Seb Stott's Canyon Strive CFR
I've now been riding the Canyon Strive for well over a year, so I thought it was high time to give my thoughts on how it's been holding up. In truth, my thoughts haven't changed that much since the original review was published, which you can read here
. That's good news for me because the Strive has been my main bike for the last sixteen months and I've continued to find it particularly capable, fast and fun for many different flavours of rides.
I've been using it as a sort of test bench for comparing components like tires and forks. I've raced an enduro on it, taken it to the Alps for a week of chairlift-fed riding, and used it as my go-to bike for the bulk of my local rides in the Tweed Valley.
I'm not going to repeat anything I covered in the original review here because, fortunately, most of it has stood the test of time, but a few issues and observations have come up that I'd like to share.
2022 Canyon Strive Details
• Intended use: enduroing
• Suspension travel: 160mm or 140 mm (r) / 170 mm (f)
• Wheel size: 29'' only
• CFR full-carbon frame (no alloy option)
• Shapeshifter geo/suspension adjuster
• 63° head angle, 505 +/- 5 mm reach in Large
• 15.9 Kg / 35 lbs (actual, size large)
• 2,700 g / 5.95 lbs claimed frame weight, w/o shock
• S to XL sizes (effectively M to XXL)
• Two build options: CFR and CFR underdog
• MSRP: $7,299 USD (CFR, tested)
Canyon confused a lot of people with their super-long reach figures. But the seat tubes are short so if they just called the Xl an XXL, the large and Xl and so on, nobody would be so upset. Still, if the size small should really be called a medium, it's fair to say Canyon aren't really catering to the smaller end of the market with the Strive. Since the average UK woman is 164 cm, which is on the short side for the smallest Strive, it's questionable whether it can be called a unisex bike. But given that the Strive is a dedicated 29er platform, it's probably pitched at taller riders anyway, and Canyon does offer the Spectral and Torque with mullet wheels and shorter reach options.
I tested the large and the XL on the same downhill track and got remarkably similar lap times in either size, but I felt that riding fast took less mental effort on the large. This led a lot of people to speculate that someone of my height (191 cm) would be even better on the medium, but I don't think so.
In fact, I've since been playing around with the reach adjust headset cups, which allow the large frame to be configured with 500 mm or 510 mm reach, and I prefer the longer setting. It offers a little more stability when riding steep and technical descents. The difference between the neutral and long cups is very subtle (we're talking about a 1% reach difference here), but either one fits me nicely.
Swaps & upgrades
I've been using the Strive as a tool for component testing so I've swapped a few parts out, but I haven't made many swaps I would describe as an upgrade. I spent a long time with the RockShox Zeb
fork up front, but I preferred the stock Fox 38. I've also been testing the DVO Onyx SC D1 and EXT ERA V2.1.
I did swap the handlebar from the stock version with a 30 mm rise to a Renthal bar with a 40 mm rise, simply because the steerer tube was too short to get enough bar height otherwise. I also swapped the 200 mm Canyon dropper for a 240 mm OneUp V.2 seatpost. While I was more than happy with 200 mm of drop, there are times when the extra 40 mm of room is useful. Certainly, there are diminishing returns, but I now consider 200 mm the minimum, not the optimum.
I also swapped the stock bash guide for an MRP SXG guide (with an AMG upper box) after the original unit started dropping the chain and then the top part broke on a rough descent. The MRP holds the chain on much better thanks to its lower box guide.
I had an issue with the stock Shimano derailleur which coincided with TRP sending me a TR12 shifter and derailleur to try out. Curious, I gave it a go, but I'm not overly impressed. The shifter is a bit clunky in that the upshift lever is slightly stiff, but the main problem is that the clutch/chain tension isn't enough to keep the chain quiet when descending, even if the clutch tension is set to maximum.
As already mentioned, the stock Shimano XTR derailleur developed an issue where the cage wouldn't spring back to tension the chain if the clutch was on. This basically meant I had to run it with the clutch turned off. This is fixable, but it occurred after less than a year of semi-regular riding (I've been riding lots of other bikes besides this one), which is a little disappointing. While some commenters seem to think that Shimano drivetrains are infinitely more reliable, over the years I've had about as many issues with Shimano drivetrains as SRAM, if not more.
