Bikes like the Commencal Supreme SX and the Polygon Square One are carving out a new future for the 180mm bike with the help of lighter frames and componentry, combined with today’s wide range gearing.
Now there’s a new kid joining the 180mm club, the reinvented Canyon Torque.
The Canyon Torque forms part of Canyon’s new ‘family’ of bikes consisting of the Spectral, Torque and Sender. All of these bikes share the same ‘three-stage’ suspension design and philosophy (and we expect the 160mm Strive will receive an update at some point in 2018) that we covered in depth in our first impressions piece on the all-new Spectral.
The Canyon Torque forms part of Canyon’s new ‘family’ of bikes consisting of the Spectral, Torque and Sender.
The Torque fits in between the enduro race focused Strive and the Sender downhill bike, pairing 175mm of rear travel to a 180mm fork. With these numbers, there’s no doubt the Torque is aimed squarely at riders who live for the descent and be it by choice or necessity they pedal their way to the top.
So, how does the bike ride?
The new Canyon Torque does what it says on the box, which is a very good thing.
Our first day on the Torque was a complete washout (literally) with regards to testing the bike, as we slid our way down (sometimes on the bike, sometimes not) Madeira’s most technical trails in absolutely torrential rain.
On the second day, however, we got to open the throttle up a bit more, and the bike came into its element. The rear suspension is incredibly supple off the top, providing traction and support, but the mid stroke provides just enough pop for the bike to ride more playfully than its 175mm of travel might suggest.
As we discussed in our first impressions piece on the Spectral, the progressiveness of the ‘three-stage’ suspension is truly exceptional, and we couldn’t bottom the Torque out running 30 percent sag, even on some big, nasty and flat landings on the most hectic of trails.
The Torque really shone riding wide open, technical trails, where its active suspension and forgiving geometry allowed you to make a mistake after mistake and still ride out.
Where the bike struggled a touch was in super tight terrain and European style switchbacks, where its slack geometry and long legs could feel a bit vague if you were trying to snap the bike through tight corners quickly, or pivot on the front end to get around a tight switchback.
While the Torque is impressively playful for a 180mm bike, it does lack some of the poppy character of its shorter travel Spectral sibling, and riding the two bikes back to back affirmed that you need some demanding trails or an ultra-aggressive riding style to get the most out of this bike.
The Torque really shone riding wide open, technical trails, where its active suspension and forgiving geometry allowed you to make a mistake after mistake and still ride out.
Is the Torque a total pig uphill?
Surprisingly not. While you won’t be taking the victory in your local XC series aboard the Torque, the bike climbs very well considering its long legs.
For all but the most technical of climbs we would engage the shock’s lockout, as well as firming up the forks, and we wouldn’t mind if the seat tube was a touch steeper, however we were climbing up roads with a locked-out fork, and climbing off road with the fork open would put you more over the front when the fork sags.
All in all though, with the compression levers engaged there’s only a hint more bob than you might find on a 150mm bike.
What models are available?
There are seven Torque models available in total, with four aluminium models and three models featuring a carbon front end mated to an aluminium rear.
We rode an aluminium frame adorned with top of the line components for the majority of the launch. However the cheaper models come with 11 speed drivetrains and 32 tooth chainrings.
We think that perhaps this gearing might be a touch steep if you’ll be riding up steep access roads as the weight will creep up on the lower end models, but swapping out to a 30 or 28 tooth chainring isn’t too much of an issue.
We rode both an aluminium Torque as well as the CF frameset, and for us, there was only the slightest discernible amount of increased frame rigidity in the CF model. We later asked Fabien Barel about this, and he said there are stiffness gains there, as well as the obvious weight savings, but the large majority of riders wouldn’t be able to perceive the difference in feeling between the two front triangles.
We’re excited to see the Canyon Torque land in Australia. It’s the kind of bike we’re itching to rail down those tough descents that can only be accessed by leg power.
Introducing the all-new Canyon Spectral, a hard-hitting 27.5” trail bike combining a 140mm rear end with 150mm of travel up front, a whole host of changes from the previous model, and excellent value.
We’ve just spent a few days on the island of Madeira off the coast of Portugal riding the new bike, and here’s what we thought!
Just about everything! Starting with the frame, the linkage system has seen a complete overhaul, with new pivot placements and a horizontal shock orientation that puts the Spectral in line with a new ‘family’ of Canyon bikes.
There is a trick new cable housing system we’ve not seen before, a new rear hub axle concept, a funky storage system, great water carrying facilities and a wallet-friendly aluminium versions too.
We’ll go into this new ‘family’ of bikes in an upcoming article, but essentially the Spectral’s linkage design has been altered to allow for what they call ‘Triple Phase’ suspension kinematics, a system that was initially derived from the development of their Sender downhill bike.
Triple Phase suspension kinematics, according to Canyon, is the combination of a sensitive initial stroke for small bump sensitivity, a stable mid stroke for support and a progressive end stroke to provide a bottomless feel.
The redesigned linkage and kinematics also provides high levels of anti-squat and anti-rise, meaning pedal bob is controlled and brake jack is minimised, a double win for Canyon on this one!
As a side benefit, standover clearance has been increased in every size due to the horizontal shock mounting.
In terms of standards, the Spectral is equipped with a metric shock, and boost spacing front and rear.
Bucking the trend of longer travel 29” bikes of late, Canyon decided on 27.5” wheels and ‘almost’ plus 2.6” tyres for the new Spectral.
The 27.5” wheels contribute to the spritely handling Canyon wanted to achieve with this bike, and Canyon found 2.6” rubber to be the right balance between traction and avoiding the squirminess that can sometimes occur with plus-sized rubber.
A new era for cable integration, frame and bearing protection
As well as overhauling the Spectral’s linkage design and suspension kinematics, there are a number of small but impressive details featured on the new bike.
Canyon’s impact protection unit makes a return, a system that prevents your controls from mashing into your top tube in the event of a crash by locking out the steering before the handlebar overlaps the top tube.
