Canyon Strive:ON CFR first ride review
Canyon's e-mountain bike range had nearly every base covered but with the UCI E-Enduro World Cup Series growing in stature on the racing calendar, the brand has found a gap to be filled with the new Strive:ON. As an enduro race-specific e-MTB, the Strive is designed to climb as well as it descends and excel between the tape. We were invited to Italy to get a feel for what this new machine is all about.
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The Strive:ON is a bike with racing heritage weaved within its carbon layup - it's been designed with the three-time downhill World Champion Fabien Barel himself. But was there a need for a new model with Canyon's Spectral:ON and Torque:ON already being two very capable bikes? Well, Canyon thinks so, as the Strive:ON was designed specifically for the demanding terrain of contemporary UCI E-Enduro World Cup Series tracks.
Each of the three bikes in the Strive:ON range benefits from a CFR carbon fibre frame. This is Canyon's highest-end carbon fibre that sets the benchmark for weight, durability, and performance. By concentrating on balancing the power-to-weight ratio, the Strive:ON's frame gets stiffness where it's important but also sheds weight in the right places, with a medium frame said to tip the scales at 3,268g.
However, it's not all about stiffness as the bike's rear triangle has been tuned to be more compliant in order to increase traction and decrease rider fatigue during those long, enduring race stages. At the front, stiffness has been added to the front triangle to boost confidence and control.
While it borrows much of its racing DNA from its analogue counterpart, the Strive:ON differentiates itself by binning the Shapeshifter tech, which allowed on-the-go changes to the bike's geometry and suspension. This decision has been made because it takes up a chunk of space in the frame. It's also allowed the designers to mount the shock horizontally and in line with the rest of the Canyon's gravity range. Moreover, there's space for a water bottle inside the front triangle, and top tube storage which means that both 625 and 750Wh batteries can fit on all frame sizes.
Canyon hasn't ignored the fact that this bike needs to climb, so it gets the steep 78-degree seat tube of the Shapeshifter's Pedal Mode but that's paired with a fairly slack 63.5-degree headtube angle. The chainstay is longer compared to the analog Strive by 10mm, resulting in a 445mm measurement and making the Strive:ON more enduro specific. It also gets 25mm bottom bracket clearance which is 7mm higher than the new Torque:ON's. Canyon says that this helps with pedal clearance over the technical terrain found on Power Stages during EWS-E events, which contain super technical uphill efforts.
Speaking of clearance, the bike gets a special skid plate around the bottom bracket that's been designed with a gulley. This is tilted slightly upwards and the whole idea of this is to help the bike deflect impact and slide over any large obstacles as smoothly as possible, without wrecking the frame and motor.
Elsewhere, a large framed Strive:ON gets a mega lengthy 500mm reach and a 1,304mm wheelbase. And this bike runs a mullet wheel setup, which combines a 650b (27.5-inch) wheel at the rear with a 29-inch wheel at the front. While many race-specific bikes opt for full 29er wheels, Canyon says that the smaller rear wheel improves acceleration and agility.
Each model of the Strive:ON utilises a Bosch motor but both the Underdog and CFR build get the Performance Line CX. The range-topping Barel Signature bike gets the CX Race motor. Both churn out 600w of peak power and 85Nm of torque, and there's the handy overrun feature that allows riders to put in small cranks to achieve a momentary period of power which will help during techy climbs.
Though the CX Race motor is 150g lighter, it offers more assistance at 340%. It also delivers the power faster and stronger and the overrun feature lasts for longer after you stop pedalling.
Every bike in the range gets the Bosch Smart System Top Tube Control Centre and Bluetooth Mini Remote.
Some UCI E-Enduro World Cup Series stages allow for battery swaps and the Strive:ON has been crafted to cater for these as efficiently as possible thanks to Canyon-designed mounts. We're told that these mounts save 300g compared to Bosch's own and can accommodate both 625 and 750Wh batteries with the former being shipped with a spacer.
As expected of almost any Canyon mountain bike, this one is graced with Canyon's excellent Triple Phase Suspension kinematic. The brand says that this bike is designed with a sensitive start of the shock stroke for traction and as the shock gets deeper into its midstroke, it gets supportive for pumping and stability and the end stroke ramps up to stave off harsh bottom outs.
The shock has been tweaked to suit the demands of e-MTB racing, so it gets a higher anti-squat at the sag point for better pedalling efficiency and it's been designed to drop away quickly after the sag point to reduce pedal kickback. On the subject of suspension, the Strive:ON gets 170mm at the front and 165mm at the rear.
Canyon Strive:ON CFR - Specification
The Strive:ON CFR is the middle bike in the lineup, between the Underdog model and the top-of-the-range Barel Signature. For testing, I was given the CFR build which featured the Bosch Performance Line CX motor, complete with a 750Wh battery.
As for suspension components, this bike uses the Fox 38 Performance Elite with a GRIP2 damper and a Fix X2 Performance shock. Shimano handles shifting with an XT mech and shifter but with an SLX cassette.
The bike rolls on a pair of DT Swiss HX1700 wheels which are shod with a 2.5in Maxxis Assegai in a MaxxGrip compound and EXO+ casing, while there's a 2.4in Maxxis Minion DHR II with a MaxxTerra compound and Double Down casing; a fantastic choice for a heavy-hitting enduro rig. The rest of the kit, apart from the e*thirteen cranks, comes from Canyon's own range. This one gets a claimed weight of 24.3kg and costs £6,600 with a 625Wh battery as standard. The 720Wh one costs an extra £200.
