(The Gear Loop) - Canyon's Grizl is the latest bike to enter the German brand's mixed-surface fleet. It joins the road-leaning Endurace and trail-to-tarmac Grail, taking up residence at the rougher end of Canyon's road/gravel spectrum.
This new machine comes in response to the growing acceptance of gravel as its own discipline, as opposed to just a marketing buzzword. New gravel events are popping up all over the world faster than you can say "generous tyre clearance" and last year, pro cycling's governing body, the UCI, announced the launch of an officially sanctioned Gravel World Series.
Naturally, this spurred countless memes about check-size regulations for flannel shirts, but it also helped to finally legitimise gravel in the eyes of industry purists… of which cycling has its fair share.
The Grizl CF SL 8 will do a similar job for anyone lucky enough to ride it. For too long, gravel bikes have focused on being able to take the rough with the smooth, frequently winding up not being particularly good at either. In characteristic fashion, the Grizl doesn't follow this well-trodden path. It's built to take the rider off the beaten track - a true gravel bike, pure and simple.
Still, with optional front suspension and 50mm tyre clearance, is there any legitimate reason to pick the Grizl over a XC MTB? We spent a few weeks pounding the rough stuff to find out.
How would we summarise the Grizl Cf SL 8? In a word: fun. This is the sort of bike that coaxes you into the country, encourages you to turn off Strava and eggs you on to explore hidden roads. It's a highly accomplished off-road machine and its technical proficiency is bolstered by its bike-packing potential.
For those who seek an all-rounder, this is not it. But for anyone with a road bike looking to add a gravel bike to their stable, the Grizl should be their first port of call. It's not particularly nippy on tarmac (not that it's sluggish either) but it's not supposed to be, nor does it need to be.
As Canyon puts it, the Grizl is built for "experience over performance". It's a bike for discovering new places and having adventures, which is exactly why we love it.
Canyon Grizl CF SL 8
- More mounting points than you can shake a tent pole at
- Confidence-inspiring handling
- A lot of bike for the buck
- Colour options won’t be for everyone
In the loop
A quick look at the Canyon Grizl CF SL 8
- Gravel-specific geometry
- Outrageous tyre clearance
- Shimano GRX drivetrain with hydraulic disc brakes
- Optional dropper post
- Optional RockShox Rudy suspension fork
- DT Swiss G1800 Spline db wheelset
- Schwalbe G-One Bite 45mm tyres
Built for the backcountry
The first thing a rider will notice when clipping into the Grizl for the first time is just how steady and planted the bike feels. An extended wheelbase combined with plush 45mm tyres, a relatively stubby 80mm stem and wide 440mm bars (size M, as tested) makes for a stable ride that inspires confidence and encourages speed on even the most bone-shaking of terrain.
The carbon frameset shares its geometry with the Grizl's less intrepid elder sibling, the Grail. Having ridden both bikes extensively, we're in full support of Canyon's decision here. Because hey, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
There is an aluminium version in the works for anyone on a budget, but the current carbon-fibre chassis does an exemplary job of taking the sting out of rough surfaces and absorbing chatter.
Our only gripe is with the two colourways: 'Matcha Splash' which is a sort of pastel green with navy paint-splatter effect, and 'Earl Grey', which essentially looks like the frame has simply been primed and clear-coated, rather than had a cup of tea thrown at it.
Admittedly, we quite like the Matcha Splash, but it certainly won't be for everyone and the alternative is perhaps a little drab. Just like Earl Grey, then.
A muddy mule
One of the Grizl's ace cards comes in the form of multiple mounting points - something the Grail lacks. The fork (non-suspension version) features three mounting points and each leg can handle up to three kilos. There's also a top-tube mount and an extra bottle-cage mount on the underside of the downtube.
Shifting comes courtesy of Shimano's GRX RX812 groupset and is silky smooth, super responsive and reassuringly robust. The brake levers feature a rubberised coating, aiding grip in wet conditions and creating a rather appealing matte effect.
In fact, we could write a whole separate piece about how much we love these levers. The axis is set higher, which makes it easier to operate the brakes from the hoods and braking performance is fantastic, even when the rotors and calipers are caked in slop.
There's also dropper-post compatibility and customers who opt for the suspension model will get one as standard. It's a nice touch, and certainly worth having for riders who intend to tackle more technical trails and singletrack.
The DT Swiss 1800 G1800 Spline db wheelset is fine. It's not the most advanced, lightest or showy set of rims on the planet, but who wants a pair of £2,000 carbon wheels on a bike that's designed to be beaten up? Sure, they add some weight, but what's a few extra grams when you're already lugging a full rig?
An interesting development is the recent inclusion of a suspension option. The bike has the same chassis and components as the standard CF SL 8 but with the inclusion of a RockShox Rudy fork and a dropper post.
With these added bits, the Grizl really is beginning to encroach on hardtail MTB territory. Granted, the fork only offers 30mm of travel, but it's still a suspension fork at the end of the day - a piece of kit seldom seen on drop-bar bikes. Having ridden both the suspension and non-suspension versions of the Grizl, the Rudy fork is certainly nice to have on rougher ground, but we'd still opt for the rigid fork to keep weight down and reduce maintenance.
That said, the RockShox Rudy is surprisingly light and offers just the right amount of cushioning to smooth out bumpy trails without negatively impacting performance elsewhere.
Alternatively, Specialized's Future shock adjustable front suspension, which is built into the headstock, works nicely and adopts a neat middle ground between full front suspension and having your teeth shaken out by rough surfaces.
It's about time the industry admitted that ‘all-road' is really just a byword for 'not particularly adept on the road or off it'. The Grizl doesn't pretend to be something it's not. This isn't a jack-of-all-trades mongrel making bold claims about tackling trails and tarmac.
No. It's a purebred gravel grinder that's designed specifically for the rough stuff - something that is abundantly clear from the moment you clip in to the minute you emerge from the trees, grinning from ear to ear through a thick layer of mud.
At this point, it's a bit of a cliché to harp on about the similarities between gravel bikes and early MTBs, but in terms of sheer trail-ready eagerness, the Grizl really is closing that gap.
It encourages the rider to throw it around tight tree-lined berms, it pleads to be hammered down perilous woodland descents. In fact, we could've sworn we heard it whisper, “go on, I dare you,” as we pedalled past the local dirt jumps on our way back to the road.
This is as tough as carbon-fibre bikes get without straying into mountain bike territory. It inspires confidence and had us flying down sections of trail that we'd ordinarily avoid with drop-bars. We hit some relatively technical bits on this thing, and at no point did we feel as though we were under-biked.
Canyon is famous for delivering impressive machines at competitive prices and its latest gravel/bike-packing rig is no different. Geared towards adventure and optimised for the rough stuff, the Grizl CF SL 8 makes mincemeat of technical terrain and positively skips through places many so-called gravel bikes would fear to tread.