The integration cable channel is a new idea that’s so simple it makes you wonder why nobody’s done it before. Canyon’s solution to the debate between internal and external cable routing, the cable integration channel combines the simplicity of external cables with the clean aesthetic of internal routing.
Canyon’s solution to the debate between internal and external cable routing.
This is done via a cover running the whole way along the downtube, with individual cable channels that house the dropper post, rear derailleur and brake cables. There’s also a channel for a front derailleur cable if you’re planning on summiting Everest aboard the Spectral. As a secondary feature, the channel also doubles as downtube protection.
The integration seat tube clamp reminds us of a similar system used by Whyte, where the clamp bolt is also integrated into the frame, allowing for a rubber grommet to be placed over where the seatpost enters the seat tube to prevent water ingress. Pulling off the grommet at the end of one of the muddiest days on the bike we’ve ever had revealed no moisture.
Another very intelligent feature of the new Spectral is the bearing caps used for the main pivot bearings, and additional bearings seals throughout.
Joe Barnes was critical in the development of this feature, and he trialled running one side of his bike with a standard bearing cap, and another with the bolted-on cover, and the result was that the covered bearing still spun after months of abuse in the brutal Scottish mud, whilst the exposed bearing had almost completely seized.
The Eject ‘system’ and Frame Case:
Whilst there’s a lot of taking the mickey when it comes to haphazardly taping everything you need for a ride onto your bike, there are many riders out there who don’t want to go for a ride with the kitchen sink hanging off their back.
Canyon has listened to those riders, and the Spectral is compatible with their new ‘Eject’ water bottle system. Whilst at first, we thought the labelling of a water bottle as a ‘system’ was somewhat amusing, the Eject really is another innovative idea from the crafty Germans.
The Eject is a bottle cage holder that has two offset cages holding two 400ml water bottles. The system was originally developed so that extra small and small frames could fit a water bottle, but testers loved the fact that you could run two bottles with two separate liquids, as well as take 800ml of fluid out on a ride, so Canyon will be offering the system with all Spectral purchases, as well as separately in the near future.
The Eject is a bottle cage holder that has two offset cages holding two 400ml water bottles.
The frame case is reminiscent of the external SWAT box found on some Specialized models, however, Canyon’s equivalent is mounted in the junction between the top and down tube, and has enough space for a spare tube, C02 cartridge and tyre levers.
What model did we ride?
We tested the Spectral CF 9.0 SL model on the simply stunning Madeiran singletrack.
This is a bike absolutely dripping with bling, and as such our bike hit the scales at just over 12kg for an XL without pedals, an impressive figure considering the frame’s beefy chassis and 2.6” rubber.
This model is one of two models featuring the SLX frameset, Canyon’s full carbon offering. A further three models pair a carbon front end with an aluminium rear, and there are also three aluminium models on offer.
Our bike hit the scales at just over 12kg for an XL without pedals.
So, how does it ride?
Our six foot one tester found himself in between a large and extra-large frameset, and on the advice of one Fabien Barel went with the larger frame for the increased stability when tackling the long and rough Madeiran descents.
Similar to our Canyon Strive long term test bike, the Spectral features a fairly long front centre combined with a compact rear end, which according to Canyon offers straight-line stability whilst still retaining the ability to pop onto the rear wheel for a manual, or whip the rear end through a set of turns.
We found their rationale to be pretty much spot on. On an XL frame with a 482mm reach and 430mm chainstays, we were able to point and shoot through some pretty nasty sections, but through the back-to-back rutted corners on offer high in the Madeiran mountains, the bike didn’t feel too lengthy.
We did switch to the large sized frame during testing to compare the sizing, and whilst the shorter reach and wheelbase meant we could change direction a little easier in some situations, the overall capabilities of this bike would have us reaching for the larger size every time if we were in between sizes.
The overall capabilities of this bike would have us reaching for the larger size every time if we were in between sizes.
Who is this bike for?
Whilst we only had a couple of days on the bike, we were able to smash out run after run of almost every type of trail thanks to the crew at Freeride Madeira (if you’re planning a trip to Madeira, these are the guys that build, maintain and shuttle the trails every day – be sure to get in touch), and it became clear this bike is a potential quiver killer for many riders.
‘Fun’ was the word thrown around a lot, that is for certain.
Running 30% sag in the rear and the shock completely open, the bike tracked the ground impressively, with comfortable small bump sensitivity.
‘Fun’ was the word thrown around a lot, that is for certain.
The middle portion of the travel provided a firmer platform to push against when changing lines on the trail, preloading the bike for a jump or keeping the bike from diving through chunky rock gardens.
As Canyon had told us, the end stroke was indeed progressive, as usually 30 percent sag in the rear on a 140mm bike would see us bottoming out on bigger hits, but we had some horrible flat landings aboard the Spectral that didn’t push through all of the travel, so the bottom out resistance is indeed exceptional.
This was also with the standard amount of volume spacers in the Fox Float shock, so for heavier riders, or those with a particularly rough riding style, adding an additional volume spacer should prevent bottoming even further whilst still being able to run the optimal amount of sag.
On the geometry side of things, while a 66-degree head angle is on the slacker side if you’re after a bike to do a bit of everything, the 74.5-degree seat tube angle keeps you in a fairly upright position for seated pedalling, and the smaller wheels are able to be whipped through tighter trails with a bit of body language, as well as accelerating quickly.
While we were riding a higher end model with a lightweight parts kit, the geometry and kinematics of the Spectral were impressive for a broad spectrum of riding, and it wouldn’t be a too sluggish a bike on less demanding trails.
Whilst at the end of our two days aboard the Spectral we formed the opinion this is a bike that could easily serve as a do it all trail rig, we’re also aware not everyone’s pockets are deep enough to afford the SLX frameset adorned with top of the line componentry. We’ll be trying to get our hands on a more budget-friendly model in the near future to see if the added weight takes anything away from this impressive machine.
