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Canyon Grail CF SL 7 Review

An affordable, capable, and versatile carbon-framed gravel bike with a great build and solid all-around performance
Canyon Grail CF SL 7
Photo: Laura Casner
Best Buy Award
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Price:  $2,699 List
Pros:  Reasonably priced, lightweight, outstanding price to build ratio, easy assembly
Cons:  Proprietary handlebar, limited handlebar adjustability and accessory compatibility
Manufacturer:   Canyon
By Jeremy Benson ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Feb 18, 2021
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84
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#4 of 6
  • Downhill - 30% 8
  • Climbing - 30% 9
  • Versatility - 20% 8
  • Weight - 10% 9
  • Build - 10% 8

Our Verdict

The Canyon Grail CF SL 7 is an excellent, versatile 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.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Canyon Grail CF SL 7
Awards Best Buy Award Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Top Pick Award  
Price $2,699 List$3,599 List$3,399 List$3,800 List$1,850 List
Overall Score Sort Icon
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Pros Reasonably priced, lightweight, outstanding price to build ratio, easy assemblyLightweight, nice build, excellent bland of frame stiffness and complianceVery lightweight, fast, nice buildModern gravel geometry, 20mm of Future Shock Suspension, SWAT storage, offered in 11 different buildsInexpensive for carbon, compliant seat post and handlebar
Cons Proprietary handlebar, limited handlebar adjustability and accessory compatibilityExpensiveCan feel harsh over the rough stuff, narrow non-flared handlebarNot the lightest weight, more expensive2x drivetrain, non-aggressive tires, quirky geometry
Bottom Line An excellent value for a versatile, high-performance carbon gravel bike with a quality buildLightweight with a quality build and impressively well-rounded performance, this bike quickly became a tester favoriteLightweight and uncompromisingly stiff, the Hakka MX is a very fast and efficient gravel bikeCapability, comfort, and versatility are the hallmarks of the redesigned Diverge Comp CarbonThe Revolt Advanced 3 is an inexpensive entry-level carbon fiber gravel bike
Rating Categories Canyon Grail CF SL 7 Santa Cruz Stigmata Carbon C... Ibis Hakka MX Rival Diverge Comp Carbon Giant Revolt Advanced 3
Downhill (30%)
8
9
8
9
7
Climbing (30%)
9
9
9
8
7
Versatility (20%)
8
8
8
8
7
Weight (10%)
9
10
10
8
6
Build (10%)
8
9
8
9
6
Specs Canyon Grail CF SL 7 Santa Cruz... Ibis Hakka MX Rival Diverge Comp Carbon Giant Revolt...
Measured Weight (w/o pedals) 19 lbs 14 oz 19 lbs 2 oz 18 lbs 13 oz 21 lbs 2 oz 22 lbs 7 oz
Frame Material Carbon Fiber Carbon CC Carbon Fiber Fact 9r Carbon Advanced Grade Composite(Carbon)
Wheelsize 700c (Sizes S-2XL). 650B (Sizes 2XS-XS) 700c (tested) or 650b 700c or 650b (tested) 700c (tested), 650b compatible 700c
Frame Size Tested Large 58cm 58cm 58cm Large
Available Sizes 2XS-2XL 52, 54, 56, 58, 60cm 49, 53, 55, 58, 61cm 48, 52, 54, 56, 58, 61cm XS, S, M, ML, L, XL
Wheelset DT Swiss C 1850 Spline Wheelset WTB Asym i23p 700c rims with DT 370 hubs Ibis Alloy 733 27.5" rims with Ibis hubs DT Swiss G540 rims with Specialized hubs Giant S-X2 Disc 700c Wheelset
Front Tire Schwalbe G-One Bite 700 x 40c Maxxis Ravager EXO 700 x 40c Schwalbe Thunder Burt 27.5 x 2.1" Specialized Pathfinder Pro 2Bliss 700 x 38c Giant Crosscut AT 1 700 x 38c
Rear Tire Schwalbe G-One Bite 700 x 40c Maxxis Ravager EXO 700x40c Schwalbe Thunder Burt 27.5 x 2.1" Specialized Pathfinder Pro 2Bliss 700 x 38c Giant Crosscut AT 1 700 x 38c
Shifters Shimano GRX RX600 SRAM Rival 1 SRAM Rival 1 Shimano GRX 810 Shimano Tiagra
Rear Derailleur Shimano GRX RX810 GS 11-speed SRAM Rival 22 Long Cage 11-speed SRAM Rival 11-speed Shimano GRX RX810 11-speed Shimano Tiagra
Front Derailleur Shimano GRX RX810 N/A N/A Shimano GRX RX810
Cassette Shimano HG700 11-speed, 11-34T SRAM PG-1150 11-42T 11-speed SRAM PG 1130 11-42T 11-speed Shimano Ultegra 11-speed, 11-34T Shimano Tiagra 11-34T
Crankset Shimano GRX RX600, 172.5mm, 46/30T Easton EA90 175mm Praxis Zayante Alloy 40T 175mm Shimano GRX RX810-2 48/31T FSA Omega 48/32T
Bottom Bracket Shimano Pressfit BB72 Easton BSA T47 Threaded Shimano Threaded BSA BB Shimano Press Fit
Fork Canyon FK0070 CF Disc Carbon Santa Cruz Carbon ENVE G-Series Carbon Specialized FACT Carbon with Future Shock 2.0 Giant Advanced Grade Composite
Seatpost Canyon SP0043 VCLS CF Carbon, 20mm setback Easton EA50 27.2mm Ibis Aluminum 31.6mm Roval Terra Carbon, 20mm offset Giant D-Fuse Composite
Saddle Fizik Argo Tempo R5 WTB Silverado Pro WTB Silverado Pro 142mm Specialized Body Geometry Power Sport, steel rails Giant Contact (neutral)
Handlebar Canyon CP07 Gravelcockpit CF Carbon Easton EA50 AX flare Ibis Flat Top Alloy Specialized Adenture Gear Hover, 12-degree flare Giant XR D-Fuse, flared
Stem Integrated with handlebar Easton EA50 Ibis 31.8 Future Stem, Comp Giant Contact
Brakes Shimano GRX 600 hydraulic disc SRAM Rival 1 flat mount SRAM Rival 1 flat mount Shimano GRX 810 hydraulic disc Giant Conduct hydraulic disc
Measured Effective Top Tube (mm) 576 573 573 589 575
Measured Reach (mm) 402 390 392 401 392
Measured Head Tube Angle (degrees) 72.5 72 72 71.75 71
Measured Seat Tube Angle (degrees) 73.5 73.5 73.5 73.5 73
Measured Bottom Bracket Height (mm) 278 285 276 270 282
Measured Wheelbase (mm) 1040 1038 1040 1060 1046
Measured Chain Stay Length (mm) 425 425 430 425 425
Warranty 6-Years Lifetime 7-years Lifetime Lifetime

