One of Canyon's latest developments is certainly the launch of the new Canyon Grizl gravel for the 2021 season, finally catching up to the lead seen in bikepacking gravel produced overseas.
A big thanks to the Czech Canyon representation for the loan of the Grizl CF LS 8 gravel
I hope that for Europeans this will not be just a cry in the dark followed by silence again. I dare say that the European cycling community has really been waiting for a bike like this. Who would want to order a bike from overseas with the current VAT and duty settings? Let’s take a look at how the new Canyon Grizl gravel differs from the regular gravel bikes we know and encounter in our region. But first, let’s talk about what gravel actually is.
What is gravel?
I kind of suspect that die-hard road and gravel cyclists will now curse me for what I am about to write about, because it is clear that it will be nothing new to them. On the other hand, Grizl shows a definite way that touring cycling is starting to take off, and it’s also related to the ever-increasing interest in overnight stays or, if you prefer, multi-day cycling. For the second time you’ll curse me for not keeping my view of the Grizzle strictly road, because I’m not really a road guy, but perhaps that’s why a slightly different angle may open up these bikes to people who tend to avoid road bikes but are still looking for a good touring bike. He kind of confuses the Canyon Grizl with the body. 😊 We’ll get to that. But back to the concept of gravel.
Simply imagine a road bike. Personally, the view that immediately springs to mind is of a cyclist dressed in a stretchy coloured jersey, wearing trunks, whistling with the wind as he races along the local road, his mind on his secret mission: Tour de France.
At some point you realise that the road is no longer enough. So, when you want to go off-road you take a mountain bike, but that seems pitifully slow compared to the road. How to get out of it? That’s why we have the gravel, a bike that can also ride on gravel roads, so you can take it off-road. But there are more reasons for wanting to go off-road with such a “road” bike than just the requirement for a fast ride with high mileage. The growing risks on the roads due to ever-increasing traffic also have an impact on the popularity of gravel. The campaign jedenapulmetru.cz is a good example of this. But there are more reasons why gravel makes sense. For example, some people have entered the second half of their lives and feel that they have less strength, but with gravel they can still cover their 100 km in the countryside in a relatively short time. In short, look at the gravel as a bike that combines the best of the road and touring bike worlds for lighter terrain. At first glance we think of a road bike, but on closer inspection we have wider tires, a more robust frame, and often wider handlebars, not to mention slightly different geometry. Surely there are already a number of cyclists for whom just gravel will be enough to get by. Moreover, this bike concept has, historically well-trodden path in the Czech Republic.
Born to roam the countryside
Just take a look at the photographs of the famous Czech photographer Ladislav Sitensky, who documented summer cycling routes in his book Wandering on a Bicycle (1963). However, the road to the publication of Sitensky book was a tortuous and thorny one, as it broke down many social clichés with its modernity and relaxedness. Moreover, the author was forced to additionally include photographs unrelated to the subject matter in order to meet the demands of the time. That, however, is an area beyond the scope of this article. It is important to know, that looking at Ladislav Sitensky photographs, we find that gravel is not really anything new, but a return to the roots of classic cycling, which has a great tradition in our country.
And what makes the Canyon Grizl so special? To describe it all, I’ll have to at least talk a bit about the individual components. I’ll say up front that I’m no component masochist and my perspective is more of a heartfelt one, as I felt when I had the opportunity to ride the Grizl for those few days.
How good are the claws of the Grizl
Wheels and tyres
The first thing I noticed is the wider wheels. The Grizl is fitted with DT Swiss G1800 Spline db aluminium wheels. These aren’t hi-tech, but on the other hand, since the Grizl is designed for rougher handling, it’s definitely better to have aluminum rims instead of carbon rims, which can be damaged pretty much beyond repair by punching (clicking) through an obstacle if you over-inflate the casing. The wheels are fitted with the now standard fixed axles. Front axle 100 x 12 mm, rear axle 142 x 12 mm.
The tyres supplied by the manufacturer are already tubeless Schwalbe Schwalbe G-One Bite 45 mm. And it is the width of the tyres that is the big bonus I felt in comfort when riding with a fully loaded bike. Grizzle’s little brother, the Canyon Grail CF SL 8, on the other hand, is fitted with a maximum 40mm wide tire. In addition, the Grizl can also be fitted with 50 mm wide tires. I really appreciate this, because if you load the Grizl a lot, the first thing you need is enough support and comfort. During the test, when I had the bike on loan, I also managed to take the Grizl on a two-day trip with one overnight stay to Brda. The Schwalbe G-One Bite pro tires in particular are a big surprise. I’ll admit that I was very skeptical indeed, because for someone who is used to riding steel frames on 29 x 2.6, 2.8 and 3.0 tires, the sight of a 45 mm wide tire is quite a stressful experience, even though a roadie will slowly consider something like this a “fatbike” 😊. In my opinion, Schwalbe have managed to produce an excellent tyre. We all know very well that making a really durable gravel tire is quite a science, and not every manufacturer manages to accomplish a similar endeavor. But to make a long story short. The tires have held me up everywhere, and I’ve often ridden in sloping contours that shot off, or kind of flew over roots when I couldn’t otherwise. In addition, I rode into the Brda Mountains after showers, in places where I mainly ride a steel bike.