For fans of lively bikes with character, agility and confidence we think the new Spectral re-affirms its place again for 2018.
One thing that we would love to see is a 29” model, but we’ll have to wait and see if that’s coming down the pipeline, and we think Canyon’s single-minded focus on the 27.5” wheel size for the Spectral allowed them to really nail the design brief.
It’s time to get on the blower to Canyon Australia and secure one of these on home soil we reckon!
For the complete range, pricing and availability head to the Canyon site for more – www.canyon.com
In conjunction with Canyon Bikes Australia, we ran a competition last year, we drew the winners, booked it all in and here is how it went down. Garth from Rockhampton, QLD, got real lucky and his name came out of the hat. His mate Joel was the lucky bugger that got the invite to come along, and joining us all the way from New Zealand was National Enduro Champion, Justin Leov from the Canyon Factory Racing Team.
Canyon Australia’s Darryll Moliere had to be there to supervise, of course, and pick up the bar tab. So we had a great crew, ready to descend on the tiny town of Derby in Tasmania’s North East for a dream weekend of riding sweet trails on sweet bikes.
Fresh out of the box was a pair of new Canyon Strives for the guys to ride, these things are amazing to ride with excellent suspension and versatility. We have one on long term test.
And Darryll had his Canyon Spectral with him, the smaller 140mm travel brother of the Strive. We got along with that bike quite well too, take a look here.
Branxholm pub, the epitome of home cooked pub grub and hospitality.
There is no trip to Derby without a meal at one of the iconic small town pubs like the Weldborough Hotel or Branxholm Hotel, serving up a good dose of classic Tasmanian atmosphere and a chance to meet some locals over a Little Rivers beer or two.
Blue Tier, Weldborough Pub, Atlas with shuttles. Best day eveeeeeeeerrrr!
One last shred, please don’t send us home!
After a run down the Bule Tier, lunch at the pub and back up the other side to Atlas you’d think the guys would have had their fill, but no. With Justin foaming for more it was time to squeeze in another shuttle up to Black Stump for one more run down Return To Sender, the unanimous favourite of the local loops.
Now if that is not a dream weekender, we don’t know what is. Cheers to Joel and Garth for being complete legends, awesome company and great riders too. Justin Leov for taking the time out his busy pre-season schedule to join us punters on the trails, Buck and Jude, Darren and Josh, Minnie Jessop and Reuben at Vertigo MTB for the laughs, riding itinerary, and uplift shuttles. And a huge cheers to Darryll at Canyon for pulling it all together like a guru, bringing great new bikes to ride, cold beers, a rad Canyon van to cruise about it, and keeping the stoke levels high.
It sure pays to enter in a prize competition, lucky buggers!
We have the Spectral on review, we’ve tested one before, but this time it’s their mid-level aluminium frame version. For $4799 this is a pretty impressive bike already, let’s have a closer look at it before we put it to work.
What is it?
The Spectral is Canyon’s long travel all-mountain bike, with 140mm travel out back and 150mm up front and 27.5″ wheels. The little brother of Canyon’s burly enduro race bike the Strive – which we’ve spent a lot of time on – the Spectral aims to provide better all-round performance with a less aggressive shape and feel.
The Spectral range is quite extensive, with many price point options including a few women’s specific versions too. Check out the Canyon site for the full range including pricing.
We spent a few weeks on the higher end Spectral CF 9 with its superb spec and flashy carbon frame. It’s another insanely good looking bike too, have a look at that review here!
Aluminium frame, but with high-level parts spec, what’s going on here?
Aluminium frames are obviously cheaper than carbon, for comparison’s sake take a look on the Canyon website with all the pricing for your local region you’ll see this Spectral AL 7.0 EX sitting roughly in between the carbon framed Spectral CF 9.0 and CF8.0 regarding component spec. These two carbon bikes are which are $6199 and $5199 respectively while the aluminium Spectral we have here is $4799, we’ll let you do the math.
There are no doubt mountain bikers who are fans of aluminium over carbon for the age-old reasons that may or may not be true in this modern age, but there’s still no debating that we’d much rather have an aluminium framed bike landing on a rock than a carbon one.
So this brings us to the topic of carbon versus aluminium. Would we choose a higher spec aluminium frame over a lower spec carbon one? We’ll certainly have a lot to say on that in our upcoming review.
The parts look pretty good, huh!
Standing out to us in the spec is the SRAM Eagle drivetrain, Mavic wheels, Maxxis tyres, Renthal cockpit and a RockShox Pike fork. This is seriously good stuff!
It’s nice when you feel at home on a bike, while we can’t exactly call it our own it feels like it, we’ve grown quite attached indeed. The Strive could almost have been purpose built for our favourite local trails, but we doubt the German designers at Canyon have ever ridden this far abroad. The rocky, steep and raw nature of Sydney’s Northern Beaches (we are not just talking about Manly Dam here) begs for a bike that’s capable of getting rowdy, just take a look at the locals and what they are riding and more importantly how their bikes are setup.
Around here it’s all about meaty rubber, powerful brakes and wide gear ranges and quality travel. While some riders set up bikes like they’re racing the Enduro World Series we don’t go quite that far, the speeds are never that high or descents for too long, and of course there aren’t any clocks waiting for us to cross a line at the bottom.
So we’ve found the Strive a great bike for the rugged rides we love, and are still enjoying playing with setup and the parts spec to see what happens when we do.
Let’s have a look at what it’s looking like right now ahead of another summer of excellent riding. Get ready for some serious tech talk!
The number one question we are asked on the trails is how the Shapeshifter is holding up to the test of time, and if we’ve had issues like they, unfortunately, were originally plagued with. The bike arrived with a Shapeshifter that wasn’t 100% we believe it was due to incorrect setup, inflating the chamber while it was closed which damaged the unit. That was during the first ride, since then it has never skipped a beat, and has worked perfectly.
Canyon will surely come up with a better solution for the remote lever, though, it has never found a perfect home on the bars, we’re running it upside down on the opposite side and is relatively straightforward to actuate with a right thumb.
