Grizl was introduced by Canyon in May and slots in alongside the existing Grail race bike with a sturdier overall vibe, more frame mounts, custom bikepacking bags and a conventional bar as opposed to its sibling's ergonomically cunning, but aesthetically divisive, biplane bar. Riding reveals that it’s a consummate example of an enabling, confident, and enjoyable adventurer that’s both more comfortable and faster than it looks at first sight, making it a worthy consideration when picking the best gravel bikes for rowdier riding.
Design and geometry
The Grizl sets its more cargo-capable intentions straightaway with a chunky, almost untapered fork that includes triple bolt ‘everything’ fixtures on both legs. The stout head tube lets Canyon use an oversize 1.25in steerer on the fork, which leads back into a big square section downtube with rubber plug entry point inserts to keep the internal hose and cable routing secure.
A broad but shallow-faceted top tube slopes slightly back to an oversize seat cluster created by overshot rear stays. The VCLS seat post is clamped a few centimeters down the rear of the seat tube, with a rubber top seal grommet allowing extra flex. Seriously deep chainstays are kinked downward on the drive side to give up to 50mm tire clearance, while a rubber chainstay top and metal guard behind the chainring protect the composite from chain damage.
There are two composite levels in the Grizl range too, the SLX which is roughly 100g lighter and stiffer than the 1,050g (Canyon’s figures) SL frame reviewed here. The SLX gets a Di2 battery mount in place of the third under belly bottle cage position of the SL. Both frames get a bolted top tube bag mount as well as a removable front mech mount for those bikes that get a double chainset rig. The use of a smooth bore rather than a conventional bottom bracket shell on a bike might worry back-or-beyond adventurers and home mechanics alike, however. While the Token ThreadFit bottom bracket makes installation and removal less stressful in theory, the very shallow locking cups potentially make the opposite true in practice. It’s a PF86 bore rather than the increasingly common - and therefore easier to source - T47 sizing too. The raised mudguard mounts won’t fit all stay designs either, but they’re the same as those for Canyon’s Grail:On e-bike.
Seven sizes from 2XS to 2XL mean rider fit is unlikely to be a problem and while chain stay lengths are the same on all the 700c wheeled bikes from S to XXL the two smallest sizes roll on 650b wheels to keep things proportional. Head angles vary from 70 to 72.75 degrees depending on size, but seat angles are fixed at 73.5 degrees, however flex from the unique split-design VCLS seat post will slacken that slightly at sag. Lengths are relatively generous, considering the 402mm reach and 70mm stem on our medium sample.
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Components and build
Canyon only currently offers a limited Shimano-equipped range of Grizl SLs, with Campagnolo Ekar and Shimano Di2 options saved for the SLX frames. That will be expanded in breadth and brands shortly, and that includes the single ring, top of the cabled range Shimano GRX 810 group here. It’s a positive-feeling group in terms of both shifting and braking power but the 11-speed block does mean gaps compared to 12-speed SRAM or 13-speed Campagnolo, and it’s heavy too.
Contact points are great though, with a gently flared bar, chunky stem to make the most of the oversized steerer precision and Canyon’s unique VCLS post. This uses two D-shaped carbon sections placed back to back so that they can slide over each other and bend backwards if the bike is forced up under the rider by a bump. The equally cunning parallelogram seat clamp keeps the flexible Fizik saddle level as well as offering fore and aft position options.
The DT Swiss GR1800 wheels aren’t light at 1,900g and pick up is slow, but the 25mm width adds volume to the Schwalbe tires which are super strong and durable, however badly you treat them. They also have a slightly higher than average 130kg overall payload rating, which will be appreciated by XXL riders or heavy loaders.
