The Canyon Grail CF SL 7 is a top-rated gravel bike with an even more impressive price tag. This lightweight carbon fiber framed bike brings a lot to the table with components and performance that far exceed the asking price. With a stiff frame and comfortable geometry, it is a zippy and efficient climber. It flies down descents and through the flats, with compliance designed into the handlebar and frame to help dampen the ride and increase comfort over the long haul. The build is very well sorted and enhances its performance and versatility. The elephant in the room is Canyon's unique double-decker handlebar, which has polarizing looks and limits adjustability/compatibility but works quite well. Beyond that, this well-rounded bike shreds gravel, pavement, even a little singletrack, and is an outstanding value.Editor's Note: The Canyon Grail CF SL 7 review was updated on January 25th, 2022, with more in-depth information on what we would buy and help to compare different bike models.
Canyon Grail CF SL 7 Review
Cons: Proprietary handlebar, limited handlebar adjustability and accessory compatibility
Compare to Similar Products
Canyon Grail CF SL 7
|Price||$2,699 List||$4,599 List|
$4,599 at Backcountry
|$2,499 List||$1,899 List||$1,849 List|
|Pros||Reasonably priced, lightweight, outstanding price to build ratio, easy assembly||Lightweight, nice build, excellent blend of frame stiffness and compliance||Reasonable price, suspension fork, great on the descents and rough surfaces, nice component spec, comes in both carbon and aluminum frames and multiple builds||Affordable, reasonably lightweight, fairly versatile||Inexpensive, versatile, many frame mount options|
|Cons||Proprietary handlebar, limited handlebar adjustability and accessory compatibility||More expensive||Fairly heavy, longer reach, fewer accessory mounts than rigid fork version||Somewhat harsh ride, stock tires aren't great in loose conditions, tubeless conversion required re-taping on both wheels||Heavier than the competition, budget build|
|Bottom Line||An affordable, capable, and versatile carbon-framed gravel bike with a great build and solid all-around performance||This lightweight, high-performance gravel bike boasts a well-rounded performance and quality build that's ready for anything||A reasonably priced gravel bike with front suspension and great build perfect for rough gravel and adventure riding, but with a slight weight penalty||An entry-level gravel bike that is relatively lightweight, fairly well-rounded, and reasonably priced||Anyone interested in dabbling in the world of gravel riding should check out this versatile and affordable model|
|Rating Categories||Canyon Grail CF SL 7||Santa Cruz Stigmata...||Canyon Grizl 7 Susp...||Fezzari Shafer AL||Salsa Journeyer Ape...|
|Specs||Canyon Grail CF SL 7||Santa Cruz Stigmata...||Canyon Grizl 7 Susp...||Fezzari Shafer AL||Salsa Journeyer Ape...|
|Measured Weight (w/o pedals)||19 lbs 14 oz||19 lbs 2 oz||24 lbs 12 oz||21 lbs 11 oz||24 lbs 5 oz (with tubes)|
|Frame Material||Carbon Fiber||Carbon CC||Aluminum||Aluminum||Aluminum|
|Wheelsize||700c (Sizes S-2XL). 650B (Sizes 2XS-XS)||700c (tested) or 650b||700c||700c||700c (tested) or 650b|
|Frame Size Tested||Large||58cm||Large||Large||57cm|
|Available Sizes||2XS-2XL||52, 54, 56, 58, 60cm||S-2XL||XS-XL||50, 52, 54, 55.5, 57, 59.5cm|
