Canyon’s Nerve AM 8.0 sports the same frame as the 2011 bike, albeit with an upgraded specification that includes a shorter stem, wider bar and Reverb post — the ‘X’ tag denotes a double and bash chainset.
The Nerve AM ticks most of the boxes on the 2012 frame builders’ checklist: hydroformed front triangle; tapered head tube for steering precision; cartridge bearing pivots to reduce stiction and ISCG tabs for a chain guide. In fact, the only feature it’s lacking is a 142x12mm back end.
No pedals come with the bike but at least you get a shock pump so you can set the suspension up correctly.
The more linear feel of the twin position 120-150mm Talas fork fitted to the 8.0 makes it much easier for less aggressive riders to make full use of the travel. Also, because the Talas has a self-adjusting negative spring, instead of the fixed coil unit used in the Float, it also offers better small bump sensitivity for heavier riders running higher pressures.
Keeping it Fox front and back, the RP2 shock has a nice firm Pro-Pedal setting to help prop up the rear suspension for climbing. The open setting is, however, very plush, and we ran less sag than normal to get a tighter, more responsive feel. This also helped reduce pedal strikes.
Playing second fiddle to the Rose, the DT Swiss AM1900 wheels weigh 200g more than the Tricons. It’s a solid, trouble-free rig, even if it’s the third heaviest on test.
To offset any disadvantages the heavier hoops present, Canyon specs a harder compound Pacestar Fat Albert rear tyre to reduce rolling resistance, with the medium Trailstar compound up front, for improved cornering grip.
The Elixir 7 brakes come UK-ready with brake calipers perfectly aligned with the rotors when you drop the wheels in. No rotor rub to contend with here.
The gears, however, weren’t working properly, as the outer casing had popped out of the plastic end cap in transit. Something an inexperienced mechanic would struggle to spot.
When we unboxed the bike, the Reverb post wasn’t returning to full height. After we increased the pressure to the recommended 250psi it worked fine. Two days later it needed topping up again, so it was clearly losing air. Given the problems with the gear outer and the Reverb, Canyon UK agreed to collect the bike and remedied both problems free of charge. For minor assembly niggles, you can take the bike to your local shop and Canyon will cover the costs up to £15.
Back-to-back runs on the DH track at Mountain Ash instantly highlighted that while the Canyon may not have the ultimate geometry, it has way better grip than the other bikes in this test. That goes a long way where confidence and handling are concerned and definitely helps in the comfort stakes! It was also noticeable how silent the Canyon was compared with the other bikes. Maybe it was the ultra-plush suspension or it could have been the 2×10 SRAM drivetrain; either way, we liked it.
But it’s not just high-speed rocky terrain where the Canyon excels, it’s good in loose muddy conditions too. On smoother hard pack trails we ran the Pro Pedal in the ‘on’ position to get the bike to pump better and stop the suspension compressing so easily under hard, out-of-the-saddle peddling efforts. Also it’s noticeable how much more efficiently the bike climbs when you drop into the small chainring.
The Canyon Nerve AM 8.0 X isn’t quite the ultimate trail bike, but it’s a great riding bike and, given the asking price, a truly amazing package. There isn’t a dud component on it so it’s hard not to be won over by the jaw-dropping spec. But the Nerve AM8.0X isn’t perfect: the head angle could do with being 1° slacker, even if the superior FIT-damped Fox fork almost compensates for any shortcomings in the geometry, and we’d like to see a 142mm back end to really give the Nerve AM 8.0 the full ‘X’ factor.
Mbr rating: 9