Of course it is interesting that Canyon is jumping into the top of the gravel scene with two levels of carbon spec for their new Grail CF frameset. No argument there. But let’s just take a moment, and pore over that wacky double-decker Hover handlebar before we get back to the new bike.
Canyon gravel two-level carbon Hover handlebar
Canyon has built bikes that could fit fat tires for a while. Even their road race bikes can squeeze in 30mm rubber. And they have geometry and ride characteristics for most any kind of road or trail riding that you will want to do. But gravel riding is about exploring, getting off the beaten track and away from the main roads. It is about not being limited in where you ride or in how long you are going to be out.
So Canyon wants riders to be comfortable for the long haul, so you can enjoy unfettered adventure by bike. That’s where the new Grail gravel bike’s crazy Hover bar comes in. It is designed to “float across beaten-up surfaces all day long, without beating up the rider.”
Double-decker handlebar hand positioning
The unique two-leveled bar promises an endurance road feel & fit while riding in the standard position of the drops with your thumbs hooked over the lower crossbar – now almost a middle position – thanks to the combination of the Grail’s relatively short headtube (low frame stack) and the riser handlebar design. Then, in an even lower position at the bottom of the drops you can get back down to an aggressive fit to maximize your aero tuck.
But put your hands on the hoods or the bar tops and you sit more upright and comfortably, for more control, especially off-road.
And in the thin upper crossbar section of the Hover bar that Canyon calls the floating ‘Flex Area’, the bar benefits from the elastic properties of the bar’s carbon construction to soft impacts and absorb road chatter. Claiming to add just 120g over a conventional carbon bar and stem combo, it sounds like an excellent alternative to more complicated suspension bar/stem (even fork?) solutions to smooth out those washboard roads.
The added benefit (and some speculation)… the slightly flared bar appears to be a bolt-on solution that could fit any bike with a standard steerer clamp. Canyon isn’t official about the clamp spec, but the way they describe the tapered 1.25″ steerer carbon fork is consistent with their other road bikes. The Hover bar stem combo is not yet available separately – exclusive to the Grail CF framesets & complete bikes for now – but that was the case also when they first introduced road bikes with their Aerocockpit & Ergocockpit bar & stem combos.
One curious note is the fact that the closed loop where the brake levers are attached means that band clamps can’t simply be slid into place. From the factory Canyon includes bands to work with Shimano levers (have a look at the frameset image in our Grail article), but it is unclear if they might be compatible with other lever bodies. Is the handlebar Shimano-specific? If you could remove the band clamps, you could probably use a Rotor Uno groupset which has open loop carbon band clamps to hold the levers in place.
If nothing else, we wouldn’t be surprised to see the same bar make its way onto a more affordable aluminum version of the gravel Grail in the future as well. Of course the bar requires some unique frame geometry to get your hands into the correct location, but I’m sure many riders would be happy to experiment with it, especially on bikes they feel have too little stack for their preferred riding style.