- STEPS E8000 drive system is refined and very neatly integrated
- Shimano's SLX drivetrain is smooth shifting under load
- Size-specific wheelsizes deliver good handling for large or little riders
- Pure off-roaders will be better off with a full-suspension machine
- Fairly conservative geometry makes itself known at the limits of off-road riding
The Canyon Grand Canyon:ON AL 9.0 pairs a smooth Shimano E8000 drive unit with a sleek looking aluminium hardtail frame that integrates the 504Wh battery into the downtube. Thanks to fat 2.6" tyres, it's a smoother and more capable ride than you'd expect, offering decent off-road performance without the extra expense of full suspension.
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The AL 9.0 is the range-topper of the Canyon's hardtail e-MTB lineup. Both come with a Shimano E8000 STEPS drive unit and 504Wh battery integrated into the same aluminium frame, but the extra £500 over the AL 8.0 gets you an improved 120mm travel Fox fork and a 12 rather than 10-speed Shimano drivetrain.
The wheelsize of the bike depends on what frame size you opt for, with the small getting 650b hoops and everything medium up to XL opting for bigger 29" wheels. That's a really good idea in my opinions it keeps the geometry much more in proportion to rider height with resulting benefits on handling. Whichever size wheel is fitted gets a fat 2.6" tyre fitted, which goes a useful way to hide the harshness over really rough terrain that's inevitable with the unsuspended rear end and the extra chunk of weight the drive system brings.
It's great to see that Canyon has pitched this as being a genuinely usable off-roader, with heavy-duty reinforced casing Schwalbe Nobby Nic tyres that are tubeless-ready and have a stickier compound up front and a faster rolling compound at the rear. It adds up to a machine that's surprisingly capable when you throw it down a hill.
The Fox 34 Rhythm fork might be the most basic one they offer, but at 120mm travel neither the relatively slender chassis nor GRIP damping is overwhelmed by the bulk of the bike and it provides a front end you can rely on, even when it gets pretty steep and hairy. Shimano's MT5xx brakes do a solid job of slowing you back down too, with a 4-piston calliper up front and a twin-piston item at the back, both clamping on chunky 200mm rotors.
Okay, at the extremes it's noticeable that the geometry is conservative, though that's unsurprising for a bike that's quite likely to get pushed into all sorts of on and off-road duties. The large-sized bike I rode had a 455mm reach along with a 68° head angle and the 70mm stem felt a bit overlong for my tastes, but the innate stability of a 21.8kg bike kept it from feeling overly nervous. It really shines on fast laps of trail centres where the surface generally isn't so rough as to overwhelm the fork and upset the back end.
While the seat angle isn't overly steep at 74°, Canyon has specced a really rather cool saddle that has a supportive ridge at the back, so you can stay seated and scrabble your way up some silly gradients without needing to bite the handlebars to stop you sliding off the back. It's really comfortable and, thanks to the dropper post with bar-mounted remote, it can be easily moved out of the way when you're going back down.
The Shimano 12-speed mostly-SLX drivetrain is a highlight. Shifting is smooth even under full power and the 10-51T cassette spread is plenty to get you up even the steepest gradients. Obviously, the Shimano E8000 drive unit has a fair amount of sway over that too, with natural-feeling assistance that, while neither as powerful nor quite as refined as Shimano's latest EP8 system, does the trick even on silly-steep scrabbles. It also delivers a chunk more torque than the E7000 system that's seen on a lot of rivals at this money.
The budget doesn't quite stretch to the biggest capacity 630Wh battery Shimano offers, though I found 504Wh is still enough for just over 900m of climbing at my 70kg weight, depending on how often you dip into Boost from Trail mode. The system also uses the more basic black and white display unit from the E7000 lineup too, though I didn't find that made any meaningful difference in day to day use.
The little USB-C charging port on the top tube power button is a nice feature that hints that this bike is liable to be put to commuting duties, where being able to top up phone or lights on the fly is very handy indeed.
Of course, that's the real crunch with this bike. If you're mostly going to use this bike off-road, then you're going to be much better plumping for a full-suspension machine. Canyon's own Neuron:ON AL 7.0 costs just £300 more at £3,468 and has 130mm of travel at either end, with the same drive unit and battery and drivetrain.
It's also possible to go full-bounce for the same sort of cash too, with Vitus' E-Escarpe offering 140mm of bounce at both ends for a £3,200 price tag; though admittedly with a lower spec 10-speed drivetrain, weaker E7000 drive unit and externally mounted battery.
If you're after a versatile e-bike that's more than capable of hitting dirt trails as well as being used for all manner of other activities, then Grand Canyon:ON AL 9.0 is a very polished package. There's an awful lot to like, with refined handling and an excellent drive unit with very clean integration and well-thought-out kit, along with the usual excellent value for money.
Of course, f you're after pure off-road performance, then you're much better off looking at Canyon's full-suspension range of e-bikes to begin with, but if you're after a bike that'll handle a bit of everything from leisure to trail centre dirt or even a rugged commute, it's a very well specced bike indeed.