Do we use the Shapeshifter much on the trail?
Yes, a lot. In fact, if we didn’t use it and left the Shapeshifter in ‘descend’ mode it would climb like a sack of wet potatoes, it’s not ideal, to say the least. But if you utilise it to your advantage, practice activating it so it is quick and easy, the advantage is great.
As we mentioned in our initial review of the Strive we found the Shapeshifter system required a bit of practice to become fully acquainted with it. The system works by shifting the position of the upper shock mount back and forward which has a dramatic effect on the suspension travel amount, feel and geometry of the bike. By pressing and holding the lever it opens the lock on a small air chamber, then as you unweight the rear end of the bike it’ll open, pushing the shock forward into climb mode. To drop it back to descend mode you hit the lever and lean back into the bike and it’ll compress the air chamber, pulling the upper shock mount back.
Our gripe with the system is that it is not exactly 100% clear to determine which mode the bike is in when you’re hammering down the trail, there is a tiny little green indicator on the linkage, but it’s hard to see at the best of times. Practice is key, it is easy for us now.
The Strive originally came with a 160mm travel Pike, but we reviewed the Lyrik RCT3 and it’s stayed put since. We appreciate the increased sturdiness of the Lyrik with its beefy chassis when were yanking on the brakes or pinning through rock-strewn ugliness, and it seriously feels more like a BoXXer downhill fork in its spring curve, so damn plush. It is setup with 25% sag.
While we clearly rate its impact gobbling abilities on the descents, it is a fork we also find quite efficient when climbing too (sounds crazy, we know). With such a supple and low-friction breakaway action, you’re able to hold a line and maintain momentum when climbing rough surfaces, the fork gobbles up mid-sized bumps while you focus on putting down the power in what position you feel comfortable in.
We’ve fitted two Bottomless Tokens in the fork to add progression, helping the bike ride a little ‘poppier’, with a firmer end to the suspension stroke you have a little more to push off when preloading the bike to jump it around the trail onto different lines or to pop a little easier off the lip of a jumps.
And out the back?
The Monarch RCT3 has been totally sweet, super smooth and the three-stage compression control is something that we use a lot during any ride. We select open mode only for the fastest pedal-free descents, the middle setting for pretty much 80% of riding and the third firmest setting saved for only the smoothest and longest climbs. We set it to around 35-40% sag in descend mode which sounds like a lot and was suggested to by Fabien Barel but we’ve found that although it is a lot of sag it works best this way.
We were curious though to see how the bike would react to fitting Bottomless Rings in the air chamber of the rear shock, a very simple process like the fork. After fitting the spacers we found the bike to not wallow so deep under rider input and weight shifts, it resisted bottom-out a little more and we would use the open mode of compression adjustment more without it feeling too soggy underneath us. It also reacted better to hopping, jumping and preloading the lips of jumps helping us move the bike around a little easier.
The hybrid anchors.
Yes, the rider of this bike is particularly sensitive to brakes, often succumbing to bad arm pump and hand pain on even the tamest descents, maybe a result of breaking both arms 12 years ago. Thankfully brakes are improving rapidly, and thus we’re happier! The Strive was originally specced with the SRAM Guide RSC, they were nice feeling brakes with a very consistent lever feel and fair amounts of power, especially with the organic pads swapped for metal sintered.
The next brakes on trial were the SRAM Guide Ultimate, which used the same lever but with an upgraded calliper that was built to manage heat better and utilised a cleaner bleeding process.
Ultimately, we found the Guide Ultimates still not what we needed for the long and steep descents that really tested our strength, no matter how we bled and maintained the system we found fading braking power from heat and heavy usage on the longer descents.
So then we wanted more, and like we’ve seen on many pro’s bikes at the EWS and World Cup DH circuit, many riders are reverting to the old Avid CODE brakes, or at least the CODE calliper and Guide lever.
The CODE is a few years old, still carrying the Avid label where all the modern brakes from the brand carry the SRAM label. We chose to combine the Code calliper and Guide lever to keep the weight down, the CODE levers are mighty tough but perhaps a little overkill for this purpose.
The hard rubber chainstay protector doesn’t do too much in the way of silencing chain noise against the frame, so we gave it a bit of extra dampening with a wrap of Frameskin the Australian brand well-known for their bike protection, much quieter indeed. Check them out here.
Up and down, sit down.
This is the third post we’ve had fitted to the Strive, initially specced with a RockShox Reverb which was plagued with squishy play and was never 100%. The second was the latest version of the Reverb with its new internals and it performed flawlessly for many months of hard riding, RockShox knew they had work to do for consumers to put their faith in a product that for the most part has had a rough ride, and they’ve nailed it. The new one feels the same but works perfectly.
The third post was the long-awaited FOX Transfer, and we’re huge fans. We’re confident in calling it the best post that we’ve ever tried with its simple installation, ergonomic thumb remote and consistent performance.
What’s driving the Strive?
One part of the bike that has demanded very little attention from us is the drivetrain, in fact, all we’ve done is upgrade to the lighter direct mount chainring and drop down from 34T to 32T for a lower range. And we also changed the gear cable, other than that this drivetrain is unstoppable. Original chain, cassette and it’s still super quiet and smooth.
Cranks are 170mm in length, shorter than usual but 5mm of clearance from the trail below can go a long way at times.
How Enduro of you.
What’s better, weight on your body or your bike?
Carrying spares and water on the bike instead of on the body is a good thing for a few reasons, we find taking weight off your back helps you move around easier, but more importantly you don’t forget it if it’s always there. We carry a tube zip-tied under the seat, and the nifty Syncros Matchbox Tailor Cage HV 1.5 combines a bottle cage, pump and multi-tool kit in one.
We’ve been carrying the new mountain bike tubeless specific Dynaplug Micro around with us lately, and so far it’s saved us from having to perform the messy job of fitting a tube on the trail when a puncture occurs. The plug system has successfully sealed three punctures without a hiccup, and so we don’t leave home without it we’ taped it to the bottom of the bottle cage. Click here to heck out more on that little lifesaver.
