Canyon ventures further off the beaten path with its new Grizl gravel bike
More tire clearance, capability, and mounts than the Grail — and an almost completely normal handlebar and stem, too.
More tire clearance, capability, and mounts than the Grail — and an almost completely normal handlebar and stem, too.
Canyon introduced its first gravel bike, the Grail, in 2018, and as popular as it’s been, most people probably didn’t expect it to be the company’s only offering in the segment for long given how diverse the category is in reality.
We at CyclingTips have long held the opinion that gravel exists on a spectrum, and with the Grail occupying the somewhat milder end of that range, there was room at the other end for Canyon to introduce something a bit more capable. And so, to complement the Grail, we now have the Grizl.
Canyon doesn’t exactly have a reputation for being the most lighthearted bike brand out there. Given the brand’s performance bent, it’s perhaps of little surprise that the bike families are all rather serious, the colors more mild than wild, and so much of the marketing spiel centered around objective test figures rather than emotion.
With the Grizl, Canyon finally seems to be lightening up a little. In fact, one might even argue that the company is displaying a sense of humor.
Nowhere in Canyon’s marketing materials for the Grizl is there any mention of stiffness or compliance, aerodynamics or watts. You’re curious about fiber modulus or you want to see a colorful image from some FEA testing? Sorry, you won’t find any of that here.
There is this little gem in the official press materials, however:
“Grizlin‘ is just like riding, but with your priorities set right. Experience over performance. Stories over glories. Grizlin’ means rolling out the door with an open mind, not knowing quite what‘s going to happen. We saw the progression in gravel riding with riders tackling more technical terrain and getting their kicks from what the cool kids call ‘underbiking.’ We tried it. It was fun.”
“Underbiking” is exactly what some Grail riders might find themselves doing, what with that bike’s official 700×42 mm maximum tire clearance. That’s enough to do a decent amount of off-tarmac exploring, but is ultimately most ideally suited for unpaved dirt and gravel roads, not legitimate trails. Canyon is expecting that Grizl owners will be taking their bikes on plenty of terrain for which it isn’t ideally suited, but it’s still a whole lot easier to do that when the tires are at least a little closer to where you really want them to be. As such, the new Grizl is built to accommodate tires up to 50 mm across for more grip and comfort on rougher terrain.
Going along with the substantial boost in tire clearance are some subtle geometry tweaks.
The chainstays grow from 425 mm to a still-reasonably-short 435 mm, while ever-so-subtly slacker head tube angles add a bit more length up front to match, maintaining proper rider weight distribution. Comparing a medium Grail to a medium Grizl, the total wheelbase grows from 1,029 mm to 1,050 mm.
That minuscule change in head tube angle — just 0.25°, and not even in all sizes — increases the trail dimension into the low-70 mm range for just a smidgeon more steering stability. But, all in all, the handling of the Grizl is far from a grand departure from what the Grail offers, and is similarly on the quicker side of things as far as gravel bikes are concerned.
Canyon is also sticking with the Grail’s long-reach-plus-short-stem philosophy that the company co-opted from the mountain bike world — and for good reason, since it works so well in terms of lending confidence on trickier terrain.
There’s no need to toss in a caveat of how the handling of the Grizl might change with different wheel sizes. Whereas plenty of gravel bikes out there are supposedly accommodating of both 700c and 650b wheel-and-tire setups, Canyon intends for the Grizl to stick to one, and one only. XXS and XS sizes are designed specifically around 650×47 mm tires, while the other five sizes go with 700×45 mm; 50 mm-wide tires will fit either way. According to Canyon, there are just too many geometry compromises that go along with changing the total outer diameter, and I tend to agree.
Rider positioning is fairly aggressive regardless, with an overall stack-to-reach ratio that’s a bit more upright than the Ultimate family of road bikes, but longer and lower than the Endurace collection of endurance road bikes. If you want to go higher, you don’t have to worry too much; Canyon is including 27.5 mm of headset spacers on every Grizl. You can go low if you want to, but you don’t necessarily have to.
In terms of ride comfort, there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of vertical compliance built directly into the frame or fork. The chunky seat cluster doesn’t suggest a whole lot of flex going on there, nor do the generously proportioned fork blades and crown. That said, Canyon does include its superb VCLS flexible carbon fiber seatposts with most Grizl models, and the high-volume tires will do most of the heavy lifting, anyway.
