another gravel bike to compare the Grail to makes this NOT a comparison. It’s just my thoughts on a gravel bike. Since I used to live in upstate New York and had no trails nor a mountain bike to ride, I’ve obsessed over mountain bikes. Shit, go back in time even further and you’ll see little fat me in North Carolina spending my summer vacation in the snake infested woods building trails for my Walmart Mongoose mountain bike. I did a stint of riding when I moved to Louisiana on a cheap $600 specialized hard tail but ultimately moved away from it since the XC scene was big in Louisiana and my $600 bike and my lack of training didn’t do well. In 2016 when I moved to Colorado I knew what my first purchase was going to be: a mountain bike. I bought a full suspension Ghost from REI, upgraded to a Yeti SB5.5 and then got my Santa Cruz Nomad. I have eaten, shit, slept and breathed mountain bikes for a long time. Who gives a shit and what does this have to do with the Canyon Grail? I’m getting there. I tried my hand at road biking a couple of times to add miles for “training”. The road bike was nice but I always craved being back on my mountain bike. When we got the Grails, the first ride I felt a little tinge of excitement deep in my loins. That first little rumble that had excited me years ago when my love for mountain biking began. The Grail gave me the ability to ride roads if I wanted to but also gave me permission (yes permission) to seek out more alternative routes. I could spend 6 hours in the saddle and cover nearly 100 miles now without seeing a car. I could climb a steep hill on a road and then pick a dirt road to explore or single track or someones driveway. The gravel bike allowed me to combine all the facets of what I love about being on a bike and merge them into one. I can do a ton of miles while getting the remote feeling I love about being on my mountain bike. I can explore routes without the fear of ruining my bike. I can create new paths and courses for Mal and I to ride without the restriction of pavement. The gravel bike won’t replace a road bike. Those are still best suited for roads. The gravel bike certainly won’t replace a mountain bike. Jumping and bombing down rock gardens and ripping down single track is, and forever will be, my…how do I put this…thang. The gravel bike opens up several more doors for you though and there’s a reason the category is being coined as adventure riding. It can be remote. It can be miles away from civilization and people and the threat of cars going by you at 65mph. I’ll say this as well since I know it was initially a big concern of Malorie’s, you don’t have to sacrifice road performance just because you have a gravel bike. I’ve actually PR’d on segments on my Grail that I rode on my road bike as well. I’ve trophied segments on my gravel bike that I didn’t on my road bike. Mal has QOMs on her gravel bike. You can still be a good, efficient rider on pavement with a gravel bike and there’s a reason you’re seeing scores of road racing pros lining up at gravel events like Dirty Kanza and Crusher in the Tushar. I can’t say enough good things about not only the Grail, but the gravel scene in general. Even if a small part of you is curious about gravel riding, give it a shot and if it’s something you enjoy, take a look at the Canyon gravel bikes like the Grail. It’s a great bike for a great price and I know you’ll enjoy the bike just like I do.
**UPDATE** Mal speaks to our customer service debacle below and it admittedly has been very frustrating. Somehow Mal has kept a relatively calm head about her when speaking to the Canyon employees but the process has been pretty shitty. At the end of the day, we’ve called Canyon around 10 times in the span of 3 weeks. We spoke to 3 different employees who didn’t follow through on shipping out parts we needed since they spec’d the bikes wrong on the website. The 4th person was able to overnight her seat post while my crank arms took a little longer to receive since they had to come from Shimano. After being told a manager would call her back twice (they didn’t) Mal fortuitously spoke to the original employee that started the shitty trend of customer service who then let her speak to a manager. Malorie detailed the events that had taken place since we purchased the bikes and the manager listened. Canyon agreed to compensate us $150 for each bike as well as an additional $40 for the installation fee for my new crank. I can’t say that this is perfect, 3 weeks of no follow through is unacceptable when you spend $7,000, but the fact that we were FINALLY able to speak to a manager who listened and acknowledged their fuck ups without pointing fingers was a relief. We tossed around the idea of returning the bikes since the customer service was so shitty but, at the end of the day, we love the bikes and that outweighed the frustration that came from the employees. I will say this though, and Mal will agree, even though the employees at Canyon dropped the ball numerous times, they were ALWAYS polite. I don’t give a shit about how nice someone is but these people were over the top. They never argued, they took their criticism and acknowledged it and just continued to be extremely pleasant. Maybe we just had a weird experience with them, but the fact that it took as many people as it did to ratify our situation makes me think otherwise. Our decision to keep the bikes should be a big takeaway here, though. They’re great. I know it, she knows, everyone knows it (Trump voice).
