TESTED: Canyon Strive 2019

The not-so-minor details


Canyon Strive CF9.0 Team





At a casual glance, the 2019 Strive almost appears unchanged – they’ve retained the overall shape, rather than pursuing a horizontal shock position like the new Spectral or Neuron. But the wheels are bigger now, and the bike’s unique suspension is much improved.

So, you’ve changed? 

While the profile of the new 2019 Canyon Strive is familiar, there have been two fundamental changes; firstly, the bike is now 29er only (and carbon only too), and secondly the ShapeShifter system is greatly improved.

More subtle tweaks include some very neat cable routing, a new tool-free axle system, bolt-on frame protection, double sealed bearings and space for a full-sized water bottle. Canyon have invested in two different carbon layups as well, offering a CFR (R for Race) version of the frame in the two top models that’ll save 300g.

The ShapeShifter now uses a twin button setup, which sits beneath the bar, integrating with the dropper post lever.

Still got the ShapeShifter?

The ShapeShifter system was always a key drawcard for the Strive, allowing riders to change travel and geometry on the fly for climbing/descending. But it was not without its operational issues – reliability on the early releases was dubious, and it required riders to use a lot of body language and precise timing to toggle between modes.

The new version is much, much better. Canyon called in FOX to help with the project in a wise collaboration.  There’s a new ‘Click Clack’ lever system that now sits below the bar, in a neat cluster with the dropper lever and the whole thing is simpler and more durable.

Our test bike, pictured here, is running a RockShox Reverb, but Canyon have developed their own dropper lever which will come fitted to all models of Strive running cable-actuated posts.

Your left thumb will be busy, but the way this system works now is ten-fold better than its predecessor.

Check out our review content of this bike’s predecessor, which we had on long-term test:

The 2016 Strive 9.0 Race was a good buddy for a couple of years.

Tested: Canyon Strive CF 9.0 Race

Long-Term Test: One Year Of Shredding, The Canyon Strive CF Race

Can it still use a normal shock?

Yep. Unlike some other on-the-fly travel/geometry adjustable systems (like Scott’s TwinLoc), the Strive can take a regular shock so you’ve got the option to customise your setup with a different shock or source an easy spare if need be.

The Shapeshifter apparatus is hidden away, giving the bike a very clean, clutter free appearance.

How does it work?

The ShapeShifter makes some pretty big changes to the bike; toggling from DH mode to XC changes the rear travel from 150mm to 135mm, steepens the geometry by 1.5 degrees and completely changes the suspension kinematics to provide 20% more anti-squat. The whole system only adds around 200g too.

But the key motivation for Canyon was making the system easier to use. On the previous model, you had to transfer your body weight whilst holding down the ShapeShifter lever. With the new system, you just push the button and forget about it.

With the linkage removed, you can see how the ShapeShifter works – here the system is in XC mode, with 135mm travel, and increased anti-squat.
In DH mode, the ShapeShifter is compressed, completely changing the leverage of the upper shock link upon the shock, giving you more travel (150mm) and slacker geometry.

The new user interface has two under-bar levers, which is totally compatible with SRAM’s Matchmaker lever and dropper system. The larger ‘Click’ lever is compressed for XC mode, while the ‘Clack’ lever releases the cable for DH mode. If you’re toggling from DH to XC mode, just hit the button, and as soon as the bike has a moment of being un-weighted (for instance, you get out of the saddle) the ShapeShifter will engage the XC setting. If you’re toggling from XC to DH, just hit the button, and as soon as the bike encounters a compression DH mode is engaged, giving you more travel, slacker geometry and more active suspension.

We love the way the entire system takes up so little space on the handlebar now.
Fabien Barel has been deeply involved in the development of the Strive. The man has one of the most analytical minds in mountain biking, he’s constantly looking for a performance edge.

Why the move to 29”?

The current wave of long-travel 29ers are more than just a trend, and Canyon insist that they did extensive experimentation and testing with 27.5”, 29” and even a hybrid of both before making the call to go the big wheels.