|Wheelset||DT Swiss C 1850 Spline Wheelset||WTB Asym i23p 700c rims with DT 370 hubs||DT Swiss Gravel LN||Alex GD24, Tubeless Ready||WTB ST i19 TCS 2.0 700c rims with Novatec hubs|
|Front Tire||Schwalbe G-One Bite 700 x 40c||Maxxis Ravager EXO 700 x 40c||Schwalbe G-One Bite 700 x 45c||Maxxis Receptor EXO, 700 x 40c||WTB Riddler Comp 700 x 37c|
|Rear Tire||Schwalbe G-One Bite 700 x 40c||Maxxis Ravager EXO 700x40c||Schwalbe G-One Bite 700 x 45c||Maxxis Receptor EXO, 700 x 40c||WTB Riddler Comp 700 x 37c|
|Shifters||Shimano GRX RX600||SRAM Rival 1||Shimano GRX RX600||SRAM Apex||SRAM Apex 1|
|Rear Derailleur||Shimano GRX RX810 GS 11-speed||SRAM Rival 22 Long Cage 11-speed||Shimano GRX RX810 GS 11-speed||SRAM Apex 1x11||SRAM Apex 1|
|Front Derailleur||Shimano GRX RX810||N/A||Shimano GRX RX810||N/A||N/A|
|Cassette||Shimano HG700 11-speed, 11-34T||SRAM PG-1150 11-42T 11-speed||Shimano HG700 11-speed, 11-34T||SRAM PG1130, 11-speed, 11-42T||SRAM PG 1130, 11-42T|
|Crankset||Shimano GRX RX600, 172.5mm, 46/30T||Easton EA90 175mm||FSA Gossamer, 46/30T||SRAM Apex 1, GXP||SRAM Apex 1 X-Sync, 40T|
|Bottom Bracket||Shimano Pressfit BB72||Easton BSA||Token Ninja Lite BB4124 PF86.5||SRAM GXP English BSA||not specified|
|Fork||Canyon FK0070 CF Disc Carbon||Santa Cruz Carbon||RockShox Rudy XPLR Base, 30mm||Fezzari Gravel Carbon||Fantail Deluxe Carbon|
|Seatpost||Canyon SP0043 VCLS CF Carbon, 20mm setback||Easton EA50 27.2mm||Canyon SP0057 VCLS Carbon, 20mm setback||Fezzari XrT Carbon||Alloy 27.2mm|
|Saddle||Fizik Argo Tempo R5||WTB Silverado Pro||Selle Italia Model X||Selle Italia Model X Superflow||WTB Volt Sport 142mm|
|Handlebar||Canyon CP07 Gravelcockpit CF Carbon||Easton EA50 AX flare||Canyon HB0050 Ergobar AL||Fezzari GR Alloy, 18-degree flare||Salsa Cowbell|
|Stem||Integrated with handlebar||Easton EA50||Canyon V13||Fezzari Alloy||Salsa Guide|
|Brakes||Shimano GRX 600 hydraulic disc||SRAM Rival 1 flat mount||Shimano GRX RX600 hydraulic disc||SRAM Apex Hydraulic Disc||TRP Spyre-C mechanical|
|Measured Effective Top Tube (mm)||576||573||588||550||568|
|Measured Reach (mm)||402||390||409||386||380|
|Measured Head Tube Angle (degrees)||72.5||72||72||71||70|
|Measured Seat Tube Angle (degrees)||73.5||73.5||73.5||74||73|
|Measured Bottom Bracket Height (mm)||278||285||292||279|
|Measured Wheelbase (mm)||1040||1038||1055||1045||1060|
|Measured Chain Stay Length (mm)||425||425||435||435||440|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Grail CF SL 7 is built around Canyon's Grail CF SL carbon fiber frame. The full carbon frame has a "slightly heavier carbon layup" than the top-tier CF SLX models that Canyon claims weigh approximately 200-grams less. Despite being slightly heavier than the premium SLX frames, the SL frame is still relatively light with a claimed weight of 1040-grams in a size medium. The frame pairs with a carbon fork, and both have flat disc brake mounts. The head tube area of the frame has been designed with a unique shape to accommodate Canyon's carbon fiber double-decker handlebar/stem combo. The seat tube also has an integrated seat post clamp hidden between the junction of the seat stay/seat tube. The frame has internal cable routing, integrated chainstay protection, and mounts within the front triangle for two water bottles.