Big rubber, wide rims, loads of air.
It’s more than just the big and meaty tyres that gives this bike so much grip, it’s also the whopping 35mm wide carbon rims, custom built by Kiwi brand Wheelworks. You can read all about the Wheelworks wheel building process and just why they feel confident in offering such a warranty here, in our interview with Wheelworks founder Tristan Thomas. We recommend you have a read, as there are some pretty interesting aspects to the process and Tristan does a great job of dispelling some popular myths about wheels.
Replacing the 23mm wide SRAM wheels wit the 35mm Derby rims was a revelation, the width allowed us to drop tyre pressures to below 20psi and what that did to the bike’s traction was phenomenal.
Wide rims are the way forward, there’s no doubt about it. A wider, more stable, platform for your tyre lets you run lower pressures for more grip and control. We don’t need to harp on again about it in detail, but we’re not overstating it when we say that wider rims can transform your ride experience in a way that few equipment changes will.
We’ve recently received a set of pretty special wheels from New Zealand custom wheel builders, Wheelworks. These guys are well regarded as the godfathers of Kiwi wheel building – they’re the only crew we’ve ever encountered to offer a lifetime warranty on their wheel builds, including impact damage and spoke breakage, which is pretty exceptional.
You can read all about the Wheelworks wheel building process and just why they feel confident in offering such a warranty here, in our interview with Wheelworks founder Tristan Thomas. We really recommend you have a read, as there are some pretty interesting aspects to the process and Tristan does a great job of dispelling some popular myths about wheels.
The Flite Wide Carbon wheels are, as the name implies, very wide and very carbon. The rims measure up 40mm externally, and 34mm internally, which makes them just about wide as the Ibis 741 rims we tested last year, which opened our eyes to the potential of truly wide rims.
Spokes are the bladed DT Aerolites, and they’re laced in a two-cross pattern, which reduces the angle of entry of the spoke into the rim, with a nice touch being the two powder-coated white spokes on the either side of the valve stem. It’s all in the details!
DT provide the hubs too, which have been given the Wheelworks touch, with custom decals to match the rims. One of the perks of buying a custom set of wheels is that you can pimp them out as you like, so we went with silver and blue decals to offset the silver/black finish of our Canyon Strive test bike. In another nice touch, the Wheelworks guys even up-specced the DT Star Ratchet freehub, to the 54-tooth version for super fast engagement. The weight is pretty impressive, at 1720g for the pair.
The rims come taped and ready for tubeless use with valves already installed to, so we were able to get them setup to ride quick smart. For rubber, we’ve opted to run the new Maxxis Aggressor DD (Double Down, with a stiffer sidewall) in a 2.3″ size. With the stiff tyre sidewall and wide rim, they were a bit of battle to fit, but we’re certainly never going to worry about rolling them off the rim! We think that with the wide rim, coupled to a stiff and robust tyre like the Aggressor, we’re going to have plenty of confidence at low pressures.
We’ve fitted these gorgeous hoops to our Canyon Strive / XT Di2 test bike, and all that remains is to see how fast we can go! Giddyup!
Through the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, Fabien has been there and done it all. From winning multiple Downhill World Championships to dealing with horrific injuries, to transitioning from downhill across to enduro and winning the first ever Enduro World Series round.
So what’s he up to? What’s he think of the state of enduro? Where will bike geometry be heading?
F – Hello Fabien, so you’re retired!
FB – Haha, yes I’m a retired man! But only from racing, I think people forget that I’m only retiring from racing. It’s a big thing for me but not necessarily new, I retired before from downhill racing in 2011, and had 2012 completely just for fun.
F – So why did you retire from downhill and come back to professional sport for a spot of enduro?
I committed to Enduro for three years with Canyon not for a new career, but because we were developing the Strive.
I believe that racing is the best way to test and develop new technology on a bike, so that is why I came back to Enduro, the plan from the beginning.
F – If there was no bike development on the cards, would you have still returned to racing?
FB – No, I don’t think I would have committed to Enduro. I was so glad to see the EWS take off, and was happy to help and be an ambassador coming from other sports of mountain biking. It’s a great new discipline that’s being developed, great for the industry and anyone who doesn’t want to commit to full on downhill or race cross country. It’s really proper mountain biking racing.
Downhill is my passion and I still really, really love it, so to re-learn my bike setup and physical preparation for enduro was a challenge that really excited me.
F – How was the transition from downhill to Enduro for you?
FB – It’s a completely different approach, to be honest after three years now of enduro I am only now understanding it completely. The physical side is so different, instead of preparing for short and powerful for a matter of seconds in downhill, you need to go up to three minutes of that same intensity. I’ve still not been able to transform my body, after 17 years of DH. I wasn never great at long pedalling stuff, and even though I tried at 35 years old, my body found it tough to re-shape in that capacity.
At the start I thought I’d just need to commit like downhill racer, but pedal like a short track racer.
It was so much more than that, the tactic, energy management even the way that you hit the lines on the track is different, and you need to bring all this together staying focussed.
If you lose control of your vision, it’s no good and there’s a lot of risk, as much a downhill, the speeds are just as high while the bikes are smaller.
F- In France the sport of enduro is not new, what was it like before the EWS brought it to the international mainstream?
FB – EWS brought worldwide visibility and professionalism and along with that came the industry support, rivalry between riders, a bit of animosity too. You don’t have pro racing without this. We had this crazy meeting between riders with a remark that we should all have the same salary, so there is no more competition, but then there is no more competition on the race track, who is going to be first and who is going to be second? That’s racing!
We are here to be elbow and elbow fighting against the clock, but not fight against the others. For me enduro is as downhill was, fighting against the clock. I would always find it hard to race four cross, or even the mass-start races, there is so many more parameters and the luck element that comes through.
F – From your point of view, what’s the key ingredients for the best enduro race course?