Conspicuously missing is any sort of weird cockpit treatment up front like on the carbon fiber Grails. Canyon has opted for separate handlebars and stems on the Grizl so as to provide riders with a little more choice in terms of equipment and accessories, and the exposed cabling will make for easier servicing. Control lines are otherwise routed internally through the down tube and chainstays.
Some Canyon habits die hard, though. The company is standing by its long-preferred PF86 press-fit bottom bracket shell format, but screw-together bottom bracket cups are used throughout to help keep things quiet. And up front, the fork uses a tapered steerer, starting with a girthy 1 1/2″ diameter at the crown and tapering only slightly down to Canyon’s trademark 1 1/4″ oversized diameter up top. This dramatically limits stem choices, although in fairness to Canyon, that situation is getting a little better. Even Redshift Sports now offers a version of its popular ShockStop suspension stem to suit.
That extra tire clearance and slightly more stable handling is also accompanied by a fair bit of additional versatility.
As with the Grail, front and rear fender mounts are incorporated into every Grizl, and while most aftermarket kits can be made to fit, Canyon offers its own setup for a true plug-and-play installation. Either way, adding mudguards only knocks down the maximum tire size down by around 5 mm, which means any complete Grizl can accept fenders with the stock tires.
Up to three bottle mounts are included (two inside the main triangle, one under the down tube), along with one for a top tube feed bag. Cargo mounts are located on the side of each fork blade, and Canyon has printed the recommended torque values and load ratings directly on the frame. None of the load-bearing threaded inserts are just rivnuts, either. Each one is co-molded into the surrounding carbon so as to boost their capacity and reduce the chance they’ll come loose.
Canyon hasn’t incorporated any accommodations for a rear rack, but it has partnered with UK outfit Apidura for some custom bags. The feed bag includes a quick-access lid with a multi-position magnetic closure, the partial frame bag fits perfectly inside the front triangle, and the capacious saddle bag has enough room for a summer-weight sleeping bag (assuming you pack carefully). That’s maybe not enough for diehard adventure riders, but in fairness to Canyon, I’m not entirely sure that’s what “grizzlin’” is all about.
Canyon says the Grizl can handle a total of up to 21 kg (46.3 pounds) of additional gear, and helping to rein all that in is the option for upsized rotors. 160 mm-diameter ones come stock, but both ends can be increased to 180 mm if desired. This makes an awful lot of sense to me; 140 mm-diameter rotors have no place on a gravel bike.
Canyon is offering the Grizl in two carbon frame versions — the CF SL and CF SLX — both featuring virtually identical external shapes and differing primarily in fiber content and lay-up schedules. Claimed weight for a medium Grizl CF SLX frame is just 950 g (painted, with hardware), while the SL is said to tack on another 100 g or so.
Interestingly, all of the Grizls are compatible with 1x or 2x drivetrains, but Canyon isn’t bothering with convertible internal routing. Instead, Canyon says the Grizl CF SLX is designed to be used exclusively with electronic drivetrains while the Grizl CF SL’s ports will only work with mechanical setups (although SRAM’s wireless groupsets will obviously work with either one, and confusingly, there’s an SLX model offered with Campagnolo’s Ekar mechanical groupset). Grizl CF SLX frames house the Shimano Di2 battery in the down tube just ahead of the bottom bracket, though, which unfortunately means that only the Grizl CF SL frames get that third bottle mount. SLX owners apparently will just have to stop more often (or go thirsty).
Five Grizl CF SL models and two Grizl CF SLX models will be offered for now, starting with the Grizl CF SL 6 with a Shimano GRX 400 2x groupset and DT Swiss C 1850 Spline DB 23 aluminum wheels, and topping out with the Grizl CF SLX 8 with either a Shimano GRX 815 electronic groupset or Campagnolo Ekar mechanical, plus DT Swiss GRC 1400 Spline DB 28 carbon wheels.
Canyon isn’t keeping things the same on all Grizl models worldwide, though. For example, American customers won’t have access to the Ekar models, and US-bound models will also come with Maxxis tires and WTB saddles instead of the Schwalbe and Fizik stuff used elsewhere. Some models will even be offered in 1x variations with stock dropper posts actuated by the left-hand shifter.
Point being, it’ll be best to check your regional Canyon site for more precise information on spec, availability, and pricing.
At least for now, there’s no bare frameset option for the DIYers, regardless of region, nor is there a Grizl AL on tap at launch, although Canyon has at least confirmed that the latter is in the works.
