Tester: Eric McKeegan
Weight: 165 lbs.
Canyon has made its long-awaited entry into the U.S. market. One of the biggest consumer-direct brands in Europe, the looming threat of Canyon has been touted as the best thing ever for consumers and the worst thing ever for established brands and their dealer bases.
Canyon’s main selling point is price, and the Strive delivers. A carbon main frame, RockShox suspension at both ends, Maxxis tires and Guide brakes with 200/180 mm rotors are highlights of the build kit. For the same price, most other brands either offer an aluminum frame with a similar parts kit, or a carbon frame with a less capable build.
Of course, some of that saving comes because you build the bike yourself. The bike comes in a well-designed box with reusable packaging. It includes torque wrench, shock pump, assembly paste, instruction manual and DVD. The instruction manual was pretty general and provided little help for things like suspension sag, how to use the suspension remote, or recommendations for fine-tuning fit. I don’t own anything that plays DVDs, and Canyon USA’s website doesn’t link to its YouTube channel or the main Canyon website that has a much better technical help section. There is a toll-free helpline, but who talks on the phone anymore? It wasn’t a terrible experience, but I expected something more dialed for a consumer-direct brand.
The Strive has some very “Euro” touches. The rear tire is a 27.5 Minion SS semi-slick on a 25 mm DT rim, matched up with a DHR II front tire on a 30 mm rim. The dropper remote was mounted above the rear shifter, and the rear shock remote was mounted on the left. The shock remote controls the Shapeshifter – a small air cylinder that changes position of the upper shock eyelet. The DH position is the full 160 mm of travel, XC is 135 mm and raises the bottom bracket 19 mm and steepens the head and seat angles by 1.5 degrees. And finally, the fork is Boost spacing, but the rear still uses a 142 mm rear, and the shock isn’t of the newest metric variety.
It takes some technique to get the Shapeshifter to shift shapes while riding. It is similar to a dropper post: push the remote, sit down to compress the air cylinder, release the remote to lock in DH mode. The suspension needs to be unloaded with a little hop to get it back to the XC position.
You won’t mistake this bike for a cross-country bike in XC mode, but it does improve every aspect of climbing. The higher bottom bracket keeps the pedals off the rocks; the steeper angles get the rider more on top of the pedals and prevent the front end from wandering. I even used XC mode on less demanding trails with good effect. The XC position also stiffens up the suspension enough to make the shock lockout switch seem extraneous on everything except paved climbs.
In DH position the Strive isn’t as slack as some competing bikes, but it feels capable of the speeds needed to win races, as proven by numerous wins at the highest levels by Canyon team riders. The short chainstays keep things lively, but the long front center keeps things settled when the going gets rough. As expected, the Lyrik fork and Monarch Plus rear shock are very, very capable performers and able to be tuned to match any riding style.
The Strive is a true enduro race bike in a box. Other than a swap to beefier tires for rough courses, the stock build is perfectly suited for expert-level racing. While there are plenty of trail bikes you can take racing, the Strive sets itself apart by standing as a race bike first and all else second.
Sizes: S, M, L (tested), XL
Top Tube: 25.5”
Head Tube: 66/67.5°
Seat Tube: 73.5/75°
BB Height: 13.3”
Weight: 31.6 lbs.
specs based on size tested