Specifically, I saddled a frame in size M, the ideal size for my 180 cm. If I hadn’t looked at the specs of the various Canyon models, I probably wouldn’t have noticed it right away, but the frameset itself has a few tweaks that help the Grizzle feel like a fish in water even fully loaded. The designers went for a carbon frame. Nowadays, you’d say that’s a classic. Someone’s making carbon. I’m sure the Grizl could have been made as a classic steel bike and it might have been a much truer Grizl, but the manufacturer used carbon here for more than one reason. Canyon used the existing frame platform from the Canyon Grail, oversized it, and increased the wheelbase. After all, the Grizl isn’t primarily designed for just one activity, which might be leisurely bikepacking, but one of the goals was also to get a bike to market that could handle deployment in ultra endurance multi-day races. Some of those events include The Great Divide or the Silk Road Mountain Race.
Another pleasant surprise is the carbon front fork, which is oversized overall. Significantly beefier compared to the Grail. The fork is fitted with a mounting for additional cargo. Specifically, there are three internally threaded mounting holes on both the left and right fork legs. Again, I rate this as an excellent achievement. I’ve seen gravel on our roads this year with a similar setup. The ability to add an extra load will be especially useful on longer trips or if you like to carry a little something extra with you to make you feel a little more comfortable than others in the evening 😊. That’s my case too. Each leg of the fork can take up to 3 kilos of load. During testing in the Brdy Mountains, I carried a hammock set weighing 2 Kg on the left leg of the fork. The right leg then carried just over one kilogram of load.
Thanks to all these modifications, the Canyon has managed to improve traction, increase the overall load capacity to 120 kg, while maintaining a low weight (9.2 Kg in the M version). Just to point out that the load capacity of the bike is calculated from three values: rider weight + bike weight + load weight = manufacturer’s stated load capacity. Personally, I reached the following load capacity on my trip to Brda: 84 + 9.2 + 18.2 = 111.4 kg (including the clothes, shoes, helmet I was wearing, water I was carrying and maybe the one cola I drank before the trip).
It’s good that Grizzle has carried over some of the proven stuff from Grail. Specifically, the integrated seatpost mount and the shift and brake bowden routing through the inside of the frame.
Finally, I want to get to the mounting preparations on the frame itself. Specifically, on the top tube of the frame, you’ll find a top tube bag mount just behind the Bolt-On stem. So you don’t have to attach the bag with Velcro straps. From my point of view, the ideal solution. Right in the inner frame triangle there is a 2 x 2 holes preparation for attaching two drink baskets, and even on the underside of the down tube we have an extra position. So you can fit three bidets on the main frame triangle alone if necessary. The number of positions is basically over the top in terms of competition.
There are a couple of things that I’m not so impressed with on the Grizl, but as it might seem from internet discussions, it’s not the seatpost attachment, but the saddle. The Grizl is fitted with a Fizik Argo Terra X5 saddle. It looks really luxurious, but personally I literally suffered the first few days on it. Fortunately, I managed to tune the saddle quite well, and so I set off to Brda more or less painlessly. But maybe it was all my own spoiling with the Brooks C17 Carved saddle, which I have been riding for a long time. In Fizik’s defence, the saddle wasn’t the right width for me. I also know that millimeters often make the difference in tuning the seat on a road or gravel bike. However, if I ever own a gravel bike, it’s clear that tuning the seat will take much longer and require considerable patience with adjustments as well.
There are many reports on the internet that the seatpost mounting system, which is fully integrated into the frame, is a problematic solution overall. Canyon has carried this system over to the Gravel Grizl and quite frankly, I haven’t encountered any problems, even with a full two-day load with a saddlebag on. Everything held up like the Jewish faith. Moreover, in the case of the carbon used on the frame, I find this system much better than say a more conventional attachment. This brings me to the seatpost itself, which when removed from the frame immediately evoked in me that I was holding the tibia from the Terminator. It’s really very atypical. But I was absolutely thrilled with the saddle clamping system and the change in saddle tilt. This is incredibly clever and you can control the tilt and shift very well, literally millimetre by millimetre. The only downside is having to remove the seatpost from the frame when changing the saddle tilt. Holt not everything is as perfect as it seems, but given the way the seatpost is designed, there is simply no other way. Another bonus of the whole technical design of this carbon seatpost is its absorption capabilities. It absorbs shock very well indeed, and on minor bumps you feel like you have a few millimetres of suspension underneath you. At least that was my personal impression.
