Canyon Grail:ON CF 8 eTap review
Canyon's rapid gravel racer gets a power boost
The Grail:ON is one of those bikes that just does what it's meant to - it is the perfect answer to the question 'where does an e-bike work?' The frame geometry and ride quality are excellent and boosts confidence whilst remaining comfortable and as per usual with Canyon the spec vs price is highly competitive. It does need a change of tyres to really let it shine but apart from that it's the whole package.
Power delivery and battery range
Tyre choice not aggressive enough
The Canyon Grail:ON CF 8 eTap was selected for an Editor's Choice award in 2020. This year's list contains 78 items which scored a 9 or 10/10 with our tech team - this gear is the best of the best, and has received the Cycling Weekly stamp of approval.
The Grail:ON is Canyon's electrified gravel bike aimed at providing powerful assistance and a long battery range for off-road riding.
Canyon managed to jump on the market in a timely fashion with its Grail platform. Launching the carbon framed model first, the biggest take home from the bike and the thing that most people still talk about has to be the mad double decker handlebar concept.
Best electric gravel bikes for 2020
Fast forward to 2020 and Canyon has in the meantime launched an aluminium framed Grail AL and now this: the Grail:ON, a Bosch powered monster truck.
Canyon has released three models of the Grail:ON plus one women's specific version of the entry point Grail:ON CF 7. Canyon kindly gave us the top level Grail:ON CF 8 eTap model to test, and it's pretty damn good.
See the Canyon Grail:ON range here
Opting for carbon fibre as frame material of choice for the Grail:ON has allowed Canyon to reduce the weight of the bike whilst losing none of the stiffness and strength required to deal with the extra forces the motor system will exert during use.
On the whole the Grail:ON's frame follows the same design as the regular Grail but with the obvious tubing changes to accommodate the integrated down tube battery and bottom bracket based motor system. Other features that Canyon has included to bolster the added oomph of the grail:ON include the ability to run a larger 180mm brake rotor at the fork - although it is specced with a standard 160mm rotor. Canyon has also opted for a wider Boost rear hub spacing (running a 12x148mm axle width, the same as found on most modern mountain bikes) to increase rear end stiffness. This is to be commended but it does limit the available options for after market, specific gravel wheel upgrades.
The geometry of the Grail:ON is actually considerably different to the standard Grail in almost every way and roughly translates to a frame that is more upright and shorter in terms of stack and reach but is also longer and more stable in terms of wheelbase and chainstay length. The head angle is also around a degree slacker so in general the Grail:ON follows a more off-road focus than the Grail which shares plenty of DNA with Canyon's road going models such as the Ultimate.
Canyon is the second big brand to strap Bosch's Performance Line CX motor system into a gravel bike. Cannondale started the trend with its Topstone Neo and although both bikes are completely different in their approach to an e-gravel bike the motor choice is telling.
This latest Gen 4 Performance Line motor is usually found in e-MTBs and has one of the highest torque ratings on the market. Pushing out up to 85Nm of grunt, it's this figure that stands it out from the crowd over the actual 250 watt power production as all motor systems are restricted to 250 watts but there is no restriction on torque. Torque is felt in the amount of 'pull' the motor delivers when spinning the pedals. The higher the torque the more immediate and obvious the power delivery is felt at the wheels. High torque is very useful when attempting steep and technical climbs and when extra grip is needed, although it can lead to some panic moments when too much power is applied at the wrong time - hence lower torque models tend to be used on e-road bikes.
Rather than cut the weight of the Grail:ON even further Canyon has opted for the full 500Wh PowerTube battery. This provides the Grail:ON with an impressive potential range. Canyon claim up to 120 kilometres from one charge and I'm sure that would be achievable on a flat route during summer, limiting your use of the motor to just the lowest Eco mode. Mixing things up in terms of terrain and power modes and I was typically getting around 70-90km (40-55 miles) without running out. The battery can be removed for charging or the system can be recharged via a socket situated near the bottom bracket.
Canyon has specced the older Bosch Purion display rather than one of the sleek new Kiox displays. This is simple to use though and has an easy to read screen. A custom mount places it within easy reach at the left side of the handlebar
As expected with a bike costing northwards of £6000 the spec list is pretty well stacked. SRAM's Force eTap AXS twelve speed wireless groupset offers exceptionally good performance with great lever ergonomics. Shifting is almost instantaneous and despite the braking not normally being to my liking in terms of modulation and lever pull, the brakes on this particular bike worked really well.
