Canyon’s new Grail gravel bike gets a complete racing overhaul with more precise handling, a cleanly integrated but normal cockpit, lots of integrated storage, and a major aerodynamic upgrade. While it’s decidedly a faster, stiffer gravel race bike, those aero and integrated upgrades will be welcome for almost any rider looking to ride fast on and off-road.
I’ve been riding the new Grail for the past month, and its stiffer race bike vibe has grown on me…
2023 Canyon Grail CFR & CF carbon gravel race bikes
In the years since Canyon first debuted their do-it-all carbon Grail gravel bike, the discipline has not only evolved, but segmented itself more into multiple categories. Now you can choose from light gravel/all-road, fast gravel/gravel racing, and adventure gravel. And each with its own specific bike.
That segmentation has allowed Canyon to refine their new Grail for a more narrow audience, creating a bike that I’d say better serves those gravel riders looking to go fast. And if all-road is your bag, pick the Endurace; or if you prefer adventure & bikepacking, go for the Grizl.
The more narrow focus has undoubtedly benefited the new Grail from a race perspective. Hidden under a camouflaged paint job, it’s been ridden to numerous pro wins this season – capped off with a Gravel World Championship this past weekend under Polish rider Kasia Niewiadoma.
We caught up with that same unique razzle dazzle prototype paint job at FNLD GRVL this summer, for a detailed sneak peek. And the cool thing is, it’s actually available from today in a very limited edition run if you act fast!
(Scroll down quick to the Pricing, Options & Availability section at the end if you want to snap one up before they disappear.)
So What’s New?
This new Grail drops the divisive double-decker Hover handlebar for a more conventional integrated cockpit. With hidden integrated internal cable routing through the headset as is the style of the times, yet not inside the bar for a bit more manageable at-home consumer-direct setup. But it still is quite creative in its new 1-piece handlebar+stem combo, greatly improving ergonomics and building in direct mount compatibility for everything from mobile phones & GPS computers to aerobars adapted from triathlon.
Canyon says a big driver was literally to reduce the frontal area and aero drag from the tall Hover bar. But it’s hard not to imagine that a more conventional setup is easier for more potential gravel riders to buy in.
The new “Double Drop Bar” cockpit gets gentle downsweep & 5° backsweep on the tops, flared drops that angle out a bit at the levers (5°) then a bit further at the drops (to 16°), and a flatter position behind the hoods for your hands to rest. There apparently is also a pro-specific version with extra downsweep to get the hoods and drops lower, while keeping the ‘stem’ level with the ground. There you’ll find a new “Gear Groove” direct mount interface in the top and bottom of the ‘stem portion’ that allows a modified mono-riser to be installed for aerobar extensions taken from Canyon’s triathlon SpeedMax. Or you can mount more conventional integrated out-front GPS mounts (like I have) in the same position.
Frameset-wise, the new Grail is pretty much all-new compared to the original Grail that debuted in 2018. The frame gets an unsurprising aerodynamic overhaul from tip to tail. According to Canyon, “tested back-to-back in the wind tunnel with the first-generation GRAIL, the new generation saves a significant 9.1 watts at 45kph, tested bike only with identical specs“.
Up front, that means a move to deeper aero fork legs that increase front-end stiffness. But there’s also a longer axle-to-crown length to both smooth airflow over the front tire, and build in the possibility to mount a short travel gravel suspension fork, if so desired. The fork legs also get indentations molded into the carbon that allows for a secure Fork Load Sleeve adapter to add fork bag or water bottle mounting, without the need for conventional threaded mounts. The idea here is that most riders of this ‘race bike’ won’t ever mount anything to their fork, but it’s still possible.
The biggest change in the frame itself is the introduction of internal in-frame storage, and external integrated storage. For inside, the top 2 carbon frame specs add a glovebox door that Canyon calls the Load Downtube Storage. It’s pretty much what we’ve seen on a lot of recent mountain bikes, but here placed above the water bottles. Inside a thin snake-like neoprene bag can carry a spare tube, CO2, inflator, and tire levers. And mounted directly to the Load glovebox door you can secure the included multi-tool, plus an optional mini pump.
As for outside, Canyon has created a sleekly integrated Load Fidlock Quickloader partial frame bag. It looks a lot like the Aero Pack System that Apidura developed with Ridley for their gravel race bike. This one is all Canyon, though. A separate size bag to match each frame, the Quickloader snaps securely into place with magnetic Fidlock studs, and can be removed by pulling a release strap on its back. Canyon says it saves 1.5W vs. no bag, while having enough space inside to carry an extra layer like a jacket or some extra ride snacks.
To neatly integrate with the aero bag, the top of the downtube is quite boxy, while it transitions to a more conventional truncated aerofoil shape down by the water bottle.
Combined the Load system means you should be able to carry most of your ride spares on the bike, low, and out of the wind. No need for a saddle bag for most racing. And keep those cargo shorts pockets free for mobile phones and bananas.
Overall, most of the individual frame tubes are also deeper and more aero in profile, except for the toptube which is just now more straight than before. The seat cluster looks similar to the old bike, but now fits a D-shaped seatpost. It’s the same shape as on the Ultimate and promises 3W of aero savings (at a gravel unrealistic 45kph). But Canyon created a much more forgiving post than on their light road race bike – although still much less forgiving than the leaf-spring VCLS posts.