A quick glance at Canyon's geometry chart reveals that they don't take all their measurements on the Grail the same way as most other manufacturers. The difference is most evident in the reach measurement, which Canyon claims to be 478mm for our size large test bike. While that number would be typical for a modern mountain bike, it's absurdly long compared to other gravel bikes. It turns out that Canyon measures the horizontal distance from the center of the bottom bracket to the top of the handlebar, while most manufacturers measure to the center of the head tube. For the sake of consistency and comparison, we measured the reach ourselves and found it to be 402mm, which is more similar to other large bikes we've tested. Other key measurements are a 576mm effective top tube length, 425mm chainstays, and a 1,040mm wheelbase. The head tube angle is 72.5-degrees with a 73.5-degree seat tube and a 278mm bottom bracket height. Our size large weighed 19 lbs and 14 oz set up tubeless without pedals.
- CF SL carbon frame
- Gravel-specific geometry
- Fender compatible
- Double-decker integrated handlebar and stem combo
- Internal cable routing
- Available in seven frames sizes, 2XS-2XL
- 700c wheels on sizes S-2XL, 650b wheels on sizes 2XS-XS
- Comes with a protective frame sticker pack specifically for bike packing bags
Downhill performance accounts for 30% of the overall score in our gravel bike testing. We found the Grail CF SL 7 to work well on the descents, and it earned a score of 8 out of 10 in this metric.
It feels reasonably stable when pinning down fast stretches of open road, and the stiff frame translates to quick, responsive handling in turns or when dodging baby heads, potholes, and ruts. The high-volume tires and unique hover handlebar, along with a bit of compliance engineered into the rear triangle, help dampen the ride slightly and take the edge off of road chatter.
Since its debut in 2018, the geometry of the Grail has remained unchanged. While it isn't exactly "progressive" or groundbreaking by today's standards, it hits a nice middle ground that works quite well in virtually all situations. This bike rolls fast, and it feels comfortable and stable whether on pavement or flying down your favorite dirt road descent. The 1,040mm wheelbase is relatively standard for a large frame, and while it's not the most stable bike we tested, it never feels twitchy or awkward either. The 72.5-degree head tube angle is just a hair steeper than most other bikes we tested, which helps give the Grail a very nimble and agile feel when it comes time to negotiate corners or rough sections of the road. It's a blast on smooth, flowing singletrack too, but like any gravel bike, it does have limits. Its steeper front end can feel a little out of place when tackling steep or rocky singletrack, but the same goes for virtually every rigid drop bar bike. However, when kept in its element, it was a blast to ride pretty much everywhere.
While it may be aesthetically polarizing, we found the unique double-decker hover handlebar to work well and provide noticeable vibration dampening that helped increase comfort over long, chattery descents. While it's hard to say precisely how much dampening they provide, the freshness and reduced fatigue of our hands, wrists, and shoulders informed us that the thinned-outflex zones of the carbon bar were actually doing something. The bike's rear triangle also reveals stout rectangular chainstays for lateral rigidity and much thinner seat stays that seem to provide a bit of vertical compliance and comfort without sacrificing anything in handling or efficiency. Additionally, the relatively high volume, versatile, tubeless 40mm Schwalbe G-One tires allow you to flirt with lower tire pressures and smooth out the ride even further. The Shimano GRX hydraulic disc brakes work impressively well, with consistent power and an excellent lever feel. While we would have enjoyed a handlebar with slightly more flare, we did find that having the ability to hook the thumbs over the lower crossbar provided a very confidence-inspiring grip when riding in the drops.
As one might expect from a sub-20 pound carbon-framed gravel bike, the Grail CF SL 7 is a great climber, and it earned a top score of 9 of 10. It has a comfortable geometry, power transfer feels direct and efficient, and it scampers uphill with ease. The quality components work well and help to enhance its performance on the ascents.
The geometry of the Grail CF SL 7 is relatively standard for a gravel bike, and it occupies the comfortable middle ground in most respects. The size large we tested has a reasonably roomy reach measurement of 402mm, which is one of the longest we tested. Along with the 20mm of seat post setback, the reach feels longer than most, but our testers were able to find a comfortable position by sliding the seat slightly forward.
