Fresh Bikes: 2019 Canyon Grail SF SLX DI2 Review

Canyon's Grail SF SLX DI2 is designed around comfort and stability on the dirt, it’s also as light and efficient a bike as you could ask for on the road.

Mike Finch & Lydia Tanner |

Price: R65 000 (dependent on exchange rate. VAT and Import duties not included)
Weight: 8.2kg; 830 grams frame only (claimed)
Style: Gravel
Drivetrain: Shimano Ultegra Di2
Frame Material: Carbon
Tyre clearance: 42mm
Wheel size: 650b for XS and 2XS, 700c for all other sizes.

We’re going to say this up front: the Canyon Grail may be the front runner in the ‘Best Gravel Bike for South African Conditions’ stakes. And while there are a few contenders in this category – in particular, the Specialized Diverge – the Grail fits the bill for local conditions just about perfectly.

It’s available in six different models, and as a frame set. All models come in sizes from 2XS to 2XL. Our top-of-the-range, head-turning SLX 8.0 Disc arrived complete with Di2 and carbon wheels, but there are specs right down to Shimano 105 and (gasp!) mechanical shifting.

The Grail is a bike designed for long days of both road and gravel, and even light singletrack, if that’s where your legs take you. Designed around comfort and stability on the dirt, it’s also as light and efficient a bike as you could ask for on the road, with a carbon frame and aero tube shaping.

Plus, everyone in your Sunday ride pack will stare at the head-turning ‘Hover Bar’ during coffee breaks, and ask you: ‘Do you hold the bar down below?’

Canyon Grail SF SLX DI2
Image by Ewald Sadie

Key Features

At the increasingly rowdy adventure-bike party, the Grail is making one hell of an entrance, with its double-take-worthy cockpit.

The Hover Bar is designed to flex when you’re riding on the tops, and feel secure when you’re descending in the drops. How does it work? The bottom rung interfaces with the headset, leaving the upper rung without the traditional support of the stem. This (along with the tapered design) allows the middle of the bar to flex up to seven times more than a traditional bar, according to Canyon.

The drops, on the other hand, gain the support of both rungs, adding stiffness and precision when descending (plus, you can hook your thumbs on the lower rung for a locked-in grip). Canyon says the Hover Bar only adds 120 grams to the weight of the bike, compared to a standard bar – but it does add cost to the bike as well. Still, other cockpit suspension systems (such as Specialized’s Future Shock) can add up to 400 grams.

The Hover Bar set-up arrives at its highest setting, but spacers below the bottom rung allow you to lower it if you wish. Right now, it’s not possible to swap the Hover Bar for a standard one; but my take is that if you’re buying a bike like this, hopefully you’re doing it because you like the cockpit.
The brand’s VCLS 2.0 (vertical compliance, lateral stiffness) seat post functions like a leaf spring to absorb feedback from the ground; and on the Grail the seat clamp has been lowered in the seat tube, lengthening the effective post for an even smoother ride.

The Grail also has a longer wheelbase (40mm longer than the Endurace) for added stability, along with clearance for up to 42mm tyres.

Canyon Grail SF SLX DI2
Image by Ewald Sadie

Ride Impressions

Climbing, the Grail feels lively and limitless, whether on dirt or tar. I started my first ride with tired legs, but soon found myself taking little detours and adding long and totally unnecessary climbs, just to see the view. It’s a bike that makes you want to get just a little bit lost.

The Hover Bar absorbed my silliest dirt road shenanigans, without any sensations of play or inconsistency. The flex on the tops was just enough to smooth the ride without dulling the handling – ideal for long dirt roads in the Karoo – and the added thumb lock in the drops made riding there feel as stable and responsive as the tops on a standard cockpit.

With its light weight, comfortable ride and deft handling, this bike is well-suited to big events, such as the Rollercoaster, the Swartberg 100, and Bicycling’s own Karoo Burn in February next year.

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