A true key feature of the new Grail is its 42mm max tire clearance, with plenty of space for mud. Yes, you could probably squeeze a 45mm tire in there, but if you need bigger than a 40/42mm tire, maybe a Grizl would be a better fit for you. This is a gravel race bike, after all.
That tire limit also means the bike is still 1x or 2x compatible as many racers coming from the road prefer conventional road gearing combos. Even a mid compact 52/36T chainring combo will fit. That also means you can run a direct mount chain retention device for single chainring setups.
Accessory mounting includes 2 full-size bottles on all frame sizes, plus a direct toptube bag mounts and cage mount under the downtube. There’s 3 extra threaded mounts inside the front triangle for the integrated Quickloader bag (on all frame levels). Plus, hidden non-standard mounting points for a Canyon custom set of full-coverage fenders.
A lighter CFR frame spec, too
All-new for the Grail is CFR-level ultralight carbon tech. Like they’ve done from road to DH to cyclocross in between, now gravel gets a Canyon Factory Racing level carbon layup. Ultralight CFR carbon fiber makes the Grail CFR frame & fork 118g lighter than the new CF SLX. Plus, it means 10% more stiffness in the bottom bracket and headset, and a 4.5% stiffer fork both laterally and front to back. Because lighter and stiffer is better, if you’re into that kind of thing.
Refined Gravel Race Geometry
The new bike does feature all-new geometry, but it’s really not so far different from the OG long-wheelbase Grail if you excuse the lack of a Hover bar. The headtube is a bit slacker at a still reasonably steep 71.5°. And the wheelbase is actually even longer, and extra 27mm across the board. But the real trick seems to have been playing with fork offset to keep the same 69mm fork Trail across most sizes (the core S-L) for a balanced stable but maneuverable ride over rough or smooth surfaces.
2023 Canyon Grail CFR & CF – Pricing, Options & Availability
The new carbon Canyon Grail comes in 8 build kits at three different carbon spec levels – the top-tier CFR, CF SLX & CF SL. Both the CFR & CF SLX bikes include all the top cockpit and integrated storage features. The more affordable CF SL however includes a handlebar with conventional accessory mounting bolts under the stem, and does not include the Load internal downtube storage.
Grail CF SL
The entry-level for the new carbon gravel race bike is the $2700 / 2700€ Canyon Grail CF SL 7 with a Shimano GRX 2×11 mechanical groupset and alloy DT wheels, at 9.22kg (all weights claimed).
Next up is a $3500 / 3500€ Canyon Grail CF SL 7 AXS that gets an upgrade to wireless electronic shifting with a 1x SRAM Rival AXS Xplr group, at 9.82kg.
Then, a $3000 / 3000€ Grail CF SL 8 gets a lighter build with GRX 1×12 and a higher-spec DT G1800 alloy wheelset, at 8.74kg.
Grail CF SLX
Stepping up to the higher spec CF SLX frameset, there’s either the $5000 / 5000€ Canyon Grail CF SLX 8 Di2 with electronic GRX & carbon DT Swiss GRC1400 wheels, or the $5500 / 5300€ Grail CF SLX 8 AXS with wireless SRAM Force AXS Xplr & carbon Zipp 303 wheels.
Then, at the top tier, there’s the 7000€ Canyon Grail CFR Di2 with GRX Di2 & top DT GRC1100 carbon wheels, at 8.3kg. Or pick the lightest complete gravel race bike build with the $8000 / 8000€ Grail CFR AXS featuring Red AXS Xplr, a Quarq powermeter & those same GRC1100 wheels, at 8.04kg.
And maybe most intriguing of them all, just 70 individual bikes will be made available worldwide of the $9000 / 10,000€ Canyon Grail CFR LTD. You again get the SRAM Red AXS Xplr groupset and top DT wheels, but in the same eye-catching GRVL DZZL paint job of the pre-production bikes that the pros have been winning on all year.
All of the new bikes are available from today in Europe. USA availability is a bit limited at first. In the US, you can get a CF SLX 8 Di2 or the small batch CFR Pro LTD today. The others should be available by the end of 2023. Except for the CF SL 7 which will only arrive early in 2024.
First Riding Impressions
I’ve been riding the new Grail on and off for the past month – an 8.5kg build in the CF SLX 8 AXS build. That includes some competitive riding, plenty of gnarly “gravel” bordering on enduro, and some quick but more casual riding. The new gravel race bikes really fills precise and more responsive, and makes me want to go fast. I definitely got the first impression that the front end feels much stiffer than I remember the previous Grail.
Part of that was going hard on some really technical tracks on 40mm tires with a few psi higher pressure than I probably should. Coming off a more adventure-ready gravel bike with 50mm tires, it was a quick shift. Even down to a sore wrist after 3 intense days of hammering the new bike.
But the new Grail is growing on me. Maybe the race-ready XPLR gearing is a bit steep for me coming off Eagle-equipped bikes. But it certainly makes sense from a race perspective. Then, I adapted after a week or so to how best to ride this bike. And that’s to ride it fast. Smash up the climbs, and fly down the other side. If I wanted to go bike adventure bikepacking, I’d surely pick a Grizl for the extra comfort. But when I want to go fast, it’s hard to beat the speedy feel of this new Grail.