By James Bracey
It was only a matter of time before Canyon's Grail gravel bike got an electrifying makeover - marking a first for the German direct-to-market powerhouse as it leaps in the rapidly growing e-gravel nice with the Grail:ON.
A couple of months ago Canyon stepped into the electric road market with the Endurace:ON. However, this latest machine is not just a copy and paste job - the Grail:ON is very much its own bike, in its own right.
While the Endurace:ON uses a Fazua Evation system the Grail:ON uses a Bosch motor and battery, which in the world of electric bikes couldn’t really set them further apart. While Fazua’s system has lower amounts of torque and applies its support more gently, it’s clear that Canyon has opted for Bosch’s Performance Line CX system for the added power it has on tap.
With up to 340% support in its most powerful mode and a whopping 85Nm of Torque it’s a system that’s designed for scrambling up steep climbs and smashing singletrack. For context, the Performance Line CX is the same system as used in many electric mountain bikes and barring the recently released Cannondale Topstone Neo, this is one of the first gravel bikes to be unleashed with this amount of torque and support.
The system has four settings, Tour and Eco, which are cadence neutral delivering consistent support no matter how fast you pedal, and Turbo and Sport, which deliver power in line with higher cadences, offering a more responsive feel, according to Canyon. As you’d expect, the bike will be limited to 25km/h in Europe.
It also boasts a 500Wh battery, partly to offset the added weight of the system, but also to give the bike the type of range that gravel riders are searching for as well as to balance the fact you’d spend less time above the 25km\h limit when you ride off road. In comparison, the Fazua system used on the Endurace Al:ON has half the capacity with a 250Wh battery.
Ultimately, the riding experience of an e-gravel bike versus a 'standard' gravel bike can be very different and to represent that Canyon has altered the Grail:ON’s geometry. For starters it has increased the bike’s wheelbase by 20mm and chain stay length by 15mm to add stability while also creating clearances for 50mm tyres (which come as standard).
Taking further inspiration from mountain bikes, Canyon is also specc’ing the new Grail e-bike with shorter stems and wider bars, while also decreasing reach and raising the bike’s stack for a more comfortable and in control riding position.
The Grail:ON has a unique carbon frame that Canyon says is designed to be as durable as possible. In some areas tubing wall thickness exceeds 4mm, which is more than you’d expect to see on a downhill mountain bike, according to Canyon.
The bike now comes with high-volume 50mm Schwalbe G-One Bite tyres, 10mm wider than on the non motorised Grail, allowing lower pressures and more shock absorption. These are shod exclusively to DT Swiss’ HG-series wheels which feature strengthened hubs and steel parts to better withstand the torque put out by the motor. To compensate for the addition of a motor the wheels use Boost spacing in the rear hubs. It uses 160mm rotors front and rear and is even able to accommodate a 180mm diameter rotor with an adapter if you feel the need for more stopping power.
The Double Decker cockpit that first launched on the standard Grail remains on the e-bike version. It offers four hand positions and the top bars floating construction should help remove road chatter and discomfort.
Likewise, the VCLS 2.0 leaf spring seatpost also remains, bringing with it its highly rated comfort. The bike is also exclusively 1x, meaning it will only have a single-chainring setup paired with a wide range of gears.
Models and Prices
There will be four models available; the Grail:ON CF 7 WMN which is a unisex model albeit it with a female specific saddle and changed cockpit dimensions. There will then be the Grail:ON CF 7, the Grail:ON CF 8 and the Grail:ON CF 8 eTap – the latter tips the scales at a claimed 15.9kg.
Sizes will range from XXS and XS, both of which use 650B wheels rather than 700c and ranges up to XXL. All models are made from carbon fibre.
Grail:ON CF 7 £4,699
Grail:ON CF 7 WMN £4,699
Grail:ON CF 8 £4,999
Grail:ON CF 8 eTap £5,699
First Ride Impressions
I received our test bike at the start of the week and have managed to get a couple of short rides in to get a first impression as to the performance of the new platform. I've been riding the top of the range Grail:ON CF 8 eTap and the first thing that was immediately obvious was the low weight of the bike coupled with an altogether more aggressive and purposeful stance afforded by the deep section carbon DT Swiss wheels and high volume 50mm Schwalbe tyres. I felt at home on the Grail:ON almost as soon as I pressed on the pedals for the first time. The riding position felt racy enough to make you want to keep the power down but unlike some road-inspired designs I was able to maintain a more head up position, enabling me to keep my eyes on the trail and allowing for quick reaction to obstacles.
And boy do you need this as the Grail:ON, like the Cannondale Topstone Neo has the ability to fold time and rocket ship you around the trails, giving you little margin for error when attempting techy singletrack in the higher power settings. Where the Grail:ON has the advantage is in it's low weight. Whereas on a heavier bike you are aware of the penalty of going beyond the limit of the motor, the Grail:ON doesn't feel like you're dropping an anchor when you hit the 25km/h barrier.
I was also grateful for the larger volume tyres Canyon has opted to issue the Grail:ON with as you tend to find yourself hitting obstacles with more aplomb (and mass) than on a standard gravel bike. Personally the one thing I would change would be the tyre itself, as although the Schwalbe G-One Bite tyre is fast rolling ironically it lacks 'bite' and you feel the need to back off going into corners where a more treaded tyre would give you more confidence and grip.
Overall the Grail:ON is impressive on first impressions. It's comfortable and incredibly rapid on all terrain although, like the Cannondale, it almost feels better to ride in Eco and Tour for the most part, leaving Sport and Turbo well alone unless you feel the need to melt your face off with the sheer brute force those settings give access to.
Look out for our full, in-depth review of the Canyon Grail:ON coming soon.
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