FB – As a new sport the ‘vision’ from one person to another is radically different. I still believe that the base of enduro has grown in France and in Italy through the fact that people are not particularly trained physically, they want to ride their own pace to the top of the mountain and once they reach the top they want to enjoy their ride down all the way to the bottom. Enduro is still a mass sport, not like you have in downhill or cross country it has the ability to bring in all people together from the beginners up to the elites. That’s the root of the sport for me is the key to keep it.
Making times too short to reach the top of the mountain and penalising those who take too long is wrong, and making stages that are too physical to the point that people don’t enjoy there way down is also wrong. There’s a thin compromise, time should be spent 80% descending, 20% pedalling up. That average makes sense to me, but unfortunately we can still be far from it sometimes.
Enduro is about enjoying the way down. And the best events are festive, there’s a good atmosphere and parties around the event. For me it’s more than just the track, it’s the whole event.
We’ve seen organisers put in so much effort to make it work, they are learning as much as we are.
There needs to be a tight relationship and communication between riders – elite and amateurs – and organisers. That’s how it’s going to work.
The EWS is still new, and there may only be a few people making the decisions. It’s hard to find the perfect balance of rules that will produce a culture that’s a product of a fair amount of training, local trail knowledge etc. It’s a complicated sport, much more than downhill or cross country that’s for sure.
F – Ok, here’s a curly question for you. Who would do better in a season of enduro out of these two riders. A super fit downhill racer, or a technically skilled cross country racer?
FB – Tough question! Generally good technical skills is needed to get anywhere, you are riding in anticipation where you don’t know the tracks perfectly. On the other hand you need you need to manage a whole weekend of racing.
For example you could take Sam Blenkinsop, he’s an amazing technical rider that is so fit, he’d kill it in enduro, same for a rider like Greg Minnaar. Then you could look at Nino Schurter, who’s also so good technically and obviously of high fitness performance, he’d be in the top five no problem.
F – Who were the enduro riders that you looked up to in the early days?
FB – Jerome Clementz, he was on the top of the game on the first year and so was Nico Vouilloz was, they were a step ahead on year one as they had much more experience on the discipline even before the EWS.
F – Let’s look at your bike setup, why the asymmetrical cockpit and brake lever heights?
FB – I broke my shoulders in the past and my shoulder level are not the same anymore naturally. The different brake lever heights forces my hand position to be different and that modifies my shoulder height. It gives me a possibility to have a good handling position of the bike’s mass.
F – Working with Canyon, what is your role with bike development?
FB: I work tightly with the engineers to bring ideas at first to design the bike, and then work on all testing to finalise kinematic, and geometry. I like the fact that I am involved at all levels and that there is a mutual confidence on our collaboration. Canyon is a big company but is managed and owned by one person, Roman Arnold. Our relationship is a real synergy where we bring all of our capacities and experience together.
F – What does it take to be useful to Canyon at assisting in product development?
FB: It obviously takes commitment to the brand, to give and invest yourself at all level. I could simply take myself as a rider and do a simple Job. But I am passionned by mountain biking, from racing, to all aspects of the industry. The process is fantastic when you imagine that I could work from first drawing of the bike to bring it all the way to the top of a race podium. There is no better satisfaction for me. You can’t find your “work” (if you can call that work) more valuable.
F – What was the hardest aspect of the Shapeshifter design to get right?
FB: The hardest point was to find a system that could work with the shapeshifter concept and still provide a good kinematic. We have internally a fantastic engineer – Vincenz Thoma – who managed to develop a process optimising all of our research. Everything became suddenly very simple and evident.
It was a thin compromise to find between length and head angle. I do believe that we have room for another size up but it would only be for very very tall people. But I do not think that going slacker or longer would have been an option for the average rider.
F – Do you think the super long Race Geometry is ahead of the times?
FB : I think it has been. I do believe in long bike as long as the front part of the bike is stable and that the rider moves weight over the front.
Habits are changing as forks are working better with a more progressive spring force, so front triangles are getting longer. The understanding of reach and stack are bringing people in more understanding of where they should stand on the bike. All this radically change the riding styles and expectation in terms of geometry.
On review we have the Strive CF 9.0 Race, an all-out beast of an enduro race bike with Canyon’s own clever Shapeshifter System designed with the help of mountain bike legend, Fabien Barel.
Canyon sell their bikes online, they ship Down Under to your door all the way from their headquarters in Germany, that is until an Australian warehousing system is put in place. Their direct-to-consumer model is a slick operation that’s been meticulously tested in Europe for many years before opening the floodgates to eager consumers in Australia and New Zealand.
Late last year we looked into how it’s all going to work, we unpacked this bike from the box, and explored what it will be like buying a Canyon from their website.
Make no mistake the Strive ain’t no casual all-rounder, this is a dedicated enduro race bike. It’s super long, very slack and as we were to quickly find out it needs to be ridden hard or its capabilities will go to waste.
From the aggressive frame geometry to the generous travel to the beefy components the Strive is a whole lot of bike. Sitting in between the 140 or 130m travel Canyon Spectral (27.5″ or 29″) and the Canyon Torque DHX downhill bike, this big 160mm rig is the choice for the Canyon Factory Enduro Team who won the Enduro World Series overall as a team last year.
Being our first review of a Canyon everything is fresh and exciting, and we’ve stared at it with loving eyes almost as long as we’ve actually spent riding it.
It’s always nice to review a bike from a brand which is new to us, and we agree with the countless people that stopped us on the trails for a look, it is quite a striking shape and a very smartly finished rig indeed.
Our test bike comes from the ‘Race Geometry’ range of Strives, which have a slightly longer front centre than the ‘Regular’ models, a requirement from the race team to meet the demands of top-level enduro racing. A longer bike coupled with a short stem will result in quick handling but with room for stability at speed.
It’s a full carbon affair front and back and wowzers it’s stiffer than an Eskimo’s nipples, there’s a serious lack of twisting or bending when you grab the rear wheel and flex it side-to-side. All the cables travel internally via nice little rubberised ports, and while we did hear some rattling at times from the rear brake line inside the frame we found it all pretty easy to work with when we had to shorten and re-route anthing through the frame.