The 29er became a natural choice for the Strive as it’s bred to be a race bike with no compromise, and that meant going for the faster rolling wheels. Love it, or lump it. While other brands seem to have embraced the idea of giving riders a choice in wheel sizes for each model, Canyon insists that choosing the faster-rolling wagon wheels exclusively is better for the consumer. If you want the small wheels, you can always look at the Spectral.

Is it affordable?

While the CFR 9.0 Team we got the chance to test is a blisteringly light and bright build at $7999, there will be six different build options available via Canyon’s website, starting at $4349 for the race-ready CF 5.0, all the way up to the CFR 9.0 Ltd for $10,199. You can also grab a CFR frame and shock only for $4349.

At this stage, there are no plans for an aluminium version. Given that pricing starts from less than $4500, we don’t think this is an issue.

The Strive CF5.0 This is what $4349 will get you. A full carbon frame, GX Eagle, FOX at both ends. Impressive for the entry-level bike!
Or if your pockets are (much) deeper, a little over $10,000 will land you the practically un-upgradeable CFR9.0 LTD build.

To the hills! 

Canyon had us out to give the new Strive CF 9.0 Team a thrashing in the rocky Malaga hills. As the second-to-top spec offering, the 9.0 Team ticks every high-performance box without moving into stupid pricing territory. A high-end SRAM build and Mavic wheels saw this bike weigh in at 14.05kg, which is very light. On hand to ensure our bikes were setup perfectly were Canyon’s engineers and mountain bike legend Fabien Barel.

With the move to larger wheels, Canyon were committed to a geometry of long front centre and short rear end, to ensure the bike didn’t lose its playfulness. The rear centre is 435mm long, which is impressively compact given there’s ample room around the 2.5″ rubber.

The loose, rubble-strewn trails of Malaga are a popular off-season testing ground for a number of brands. The Strive felt calm as can be in the chunder.

Having spent a lot of time on the previous Strive, the most immediate changes we noticed were a big increase in straight line speed, more grip and pace in flat corners and far superior momentum over technical sections. Thanks to a relatively short stack height up front, the position felt very natural to us, not at all tall like some big-travel 29ers, and soon we’d forgotten entirely that we were riding a 29er.

Ooo, nice light.

There have been big changes to the suspension feel too. Our bike was equipped with a RockShox Super Deluxe, a shock we’ve ridden a lot, but never have we had a bike extract so much performance from it. The more progressive mid stroke allowed the shock to be more effective at absorbing faster impacts, while still maintaining a solid platform to push and pump through holes and corners. It loves big hits too, and even when we ran out of talent, slamming into the backside of a lander and slamming to a stop, we didn’t bottom out the shock (even with 30% sag).

While much of Europe is a frosty mess, this pocket of Spain delivered ideal riding conditions.
Short stays and a low weight meant it was never a stress getting the bike lofted.

When we finally hit the bottom of the shuttle road every time, we found the ShapeShifter felt pretty natural to use and made a welcome difference. Switch it to XC mode and you’ll feel the effects immediately – pedal bob was reduced, and you’re raised into a more comfortable climbing position. The system is so effective, that we didn’t even bother using the shock’s compression adjuster – the increase in anti-squat in XC mode is more than enough to keep the bike stable under climbing without reaching for the lockout.

Super lines! This bike is a stunner.

Winner or Gimmick?

In our eyes, the functionality of the ShapeShifter system is a winner. However, there are going to be some detractors – it does add an extra lever and cable to your cockpit, and an extra layer of setup. If you are willing to accept the added complexity, you are sure to be rewarded with noticeable gains on those pinch climbs deep in a race stage, where there’s nothing worse than bobbing up and down on an open rear shock and watching seconds slip away.

If you’re the kind of rider who looks for the best ways to get an edge in competition, or can’t get enough of innovative creations that push the limits of mountain biking, then take a closer look at the Strive.

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