The CFR Underdog model gets much of the same kit but sees a downgrade in suspension, opting for a Rhythm level fork and a Float X Performance Shock. It gets DT Swiss H1900 wheels and Shimano Deore shifting, and brakes. That one will set you back £5,500.
As for the top Fabien Barel Signature bike, it's loaded with top-shelf kit and it's the very bike Fabien himself will be racing this season. So that includes that Race Edition Bosch motor, a RockShox ZEB Ultimate RC2 fork and Super Deluxe Ultimate shock with SRAM X01 AXS shifting and SRAM Code RSC brakes. The DT Swiss HX1501 wheels are wrapped with Pirelli Scorpion Enduro M tyres both in 2.5in widths. If the mega racy signature model is your style, expect to shell out £9,000.
Canyon Strive:ON CFR - Ride impressions
Before even seeing the bike I was questioning the value of adding another e-bike to an already comprehensive range, especially as the Spectral:ON and Torque:ON are very capable bikes. After speaking to the designers and spending some time on the bike, Strive:ON's specific intention makes an awful lot of sense.
For testing, we sampled the terrain of the very first EWS that was held in 2013, an excellent venue to shakedown such a bike.
At first, I was given a large-framed bike with that super long 500mm reach but by the order of Fabien Barel himself, I changed to a medium frame that was a fair bit shorter with a 475mm reach. Having ridden a large Torque:ON (the first ride review coming very soon), I was curious to see how manageable the shorter bike would be in all aspects.
Regardless of its racy genetics, it's a very welcoming bike to ride. Nothing feels too crazy, or out of place and when pedalling it over flat terrain and, on gentle terrain, very little suggests it can tackle enduro stages and lightning speeds.
This bike shines when there's a gradient involved, up or down. On the ups, it makes solid use of the combination of its steep seat tube and short-ish chainstay to keep reliable traction. That 78-degree seat tube then places weight forward on the bike which helps weight the front of the bike, keeping that front wheel tracking the ground.
The supple beginning of the stroke proves its worth on the climbs, too, as it further boosts traction which pays back when the climbs get particularly steep and techy. Apart from some of the seriously wet sections, the rear wheel simply hooked up.
Canyon's additional anti-squat figures, although watered down by the power of the motor, work to keep the shock under control during harder uphill efforts, making the Strive:ON's climbing prowess something that seriously sets it apart from the rest of Canyon's e-MTB range. But that's not the only thing...
When pointed downhill, the Strive:ON transforms into an absolute weapon that inspired shed loads of confidence as it encouraged me to stay off the brakes and concentrate on what's more important: choosing the best line as I rattled through big ol' roots and dashings of sharp rock. A lot of that can be credited to the bike's very well-sorted geometry but that's not the real stand-out aspect, as it's fairly common nowadays to achieve an inspiring ride.
The most important aspect of this bike and the one that I reckon serious e-enduro athletes will appreciate the most is that it's a mega-forgiving ride.
My time with the Strive:ON took place on day three of a three-day e-bike press camp where we covered some proper miles with a hell of a lot of climbing thrown in. I was more than tired and my riding certainly showed it but in those lapses of concentration, the bike coped with all of my horrific line choices, keeping me rubber-side down with ease.
While this alone was crucial to keeping me from binning it down some challenging terrain, for the racer, or more conscious rider, the forgiveness both in that relatively flexy rear end and in the supple personality in the suspension kinematic works incredibly well to keep fatigue at bay. When thrown down the lengthy and ever more techy trails, this level of comfort was welcomed with open arms.
And that suspension kinematic is super plush and more so than the bike's bigger and more aggressive sibling the Torque:ON. It pushes the rear wheel to hug the ground which is important both in rider comfort but also grip under braking. But while Canyon suggests that this bike straddles the line between all-out capability and playful handling, I found it took a bit more effort in pushing the suspension travel to reach its support.
That said, the little rear wheel makes a lot of sense on this bike. Where it is relatively long, the smaller wheel adds a level of agility that wouldn't be present otherwise. So when navigating tighter, more considered techy sections, the bike was totally manageable.
The pairing of the super capable suspension platform and the little wheel makes for a bike that is very, very easy to ride fast but it's also a bike that's welcoming when picking through tech, and when sections slow right down.
Even though I was put on a bike that was a size smaller than I would usually pick, I didn't feel at a disadvantage. Instead, the bike was easier to shift around, change direction and make last-minute line changes. It kept stable, too, using its 23-odd kilos for straight-line confidence. The slack head tube also added vital stability and front-end support through steeper sections, proving that a long reach isn't totally necessary for all-out stability.
While the bottom bracket is a little taller in order to help with Power Stages, I didn't find it to be an issue in the corners as the centre of gravity remained just low enough. Canyon has done a great job with this balance, though those who aren't looking for clearance on the climbs may miss a lower COG when cornering, especially on a weighty e-bike.
Even though my time with the Strive:ON CFR was brief, it's a bike that has totally won me over, even as a more casual rider. The sizing can be a bit confusing to newcomers to e-mountain biking, but once you get that right, the Strive:ON offers a super capable, but very forgiving ride that'll encourage anyone to ride faster and comfortably push their limits both up and downhill. This bike has been designed specifically to perform between the tape, but it's one that'll be also appreciated on home trails by those who just want to ride fast.