I should preface these first impressions of the Grizl with a caveat: Canyon sent me an XS Grizl sample instead of my preferred S, although I can understand the confusion on their part. I typically ride an XS in the brand’s road bikes, S gravel bikes, and M mountain bikes (for various reasons). I’m often pretty tolerant of small variations in stack and reach from my ideal figures so that sort of thing wouldn’t normally be a big deal. However, the XS Grizl is built around 650b wheels and tires instead of the 700c ones fitted to larger Grizl models.
That all said, take the following with a grain of salt.
Canyon supplied a midrange Grizl CF SL 8 loaner, equipped with a Shimano GRX 800 mechanical 2x groupset, DT Swiss G1800 Spline 25 aluminum clinchers wrapped with 47 mm-wide Maxxis Rambler tires set up tubeless (50 mm actual width), and a variety of Canyon house-brand finishing kit. Actual weight without pedals or accessories was 8.70 kg (19.28 lb), and I ultimately settled on 23/25 psi front/rear tire pressures for my current 72 kg weight. My sample only saw as much tarmac as was necessary to get to the target off-road sections, which included a mix of handpicked dirt, gravel paths, and rocky singletrack — in other words, exactly what the Grizl is intended to do best.
Underbiking may very well be what the cool kids are doing, but having done plenty of that myself — including on my personal Canyon Grail AL — I’d argue that having the right bike for the job is much more enjoyable. In that sense, it seems to me that the Grizl has done a good job of achieving its aim of being more capable than the Grail, although I don’t expect a ton of people will be rushing out to replace their mountain bike hardtails with one of these. Underbiking is fun, but it’s not that fun.
Despite the fact that Canyon doesn’t seem to have incorporated any compliance mechanisms directly into the design of the frame itself, the Grizl is reassuringly composed when things get bumpy. I wouldn’t say that it comes across as exceptionally compliant, but the ride quality is nevertheless appropriately muted and nicely damped — think more planted and settled than pillowy soft and cushy, which is personally exactly what I want on rougher terrain so as to keep the tire patches firmly digging into the ground.
Much of the credit of course goes to those voluminous 50 mm-wide tires, but not all of it. The clever VCLS leaf-spring seatpost included on this Grizl model is highly effective, too, and while the 1 1/4″-diameter steerer tube and oversize fork blades don’t seem to yield much, I tip my hat to Canyon’s product managers for specifying particularly thick and cushiony handlebar tape to help keep things from feeling too far out of balance.
Canyon also doesn’t make a big deal of the Grizl being a “fast” bike, but it’s worth noting regardless that it doesn’t exactly feel slow or cumbersome — and its rather reasonable weight doesn’t exactly hurt, either. A close friend once confessed to me that his favorite all-time cyclocross bike was an old Time — not because it was lighter or stiffer than anything else, but because it was softer and flexier, and allowed him to continue putting power down while comfortably seated.
In that sense, the Grizl is an excellent partner if you’re looking to cover ground quickly (and yes, I do have to include the overused cliche of setting a couple of Strava PRs on a couple of my favorite gravel sections). That said, the frame isn’t mushy or soft at the bottom bracket. It’s for sure not an ultra-stiff rocket ship like so many modern road racing bikes, but the Grizl is still impressively eager when you want it to be, accelerating crisply if you’re racing to get home or surging uphill to clear a particularly challenging crux section.
Chassis stiffness is nicely balanced front to rear, which contributes to the bike’s predictable handling. Canyon easily could have gone the increasingly popular route here, with a super-long reach and ultra-slack front end for lots and lots of stability. Instead, the Grizl is long, but not too long, and it retains a rather agile personality that’s just as happy being flicked around obstacles instead of only plowing straight through them. The long wheelbase lends good stability when both wheels are sliding through a corner, too.
Overall, the Grizl is probably about as quick as I’d personally want a gravel bike to handle. It’s fun and nimble — even on tarmac — but not to the point of feeling like it’s tricky to hold a line when barreling through a section of loose rocks. That said, I didn’t have a chance to ride my sample loaded to capacity (or with anything on the fork mounts at all, in fact), so I can’t comment on whether the front end might feel a little too eager when you’re packed for a multi-day trip.
