The Takeaway: Canyon adds proven Bosch power to the successful Grail platform, and it makes for a good time.
- Smooth riding e-bike that maintains a lively feel
- Allows riders to carry more gear or go farther
- Doesn’t feel unruly
Price: $6,999 (CF 8 eTap model)
Weight: 34.2 lb. (XS)
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E-bikes, gravel bikes, wild proprietary parts; frankly, it’s enough to make a purist go off on a long-winded tirade about what’s wrong with bikes these days. When it comes to cycling, I tend to fall into that purist camp, maintaining a soft spot for horizontal top tubes and rim brakes. Though much of me believes those e-bikes, gravel bikes, and wild proprietary parts lack a certain elegance, elegance is not what the Grail:ON is about. No, this is forward-thinking, practical design coming from Canyon. And I can still very much appreciate pure performance and accessibility.
Given that, I can admit, while an e-bike isn’t something I’d regularly reach for in my daily riding, that there is a place for them in our little world. Their true beauty is that they allow people to get out and spin down new roads and trails they otherwise might not be able to. And as e-bikes and gravel bikes have carved themselves places in the market, naturally so too have e-gravel bikes. Right now they’re hot. Even I, a 27-year-old cyclist who has spent most of his adult life training hard and pushing his own physical limits on the mountain bike or cyclocross course, couldn’t suppress the smile as I effortlessly ripped along gravel roads. Still, I enlisted my Dad to give some feedback from a different, potentially more appreciative perspective. The perspective of someone learning to love riding again.
A Familiar Face With Some Added Boost
The Grail:ON shares similar geometry and many of the same features with its non-energized sibling, a lightweight carbon frame paired with the double-decker bar and VCLS seatpost, for improved ride smoothing. With that said, much of the smoothing comes from the carbon hoops (650b sizes: 2xS-S; 700c: M-2XL) and some meaty 50mm Schwalbe G-One tires, allowing for lower tire pressures to reduce road buzz and plenty of traction up loose climbs. (I got curious, wanting to see if the Grail:ON could accommodate a faster-rolling setup, and was able to toss a 700c road wheelset with 32mm tires on the XS test bike.) The most noticeable change is the now familiar and easy-to-use Bosch Performance CX motor. At full boost, it comfortably assisted my pedaling, keeping me cruising at around 18-19 mph without much physical exertion, which should be plenty for most people in the market for a bike intended on assisting in longer adventure rides or commutes. Battery life on e-bikes is hard to quantify given differences in who’s riding, terrain, and mode used. But Canyon and Bosch claim a 68-mile range. My dad, at 170 pounds, got 100 miles to a charge using a mix of modes on normal road surfaces. Going out and using turbo mode and just playing around limited the range to around 30 miles, which was still more than enough.
Tipping the scales at just over 34 pounds, the Grail:ON is pretty light for being a full-on, off-road, mid-drive e-bike. SRAM Force AXS eTap handles the shifting and does a nice job simplifying the system with its lack of extra wires. The list of other noteworthy features includes mounts for fenders and two bottle cages. So regardless of your riding preferences you should be able to configure the Grail:ON to your liking.
Canyon Grail:ON Details
Drivetrain: SRAM Force eTap AXS 1x
Cranks: FSA CK-702 Gen4 Carbon
Brakes: SRAM Force eTap AXS HRD
Wheels: DT Swiss HGC1400 Spline
Tires: Schwalbe G-One Bite 50mm
Seatpost: Canyon S15 VCLS 2.0 CF
Handlebar: Canyon CP07 Gravelcockpit CF
Tire Clearance: 50mm
For the record, I’m not anti-e-bike. It’s just that, at this point in my life and riding career, I don’t need one. E-bikes have their place for many people, which is why I enlisted the help of my father for this review. More on that to come.
My take first. When riding the Grail:ON, I didn’t feel like I was astride some cumbersome rig that was quickly slapped together. And despite my skepticism, I can’t deny the fact that having a motor attached to a gravel bike really was a blast—it brought out the pure joy of just going fast and pushing the limits without being at my physical limit. The Grail:ON felt lively enough that I wasn’t afraid to blast off road or down some unknown length of trail. I successfully navigated some light XC trails and rough fire roads in between smooth tarmac and gravel. I happily pushed speed limits, and the bike felt at home drifting around loose corners with a foot out.
When I wasn’t railing around corners, the Grail:ON felt quite balanced due to its low center of gravity. Plus, thanks to being mostly made of carbon, it felt surprisingly light under the pedals. The advantages of the motor are glaringly obvious as I effortlessly rolled over punchy climbs, while my lack of self control quickly led me up to full turbo mode. The more controlled rider will find the less aggressive modes helpful in just going longer, carrying some gear, or, in my dad’s case, just simply getting back on the bike again. All in all, this Grail rips.
Now on to my Dad. He’s the one who got me into bikes and was always was riding when I was a kid. He’s in his early seventies and has led an active life but hasn’t ridden much in the last few years due to health issues. Long story short, he’s finally getting back to it. While he’s not quite into riding an “acoustic” bike because he’d be limited to such short rides, the added boost from an e-bike motor allows him to go ride the same loops he would have ridden at peak health. So with the Grail:ON, he’s getting the same sense of adventure that drew him in to riding but is still able to ease back into the fitness required to go on longer rides. Thanks to e-bikes, he has been able join me on the road, which is something that hasn’t happened for at least eight years. Maybe down the line he will swap back to a regular unassisted bike, but for the time being the e-bike is the ticket.
My dad prefers to use Eco and Sport mode, saving Turbo for steep climbs and moments where he just wants to up the pace. Eco and Sport allow him to conserve battery and get just enough assist that he can still put in efforts without overdoing it. When I’ve been on the road with him he seems to want to use Turbo mode more often, probably to make sure I’m working hard enough to keep pace. This isn’t the first e-bike he has tried but, according to him, it is by far the smoothest and most comfortable thanks to that carbon and suite of features geared toward comfort. (Older e-bikes tended to be a little heavier and made of burly aluminum parts and skinny tires.) When he gets back from rides, it’s reminiscent of when I was a kid and he’d return from his regular road rides with a general sense of satisfaction and relaxation. A sign of the successful ride is that we don’t really discuss the bike, just where he went and how far it took him.
After testing this bike, I think I’m starting to really appreciate what an e-bike can do, in both adding accessibility and fun. I was able to get on rides with my dad again, and he can even get out to see some of my favorite roads without the fear of running out of juice. And for people like me who don’t need an e-bike to get wild on gravel, the Grail:ON still feeds the desire for speed while keeping you comfortable and agile.