2021 Canyon Grail:ON CF 8.0 review

Product reviews

The Canyon Grail:ON CF 8.0 combines a top-performing Bosch Performance CX motor with a large 500Wh battery that gives huge range potential. Wide tyres and the S15 VCLS seatpost aid comfort, but the double-decker bar will likely divide opinions and impacts fit options.

The Grail:ON shares much of the characteristics with the unpowered, acoustic Grail. They are designed for what Canyon calls "light gravel", which they classify as a mix of surfaces, but biased towards road riding. The Grail is probably most noted for the unique handlebar that claims to improve comfort on the upper section while remaining stiff on the lower area. However, for me, it serves little purpose except standing it out against the crowd. 

Those double-stack handlebars

2021 canyon grailon bars.jpg
2021 canyon grailon bars.jpg, by Liam Mercer


The claimed increased comfort is due to the extra flex from the top horizontal section of the bar. In use, it does allow movement, but the biggest issue is how often, or instead how little, I used the top section of the handlebar. 

When you might wish for maximum comfort, you are likely to be on rougher trails, the exact same times as when you are also going to need more control with access to the brakes, ruling out holding the flat top section. On roads or gentle tracks, I did occasionally use the flat tops. Still, the improved comfort benefit is far more minimal, especially given the reasonably wide tyres fitted. 

The integrated bar/stem will also mean that a whole new setup is needed if you wish to change the stem length or bar dimensions. Canyon offers to modify the spec fitted if the standard sizing doesn't suit, assuming you know precisely what bar width and stem length you prefer. Another issue with the handlebar is the inability to fit most standard mounts. However, companies make compatible third-party bar mounts for cycling computers, and the Bosch Purion display unit sits on a bespoke mount that allows reasonably easy access and a clear view.

Canyon Grail:On build

2021 canyon grailon saddle.jpg
2021 canyon grailon saddle.jpg, by Liam Mercer


There are many positives to note, including a full carbon frame and fork resulting in the Grail:ON weighing 16kg with a motor providing up to 85Nm of torque.

Another part that seems superfluous is the carbon chainset, which is more likely for its visual appeal than any potential increase in performance that it might offer. The drivetrain performance is excellent, however. The Shimano GRX RX810 shifters and RX812 rear dérailleur combine to provide crisp shifting and a comfortable riding position in the hoods. The GRX brakes are superb, too, although it would have been useful to see the same calliper mount as the recently released Canyon Grizl, which offers the option to increase to 180mm rotors, unlike the Grail:ON that has a maximum rotor size of 160mm.

 2021 canyon grailon computer.jpg
2021 canyon grailon computer.jpg, by Liam Mercer


Engineered flex within a carbon component is shared with the VCLS seatpost, designed to give a slight flex forwards and back and has a surprisingly significant effect on comfort when seated, especially when combined with the wider 50mm tyres.

The Grail:ON feature either 650b/27.5" wheels or 700c, with the wheel size changing with the frame size. The Grail:ON is fitted with the smaller 27.5" wheels on 2XS, XS, and S sized bikes with M and above featuring 700c wheels. Regardless of wheel size, the tyre remains the same, Schwalbe G-One Bite in 50mm width. While still giving reasonable clearance around the tyre, the width helps make a more comfortable ride with increasing the grip off-road. The tyre is true to its name, giving plenty of bite, helping keep traction even on steeper tracks and under power.

Battery and power modes

2021 canyon grailon mech.jpg
2021 canyon grailon mech.jpg, by Liam Mercer


While riding, the Bosch Performance CX motor delivers an exceptional performance with 4 settings that should be enough to cover any rider or riding situation. ECO gives limited power, and on steeper climbs, it can still be an effort, although still nowhere near as challenging as a non-electric bike. When testing, I was incredibly impressed by the range provided by the 500wH battery. While different riders, trail situations, the weather and cold temperatures will ultimately affect battery life, I estimate the range to be over 200km if kept on ECO.

There is a big jump from ECO to TOUR with more power on offer, increased torque, and speed in which it reacts to inputs. Except for a very long ride, this would be my default choice as it offers enough power for most riding while also maintaining reasonable range.

2021 canyon grailon motor.jpg
2021 canyon grailon motor.jpg, by Liam Mercer


Moving up further to SPORT mode, things turn up another notch. However, I found it was not needed in the vast majority of circumstances, except for very steep climbs, where traction is not a factor. TURBO mode is, in my personal opinion, not needed for this style of bike. It is great for showing off, climbing the steepest hills faster than you can ever think of riding unassisted, and there is an instant pickup, but for general riding and gravel riding especially, it will be of little use. 

The Bosch Performance CX motor was initially designed and mostly fitted to mountain bikes, but testing the Grail:ON has shown the motor can move across riding genres.
The Bosch motor does not claim to offer an efficient ride when the motor is turned off, but in my experience, it is significantly better than the earlier generation motors. The big weight of the bike will be the biggest hurdle to overcome, but should you overrun the capacity and run out, it can still be pedalled unpowered reasonably well.

While riding it seemed to perform best and was most enjoyable to ride on flatter but rougher terrain, at speeds below the limit for assistance. Where the ground is rougher the larger volume tyres perform well to smooth the ground out. The larger volume tyres do a good job when things get steeper too, where the road biased geometry could otherwise cause problems, the tyres make it more capable than you might expect. The ability to cover big distances is another bonus, with long range potential allowing longer rides and adding to the enjoyment.

Versatility and value

2021 canyon grailon brake side.jpg
2021 canyon grailon brake side.jpg, by Liam Mercer


With such an extensive potential range, the Grail:ON could even make an excellent bikepacking option, although here, sadly, is one area that is lacking with minimal options for attaching bags. The battery and motor rule out a third bottle cage under the downtube. The fork legs lack a 3-bolt anything mount. The bi-plane may also limit the style or type of bags that could be attached to the handlebar. Realistically the likely options are a seat pack and frame bag, which may then limit water bottle access.

There are two main comparisons to make for the Grail:ON. Firstly, the motor and battery versus alternatives and then the remainder of the bike.

The Bosch Performance CX Gen4 delivers superb performance and excellent range from the 500Wh battery. The main alternative is Shimano Steps, which has the same power output and battery options up to 630Wh. The Steps motor can be found on bikes at lower price points, including the Kona Libre EL (test to follow) at £3,999 and Cairn BRAVe, which retails at nearly half the price of the Grail:ON, at £2,549. Both those bikes and most other alternative options feature a full aluminium frame, helping keep the cost lower than a full carbon frame.

2021 canyon grailon wheel.jpg
2021 canyon grailon wheel.jpg, by Liam Mercer


Regardless of whether the full carbon frame is likely to have any performance advantage for an e-bike of this type, which I doubt, the Grail:ON is still a bike that stands out from the crowd. The hover bar certainly draws attention and may divide opinions. However, the real highlight is the Bosch Performance CX motor and large 500Wh battery, which combine to offer a vast range of power adjustment on offer. The Performance CX may have been designed primarily for mountain bikes, but in my experience testing the Grail:ON, it is incredibly competent for gravel riding as well.​

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