BadSea Field Reports Vol. II
Canyon - Grail
Since the ride wasn’t a race, and because the Grail is a really weird-looking bike with a double handlebar, the Hunt of the North seemed like a great time to dork around on the Grail - even if it was the weirdest thing in the world to ride, it wouldn’t matter.
Since it’s debut earlier this Spring, the elephant-in-the-room is obviously the double handlebar. When it was first announced we scoffed and cracked our own jokes about how it looked like a bike designed by the AdWizards at Gillette
Without belaboring the discussion about the Hoverbar, we wanted to share our experiences on the bike because - Holy GRAIL! they were a blast to ride!
We were super familiar with the whole route - most of it was the exact route of our BadDuro! Event that we hosted a few months ago. So we’ve ridden each piece of road/dirt many, many times. Portions have also been part of Belgian Waffle Rides of years’ past, so anyone reading this review should be familiar with the type of terrain that the BWR subjects its participants to.
We could tackle some challenging gravel, some steep climbs, bomber descents, and even some pieces of singletrack - basically, we got to put these bikes through their paces, and then draw our own conclusions.
Bottom line: The Grail looks ridiculous. But it’s also ridiculously fun.
Visually, the front end looks heavy, but, like the rest of this featherweight bike, it’s so light that as soon as you hit a little lip or even just torque the bike upwards you’re taking flight.
The cockpit feels upright on the hoods, but mid-ride photos reveal that it’s pretty aggressive. Then when you get in the drops of the lower bar you really feel like you’re in an attack position. Technical descents, like singletrack made for mountain bikes, that you’d expect to be jarring on a dropbar rig, are sucked up and you’ve rolled right through before you even had a chance to yell Oh, Shit!
“[The Canyon Grail] floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee!” Muhammad Ali
This is largely attributed to the unsung and overlooked design element - the split seatpost which provides fore-aft compliance. The ass-saving hit-dampening is further increased by the downward sloping top tube, that exposes more post at any height, thereby allowing the flex to do more for you.
This is a concept that Canyon employs on their kinky cross bike, the InFlight - which is another example of how the company lets the engineering drive design.
The seatpost flex gives the right amount of ...err, give, that it never feels lazy, but can really save you from getting bucked off the saddle, even on the most abrupt and rocky descents. The frame is so stiff that you don’t notice any powering being sapped from your hard efforts. In fact, so much of your effort goes straight towards forward motion that you always feel on top off the pedals, ready to accelerate. This propelled sensation held true on the steepest switchbacks (21%) and chunky, sandy false flats in the dirt at cup-collecting speeds.
Others have commented on the “locked-in” feel of being in the drops when you’re in the drops and wrap your thumb around the junction between the upper and lower bars.
And this is totally true. You feel super confident in your handle on the bar. I don’t have very big hands, so especially due to Canyon’s proprietary bartape, which is super spongy, it put the brake levers juuuuuust out of reach. So while I felt locked-in when it came to steering, I was a little leery in terms of braking. It was slightly unnerving.
A quick remedy would be to put my normal thin and tacky bartape (by MASH) on the bike. The bike is expertly crafted to provide compliance where you need it, that’s the whole appeal of the Hoverbar, so you don’t need doughy bartape to reduce arm fatigue - the bike has that built-in.
For his part, Billy at 6 feet 4 inches tall, and has correspondingly large hands, was able to grab ample handfuls of brake, but felt so locked-in and confident that he rarely needed to. So for the heavy-handed and/or thinly-bartaped consider this a beneficial corollary of the avant-garde frontend.
Will vary a bit depending on your spec but the bikes we rode had Ultegra shiftybits, high-volume tires (Schwalbe G-One Bites), and plenty of stopping power with the now ubiquitous disc brakes that are a requisite on any bike that’s ever going to touch dirt nowadays.
No complaints in this category. Regardless of build, precision shifting and reliability are abundantly present in any mid-range to high-end grouppo.
We’re fans of looking good while shredding. Next to #coffeedoping, our primary means of going fast are #kitdoping, followed by #sockdoping.
But if your bike doesn’t look dope, then the rest of it doesn’t really matter.
We were already falling in love with the bike, so we were trying to come up with ways to excuse the Hoverbar. Maybe it was an awning for the Garmin, to give it a little shade and reduce glare? Maybe we could obfuscate it, like if you’re a randonnerd you could put your barbag in front of it and no one would notice it was there?
But it is there. And it does what’s it’s billed to do - keep the stoke up by soaking the bumps up.
Matte Black with a Coppery-Brown that is bitchingly-reminiscent of the sweet van that your uncle drove in 70s - airbrushed stallions and “If this van’s a rockin’…” bumper stickers not included.
Matte black with golden brown accents provide a compliment to every kit you own, as long as you’re lucky enough to have a drawer full of BadSea Bicycle Squadron kits, crafted by Eliel. As soon as you start rolling, the bike picks up a bit of dirt and BAM! you have an appropriate patina to show off how you’re a badass that can tackle any trail.
Any pure graveler. Anyone masochistic enough to do something stupid like BWR, Dirty Kanza, Crusher In The Tushar, Grinduro!, or any of the ever-growing list of mixed surface off-road events will likely go a lot faster and definitely have a lot more fun aboard the Grail. Likewise, an exceptionally awesome bikepacking rig could be had just by strapping some bags to the Grail’s lightweight frame. Heck, you’d probably win Tour Divide.
That’s not to say that bike should be reserved only for the endurance-set. It would be great for anyone that has quick access to fireroads and singletrack.
It’s not a cyclocross bike. The bike is hard to shoulder properly with the double bar, and it’s not going to be snappy enough for the twitchy turns and always-accelerating demands of a cx course.
Clearly, it’s not a crit-whip. It’s not a TT bike. It’s not a substitute for XC MTB.
It’s not a quiver-killer. It’s not going to replace your cross, road, and mountain bike.
But IT IS a killer compliment to your stable of bikes, and a great option if you’re a roadie looking to hit a bit more dirt, or a denizen of the dirt looking to tackle some more tarmac.