Upon its launch, the Canyon Grail caused a storm in the cycling world with the then-hover-bar handlebar. Traditionalists baulked at the radical new design while others embraced the possibility that decades of bike manufacture had it all wrong. Now given the more restrained, less-fun name of the Grail Cockpit, the design remains the same: two handlebars for the price of one - sort of.
I just took delivery of not one but two Canyon Grail gravel bikes, so we found a break in the biblical downpour of British summertime in order to snap some photos. I also have the Grail AL 7.0, but here we're looking at the best gravel bike in Canyon's line-up, the Grail CF SLX 8.0.
The CF SLX 8.0 is available in two colours, both with either SRAM Force eTap or Shimano GRX Di2. For all of SRAM's merits, we're happy to have the Shimano gravel groupset bolted to our test bike. It's fitted with the 2x configuration which pairs a 48/31 chainset with an 11-34T cassette. Great for providing both on-road speed and gears small enough to flatten even the most disgusting of ascents.
While the classy and chic navy-blue colourway might be the safe option on which to spend your hard-earned money, I'm completely on board with the unapologetic brashness of the 'Forrest Orange' - there's no better match for the bonkers aesthetic of that cockpit.
Talking of which... known originally as the hover bar, the Grail Cockpit is an integrated bar-stem combo with a twist - a bar-stem-bar, if you will. Instead of clamping the stem to the centre of the handlebar, the Grail Cockpit places an additional bar below. The stem connects to this lower horizontal brace, which in turn, connects to the drops beneath the typical in-the-drops hand position.
Why? Canyon claims compliance from the tops is improved, stiffness at the drops is undoubtedly greater, and the bottom bar should give your thumbs something to wrap around. Is it the holy grail? I'm yet to send the Grail CF SLX into the wilderness, so as yet, I remain unconvinced.
The Grail CF SLX 8.0 is fitted with 700c Reynolds ATR carbon gravel wheels, which feature a 23mm internal width, a depth of 40mm, and weigh in at a rather light 1570g - lighter than many aero road wheelsets. The wheels are tubeless-ready, as you'd expect of a gravel-ready wheelset, and are wrapped in Schwalbe G-One Bite 40mm gravel tyres.
Complementing the added compliance of the cockpit is the Canyon two-part VCLS 2.0 seatpost, topped with a Fizik Aliante R5 saddle. VCLS 2.0 is another radical design by Canyon. It uses two semi-circular halves, bolted together at the bottom, which slot together to form a complete rounded seatpost. Towards the top, the two halves separate to create a leaf spring-like mechanism that provides 20mm of vertical compliance.
Weighing in at 8.68kg (size L), the CF SLX is lightweight, and around 300 grams less than a similarly specced Scott Addict Gravel 10. Like the Addict, the 700c wheels and lack of additional mounts suggest the Grail CF SLX is a race bike. However, the geometry - borrowed from the brand's endurance-focussed Endurace - will add comfort on long days and the optional-extra Topeak frame-, handlebar- and saddle-bags will play nicely with the Grail's frame lines. Also, mudguard mounts and Canyon's proprietary mudguards will make the bike capable of tackling winter on the road with ease.
On paper, anyone looking for a race-day gravel bike should have the Grail CF SLX 8.0 near the top of their wishlist. For the more recreational user, the £4,299 price might be more than many will want to spend on a bike that ultimately amounts to a toy, but there is plenty going for the Grail CF SLX 8.0 that makes it a tool. The Grail could well be the do-it-all, do-it-well bike that epitomises Canyon's value-for-money reputation.
I'm yet to ride the bike, the cockpit looks bonkers and the orange colour is far from subtle, but still, I'm warming to the Grail CF SLX 8.0, and I look forward to putting it to the test.
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What is a hands on review?
'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view.
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