The Strive uses a four-bar suspension with a pivot on the chain stay, similar to a Horst Link bike like a Norco or a Specialized FSR. The main pivot is right down low just above the bottom bracket, and all the fastening hardware is super tough and solid feeling, never did we need to pay any attention to the linkages or pivots during our review. There is also plenty of water bottle space like a true race bike should have, thanks to the upward kink in the top tube.
But what really makes this thing tick is the Shapeshifter.
Canyon Enduro Factory Team rider Fabien Barel was seen testing and racing a secret prototype Strive for quite some time with what looked like an old wetsuit bootie covering the rear shock area from view, but we could still see a remote lever at the bars. What on earth were they working on, a hidden motor?
The Shapeshifter is a Canyon developed system that switches the rear shock between two positions via a button at the bars – climb and descend mode. The two distinctly different positions toggle the rear suspension travel between a super plush 163mm and a firmer 139mm while simultaneously having huge impact on the bike’s geometry. It’s very slack and low when descending and in climb mode the head angle sharpens 1.5 degrees and the bottom bracket sits 20mm higher.
The Shapeshifter sets the Strive apart from all the other brands in this hotly contested area of the market.
Canyon are going after the holy grail of ‘two bikes in one’. We’ve had great experiences from a couple notable brands that do a good job of this task, like Scott with their Genius and Cannondale with the Jekyll. These two very different bikes use multiple air chamber rear shocks from FOX that can be toggled on the fly to change suspension travel and also the bike’s position to suit climbing or descending.
Not taking anything away from these two excellent bikes, the Strive succeeds in this task using a standard shock. The Shapeshifter system is independent of the shock – you can run whatever you like, thought depending on the Strive model you purchase, a RockShox Monarch Plus or FOX Float X is standard spec.
See the little air chamber behind the upper shock mount? It’s extended for climb mode, and compressed for descend mode. It’s just a tiny little air chamber – not a spring – that will compress if you put the right amount of weight on it whilst pressing the button at the same time. It’s simple, subtle and the concept seems so obvious!
How does it work? The Shapeshifter is essentially just a volume of air with a lockout button, lean your bodyweight back into the rear of the bike with the lever pressed and it’ll compress into descend mode with a faint clunking sound, increasing the leverage on the shock and dropping the bottom bracket height. To pop back to climb mode shift your bodyweight forward with the button pressed and it’ll extend open again.
It does take some time to get used to knowing what mode you are in. It wasn’t until we’d spent a few solid days on it that we intuitively knew without doubting and double checking by looking down at the green indicator whilst riding.
There’s a little green indicator on top of the linkage that lets you know when you’re in climb mode that disappears when it is fully engaged in descend mode, and can get quite hard to see when you’re riding in the wet. We can’t help but wish the indicator was more prominent, it wouldn’t take much for at least a larger indicator to clearly put your mind at ease when riding that you’re 100% in the right mode. But with a bit of practice it should become second nature.
We found that we generally would hit the RockShox Reverb lever and the Shapeshifter lever simultaneously, instantly turning the bike into a descending beast. Time to let the brakes off!
Despite the additional elements that the Shapeshifter adds to the bike, we found setup to be a simple process and haven’t had the need to touch it since. Zip-tied to the bike in the box is a nifty quick setup guide to help find a base setting for air pressures and shock adjustments according to rider weight.
Inflating the Shapeshifter is made a little easier with a little L-bend adaptor supplied with the bike, we’d dare not lose it as getting a shock pump on there is a tight fit and may not work with all shock pump styles.
The air pressure needs to be right for your body weight, too much pressure and it’ll be too hard to compress into descend mode, and not enough and it won’t return open when you need it to. We followed their guide and found it to be spot on.
Out of the box the Shapeshifter remote lever wasn’t in the ideal position for us, mainly due to the way we run our brakes the opposite way around to those in Germany, so a little fiddling and re-arranging of the lever and re-routing the cables accordingly made things a lot tidier up the front with the lever within reach of our right thumb.
Canyon went shopping in the enduro section to deck out this one in the best bits, all the parts are a top match for the bike’s intended use. The RockShox Pike RCT3 is ideal, and the SRAM Rail 50 wheels are a worthy set with 23mm internal width rims and a near silent freehub. A Maxxis High Roller front and Minion rear combo offers remarkable traction anywhere and are a Flow favourite, we especially like the way they bite in deep with the brakes on.
The SRAM X01 drivetrain and SRAM Guide RSC brakes with big 180mm rotors are also winners, but the RockShox Reverb post wasn’t 100% for us with about 10mm of play that you can feel when seated, so it’s back to SRAM for warranty with that one.
The 34T chainring is on the larger side of things, perhaps a spare 30T might be handy to travel with to the races if the mountains get steep and the legs aren’t ready.
We trimmed down the super-sweet 780mm Renthal FatBar Carbon handlebars to 760mm to suit our liking and tight trails, the matching 40mm Renthal stem (50mm on size large) adds a touch of new school class. And the Ergon Ge1 Slim grips are also a new fave at Flow, keeping in both the German national and blue colour themes nicely.
Looking back it’s not just the individual parts that make the Strive a seriously good bike, it’s also that you get so much for your money. $6K is very appealing for this level of components as standard.
What would we change? Nothing, it’s ready to rock.
How it Rides.
Now for the good bit, shred time!
Our love affair with the Strive began at the media launch hosted by the new Canyon Australia crew on the Mornington Peninsula, VIC. The trails of Red Hill proved to be an excellent testing ground, their fast and raw nature made up for the lack of elevation the Strive strives for (ha, we said strive twice then) and we punched out as many runs as possible. Following Fabien Barel was a wild and somewhat dangerous experience, certainly fun but was a bit of a distraction from testing the bike on hand, so naturally we begged to put the Strive on long term review on our local trails of Sydney’s Northern Beaches. Cheers, Canyon we’ll give it back one day, maybe.