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Grail CF SL 7 is a lightweight gravel bike with a great build...
The Grail CF SL 7 is a lightweight gravel bike with a great build and a fantastic blend of performance and price.
Photo: Laura Casner

Should I Buy This Bike?


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 very high price to performance ratio and a component specification you'd normally 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. It handles well on the descents with good stability, predictable handling, and just enough compliance in the frame and handlebar to dampen some vibration and smooth out road chatter. 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. Aesthetics aside, this cockpit setup is actually quite comfortable and works as advertised to help mute some feedback that reaches the hands. 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.

The Grail CF SL 7 has a lightweight and stiff carbon frame, clean...
The Grail CF SL 7 has a lightweight and stiff carbon frame, clean angular lines, and a head tube designed around the use of the unique CP07 double-decker handlebar.
Photo: Laura Casner

Frame Design


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" compared to 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 quite light with a claimed weight of 1040-grams in a size medium. The frame is paired 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 seatpost clamp hidden between the seat stay/seat tube junction. 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 of their measurements on the Grail the same way as most other manufacturers. This is most evident in the reach measurement, which Canyon claims to be 478mm for our size large test bike. While that number would be normal for a modern mountain bike, it's absurdly long when 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.

The double-decker handlebar is both a highlight and lowlight of the...
The double-decker handlebar is both a highlight and lowlight of the Grail.
Photo: Laura Casner

Design Highlights


-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

We found the Grail CF SL 7 to be well-rounded and comfortable on the...
We found the Grail CF SL 7 to be well-rounded and comfortable on the descents.
Photo: Laura Casner

Downhill Performance


We found the Grail CF SL 7 to work well on the descents. 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 little compliance engineered into the rear triangle, help to dampen the ride slightly and take the edge off of road chatter.

In addition to gravel and paved roads, the Grail is fun to ride on...
In addition to gravel and paved roads, the Grail is fun to ride on smooth, mellow singletrack trails.
Photo: Laura Casner

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 size 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 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. When kept in its element, however, it was a blast to ride pretty much everywhere.

