CANYON STRIVE – Review
Words & Photos by Steve Jones
SHAPE AND PURPOSE
Canyon made no secret that they set out to create the ultimate enduro machine in their new 163mm beauty – The Canyon Strive. The idea with this bike is to give riders the option of using two different geometries/travel configurations that can be changed on the hoof via a handlebar-mounted lever – one set of angles for up and another set for down. Not content with that, Canyon have offered more than just adjustable geometry on the one bike and have included two different chassis styles in the form of Regular and Race, essentially the difference is all in the slightly longer front-centres (about 20mm) on the Race versions. It’s a case of agility as opposed to stability in the two styles of bike.
All the numbers make for a great bike and it’s a true sub-30lb offering even with pedals. The finishing is superb, full carbon with neat cabling, but it’s the £3699 price tag that’s impressive and hard to beat. In terms of availability of the Regular or Race bikes, it’s only the cheaper Strive CF8.0 that comes in the Regular small to extra large sizing, whereas the three other completes – Race, Team and CF 8.0 Race – only come in the three Race geometries in small/medium/large sizing. It’s surprising given team rider Fabien Barel’s background with longer bikes that the Strive seems to have a size missing in the range. Seven frame size options but no real solution for a rider six foot plus is a bit maddening to say the least, but we were assured discussions were under way to sort this. We rode a large CF9.0 Race which for a 6 foot rider is just about right.
Our test bike was a full SRAM affair front and rear, which is pretty hard to fault – Monarch Plus RC3 and Pike RCT3 solo air are the bread and butter of quality enduro bikes. Having said that, we’d be keen to try the top of the range with the new Fox 36 and slightly more travel at 170mm. I also had a quick spin on the bike of Vincent Thoma (Strive designer) who had a new Cane Creek Inline fitted. Initial impressions were really positive and it seemed to use the available travel slightly more prudently than the Monarch. It also had a bit more life than the Double Barrel Air but Vincent had been tuning with the Cane Creek team so it would be unfair to compare until we have two production bikes to sample back to back.
In terms of how much travel is available, you have 163mm in descend mode to 139mm for climbing. The small gas piston (the Shapeshifter) that pushes the shock forward or rearward to change the angles and travel also needs to be considered when talking suspension set-up. It’s basically in the style of a dropper seat post system, pushing the shock into a different position which achieves the different geometries and subsequent suspension leverage ratios. We recently had an Orbea which did similar by flipping a shock mount chip, but it took 20 seconds and certainly couldn’t be done on the hoof.
It is a cable-operated affair and will need careful maintenance, as the green/black dial which lets the rider know between climb/descend mode seemed a bit vague at times. There might be a place for a lock-out on the Canyon Strive too, but you can still use the compression adjust on the Monarch to get a reasonably firm ride. The change in suspension leverage ratio means the bike swaps between 20–30% sag in DH mode and about 15% in climb. You’ll feel the bottom bracket being raised by 20mm to 365mm, and you still get full travel from the fork.
The Canyon Strive has all the SRAM goodies that’s for sure, from X01 drivetrain, to Guide brakes and RockShox Reverb Stealth. I haven’t been as impressed with the Rail wheels in terms of rim strength and overall durability compared to the Mavic wheelset as fitted to the more expensive Team bike, but they do the job. Renthal bar and stem, a Cane Creek headset, SDG saddle, E13 chain guide means it’s ready to roll. It’s worth mentioning the Regular geo CF8.0 or top-end frame-only option comes with a Cane Creek Inline and Reverb Stealth, which would be worth a look.
Canyon point out that through a “simple flick of the switch” the rider can change the chassis angles and travel. Having been used to a few bikes with a simple lock-out (GT Sanction for example), the added need for a big rider input to change the angles came to light when transitioning from a climb into a descent. Typically you crest a rise and thumb the Reverb lever whilst pushing your bum into the seat to get it down low. On the Canyon Strive you then have to get back out of the saddle, push the Shapeshifter lever and then thrust down onto the rear to engage the shock to slacker geometry. This works well in theory if the descent is reasonably wide, but if the terrain is tight you would want to avoid striking rocks with your cranks in the process of changing the geometry. It also requires a rider to feel and understand the geometry change he or she is making because you certainly don’t want to be looking downwards to the colour dial on the shock when there’s a pile of rock ahead. A bar-mounted indicator would be a good evolution of the feature.
I discussed these issues with Fabien (Barel) and he pointed out that the Shapeshifter was something you would use more at the bottom or top of a climb rather than within a stage. Many people might think it’s something you are using continually during a run, which you probably wouldn’t. As a system for engaging before a climb and for one to alter before a descent it’s an excellent energy saving device.