[Malorie] So we bought two more bikes. Our cabin LITERALLY (Chris Trager voice) looks like a bike shop. I will say this though, I love my Canyon Grail gravel bike. At first it was a mind fuck for me because I felt like I was riding a road bike, but wanted to send it like my mountain bike. Initally, I was extremely confused. After a couple of rides I became more comfortable descending over rocks and flying through the kitty litter. Having the gravel bikes allows us to pump out miles on roads less traveled. I was a little peeved when I realized that my bike did not come with the flip head seat post so I called immediately and talked to an employee named Isaac. He seemed to be on top of everything and quickly sent me an e-mail with all of the things they needed in order to proceed with my complaint. I sent him numerous pictures of both bikes, the wrong seat post, the wrong crank arm size, and waited for a response. Isaac said that Canyon would get back to me within two to three business days….that unfortunately wasn’t the case. I waited a week and called Canyon back. A woman helped me this time and said she would relay my message to Isaac and he would get back to me that day. Yet again he failed to follow up with me, so I called back and asked to talk to someone else. I talked to a guy named Max who said he was sending me the flip head seat post overnight, and Canyon’s special team would reach out about the crank arm. After three days of waiting for my seat post to come in, I called Canyon again. I spoke with ANOTHER employee named Christian and he said that Max forgot to process my order. What the fuck Canyon? I really like the bike BUT the customer service is subpar. I should not have to wait three weeks for the correct seat post that the bike was spec’d with. Canyon has a thirty day return policy, and I am serious about returning them due to the terrible customer service. I have called and requested to speak with a manager and every time they are busy. I have left my phone number and no one has returned my call. So, what do you do at this point?
Now, back to the actual bike. I really like the look of my Grail. It is a sexy matte red, with black handle bars, tape, and wheels. The hover bar that Charlie mentioned earlier is surprisingly comfortable, especially for longer rides. Position one (sitting up on the top of the handle bars) is the most comfortable for me. Because Canyon designed the handle bar to have a location of flex, the small bumbs and washboards are not distributed throughout my hands and arms. It soaks up most vibration and helps with long ride fatigue. The geometry of the bike is exceptionally comfortable and I have experienced zero lower back pain. I finally received my flip head seat post in the mail and am anxious to ride with it. I want to see if it helps reduce saddle fatigue and helps dampen the bumps. Time will tell if the new seat post is all it’s cracked up to be. The Grail does come with the Fizik Luce saddle and initially I looked at it and said, “what the fuck is that”? I just KNEW I was going to need to buy a new saddle, but after all of the rides my lady hasn’t experienced any pain. This was surprising to me because I have yet to find a saddle that is comfortable for me. (TMI) I am a little bony down there so saddles can be extremely painful for me, especially longer rides. I have looked at purchasing the Specialized Mimic saddle that is specific for women, but it starts at $200. I will continue to ride with the Fizik Luce on my Grail until I notice significant problems. Charlie has already laid out the “pros and cons” about the tires and I agree with every word he has said. They are sleek enough to allow me to desend at full speed, yet grippy enough to handle the loose kitty litter we have in the Front Range.
Although we have had SHITTY customer service, I really enjoy this bike. Charlie and I officially signed up for our first gravel race this year. It is called the Rampart Rager and takes place in our local town of Colorado Springs. It is a 63 mile race with 75% on gravel. I am personally nervous because I do not ride with other people. I have yet to experience a big group ride and am not entirely sure of riding etiquette. I just hope I don’t crash OR finish last!