Long Term Test: Canyon Strive CFR 9.0 Team

The not-so-minor details


Canyon Strive CFR 9.0 Team






The ultimate enduro race bike.
Shapeshifter versatility.
Kickass value.
Race-ready spec.
Eye candy.


Crummy chainstay guard.
Water bottle hit Shapeshifter cover.
Large RockShox Reverb lever contributes to cockpit clutter.

The Canyon Strive is an impressive bike, at the heart of the bike, is a system unique to Canyon, the Shapeshifter. It is so damn effective; it helps this long-travel bike mix it up with the big rigs on the descents and keep up on the climbs with bikes half its size.

Watch the strive in action in our video review here:

What’s new, what has changed?

The 2019 release saw a total overhaul for the Strive, it went from 27.5″ wheels up to 29″, they dropped the aluminium frame models, and FOX manufactured the Shapeshifter unit, which also saw a new remote lever for easier actuation.

We’ve already published a feature on the new bike, check that out here: New 2019 Canyon Strive – First Ride Review.

The Shapeshifter got off to a rocky start, albeit a long time ago, read more about that here: Righting the wrongs with FOX, a chat with Daniel Oster from Canyon HQ.

The frame is very striking, with its hard lines and angular profile. It’s very Canyon. Drawing loads of attention from onlookers due to its sharp aesthetic.
The straight structures and paintwork on the seat stays, and top tube lined up makes for a cool looking bike.
The Strive rewards aggressive riding.
Dropping in!

Ok, the Shapeshifter.

What does it do, how does it do it, and is worth the added complications?

The new 2019 Strive uses a much-improved Shapeshifter remote lever though it might be too much going on, for some.
Tucked away behind the link is a FOX produced gas spring, with a two-way valve. It changes the upper shock mount orientation, for a significant impact on the suspension.

Look closely at the two pictures above; the left is 13mm travel XC mode, right is 150mm DH mode. The little gas spring pushes in, and out.

A product of the Canyon enduro race team, the Shapeshifter thingo gizmo has been designed to make this long travel bike easier to get around the liaisons and climbs between race stages.

Via the remote lever, you can make big changes to the way it rides; toggling from DH mode to XC changes the rear travel from 150mm to 135mm, steepens the geometry by 1.5 degrees, lifts the bottom bracket height and completely changes the suspension kinematics to provide 20% more anti-squat. The two modes feel dramatically different, plush and low in the DH mode and sharp and efficient in the XC mode.

While the principal of the system remains much the same as the earlier model Strive, the new lever is SO much easier to use, just click the lever either way and ride, no more unnatural weight shifts needed for it to toggle between modes. They’ve done a great job in making the system easier to understand and use.

The other significant factor here is that FOX now manufactures the Shapeshifter unit, so their name on it alone should give you utmost confidence. It hasn’t skipped a beat in the time we’ve had it.

A catalogue image, displaying the Shapeshifter gizmo, with the linkage removed.

When did we use it?

Most obviously, we used the uphill mode on the climbs, and descents on the.. well, you know. But unlike a classic shock lockout, the suspension remains totally useable in the uphill mode, it just feels firmer and there is less of it, so we’d run it in uphill mode on flatter trails, or even descents that didn’t require full beast mode.

The Strive on a recent trip to Maydena Bike Park, Tasmania. The Strive is also available from their hire fleet; it’s up to the task.
Fresh tracks on the newly opened Wilderness Trail, Maydena Bike Park.

We recently took part in a local enduro race, where pedal efficiency is key as well as descending speed. One of the three stages was flatter than the rest, requiring more pedalling, so we left it in uphill mode the whole stage.

While the others we were toggling it on and off constantly, even on short climbs or flat sections of the trail only 5m or so in length, we’d still find it easy enough, and worth the effort to make the most of the more responsive pedalling action.

It’s a Canyon; decent spec is not typically a problem.

Out of the box, this thing is so ready to go. From the SRAM Code brakes to the Mavic Deemax wheels, Ergon grips, Maxxis Minion tyres and RockShox Lyrik fork, the build is very capable of what the bike can handle. For the price, it’s impressive.

On rockier trails, a set of tougher casing tyres might be necessary, but that’s all we would think could pose a problem from original spec.

One busy thumb, an added cable and a bulky Reverb remote lever.

While Canyon has improved the Shapeshifter remote ergonomics tenfold from the earlier generation Strive, it still sticks out a long way and adds an extra cable into the mix. The sizeable hydraulic lever on the RockShox Reverb doesn’t exactly help, either.

It’s a stretch to reach the Reverb dropper remote, but not the end of the world; we got used to it.

If it were ours, we’d swap the hydraulic Reverb out for a cable-actuated dropper post, and find a smaller lever that takes up less space. There is a myriad of aftermarket options nowadays.


What’s going on with this lame chainstay guard? It doesn’t even cover the frame adequately and does a poor job in dampening noise from chain slap. Steal one off a Specialized Stumpjumper if you want a quieter bike.

The hard rubber chainstay guard wasn’t particularly useful. Small details, but an odd oversight from Canyon nonetheless.

Also, the water bottle cage sits way too close to the plastic cover over the Shapeshifter, even the fact it’s a Canyon cage didn’t matter, on some of our first rides the bottle would bump off the plastic guard and we’d have to go walking back up the trail to find it.

The water bottle would contact or come within millimetres of the plastic Shapeshifter cover, even with the Canyon bottle cage pushed all the way forward.

In all.

The Strive is at the top of the pile in the long-travel trail/enduro category. The ride quality, value for money and versatility benefits of the Shapeshifter feature make it one of our most favourite bikes of all time.

While it’s a product born out of high-level racing development, it’s also able to be a viable option for mere mortals like us that want a bike to handle speed on rough trails, but don’t want it to shy away from the flatter trails or climbs.

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