The new Canyon Nerve AL+ 9.0 gets 150mm of travel, slack geometry and a low bottom bracket. It also comes dripping with all the latest lightweight, expensive gear.
Being mail-order only, Canyon bikes come safely packed in a secure box with all necessary assembly tools, but you still need to know how to fit wheels and a stem (or have somebody willing to help) if you’re new to mountain biking.
The hydroformed aluminium Nerve AL+ frame replaces the old 140mm-travel AM, and in addition to the geometry and travel changes, Syntace X12 bolt-through dropouts have been added to boost frame stiffness. Overall styling is great, but the two-piece linkage, pivot knuckles and hardware are slightly less refined than on the more established brands here.
By squeezing Factory level Fox equipment onboard, Canyon is giving you top-tier suspension at a mid-range price bracket. Aside from the lack of Kashima (slippery technology) coating, the 32 Talas CTD Factory FIT fork is identical to Fox’s most expensive aftermarket model. The rear shock comes with Boost Valve technology as standard (read sophisticated internals for better performance), as well as the considerably more solid CTD adjust lever.
Lightweight Mavic Crossmax ST wheels are a cut above everything else in this test, with a sub-1,600g weight and silky smooth bearings. There’s real zip and acceleration when you put the power down, but the rims are a little narrow for the high volume Conti 2.4in tyres, meaning the tyres roll on the rim when hitting corners hard.
Under heavy cranking on big DMR flat pedals, the carbon SRAM S2200 chainset feels like it twists and flexes more than Shimano’s hollow forged alloy cranks. Despite the 3×10 set-up, the X0 Type 2 rear mech kept the chain from jumping off. It was also noticeable that the X9 shifter pods, which have sealed bearings rather than bushing internals, make for smoother shifting compared to the cheaper SRAM gear on the Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Comp Evo.
Hands down, the Canyon Nerve AL+ has the lightest and most expensive parts on test, including a 150mm Reverb Stealth dropper post (with the hydraulic cable hidden inside the seat tube) that is the best in the business. The Race Face Turbine bar and stem look quality in terms of finish, and shave grams off the final reckoning, but they lack stiffness, which contributes to a vagueness in the Nerve’s steering.
Inject some effort into the Canyon Nerve AL+ and the advantage of the high-end Mavic wheelset is immediately apparent. No other bike here can come close on long, draggy ascents — the bike simply climbs faster (and also feels light and snappy on rolling trails) due to the lightweight wheels. It’s not the full story, though, as more aggressive or heavier riders will soon expose a lack of stiffness and straight-line accuracy once you start to muscle the bike at speed. And with cranks, bar and stem lacking absolute rigidity there’s none of the reassuringly solid feel of the Stumpjumper Evo or Giant Reign.
The Canyon Nerve AL+ also displays a trait we’ve noticed on previous Nerve models: an under-damped, springy suspension feel that affords excellent grip on wet roots and off-camber traverses, but is wallowy through compressions and on rough descents. In that respect, it’s very similar to the Giant. Another occasional side effect of this lack of rear suspension support is that the already low BB height causes pedal strikes, both climbing and descending.
The lightweight, bling-packed Canyon Nerve AL+ looks compelling and zings up climbs in a way no other 150mm bike for this money can match. Point it back down the trail in anger, however, and the Nerve AL+ accelerates quickly, but without the control, support or stiffness required by faster or heavier riders.
Canyon markets the Nerve AL+ 9.0 as a 150mm machine targeted at the Alps, not a trail bike, but it just doesn’t feel solid enough to us for big mountain bombing.
MBR rating: 8
Frame Canyon hydroformed alloy
Suspension Fox Float CTD Performance Shock, Fox Talas CTD FIT Factory fork
Wheels Mavic Crossmax ST, Continental Mountain King 2.4in
Drivetrain SRAM S2210 chainset SRAM X9 shifters, X0 rear mech
Brakes Avid Elixir 7 levers, X0 Trail calipers, 200/180mm rotors
Components Race Face bar and stem, RockShox Reverb Stealth
Sizes S, M, L, XL
Weight 12.8kg (28.2lb)
Size tested M
Head angle 67°
Seat angle 73°
BB height 330mm
Front centre 700mm
Down tube 665mm