Descending: The Strive is a beast of a bike that descends more like a downhill bike than any 160mm travel bike we’ve ever ridden. Our medium test bike with its mammoth 629mm horizontal top tube length makes the Strive’s ‘race’ geometry the longest medium sized bike we’ve reviewed. The Giant Reign is close at 619mm, the Santa Cruz Nomad and Yeti SB6C are around 609mm, and we thought the YT Capra was long but still that’s only 581mm!
The length of the frame promotes you to really push harder and faster, and the stability from such a long top tube gives us major courage to let the brakes off and really punch it harder. And with 160mm of such good travel front and back you’ll be hard pressed to find its limits. Through the turns you mustn’t forget you’re riding a true enduro race bike, it requires real body language to tip it down and whip it about but after a few runs of our local downhill track we changed tactic and came into the corners drifting sideways instead, foot out and totally pinned.
Under brakes the suspension remained nicely active, and the level of anti-squat was right on the money – not too firm – just right.
The front end might be long, but the chainstays are quite short at 423mm, much shorter than the bikes previously mentioned above but only 1mm longer than the chainstay length category leading Specialized Enduro 650b.
Like we said earlier this is one very stiff frame, and the SRAM Rail 50 wheels also feel quite rigid when pushed around, so if we were ever a little off line or ragged through a fast section of trail we had the confidence to grip on tight and ride it out.
We like to think of the frame’s length and rigidity as life insurance for those reckless moments on the trail.
The tradeoff for the length is when the descents got slower and tighter, maybe that’s why Barel does such magnificent nose wheelies around tight switchbacks, because this thing can feel like a mini bus going through a drive through at times. But that is how you pay for the mega stability, fair is fair.
The RockShox Monarch rear shock with its Debonair extra volume air can feels incredible, the suspension’s sensitivity contributes to the Strive’s near silent ride as it rumbles through the chop. We’d love to try fitting air volume spacers to the rear shock to help it ride a little higher in the stroke. And we rode the bike 80% of the time in the middle compression setting, rarely did we feel the need for the extra plush open mode.
Climbing: Lucky the Strive has the Shapeshifter, because if you try and climb in descend mode you’ll be hating life, it’s a pig uphill raked out so slack. So when the climbs come it’s time to shift your weight forward and press the button, you’ll have a completely different bike beneath you! Climbing uphill, this bike makes you want to sell two bikes, and just buy this one.
It’s the combination of less travel, a firmer spring rate, higher bottom bracket and sharper head and seating angles that ties in together to really transform the Strive into a great climber.
The grippy tyres contribute to the Strive’s climbing ability, it’ll grind up anything if you have the legs. A 12.6kg weight is pretty impressive too, well and truly in the ballpark for a bike much smaller than this.
We’ve been loving the latest batch of 160mm bikes recently, here’s a few comparible bikes to the Strive that we’ve tested.
Canyon are onto a good thing with the Shapeshifter, in descend mode it hammers like a downhill bike and the position that the climb mode puts you in makes light work of the uphills. The Strive successfully achieves the ‘two bikes in one’ thing, but still it’s a big rig that needs gravity on its side and is wasted on buff trails. It might be worth looking at the shorter travel Spectral if you like the look of this thing but don’t have the rough trails to warrant it. Or if you’re not that fussed on racing your mates or the clock look the other way.
And who can look past the price, it’s a seriously good bike for the dollars, a testament to the modern sales method from this huge German bicycle company. Out of the box it is ready to shred, it’s a true modern enduro race bike.
But the tradeoff is like any online purchase unseen, it’s now up to Canyon to prove themselves in this country going forward, but we can at least vouch for the quality of this bike. It’s a serious winner.
The Canyon Factory Enduro Team (CFET) is proud to welcome one of the world’s top enduro riders, Justin Leov to its ranks. Justin completes the team’s roster to join Joe Barnes, Ines Thoma and Ludo May for 2016.
Together, CFET will set out to defend their Enduro World Series Team title. As New Zealand’s fastest, Justin will be nailed on as one of the favourites for individual wins and the series overall.
For Canyon Founder & CEO, Roman Arnold, bringing Justin on board enhances CFET’s standing as one of the strongest outfits in enduro.
“Welcoming a top rider like Justin to the Canyon family is really exciting. Throughout his career, he’s shown his complete commitment to racing and that’s reflected by the fact he’s in the mix at every event he starts in. Justin is a great ambassador for the sport and for Canyon. Our team has progressed over three seasons in the EWS to become series champions in 2015. With Justin now on board, we’re confident we can reach new heights in 2016.”
At 31 years old, Justin has three EWS campaigns behind him having made the switchover from World Cup Downhill in 2012. After finishing third in the 2014 overall rankings, Justin stepped up to become one of only a handful of riders to win an EWS round in 2015 at Tweedlove and was leading the overall series before a crash in Whistler took him out for the rest of the season.
With a new team and new setup, Justin is gearing up for everything 2016 can throw his way and has his sights set right on the top.
“I’m really happy to be given the opportunity to work with Canyon and to be around such passionate people. The presence they have at the EWS shows they are really into enduro. That’s what I’m about too. Every weekend I’m aiming to be up there, I just want to race and know I’ve pushed so hard that there was nothing more I could give. When you cross a finish line and you can’t hear or hardly see anymore because you’ve given so much, that’s what I live for.”
Having fully recovered from the shoulder injury sustained in Whistler, Justin is now back out on the trails getting in the hours on his new race bike, the Strive CF:
“I frigging love my bike! The Strive gets me excited every time I ride it. It’s such a beast in DH mode, eats up the trail and sits just right but I love that I can climb the thing without that sacked out feeling you usually get from an aggressive 160 mm bike.”
The 2016 EWS circus kicks off in Valdivia, Chile, on 26 March. From there, Justin, Joe, Ines and Ludo will fight it out across eight rounds worldwide to make it another awesome season!