The 73.5-degree seat tube angle seems to be about the sweet spot for gravel bikes, and it lines the rider up in a neutral feeling position above the bottom bracket. When pedaling, power is transferred directly down into the drivetrain, and thanks to the stiff carbon frame, it feels like little, if any, is ever wasted. Whether you're seated and spinning up a long climb or out of saddle smashing up to the top of the next rise, all of your precious energy is turned into forward momentum. The 278mm bottom bracket is a great moderate height that avoids being so low that you're smacking rocks while pedaling through chunky sections of road or trail. The 72.5-degree head tube angle helps to keep handling razor-sharp, and the Grail is responsive and easy to navigate if things get tight or technical on the climbs.
The Grail CF SL 7 component specification gave us little to complain about, and it performed very well while climbing. While we are fans of wide-range 1x drivetrains on gravel bikes, we have to admit that the 2 x 11-speed GRX works incredibly well. It provides a huge range, and the jumps between shifts on the 11-34-tooth cassette are smaller and more subtle. The Schwalbe G-One tires are a great all-arounder with relatively good rolling speed and great traction on most surfaces. A subtle amount of flex in the carbon seat post helps to take the edge off of some vibration in the cockpit, and the Fi:zi'k Argo Tempo R5 saddle proved to be impressively comfortable. While it may have polarizing looks, the CP07 Gravelcockpit handlebar is quite comfortable and functional. The top of the bar is relatively flat and wide for resting the hands, and there is no discernible flex when torquing on the hoods while grunting up a steep climb out of the saddle.
Like most gravel bikes, the Grail CF SL 7 is a highly versatile ride, and it earned an 8 out of 10 in this metric. Of course, it excels at gravel riding and is an excellent choice for casual rides, events, all-day epics, and it could certainly work well as a race bike.
It performs well enough on smooth singletracks, and the hover bar and higher volume tires help to take the edge off rougher sections. We think that it could also play double duty as a gravel and road bike, particularly with its wide-range 2 x 11-speed drivetrain. For serious pavement pounding, you'd likely want to swap out the tires for something a little faster rolling, but otherwise, the Grail is well equipped for the tarmac. While it doesn't have a wealth of frame or fork mounts for bike packing bags and accessories, it does come with a complete custom sticker pack designed to protect the frame from the straps of frame, saddle, and handlebar-mounted bags. We could see it being a great option for extended bike tours or adventurous bike packing trips.
Tire clearance is decent, with plenty of room for the 40mm tires that come stock. The fork can easily accommodate a wider tire, although you'd be hard-pressed to go too much larger in the rear. The frame does accept fenders, although the mounts aren't standard, so your options are somewhat limited. Another drawback of the CF SL frame is that it is designed to work with Canyon's double-decker hover handlebar/stem combo. Unfortunately, it doesn't work with other stems, so the cockpit has limited adjustability. The funky shape of the bars also makes it challenging to use most standard computer and accessory mounts.
Our size large Grail CF SL 7 tipped the scales at 19 lbs and 14 oz set up tubeless and without pedals.
While it isn't the lightest bike we tested, it isn't terribly far off, and we were impressed by its weight given its low price. Sure, we tested a couple of bikes that weigh a bit less, but those bikes also cost significantly more. Given the Grail's sub-20 lb weight, it felt quick on the climbs, snappy in the sprints, and we wouldn't think twice about entering a gravel race on this machine.
Your preferred build kit may vary from person to person, but there are some components that just work better, and we closely examine each setup to rate different combinations.
Thanks to Canyon's consumer-direct sales model, they can offer complete bikes with great builds at prices that other brands can't match, and it earned an 8 out of 10 in this metric. With the Grail CF SL 7, the value is quite apparent given that it retails for around $1,000 less than our other top-rated models with a carbon frame and comparable component specification. Of course, you could spend a whole lot more for higher-end components and a slight reduction in overall bike weight, but you certainly don't need to. The CF SL 7 build we tested checks all of the boxes and is ready to be raced or head out on an extended bike packing trip.
