There’s a dirty secret about a lot of gravel bikes: They’re heavy. That’s because mostly they’re converted cyclocross machines, and most brands just haven’t invested in making them light enough to rival road bikes. Sure, at the top end that’s possible, for the same reason that a $12,000 cyclocross rig is light. But perhaps the paradigm is about to shift. Canyon says the carbon frame of its new SLX, Di2 Grail ($4,899) is only 1.8 pounds, which puts it significantly ahead of its peers. Even the cheapest full build of this frame, the Grail CF SL 7.0 ($2,299), will run less than 19 pounds, which is a pound or so less than the competition in the same price range.
Note that that’s with a Schwalbe G-One Bite 40mm gravel tires; if you swap that rubber for some road slicks, you’ll ditch a half pound instantly.
What’s more, the direct-to-consumer Canyon says it’s engineered the Grail for both road and dirt riding, in several significant ways:
The rims, seatpost, and double-decker Hover Bar cockpit are all designed to quell vibrations and impacts when you’re riding washboard. The seatpost splits into a wishbone Y shape, displacing force that would otherwise ping your spine and lead to exhaustion. Meanwhile, the bars are totally insane looking at first blush. There’s a cross-member carbon fiber leaf spring that stretches across the mid-section of the drops. In effect, that blunts the impact of square-edge hits transmitted from the fork to your hands, eliminating the sting. Move your hands to the drops, though, where you’d normally ride to add more strength when steering down a gnarly descent (whether on pavement or grit) and the flex you’d otherwise get is gone, since the effect of being in the drops is to bow that cross member, making the entire handlebar set more rigid. That translates to quicker steering and less work.
The 22mm to 23mm rims strike a balance between greater leverage and the ability to ride with lower pressure without risking flats, without being so wide they become boat anchors. Wider rims do weigh more, so Canyon engineers sought a sweet spot between dirt-road handling and the ability to climb steeps.
Ideal gearing for a bike like this is another challenge. A pie-plate cog in the back mated to a 30- or 32-tooth single ring up front, like you’d have in a 1X mountain bike, might be ideal for dirt-only application, but you’ll be dropped on the road when you hit that town-line sprint and are totally spun out. So lower-end Grails get 50/34 compact chainrings paired with 11-32 cogs and the rest of the line gets the same cranks mated to 11-34 cogs. That means you’d have true 1:1 climbing gears with 34-34, front-rear. And unlike a lot of gravel bikes that have gone to something as large as a 46 rear and a 40-tooth 1x crank, using a 2x crankset means you don’t have to cross-chain as frequently, which not only puts less stress on a drivetrain, but eliminates either grinding at low RPM or spinning at a slightly higher than ideal cadence, both of which are tiring.
Canyon also says that it’s stretched the rear half of the Grail, which gives higher speed stability (when you tend to steer more with your hips), but shortened the front half, using mountain-bike geometry as inspiration, with shorter stems and wider bars.
While all Canyon Grails will come spec’d with 40mm tires on tubeless-ready rims, we have confirmation that you can fit 42mm rubber without clearance issues. And if you needed that extra volume because you want your Grail for bikepacking, Canyon thought of that, too, and partnered with Topeak for a pre-fabricated bag setup. Switch the thinking back to road, and at the higher end the slightly wider, Reynolds Assault ATR Disc Carbon wheelset is aero as well, so you’re getting both a faster and lighter wheelset.
Specs-wise, Canyon also didn’t cut too many corners. Even the least expensive Grail has a full Shimano 105 group, with no mixed lower-end parts, and every bike across the line runs disc brakes. And when you eyeball the price list below note that there are two ways to get a Di2 bike, one for a relatively affordable $3,599 and the higher-end model with the carbon rims. Why? Because maybe you don’t want carbon rims if your terrain is super harsh, or you plan to go deep into the back of beyond, where a bent rim wouldn’t be an unfixable one, but a cracked rim would be.
See more at Canyon USA.
Grail CF SL 7.0 $2,299
Grail CF SL 8.0 $2,899
Grail WMN CF SL 7.0 $2,299
Grail WMN CF SL 8.0 $2,899
Grail CF SL 8.0 Di2 $3,599
Grail CF SLX Disc 8.0 Di2 $4,899
Grail CF SLX Frameset $2,499