Similarly, if you've been reading the comments under some of the Shock Week articles, you're probably wondering how many times the Fox X2 shock exploded. For what it's worth, I've had no issues with the shock on the Canyon, or any other X2 since the 2020 update
The Shimano XTR brakes have been good enough to update my opinion on Shimano brakes in general. They have required a couple of bleeds to keep the wandering bite point issue at bay, but this isn't so hard, and in this case, solved the issue almost entirely. With that caveat, they have always offered superb power with a short throw and light lever feel which I really like. Coming from SRAM Code brakes, I found them a little grabby at first, but this is mostly due to the extra power on offer. Thanks to that power and impressive heat resistance, I considered downsizing to a 180 mm rear rotor but didn't bother as I simply got used to feathering the punchy brakes.
The frame bearings are all still smooth and play-free and the rubber frame protection has held up well. One annoying thing is that water can get into the chainstay and get stuck there, so after washing the bike I hang it up by the rear wheel to allow it to drain.
The only problem I had with the Shapeshifter system was the rubber grommet that holds the Shapeshifter's cable in place came loose
, causing some rattle. But this was fixed with a dab of glue.
Shapeshifter & Climbing Performance
In my review, I was a little conflicted about the Shapeshifter, and some readers called me out on that. On the one hand, I don't like the idea of adding an extra thumb lever, cable, air spring and linkage to improve climbing, especially when modern bikes with steep seat tubes and generous anti-squat climb so well anyway. The extra components inevitably add cost, weight and potential
issues. And while the bike will still work if it fails, it's not a particularly good climber without the Shapeshifter set to the climb mode.
On the other hand, it does work. It dramatically improves the bike's climbing performance and has remained (mostly) trouble-free this last year or so, notwithstanding the small issue mentioned above. I have learned to use the system more effectively too. Sometimes I use the "shred" mode for flat and bumpy sections of climb, as it gives a less aggressive position and more comfortable suspension, but for the most part, I shift into the pedal mode at the foot of each climb without thinking about it. When I've been riding the Strive exclusively for a period of time, I almost never forget to return to the "shred" mode for the descents - mostly because I can feel the difference as I ride.
A question mark still remains in my mind as to whether I prefer Canyon's approach to a bike with a steep seat tube, high anti-squat and a simpler, lighter frame (like the Merida One Sixty
), but at the end of the day the Strive is one of the best climbing enduro bikes out there. I find myself looking forward to climbs and attacking them with more enthusiasm than any other bike I've ridden recently - and I'm including the YT Izzo and Nukeproof Reactor in that. Only the Merida comes close.
The Strive's bottom bracket is very low (around 335 mm). I don't necessarily think this is a bad thing as it probably contributes to the bike's blend of stability and agility, but pedal strikes are common. I ended up running a little less sag than normal (around 27%) while removing all but one of the shock's three volume spacers to retain good bump absorption. This offered a higher ride height and more support when cornering and climbing. Initial sensitivity and suppleness are still superb thanks to the X2 shock and progressive kinematic. I bottom out occasionally with this setup, but the X2's bottom-out bumper means this is no big drama.
I also tried fitting a 2.6" Continental Kryptotal tire in the rear to help raise the BB and improve traction, but clearance is tight with the seatstay bridge - stones occasionally scratched the carbon with this tire - so 2.5" seems a better compromise. Finally, I went down to one volume spacer in the Fox 38 fork to match the progression at the rear.
Aside from some experimental component swaps and playing with the headset, that's it. There's a lot to play with thanks to the four-way adjustable dampers, I ended up quite near the middle on most of the shock's clickers and there's a broad range that works pretty well. While there's a lot of tinkering potential, it's not too hard to get this bike in a good place.
What could be improved?
If I were in charge at Canyon, I'd change the sizing nomenclature so the large was renamed Xl, and so on. I'd also leave the steerer tube longer so tall riders can find the right bar height without swapping bars. If I were redesigning the bike, I'd love to see slightly longer chainstays in the larger sizes (even though they measure 442 mm, not 435 mm like the spec sheet says) to give a slightly more balanced weight distribution and increase the tire clearance as a bonus. Or even better, adjustable chainstay length to match the adjustable reach.
Would I buy one?
Quite possibly. Right now in the UK, you can get the Strive CFR Underdog
with a Fox Performance Elite fork and Shimano XT (offering near-identical performance to the bike tested) for £3,839, which is pretty hard to beat. I would also consider the Merida One-Sixty 6000, which costs about the same. I rode it for a much shorter time than the Strive but I found it similarly impressive. Those are the only bikes on my "What would I buy if I had to buy a bike tomorrow" shortlist at the moment.