The Grail CF SL 7 comes equipped with a 2 x 11-speed Shimano GRX gravel-specific drivetrain and hydraulic disc brakes. The drivetrain consists of a GRX810 front derailleur and a GRX810 GS rear derailleur. The cranks are GRX600 and come in size-specific crankarm lengths (172.5mm on our size large test bike), with 46/30-tooth front chainrings. Out back, the Shimano HG700 cassette has an 11-34-tooth range. The Shimano GRX400 hydraulic disc brakes are paired with 160mm rotors front and rear with consistent and predictable bite and plenty of power to handle the speeds of the Grail with ease.
The Grail CF SL 7 rolls on 700c wheels and tires that are pretty impressive for the price. The gravel-specific DT Swiss C 1850 Spline wheels feel stiff without being harsh and are tubeless-ready with rim tape preinstalled. A set of tan-wall Schwalbe G-One Bite 40mm wide tires come mounted with tubes installed from the factory. These versatile tires are also tubeless-ready, and Canyon supplies a set of tubeless valve stems, so all you need is a little tire sealant and a floor pump to finish the job.
Canyon has equipped the Grail CF SL 7 with some fancy house-brand cockpit components. One element is a Canyon CP07 Gravelcockpit CF handlebar with its unique double-decker design. This handlebar is a single-piece bar and stem with a flex area that Canyon claims can absorb up to 7 times more vibration than a traditional road handlebar setup. Our primary gripes with this handlebar are that it doesn't allow you to switch out or adjust the stem for height or length preferences, and most standard computer or light mounts don't fit. Considering the gravel-specific nature of the Grail, we feel that a little more flare in the drops would also be welcome. At the back of the bike is a Canyon carbon fiber seat post with 20mm of setback with a comfortable Fi'zi:k Argo Tempo R5 saddle.
Canyon makes several versions of the Grail CF SL with the 7 build being the least expensive option. The CF SL 8 goes for $3,199 with slight upgrades to the drivetrain, brakes, wheels, and seat post. The CF SL 8 Di2 retails for $3,999 and comes with mostly the same build as the CF SL 8 model, but with an upgrade to Shimano's fancy GRX Di2 RX815 derailleurs and shifters.
In addition to the CF SL models listed above, Canyon makes the Grail CF SLX. The SLX models feature an even lighter-weight carbon frame (nearly 200-grams lighter) and complete builds starting around $5,000.
Riders on a budget will be pleased to know that Canyon also makes the Grail with an aluminum frame. The aluminum-framed Grail is offered in two build kits starting at $1,699.
Should You Buy the Canyon Grail CF SL 7?
If you're considering getting into the fast-growing sport of gravel biking or you're already a seasoned dirt road rider, the Canyon Grail CF SL 7 is one of the best values you'll find. This carbon-framed ride boasts a great price-to-performance ratio and a component specification you'd typically find on bikes that cost significantly more. Weighing in at less than 20 lbs, this lightweight bike is quick in the flats, zips up climbs, and feels responsive when you get on the gas. Of course, it's hard to ignore the unique looks of Canyon's double-decker hover handlebar and the fact that the frame has been designed around it. While we enjoyed its performance, this handlebar does limit adjustability, compatibility with computer and accessory mounts, or the use of aftermarket bars and stems. Aside from that complaint, the build is dialed, and the Grail CF SL 7 is ready to jump into a race or tackle any backroad adventure, and we recommend it to anyone looking for a great bike to hit the road or trail while still staying budget-friendly.
What Other Gravel Bikes Should You Consider?
Canyon's consumer-direct sales model keeps the price low and passes on the savings to the consumer with a price-to-build and performance ratio that most other brands can't compete with. The quality, lightweight carbon frame comes clad with a very impressive component specification, and we feel you'd be hard-pressed to do better in this price range. However, if you prioritize performance over price, a few bikes did better overall in our tests. The Ibis Hakka MX Rival is an excellent choice if speed and efficiency is up your alley, and the Santa Cruz Stigmata Carbon CC Rival is just a fantastic bike all around. Both earned the highest marks for weight and climbing performance, though they cost a fair amount more.
— Jeremy Benson
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