The Torque has been laying dormant in the Canyon lineup since the 2016 introduction of the Sender, its bigger, more modern sibling. With the launch of that gravity sled Canyon signalled a change in their design language, brought on by lead mountain bike designer Peter Kettenring, and now we’ve seen this philosophy carry through to the recently introduced Spectral and Torque.
The Idea and Development
The engineers at Canyon's Koblenz, Germany headquarters have long been working towards the idea of a ‘family’ of bikes. From as far back as 2012, the blueprints were in place. Bikes were added, others dropped, the Strive was born, the then-unnamed Sender continued to shape up, while the Torque flew under the radar until it slapped its way into public view last month. The market has changed a lot since the previous Torque was designed—there is a new wave of long travel ‘do it all’ big hitters coming through with more capability than ever. The gap between enduro and downhill had been narrowing. Bikes like the Torque look set to blur that even further.
Late last year Mike Kazimer headed to Portugal for the press launch of the 175mm-travel Torque. See what he thought after his very rainy First Ride
The plans for the Torque gained momentum with the influence of the Sender. Starting off on sketches and drawings, Peter Kettenring and the design team had decided that the old Nerve and Spectral “looked more or less the same” and “needed more separation design-wise, even if the kinematics are close.” They clearly are very aware of industrial design trends and work hard to give their bikes unique silhouettes, introducing something they refer to internally as ‘Platform Signature’ that examines the way frame lines and radiuses interact with light. Canyon strives [see what I did there?] to be an individualistic brand, and the design team wanted the bikes to follow suit.
By 2014 there were two iterations of the bike’s kinematics in the depths of Canyon’s engineering servers, an upright and a flat shock layout. They’d initially concentrated on the upright design, but overlaying the designs showed how much higher the shock would sit given the travel and length of the shock, especially with the introduction of metric shocks. The new linkage design was optimized to be as low as possible. The longer metric shocks coming in also posed a new design challenge on the frame, gaining almost 3cm in eye-to-eye length. The solution was to push into the downtube, which also “looked more integrated and [the engineers] liked it more.” The Torque’s suspension kinematics were built around air shocks, not only because Canyon believe they have achieved a “similar sensitivity” to coil and a lighter package, but because as a direct-selling brand it's critical that the customer be able to easily fine tune their air shock to their body weight and tracks.
Canyon's main goal for the Torque is a familiar refrain—to combine downhill-esque capabilities with good pedalling efficiency. They feel that the learning process of the Sender gave them a strong direction to follow with the Torque. Experimenting with various linkages on the Sender led to their ‘MX-Link’, and while this layout does not feature on the Torque, there are definite parallels from the engineers' pursuit of their so-called ‘Triple Phase Suspension’ feeling. According to engineer Moritz Stroer, the Torque's suspension ramps up for those going big, while remaining supple for small bump absorption, and having a mid stroke firmness which feels “more direct” than competitors' bikes who might be more linear.
According to the engineers a bike can be designed 90-95% on a computer, but when it comes to testing, nothing beats hitting the trails. To do that, they butcher up their functional aluminium prototype from “parts that are already available to make it as quickly as possible.” The majority of testing and feedback was done in conjunction with multiple Downhill World Champ Fabien Barel on his home trails in the south of France, as well as on the rugged stages of San Romolo and Finale Ligure. During the testing of their aluminum test mules a lot of focus was spent on the kinematics, playing with the main pivot position to accurately adjust the pedal kickback and anti-squat of the bike, as well as the linkages to optimize the kinematics curve and shock rate. This offered up marked changes the previous model; despite being less progressive and sensitive in its suspension curve, the previous generation of Torque was less efficient to pedal. Extra attention was put into the shock mount pivot points to try and prevent them from moving at too great an angle, reducing friction and improving the reliability of the eyelet bushings.
The Torque was originally aimed at being an aluminum-only, “entry level bike that makes the sport accessible”; the carbon version was added to the design plan later. To facilitate that goal the bike was kept relatively simple, with the like of Canyon’s Shapeshifter technology being ruled out early in the process.
With the launch of the two new bikes this winter Canyon have left a 29” sized hole in their portfolio unaddressed. Quizzing the engineering team on this they continued to stress their belief that 27.5 is the “fun” wheel size, and while 29” may indeed be faster for racing, that was not their goal with these bikes. Despite having the high technology Strive available to them, it sounds like their existing and new EWS recruits are keen to pilot the ‘fun and not for racing’ Torque next year… We wouldn’t be surprised to see the Strive next up for a face lift - 29er or not - to bring it more in line with the rest of Canyon's mountain bike lineup. Off-Track Testing and Production
Before the first prototypes hit the trails, an impact test and functional tests are done to check clearance of tires and other components, essentially to make sure it ‘works’. If the on-track testing is positive and the clearance tests get the go ahead, the engineers continue to work on the layup of the frame until they reach the target weight and stiffness. From there they begin a pilot run of frames and start to put them through the wringer is the test lab. Each frame has a different layup and obviously cannot simply be transferred over from the old model, the new Torque and Spectral have very different tube designs and shock mounts which brings new loads to the frame.
After measuring the dimensions and tolerances of the frame the testing begins with non-destructive loads to check the performance characters like the weight, comfort, and stiffness. The bikes then get punished. Hard. Canyon’s procedure sees every frame put through a life cycle on each of the destructive test rigs. They say their tests push the frames much further than the ISO standards require. Carbon frame are subject to a CT scan both pre and post testing to seek out any potential imperfections in the layup. They also do a full inspection of each mass production carbon fork and handlebar, given their safety implications - they aren't assembled onto bikes before a CT scan gives the all clear. The Torque is tested at Canyon’s highest level and on par with the Sender which, once cleared, means it’s time to move onto production.
Before the bikes begin hitting the trails in the hands of customers, the final hurdle that Canyon faces is integrating the new model into the assembly lines. Reportedly the new Torque's assembly line is relatively complex in comparison to the old model and other models they offer. New tools are needed and the employees need to be brought up to speed on new workflows. New models and intricate designs like the Torque are assembled on what is called the ‘flex-line,’ which is more time intensive and smaller in volume until the quality and efficiency allows them to take it to the bigger and faster main production line. From there, the new bike is boxed up and shipped out direct to the customer.
: @Canyon-PureCycling @rossbellphoto