Generous sizing, progressive angles and Canyon's effective Shapeshifter tech make the new Strive an enduro force to be reckoned with.
It’s already the EWS’s fastest bike under Jack Moir, but that hasn’t stopped Canyon pushing the boundaries with the brand new Strive CFR with the goal of becoming one of the best enduro bikes for 2022. We tested the new model at the home of enduro; Finale Ligure.
Need to know
- Last year’s EWS winning bike gets longer and slacker
- Thoroughbred race bike built to go fast
- Shapeshifter offers two distinct modes – Pedal and Shred
- Adjustable cups let you tune the bike to your perfect reach
- Two models available from £4,849
It’s been fascinating to watch the development of the Canyon Strive over the past nine years. With its most sensitive details hidden from sight, this bespoke enduro race bike was there from the very start, achieving wins under one of its key development riders, Fabien Barel. And last year it really proved its credentials at the very highest echelons of the sport when Jack Moir rode his Strive to the overall series victory.
Job done, one might think. But while the Strive achieved all of its goals as a race bike, one look at Moir’s bike is all it takes to see where improvements could be made. The Aussie champ runs a longer travel fork (180mm Vs 170mm on the stock bike) along with a spacer under the head tube, mostly with the aim of slackening the 65º head angle. The team also ran longer stroke shocks to free up a smidge of extra travel at the rear, while saddles were slammed as far forward as possible to compensate for the seat angle (which they’d just made even slacker). There are plenty of other details and mods, so if you want to find out more, I’d recommend Jack’s own bike check video on his YouTube channel, but boiled down to its essence, the old bike’s head angle was too steep, the seat angle was too slack, and it really needed some extra travel to help on the EWS’s increasingly savage tracks.
At this point I should mention that Canyon’s recent expansion of both the Spectral and Torque platforms to include 29in versions has also allowed the Strive to really focus on the function of racing. Being the only long travel 29er in the range when it was launched three years ago definitely restricted how far Canyon could push the geometry. With those shackles gone, Canyon has really pushed the boat out.
Let’s not beat around the bush; the new Strive is massive. The smallest frame gets a 455mm reach while the largest (XL) tops out at 530mm, but by incorporating adjustable headset cups and keeping seat tubes low, there’s a healthy overlap between sizes and riders can choose their frame by handling preference rather than being limited by pure saddle height. Particularly those around 180cm in height. The Strive’s new size range does require some recalibration though – if you normally ride a large in other mainstream brands, you’ll probably need to drop down a frame size, even if you like a long bike.
To fine-tune the reach, drop-in frame inserts give +/- 5mm of adjustment. So a size medium frame has a nominal reach of 480mm, but switching to an offset cup gives you either 475mm or 485mm depending on which way you orient it. The job is fairly quick and simple, requiring nothing more than a couple of hex keys to loosen the stem and drop the fork out.
While other brands, such as Specialized, have used similar cups to give head angle adjustment, Canyon has stuck with a fixed attitude for the Strive. Albeit a slack one. All bikes run a 63º head angle with the stock 170mm travel fork in Shred mode, while the Shapeshifter steepens this by around 0.7º in pedal mode. Yes, Canyon claims a 1.5º offset between modes, but this is a dynamic measurement, as another 0.7º or so is generated by the firmer suspension and reduced sag.
It’s business as usual behind the head tube, as the Strive continues to champion the short chainstays, low BB and 29in rear wheel found on the previous generation. Actually that’s inaccurate, as the effective seat angle has been steepened considerably. In Shred mode it’s a claimed 76.5º, which steepens to around 78º in Pedal mode (sagged).
There’s no mullet option with the Strive simply because it’s a race bike and 29in wheels are faster for enduro racing. They’re ubiquitous throughout the men’s and women’s fields now, and as Canyon offers its long-travel Torque in three wheel size configurations, it decided there was no point in diluting the Strive’s focus on pure speed.
My hunch is that, like last season, team riders will run 180mm forks for most races (Moir even used a 190mm fork at La Thuile), which will raise the front end a touch, kill off a bit of the increased reach and lift the BB (which is super low at 338mm) away from rocks and stumps. It will certainly be interesting to see what size Moir ends up riding from the new Strive range. Going by last season’s bike, everything points to a medium. But that would seem crazy considering that, at 190cm tall, he is anything but medium in height. (Edit: Looks like he’s on a medium currently (in the shortest reach setting (!)), but early days so that might change before the first round of the EWS)
The Strive’s USP for many years has been the Shapeshifter. This device, which is switchable on-the-fly, gives two distinct modes that influence the dynamic geometry, ride height, suspension characteristics and pedalling performance. The aim of the system is to give the racer a bike that descends with no-compromise, but can be adapted to climb and pedal as efficiently as possible. Saving energy is crucial over the course of a long EWS race, and Canyon’s racers swear by the system, claiming to use it on every liaison stage as well as timed stages featuring climbs or sustained sprints.
In our own Shapeshifter timed testing – which was not the most scientific I’ll admit, but did give a good indication of potential gains – it saved just over 10 seconds on a three-minute climb. Every second counts in racing, and although there are no points for being fastest up the climbs in enduro, if you can get there in the same time as your competitors, using less energy, that’s a valuable weapon in your armoury and ample payback for the circa 200g weight penalty.
The nuts and bolts of the device hasn’t changed. It still consists of an air-filled piston that pushes the upper shock mount relative to the rocker link. This changes the attitude of the frame relative to the swingarm – giving the BB and angle changes – and alters the suspension kinematics, most notably the leverage and anti-squat. To switch between modes you toggle a lever and a release button above the dropper remote, then use your body weight to help facilitate moving the shock position.