Speaking of bags, the optional packs that are made for the Grizl by Apidura are pretty nice, and reasonably capacious, although you’d still want to add a bigger handlebar bag and some bits on the fork blades if you’re really planning on heading out into the wilderness on an overnighter. I’m still a little disappointed in the frame bag, however. After all, if these are made just for the Grizl, why not go all the way with dedicated hard mounts so you can get rid of the mounting straps altogether?
Canyon says that’s to maintain more compatibility with larger frame bags if a Grizl owner wants to go that route, but I’d argue that dedicated hard mounts would clean things up while still offering that broader compatibility. It’s a small thing, sure, but it’s still a thing nonetheless, and more noticeable when you consider that companies like Niner are already doing it.
I give Canyon credit for going the traditional route with the separate handlebar and stem, though. While the double decker setup on carbon Grails may very well be popular, such an integrated setup just doesn’t provide enough versatility for what the Grizl is supposed to do — not to mention that I don’t find it to make all that much sense myself, either. The Double Decker setup on the Grail is flexy up top and stiff in the drops just as intended, but that’s also the opposite of what I want in the front end of a gravel bike so I’m doubly happy that it’s not on the Grizl (and a large reason why I bought a Grail AL instead of a carbon model).
I do still wish that Canyon went with a traditional 1 1/8″ stem clamp diameter, though. I get that the whole “OneOneFour” steerer is part of Canyon’s ethos, but if you’re going to make a big deal of making a bike more modular and customizable, using a weird steerer tube diameter seems rather silly.
I don’t have a ton to say about the spec otherwise, beyond what’s been said before in one way or another. Shimano’s GRX 800 mechanical groupset is superb stuff. Basically the gravel analogue of Ultegra, it works just as reliably and competently, albeit with more purpose-specific gearing and a clutch on the rear derailleur pulley cage for enhanced chain security. Shift quality is smooth and predictable, the brakes are powerful and easy to control, and the lever ergonomics are outstanding.
It’s a similar story with the DT Swiss wheels. They’re not quite as nice as the GR 1600 Spline DB 25 model I tested last year, and unfortunately are equipped with the company’s more pedestrian three-pawl driver mechanism instead of the venerable star ratchet system. But it works well all the same, and most people won’t mind too much.
And while I like both Schwalbe and Maxxis gravel tires, I dare say that the latter is viewed more favorably by American buyers at this rougher end of the gravel spectrum, so I think Canyon made the right call there. It’d be nice to see tubeless valve stems included stock, though, especially given that tubes don’t make a whole lot of sense for a bike like this.
I’ve got some reservations about the Shimano-equipped 1x setups Canyon has chosen for the Grizl CF SL 8 1BY, though, as Shimano’s current drivetrains just don’t provide nearly as wide a range as what’s currently available from Campagnolo’s superb Ekar 1×13 groupset, or even SRAM’s aging 1×11 mechanical drop-bar options. Canyon acknowledged as much when I asked, and without revealing too much, hinted that things might change in the months ahead. Exactly how I don’t know, but unless you’re a serious devotee of 1x drivetrains, I’d personally skip the Shimano version unless you ride mostly on flatter terrain.
The Grizl doesn’t try to wow you with any single whiz-bang feature, and obviously doesn’t incorporate any dedicated suspension elements like what you’d find in a Specialized Diverge, BMC URS, or even a Pivot Vault. But it nevertheless does what it does with a sort of unflappable composure that will more than suffice for most, and the lack of extra doodads will invariably be seen as a plus, not a minus. When you add in Canyon’s typically enticing direct-to-consumer pricing, the argument becomes a little stronger still.
Gravel does indeed exist on a spectrum, and given the explosion of the category, it’s no surprise to see that Canyon is trying to grab a bigger piece of the pie. I don’t see the Grizl as being entirely complementary to the Grail, though. At least from where I sit, there’s more than enough overlap that plenty of potential Grail owners will instead end up with a Grizl — if for no other reason than if they want to avoid that proprietary Double Decker handlebar setup.
The Grizl may be a little heavier than the Grail, and might not feel quite as close to a road bike, either. But it’s close enough, light enough, and I’d argue that the handling is still sufficiently entertaining that it could still pull double duty if need be.
If you’re looking within the Canyon catalog for a single drop-bar bike to do just everything (including go fast on tarmac), the Grail is most certainly it. But if you’re like a lot of other gravel buyers that are looking for something to supplement your dedicated road bike, the new Grizl is the way to go.
More information can be found at www.canyon.com.