Fortunately, one crucial thing has not been carried over from the Grail and that is the integrated steering in the form of the Grail cockpit, known in the gravelist community as the “biplane” or “Double Decker”. Specifically, it is a double ergonomically designed handlebar with an integrated stem. The whole system has its merits because of the excellent vibration damping and grip options, but for a pure bikepacking bike this system is severely impractical. So it’s a very good thing that Canyon realized this and we really only find a classic stem and handlebars (drop bars, rams) on the Grizzle. The space between the handlebars and the front wheel is just as important in terms of storage as how much space you have in the inner frame triangle and how much under the saddle. Plus, it’s quite common for bikepacking to be a one-size-fits-all seating arrangement, and the differences are often very significant. Personally, I had to turn the stem to sit more upright. In short, I rejected the road seat because I suffered like an animal otherwise. By the end of the test, I was even sure that I would have put on a shorter stem of 70 mm instead of the original 80 mm. So being able to change stems and handlebars is a very important thing to consider on a bikepacking bike. My test bike was fitted with Canyon HB 0050 Ergobar AL handlebars in 440 mm width. You can comfortably fit a gravel pannier in this width. Canyon also offers bespoke panniers in collaboration with Apidura. This set-up is great and sufficient for most activities.
But if you decide to take a really long trip away from civilisation or a weekend in the winter months, you’ll be at the limits, even with the extra capacity on the front fork. If I were considering a Grizzle, I’d give a lot of thought to using handlebars in the 470mm and up width. A larger handlebar bag would fit comfortably in the front, which I did use during the test, but I was already struggling a bit with handlebar space. Anyway, this is nothing that can’t be addressed.
Brakes, shifting and gears
Component-wise, the Canyon Grizl relies on the complete Shimano GRX kit. GRX is simply a brand new kit designed exclusively for gravel bikes. Grizl takes inspiration from road bikes and, in part, from mountain bike-only kits. Let’s start nicely on the handlebars. On the handlebars we have the GRX RX810 dual levers. In my case, only the right one behaved dually, as I had the opportunity to test the Grizla version with a single derailleur. The shifter itself is very accurate and from what I can tell, it’s very dirt resistant. It doesn’t matter if you’re flying through mud, the shifting still works flawlessly. This was confirmed for me on the Brdy.
This brings me to the tape shifter and I click. The derailleur is a GRX RX812 GS, the cranks are RX810 fitted with a 40z converter. All I can say about both components is that they work perfectly well and I don’t even know what else to write about them. Much more interesting for me was the SLX M7000 11-42z mtb 11-speed cassette. Although a bit heretical, I would venture to say that we will see twelve speed (1 x 12) systems on pure bikepacking grails one day. It’s just that the development of gravel in general hasn’t reached that point technologically yet. Although in the world of bikepacking gravel such individual developments are already emerging, they are still accompanied by quite a few technical compromises. Anyway, the 1 x 11 system as offered on the Grizzle works great and is sufficient even on hills with a lightly loaded bike. However, on multi-day trips with more gear, one runs into limits where the gearing is not enough in the hills. I’ve found that out for myself. But that’s not the Grizzly’s fault! Moreover, the Grizl can also be purchased in a dual-gear version. So the solution is there, and it’s up to everyone which version of the Grizl they choose. Of course, on the dual-gear version you will already find the classic Ultegra HG800 11-34 road cassette.
The biggest and last surprise for me are the brakes. Their stopping power is incredible and I had to convince myself more than once if they are really gravel brakes. So I didn’t expect something like this. However, the good braking performance will be due in large part to the high quality Shimano Ultegra SM-RT800 CL ICE brake discs, which are equipped with passive heat sinks that dissipate the accumulated waste heat from the perimeter of the disc.
It’s about time
Thank goodness the Canyon Grizl was created. Finally, a purebred bikepacking special has appeared on the market, which in my opinion is wonderfully suited for wandering on a bike, as in the old photos by Ladislav Sitensky. The few days I had to saddle the Grizzle were absolutely fulfilling and crucial for me personally. The Grizl literally flies, and it doesn’t matter if you’re riding through a poppy field, a forest gravel road, or a forgotten road between villages where foxes say goodnight, because those roads are home to the Grizl. The Grizl will simply put a smile on your face and make you want to ride it even when the sun has long since set. The Grizl offers a proven and improved robust carbon construction, plenty of cargo positions, low weight, incredible agile brakes and I almost forgot the great colour scheme, which is very good and literally pleasing to the eye. Keep it up, because that’s what bikes for real bikepacking should look like.
For more information on all the variants produced, I recommend visiting the manufacturer’s website.
- Large capacity for cargo
- Lightweight and robust carbon frame
- Standard stem and handlebars
- Excellent brakes
- With a heavier long-distance load, 1×11 gearing is no longer sufficient in the hills.
- Someone can find the handlebar too narrow (440 mm)
73.999, - Kč
- 73.999, - Kč
- 9,2 Kg
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