The ability to swap into good climbing geometry definitely aids performance and makes the ride easy, there is no argument. How much better is it than, say, a lock-out as found on a GT Sanction? That’s hard to quantify, for strength and rider weight will have much more impact. Overall the system will offer a positive effect on rider fatigue.
I’d like to spend more timing getting used to the system and compare the Strive to such bikes as the Orbea Rallon, YT Capra and the GT Sanction. The Basque bike and the YT have better dampers and the latter is a bit cheaper with better wheels as well. Both, like the Canyon, need that extra size too. The GT seems a touch stronger, has a lock-out and offers that extra large sizing. Is the Strive better than a Cannondale Jekyll which offers similar shape-changing geometry? It’s not as light but is way cheaper and has slightly better damping.
For the money the Canyon Strive is a gem, and although the Fox 36 and Mavic is undoubtedly a better bike, this model is still a great bike with brilliant specification, angles, weight, pricing and the finish is excellent. And like Canyon point out, it is pretty much two bikes in one. Whether you choose to use the Shapeshifter or not during a race run is another issue, particularly on unseen stages, but its use for a climb to a stage or before dropping into a race run makes sense. Because the Strive is lightweight I’d be happy to razz it around all day in descend mode, and certainly on flatter terrain where you are relying on the lower bottom bracket to use the ground for energy and are moving the bike around. These are very much first impressions due to limited time on the bike, but it’s definitely a bike that we are keen to put in a bit more time on.
Which is exactly what we’ve done. Will Redmond does a lot of typical enduro style miles and has lived with the canyon for six months. Here are his thoughts on the bike and the Shapeshifter system.
CANYON STRIVE CF – SIX MONTHS ON
Words: Will Redmond
Over the past few months the Canyon Strive has been dragged up, thrown down and pulled through some of the worst winter Welsh conditions we’ve had for some time. It’s been my go to bike for all day rides, downhill shuttling, and local training. Other than a tyre change to suit the conditions (take a bow Maxxis Shorty) it has remained stock throughout.
First off I think it’s safe to say she’s a looker. This bike really works on a visual level – photos don’t do it justice. The clean lines, tidy looking linkage and the top tube / chainstay line gives it a properly purposeful stance. The linkage has been well thought out with important parts kept away from the firing line. This has helped to keep the rear end as smooth as it was on day one despite the amount of sludge it’s had to contend with. I wish the same could be said for other similar frames around – definitely a positive for us Brits who like to ride all year round.
On to the party piece – the Shapeshifter. It’s safe to say I was sceptical of another travel adjust ‘one bike to do it all’ piece of tech and how it would fare in real Welsh conditions. This is especially important as you can’t just pop it back round the corner to your LBS if things go wrong. I can safely say however that it just works and keeps on working. The learning curve is short. A couple of rides in and the technique required to change the travel modes is second nature. Rather than just dropping the travel only for long climbs, it can be done on the fly with minimal fuss, especially when placed back to long travel setting. This makes it definite useful advantage on blind enduro-type race stages when you’re not sure what’s lurking around the corner. The shapeshifter change causes the head angle and seat angle to steepen by 1.5 degrees, raises the BB height whilst also changing suspension rates to help perform better on the climbs. The change in bottom bracket height however is very noticeable, where an extra 19mm clearance helps loads when mashing through technical climb sections.
The tautness and responsiveness of the Canyon Strive on the ups is matched with its desire to be ridden flat out on the descents. The well matched Pike and Monarch providing excellent sensitivity and support whilst the stiff chassis and long wheelbase add stability and poise through the rough stuff. The spec is a sorted collection of SRAM and Renthal parts with only the slightly inconsistent Guide brakes and a hard compound front tyre letting the side down.
All in all a sorted, well-priced package that has held up really well so far. Even without the Shapeshifter add-on it’s a cracking bike, with it it’s a very special one.
Frame Canyon Strive CF (L)
Shock RockShox Monarch Plus RC3
Fork RockShox Pike RCT3 Solo Air
Stem Renthal Apex
Headset Cane Creek 40
Grips Ergon GE1
Bars Renthal Fatbar Carbon
Shifter SRAM X01
Derailleur SRAM X01
Brakes SRAM Guide RC3
Seat post RockShox Reverb Stealth
Saddle SDG Circuit
Crank SRAM X01
BB SRAM X–Type
Ring 34T SRAM
Chain guide e.thirteen XCX
Cassette SRAM X01
Chain SRAM XX1
Wheelset SRAM Rail 50
Tyres Maxxis Minion