On the subject of baggage, you can get the Grizl-specific midi frame bag ($139.00 / £129.95), top tube bag ($79.99 / £71.95) and 5L saddle pack ($199.00 / £179.95) made by premium adventure luggage specialists Apidura, as well as a gravel-optimized clip-on aero bar from Profile ($TBC / £152.95). Despite an extra 10 per cent off if you bundle the bags and bars together, Brexit-related cost increases mean the same sized/function ‘Race’ bags only cost $123 / £90 (frame bag), $60 / £52 (top tube bag) and $171 / £125 (saddlebag) from Apidura direct.
Bags aside, the Grizl is well-priced for the frame quality and spec even compared to other online brands like Ribble, but you need to remember it’ll be arriving in a box (which you pay for separately) and not set up by your local shop.
Ride, handling and performance
Having said that it’s a very well designed box and the bike you pull out of it is an equally well designed and balanced feeling machine as soon as you’ve built it up with the supplied torque wrench.
Unsurprisingly the chunky top to bottom fork, stout frame tubes and massive chainstays mean steering and power delivery are all precise and feedback rich. However hard you haul on the front brake there’s no skip or judder from the fork legs, even on washboard sections. That meant we were soon ignoring what is on paper a relatively steep head angle and letting the stability provided by the longer reach and chainstays guide our speed on blind, high-speed descents at the Galloway gravel handover event. While the Grail is badged as the race option, even this softer SL frame Grizl isn’t shy when it comes to standing up and stomping a climb rather than surrendering and spinning. Even when heavily loaded and chucked about to try and deliberately cause an issue back home there’s no swing or sway from the frame either.
What is a surprise is that despite the solidly surefooted way it connects the big volume, enhanced ‘Bite’ Schwalbe tires mean that what you feel in terms of vibration and impact is significantly reduced from what you see going under the wheels. Given the external dimensions, this is clearly coming from some very clever tube wall profiling and composite craft from Canyon which is backed up by the impressively low frame weight. It’s obviously a real bonus for longer, rougher event or exploration use but it’s also a plus on fast and hard rides where you can rely on better traction connection, and push a gear harder through the rough to keep speed higher when less forgiving bikes would rattle you out of rhythm or slip a tire.
You can see the VCLS post flexing and swallowing shock if you ride shotgun alongside the Grizl and we know the Fizik saddle is a softie. The fact there’s no punishment through your feet even on long, rough descents in carbon fiber race shoes, and that our hands didn’t get buzzed either, proves it’s the chassis and fork, not just the seating arrangements that are working to keep you fresh too.
Within meters of unboxing and setting off, it’s clear that Canyon has done a brilliant job with the frame and fork of the new Grizl. It’s lighter and punchier under power than a lot of race-styled bikes, yet calm as a grass-full cow even when you’re pushing into the MTB envelope. Mounts and tire clearances make it truly adventure-ready and while not the lightest choice, it’s impossible to fault the Shimano and DT spec in terms of relentless reliability. The choice of a potentially awkward-to-fettle bottom bracket is at odds with the otherwise adventure-hungry character though, and that could be a deal-breaker for some long-haulers. The price of the matching luggage is bikepacking piracy too.
Tech Specs: Canyon Grizl CF SL 8 1BY
- Model name: Canyon Grizl CF SL 8
- Discipline: Gravel/adventure
- Price: $3,199.00 / £ 2,949.00 + box and shipping
- Head angle: 72.25 degrees
- Frame material: Canyon SL composite
- Size: Medium
- Weight: 9.14kg
- Wheel size: 700c
- Drivetrain: Shimano GRX RX812 11-42T 11-speed gearing and shifter
- Cranks: Shimano GRX RX810 40T chainset with Token Ninja ThreadFit bottom bracket
- Brakes: Shimano GRX RX810 brakes with 160mm Centerlock rotors
- Cockpit: Canyon Ergobar AL 440mm compact drop bar and V13 80mm stem
- Wheelset: DT Swiss G1800 Spline wheels
- Tires: Schwalbe G-One Bite 700 x 45mm tires
- Seatpost: Canyon S15 VCLS 2.0 CF seatpost
- Saddle: Fizik Argo Terra X5 saddle