2020 Canyon Grail AL 7.0 gravel bike review: Big fun, small price

by Abby Mickey


While some gravel bikes are trying to be more like mountain bikes with drop bars, the geometry and look of the Canyon Grail AL 7.0 suggests that it is more of a road bike with extra tire clearance. Canyon doesn’t take many risks with this aluminum gravel bike, but is it actually any good? As it turns out, it’s more than just good — so much so that I bought it.


Story Highlights

  • What it is: An aluminum gravel bike with road bike-like manners and serious smile potential that won’t break the bank.
  • Frame features: TIG-welded and hydroformed aluminum construction, front and rear flat-mount disc brakes, front and rear 12 mm thru-axles, PF86 press-fit bottom bracket, internal cable routing, official clearance for 700×42 mm tires.
  • Weight: 1,480 g (claimed, frame only); 9.31 kg (20.52 lb, medium size as tested, without pedals)
  • Price: US$1,899 / AU$2,699 / £1,599 / €1,699
  • Highs: Excellent value, solid build kit, familiar handling.
  • Lows: Staid color scheme, the usual quirks of buying consumer-direct.

Want value? Aluminum is still the way to go

Canyon has long been on the forefront of the direct-to-consumer model, offering incredible value by cutting out brick-and-mortar retailers and instead delivering bikes right to your doorstep. It hasn’t been afraid of innovation, either, and the carbon Grail CF gravel bikes launched last year proudly showed that off with their wacky double-decker Hover integrated handlebar thing.

A more recent addition is an aluminum version of the Grail that’s way more normal, with a regular bar and stem. So we’re off to a great start already.

The frame uses TIG-welded and hydroformed 6061 tubing, with a flattened top tube, vertically rectangular down tube, and a seat tube that gets wider down by the bottom bracket for extra stiffness. There are straight lines everywhere you look, and an overall appearance that’s as elegantly understated as the physical design with endless seas of matte silver and black. There’s also a muted mossy green option if you want a little more color.

The Canyon Grail AL 7.0 is a completely non-threatening, yet still smile-inducing, bicycle.

Claimed weight for the frame is an average 1,480 g, and going along with that is Canyon’s own all-carbon fork.

The Grail AL 7.0 might not be the most exciting bike to look at, but Canyon has at least included most of the essentials, like mounts for three water bottles, front and rear fenders, and even a rear rack if you feel like doing some bikepacking. There’s no mount on the top tube for a feed bag, but I’m not really into those, anyway.

There’s also a PF86 press-fit bottom bracket and internal cable routing, but the external collar for the 27.2 mm seatpost is as normal as can be.

The geometry is pretty road-like up front, with a steeper head tube angle and relatively short fork rake (43 mm on sizes small and up) that makes for predictable — and maybe a little lazy — steering. When you crunch the numbers, the trail dimension for my medium test size is 68 mm.

The bottom bracket is also pretty low at 75 mm below the axles to keep your weight nice and close to the ground. And the chainstays? They’re a little long at 430 mm, but at least the clearance is pretty good front and rear. Canyon says the Grail AL will officially fit 700×42 mm tires (and it looks like there’s room for more).

The result of all this is a gravel bike that’s long and low, and hence quite stable at speed, particularly when the surface is loose. The trail figure is longer than an endurance road bike, but shorter than many of the gravel bikes in our Field Test, and the steering feels very road-like.

One big upside of the aluminum construction is that Canyon offers the Grail AL 7.0 in a relatively generous seven sizes, from XS to 2XL, with the smallest two sizes built around 650b wheels.

The frame may be conventional, but the build kit, on the other hand, is super radical! Just kidding — it’s super normal, just like the rest of the bike.

Canyon uses a mix of Shimano GRX 600 and 800 2×11 drivetrain and brake components, with 46/30T chainrings and an 11-34T cassette for lots of range. There’s also a set of DT Swiss C 1850 Spline db aluminum wheels and those snazzy 40 mm-wide Schwalbe G-One Bite tires — both tubeless-ready — and a Selle Italia X3 saddle. Pretty much everything else is house-brand aluminum stuff that works just fine and helps keep the cost down.

Although the Grail AL looks a little bland (at least in the silver color option), this machine can hang with the best of them.

Actual weight for this medium-sized test bike was 9.31 kg (20.52 lb), without pedals, but with the 40 mm-wide Continental Terra Speed control tires we used for every bike at Field Test. Retail price is US$1,899 / AU$2,699 / £1,599 / €1,699.

So. Much. Fun.

When it comes to gravel bikes, adventure is the word of the day: where should we go? I may have spent my road racing career on carbon bikes, but as far as I’m concerned, aluminum means freedom; it means fearlessness. It means you can throw the bike around without worrying about breaking the frame, and hit whatever singletrack you want — within reason, of course.

