The £699 Grand Canyon AL 5.9W is our women-specific Hardtail of the Year — and here's why
As a direct sales brand that doesn’t need to worry itself with a dealer network, it is perhaps no surprise that Canyon offers a well-specced hardtail for a few quid less than its competitors, but money isn’t everything. Has it been spent well or is it all glitz and no guts?
Well, first impressions were good. The most noticeable advantage over its competitors was clear just from lifting it out of the van, and the scales told the same story. At a featherweight 12.01kg, this bike is around a kilo lighter than any of its three rivals on test.
The Canyon’s 100mm travel is sensibly provided by an air fork with rebound adjustment, in the form of the reliable RockShox 30 Gold TK 29, which allows for easy set-up whatever the rider weight. With plenty of small-bump sensitivity on offer while remaining supportive on the descents, the RockShox dispatched bigger hits with confidence-inspiring efficiency.
Well-specced throughout, with an XT rear mech and SLX elsewhere, the only obvious omissions here are the lack of a clutch on the rear mech to reduce chain slap, and the small detail of a chainstay protector to cushion the blow and protect the paintwork. The grips are suitably slim and the bars — at 720mm — were the widest on test, giving plenty of control for those bigger 29in wheels. And there’s always the option to cut down wider bars a little if you so wish. At 85mm, the stem felt a touch too long, but ample length in the frame meant a shorter unit could easily be swapped in without making the cockpit too cramped. The Shimano brakes are solid and reliable, with the larger 180mm disc up front for added stopping power. They also have comfortable levers that can be dialled in to suit smaller hands.
Following my first outing on the Canyon, I decided to flip the stem — giving it a slight negative rather than positive rise — to bring the front-end down, which initially felt a little high when climbing. This immediately made a big difference to the way the bike handled, which no doubt would be improved further by introducing a shorter stem altogether. The 29in wheels bring the fast-rolling benefits you would expect on bumpy trails, and while it doesn’t quite achieve the nippy handling of the Pinnacle when it comes to descending, the lightweight build makes it easy to maintain momentum on the ups, which reduces the risk of stalling on obstacles — an issue I have found with big-wheeled bikes in the past. Happily, Canyon’s hydroformed frame is very much up to the challenge too, and the forks capably took the sting out of the trails at Bike Park Wales.
The Grand Canyon AL oozes quality. The neat and stylish graphics and well-finished frame, the high-spec drivetrain, the good-quality fork and the overall light weight make this an all-round great bike, which is just as happy going up as it is coming down. Yes, the front-end needs a little tweaking, but a new shorter stem won’t break the bank. Which brings us onto the price: pros and cons of direct sales aside, £1 shy of £700 for a fun, versatile, high-quality ride like this is an absolute steal.