Over the course of long rides and descents, it became clear that the...
Over the course of long rides and descents, it became clear that the "hover" handlebar helped reduce vibration and increased arm and upper body comfort.
Photo: Laura Casner

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 exactly how much dampening they provide, the freshness and reduced fatigue of our hands, wrists, and shoulders informed us that the thinned out flex zones of the carbon bar were actually doing something. The rear triangle of the bike also reveals stout rectangular chainstays for lateral rigidity along with much thinner seat stays that seem to provide a little 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.

The Grail CF SL 7 is a fast, efficient, and comfortable climbing...
The Grail CF SL 7 is a fast, efficient, and comfortable climbing partner.
Photo: Laura Casner

Climbing Performance


As one might expect from a sub-20 pound carbon-framed gravel bike, the Grail CF SL 7 is a great climber. 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 Grail is snappy and responsive, with quick handling in technical...
The Grail is snappy and responsive, with quick handling in technical terrain.
Photo: Laura Casner

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 relatively roomy reach measurement of 402mm which is among the longest we tested. Along with the 20mm of seatpost 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.

Seated or standing, the lightweight and stiff frame maximizes power...
Seated or standing, the lightweight and stiff frame maximizes power transfer and the Grail has a feathery climbing feel.
Photo: Laura Casner

The component specification of the Grail CF SL 7 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 that have relatively good rolling speed and great traction on most surfaces. In the cockpit, a subtle amount of flex in the carbon seatpost helps to take the edge off of some vibration, 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.

Versatility


Like most gravel bikes, the Grail CF SL 7 is a highly versatile ride. Of course, it excels at gravel riding and is a great choice for casual rides, events, all-day epics, and 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 full 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 there is limited adjustability in the cockpit, and the funky shape of the bars also makes it challenging to use most standard computer and accessory mounts.

At just under 20 lbs, the Grail CF SL 7 is competitively lightweight...
At just under 20 lbs, the Grail CF SL 7 is competitively lightweight which will save you energy over time and make popping wheelies marginally easier.
Photo: Laura Casner

Weight


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.

For the price, the build of the Grail CF SL 7 is outstanding.
For the price, the build of the Grail CF SL 7 is outstanding.
Photo: Laura Casner

Build


Thanks to Canyon's consumer-direct sales model, they are able to offer complete bikes with great builds at prices that other brands can't match. With the Grail CF SL 7, that 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 2 x 11-speed Shimano GRX drivetrain works great and provides...
The 2 x 11-speed Shimano GRX drivetrain works great and provides plenty of range.
Photo: Laura Casner

Groupset


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 DT Swiss wheels are tubeless-ready, as are the slick-looking...
The DT Swiss wheels are tubeless-ready, as are the slick-looking Schwalbe G-One tan wall tires.
Photo: Laura Casner

Wheels/Tires


The Grail CF SL 7 rolls on 700c wheels and tires that are quite 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's CP07 handlebar has a very unique design that is intended to...
Canyon's CP07 handlebar has a very unique design that is intended to absorb vibration. While its looks may not be for everyone, it does work pretty well.
Photo: Laura Casner

Cockpit


Canyon has equipped the Grail CF SL 7 with some fancy house-brand cockpit components. This includes 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 seatpost with 20mm of setback with a comfortable Fi'zi:k Argo Tempo R5 saddle.

The GRX shifters/levers and hydraulic disc brakes are impressive.
The GRX shifters/levers and hydraulic disc brakes are impressive.
Photo: Laura Casner

Build Options


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 seatpost. 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.

We feel the Grail CF SL 7 is an excellent value. It also comes in...
We feel the Grail CF SL 7 is an excellent value. It also comes in several more expensive builds and CF SLX frames, as well as even more budget-friendly aluminum-framed options.
Photo: Laura Casner

Value


We feel the Grail CF SL 7 is a great value. 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.

Conclusion


The Grail CF SL 7 is a high-performance gravel bike at a very reasonable price. This lightweight, well-rounded ride is a zippy climber, comfortable and fast on the descents, and well equipped to handle any type of riding you want. The handlebar setup may leave some riders scratching their heads, and aside from its obvious drawbacks, it's comfortable and works as intended. We feel it's an impressive value for a quality carbon frame and great component specification. For the price, we don't think you can do much better than the Grail CF SL 7, this versatile ride can do it all.

The Grail CF SL 7 is an excellent gravel bike at a price that's hard...
The Grail CF SL 7 is an excellent gravel bike at a price that's hard to beat.
Photo: Laura Casner

Jeremy Benson