To get it to work smoothly does take a bit of practice, but the remote is light action and can be configured within easy reach. Once you have mastered its function, using it mid-stage only takes minimal planning and should be considered as much part of race craft as choosing the best line, or pacing your effort.
Back in 2019, when the previous generation Strive was launched, 150mm was considered enduro territory for a 29er. Now, with 170mm increasingly standard issue, that seems laughable. To keep up with the times, Canyon has thrown an extra 10mm at the Strive, bringing it up to 160mm at the back, but stopped short of trying to compete with rivals such as the Nukeproof Giga or Whyte G-180.
Canyon has reworked the four-bar linkage to better utilise this additional travel, in the knowledge that it also has the firmer Pedal mode to fall back on when efficiency becomes more important than grip. Less force is required to achieve any given travel than the old bike, which makes it more supple, but the extra travel means a similar force is needed to bottom it out. Anti-squat has been increased on the new bike, most noticeably in the Pedal setting, but tweaked to drop away earlier in the travel to reduce pedal kickback. That said, both Fabien Barel and Jose Borges were running the Ochain system on their bikes. Finally, you may have noticed that the chainstay pivot is now located in front of and below the dropout. This may have helped with the anti-squat properties, but also helped Canyon increase the stiffness and structural integrity of the dropouts.
The visual updates to the Strive may seem subtle (aside from the elongated front end), but in truth every tube has been re-profiled. Canyon claims the new frame is 25% stiffer laterally than the old bike. Given the frames have all got longer, that’s a big improvement. Areas of note are the top tube/seat tube junction, which has been revised to improve standover and shorten seat tubes while still packaging the shock and Shapeshifter. There’s an asymmetric lower shock mount, forward of the BB, that gives more clearance and better shock access, while leaving space for water and mud to drain away.
As a pure racing model, the Strive is only available in two builds, both constructed with Canyon’s ultimate CFR carbon lay-up. With Shapeshifter, Canyon claims the frame weight is 2,700g, or just 100g more than its Spectral 29 trail bike.
At £6,099, the CFR comes dripping with high-end parts. Fox supplies the 38 Factory Grip2 fork and Float X2 Factory shock, while Shimano provides the XTR drivetrain and brakes. There’s a lightweight Race Face Next R crank and DT Swiss EX511 rims on 350 hubs shod with Maxxis Assegai/Minion DHR II tyres. Canyon has walked the tightrope of weight vs protection here, speccing the new EXO+ sidewalls rather than heavy duty Double Down casings in the knowledge that whatever it chooses won’t be right for everyone. In terms of compound and tread pattern, the Maxxis rubber is absolutely top notch.
Finishing the CFR is Canyon’s own G5 bar, stem, dropper post and grips. All of which are well designed and built. No complaints there. In fact the dropper post is a particular highlight, as it lets you fine-tune the stroke in 5mm increments.
Canyon’s more wallet-friendly option is the Strive CFR Underdog. Same frame, Fox Performance Elite suspension (same damping, no Kashima coating), Shimano XT drivetrain and the same G5 parts and Maxxis tyres, but the price is £4,849.
How it rides
In a word, uncompromising. Fast, yes. Forgiving, no. In seeking those extra percentage points of performance, the new Strive has become a more demanding machine to ride. If you’re strong and committed it gives all the speed and performance you could want. Back off and try to chill and it can seem reluctant to do your bidding. It’s a pedigree race bike, obstinance and all.
It’s a pedigree race bike, obstinance and all.
It took me a while to get into the groove on the bike’s launch on the trails around Finale Ligure. Not so much the suspension set-up, but my riding position. On the size medium (I’m 178cm), I started out with the reach set at 480mm, but found that I wasn’t getting my weight far enough forward to push for grip at the front. This would get worse through the day as I became more tired. If anything the bars felt quite low, so I didn’t want to drop them further to add weight over the front axle. After lunch on day two, I tried the longest reach on the medium (485mm) and this did the trick. Now I could get low and weight the front end naturally, without having to try and remember while approaching some hideous Italian rock garden at top speed. At this point the bike became laser-precise, accelerated beautifully out of turns and seemed utterly impassive to the jumbles of square-edge rock in its path.
That also helped make sense of the short back end, giving it more freedom to get loose and help the bike to turn in. Win-win. But it does show that getting a good weight balance on the Strive might take some tinkering.
While super supple off the top (the Strive is sensitive enough to sag under its own weight – rare for an analogue bike), there was plenty of feedback through the soles of my feet on Finale’s junk-strewn tracks. My feet never got blown off (running flats), but the relentless pounding was punishing, and I started to look enviously at the Ochains on Fabien’s and Jose’s bikes. Finale is a tough place to launch a bike though, so I’m not going be too harsh on the Strive without trying it somewhere smoother and more forgiving.
Press the Shapeshifter button and put the Strive into Pedal mode and it really does turn into a different bike. The bike tips forward and the head angle suddenly feels quite steep. Which puts into perspective how much things have moved on, as even in Pedal mode the new bike is 1º slacker than the previous generation. Immediately you notice how much firmer the suspension has become, and combined with the higher BB, this elevated position gives loads of pedal clearance. It’s just as useful for janky tech as protracted climbs and lunch-repeating sprints.
The new Strive has finally come of age, then. After criticising previous models for their conservative geometry – particularly when the Shapeshifter offered the chance to make fewer compromises on DH prowess – it’s safe to say Canyon has created its best enduro race bike to date. Over to you, Jack; no pressure.