The best wheels for gravel riding
Canyon has specced a great set of wheels in the shape of DT Swiss' HGC1400 Spline. The carbon rims have held up to the extra weight and abuse the Grail:ON puts them through and there have been zero issues. A 24mm internal rim width provides an excellent base for wider gravel tyres and the 240 hubs will provide years of faithful service.
The tyre choice is one area that Canyon has done a dis-service to the Grail:ON. Schwalbe's G-One Bite Evo tyres are normally pretty good dry weather and hardpacked trail specialists but if ever there was a bike that needs a more aggressively treaded tyre choice it's the Grail:ON. The extra speed and weight you carry along technical trails soon leaves the G-One Bite struggling to cope and several times I ended up losing the front end due to the lack of shoulder tread. A WTB Sendero or something similar would be a way better pairing and keep you grinning even when things get rowdy. It's also worth noting that if you intend riding the bike in wetter conditions or where there might be mud then you need to get rid of the G-One Bites asap.
The best tyres for gravel riding
As we have come to expect with Canyon, barring the saddle the finishing kit is all in-house. And of course, since this is a Grail then the double-decker CP07 carbon handlebar and stem is front and present. I'm personally not a massive fan of the concept although I can understand the logic behind the multiple hand positions and 'flex zone'. My main issue is moving from the hoods to the drops is not as fast a process as normal and I often hit my thumbs when trying to put them in the sweet spot between positions. Also the area designated for comfort across the middle section of the top bar places your hands far away from the brakes so can only really be used for smooth cruising on tarmac or well groomed gravel.
One piece of Canyon kit that I'm really happy to see on the Grail:ON is the VCLS seatpost. It has a split design that increases flex and really does make a difference to your ride comfort. This is especially important on an e-bike as you will spend more time sat in the saddle. Talking about saddles, the Fizik Tempo Argo saddle is a great choice and provides exceptional support and comfort.
Head out on the Grail:ON and it's appeal is almost immediate. The geometry sets you up in a ride position that feels commanding and confidence inspiring without being too upright for the inevitable road sections, which it handles with aplomb. It's when you head off the tarmac that the Grail:ON really comes alive. The Bosch motor provides a really even level of support in all modes and it applies this power in a very controlled manner. Apply more cadence though and the torque ramps up giving you practically a turbo boost that will see you climb the most technical of trails and link together singletrack whilst putting a grin on your face.
That's not to say the Grail:ON takes the effort out of riding, you effectively receive a reciprocal amount of power to that which you yourself apply. Every time I wanted to go fast on the Grail:ON it left me feeling like I've still had a proper workout. Mainly as there is simply no need to stop so rides that might take 1.5-2 hrs were reduced to a time that could be shoehorned into a lunch time ride.
There have been times when the additional power of the Grail:ON put me in situations where I ended up feeling a little out of control; primarily as I found myself riding faster than I might on a non e-bike. At this point the obvious lack of suspension and short comings of the tyres had me grabbing for the brakes to bring myself back into control. However the speed of the Grail:ON is intoxicating so this is something riders will just need to get used to!
I can see the appeal of the Grail:ON and if ever there was a perfect place for a motor within the 'road' segment then the gravel bike market is certainly it. You will find yourself riding for longer, at higher speeds and over more challenging terrain than you would on a non electrified machine and that, right there, is why the Grail:ON is so good.
How do we score products? Check out the scale here
Thank you for reading 10 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access
Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription
Join now for unlimited access
Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
James Bracey's career has seen him move from geography teacher, to MBR writer, to Cycling Weekly's senior tech writer and video presenter. He possesses an in-depth knowledge of bicycle mechanics, as well as bike fit and coaching qualifications. Bracey enjoys all manner of cycling, from road to gravel and mountain biking.
British Cycling to cut back under-23 squad road programme, targets just two events
National federation cites ‘incredibly challenging financial landscape’
By Tom Davidson • Published
Five things we learned from the 2023 Giro d'Italia
Now it's all over and the dust has pretty much settled, what did this year's bella corsa teach us?
By James Shrubsall • Published
Lizzie Deignan to make Tour de France Femmes debut this July
'It's the biggest stage in the world,' says Brit
By Tom Davidson • Published