CyclingTips editor-in-chief Caley Fretz and I tested the Grail on winding roads, rough and smooth gravel roads, as well as some tamer singletrack in Sedona, Arizona. Overall, I’d say this is a road rider’s gravel bike.

The welds look a little chunky.

It rides and handles like a regular road bike, but with the option of exploring unpaved roads and trails that you wouldn’t otherwise want to tackle on skinny tires. It was one of the less aggressive gravel bikes we rode at Field Test, but I still found it to be incredibly reactive, while remaining predictable in terms of handling. Because of its more road bike-like feel, it wasn’t awkward to ride on pavement or hardpack dirt. I didn’t feel comfortable hitting any intense singletrack on it — that’s what mountain bikes are for — but I thought it was a fantastic option if you often find yourself asking “I wonder where that trail goes?”

The first word that came to my mind to describe the Grail AL 7.0 was “safe”, in that it doesn’t try to do anything crazy. But maybe most importantly, this bike was just really fun to ride. Canyon played this one right down the middle, and that’s a good thing. By being predictable and easy to maneuver, the Grail helps the rider to feel comfortable exploring the unbeaten path. Jump off some stuff or outsprint your friends; this bike is just a blast to ride, enough that I bought it after we were done testing.

The weight is very impressive, too, and really shone on some of the sloggy climbs we found. It’s a full kilo lighter than the other aluminum bikes we tested, and you can feel that when you get out of the saddle and throw it around.

Caley agreed with me. This is what he said:

This is a gravel bike for the recovering roadie. It handles like a road bike, feels light like a road bike, and gets you in over your head on technical trail almost as fast as a road bike. But as long as you don’t try to take it to places where it doesn’t want to go, it’s great.

“I liked the predictable handling, particularly on normal gravel roads. And I loved how stiff and responsive it felt. For riders coming off light, fast road bikes, sometimes hopping on a gravel bike can feel disappointingly slow. Not this one. My ideal setup on this would be a set of 40 mm semi-slick tires, something with a near-solid center tread that rolls fast but lets you do some dirt road exploring, too.”

Spec notes

Canyon is well known for excellent value, and the Grail AL 7.0 won’t surprise anyone in that respect. Shimano’s new GRX groupsets might be new, but they shift and brake just like 105 and Ultegra do on the road. It’s smooth. It’s reliable. It’s quiet. It’s comfortable in your hands. Everything feels really refined. The hydraulic disc brakes have a lot of power. I love the hand position on the hoods, too. You get way more leverage over the brake levers.

Dual chainrings up front mean more gears and an easier time getting up those steep climbs without resorting to big gaps between ratios.

But all you really need to know is that it just works. The same goes for the Canyon house-brand cockpit components. The handlebar has a good shape, the bar tape is cushy and tacky. I didn’t really like the Selle Italia saddle, but saddles are always a personal thing, anyway.

One of the biggest lessons learned (well, more like confirmed) at the CyclingTips Field Test was that tubeless is the only way to go, and although the DT Swiss wheels that come with the Grail AL 7.0 are a little heavy, they were extremely easy to set up tubeless — the cherry on top of this delicious bike sundae.

One concern some buyers might have about Canyon is the direct-to-consumer business model. Will I be able to put it together myself? What about service and warranty support? Most shops should be willing to work on Canyons just as they would any other bike they didn’t sell, but Canyon also has a deal in place with mobile service Velofix (North America only), so as long as you’re in a service area, you shouldn’t have much to worry about — plus, you won’t even have to leave your house if you don’t want to.

Canyon says the Grail AL frame will officially clear 42 mm-wide tires. This perspective makes it look tighter than it really is.

Canyon also backs the Grail AL 7.0 with a six-year warranty for all Canyon-branded parts (including the frame, fork, and cockpit components). That’s not bad, but it’s worth noting that other brands offer lifetime coverage, so that’s something to keep in mind.

A solid, no-nonsense choice

There are a lot of people who would enjoy this bike. A road rider who doesn’t want to risk their fancy carbon bike on a questionable adventure ride. Someone who wants the feel of a high-end bike without breaking the bank. Someone who isn’t entirely sure about gravel yet and wants to understand the hype. The Canyon Grail AL 7.0 is a quality gravel bike as well as a perfectly adequate bike on the road. Great for adventure of all kinds. Abby approved.

www.canyon.com

Want more gravel? Be sure to check out the rest of the content from the 2020 CyclingTips Gravel Bike Field Test. Also, be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel so you don’t miss any of the associated videos, either.

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