The "Holy Grail", the cup that is said to have been used by Christ at the Last Supper, sought after by knights during the Middle Ages, and escaped from countless archeologists and scientists since then. There is an awakening before us, a new era in the sport of cycling. Two disciplines that have existed independently for decades, road and mountain, are disrupted by the emerging force of Gravel. In their search for the perfect tool for this new day, Canyon Bicycles has said to have found that Grail.
On a near perfect day in April at the new Canyon North America Headquarters in Carlsbad, California, we were invited to test this new machine with a few other distinguished guests. We were happy to provide some local context to what would be a fun shakeout ride before a 140 mile Southern California mixed surface race the following day. We met up early at the Canyon offices for some americanos and a chance to learn more about the Grail's design from Daniel Heyder, one of key engineers behind this all new German take on what a gravel bike should be.
Daniel brought light to a few interesting features we weren't already aware of. The grail fills a gap in their lineup of road offerings, split into two main categories of road and off-road. In each category they offer one bike for race and the other for endurance. As you may have guessed, the grail fits nicely as their off-road/endurance entry into the market.
At first, the cockpit certainly takes some getting used to, but only from a visual perspective. For us, the design accomplishes what it sets out to do, and does it in a way that is far more simple than other gravel absorption technologies. On the tops, the difference was undeniable, cutting out vibrations that would normally wear you down on longer rides.
The Grail features a unisex design, with 7 sizes available. The smallest (2XS and XS) sizes come with 650b wheels. As for tires, they come with a pair of the Schwalbe G-ONE Bite. At first we thought these were a bit overkill with its larger knob profile and 700x40mm sizing, but after testing these on and off-road for the past couple of weeks we've grown to appreciate their capability on dirt while still maintaining low rolling resistance on road.
The Grail pricing may be one of its most attractive attributes. The entry 7.0 has a full carbon frame and 105 drivetrain for just under $2300. For future versions of the Grail, look for a 1x setup and an aluminum frame option as well.
Overall we give the Grail high marks for giving serious thought to what a gravel bike should be. While taking a radical approach to address comfort and compliance, they opted to restrain themselves from following recent trends in terms of tire clearance and drivetrain options. Every part of this bike was well thought out by the designers and engineers at Canyon, and we love it.
Photo Credit: Canyon/Jay Prasuhn