Words Liam Friary
Images Mitch Jones
RRP $8,049
Distributor Canyon

Gravel isn’t just one thing; it’s everything. It’s up to the individual as to how you define it. I think the word ‘gravel’ is somewhat restrictive, as these bikes are a bit more diverse than that. Of course, there’s strong roots with cyclocross and other off-road disciplines but thankfully, without governing regulations, bike designers have a free reign.

This means a better bike for everyday practical uses, rather than an all-out race bike. The gravel scene has well and truly caught widespread attention in recent years and has morphed into many sub-categories. Everything from all-road bikes, bikepacking rigs, adventure bikes and even some that are confused with a mountain bike.

The Canyon Grizl CF SLX 8 eTap Trail steps away from the standard gravel bike realms with its RockShox Rudy Ultimate suspension fork. Boasting 30mm travel, 700 x 50C tyre clearances and a lockout – adding comfort and gaining performance at the same time. This is paired with SRAM’s Force XPLR groupset with a 40t chainring 10-44 cassette gear ratio. As for stopping power, SRAM Force eTap AXS HRD brakes are used with direct mount 160mm rotors at the front and rear. There’s also plenty of rubber as it uses 700 x 45C Schwalbe G-One Bite tyres. The tyres are mounted to Reynolds ATR carbon rims which have a 23mm inner width and 40mm depth. The frame uses advanced carbon materials and layup techniques with a complete frame weight of just 950g. The stiff cockpit of the Grizl, consisting of a Canyon V13 stem and 440mm wide Canyon HB0063 handlebars, fits the character of the bike well and keeps it precise at the front.

I had this bike for a week whilst in riding in Gippsland, in Victoria, Australia. In that time, I racked up over 500km across mixed terrain surfaces. The Grizl CF SLX 8 eTap Trail was first used on a three-day bikepacking excursion and then in a 200km Randonnée, as featured in this issue. I didn’t experience any discomfort over the first three-days, which was a massive plus. The Grizl CF SLX 8 handled the transitions between bitumen and gravel well. On the bitumen it accelerated and held speed well, even with the larger tyres. But, when the gravel sections came, the Rudy suspension fork boosted comfort and confidence – basically, it absorbs shocks at the front, increasing grip and control. I could easily reach down to the fork and lock it or open it whilst on-the-fly, which is helpful when you’re riding on different surfaces. I did get quite rowdy on numerous pot-holed gravel descents, and it handled very well, even with bikepacking bags attached.

So, there’s a bit of a downside. I found with the fork open there’s some fork bobbing, especially on climbs, which meant I lost some propulsion. However, the upside is the suspension fork smooths out bumps which helps you retain energy from the constant up and down movement of the frame.

I had a lot of fun in rough terrain and, as each section came and went, I couldn’t wait to get back onto the gravel, dirt, and bulldozer track. Stable handling and supreme predictability gave me confidence to bomb descents.

That means increased efficiency, reduced muscle fatigue and more power as it gets transferred properly, meaning more speed across all surfaces. I really found this out while rolling gravel surfaces, as my power on the pedals didn’t go to waste. Not only does the front end have suspension, but the Canyon S15 VCLS 2.0 CF seat post also absorbs vibrations and small impacts. Coupled with the fork, the overall comfort reigns supreme above most – if not all – gravel bikes I’ve tested.

The three-day bikepacking journey ended and the bike performed well. I was surprised with the overall comfort and predictability of this bike. The geometry makes it an ideal companion for long days in the saddle. The SLX frame responds well and is very agile. The complete bike is a little on the porky side when climbing, but this wasn’t an issue for me and I would take overall comfort over all-out light weight any day. And I’m no lightweight climbing whippet anyway?! I think for longer bikepacking excursions, you might find less lug points on the fork a bit annoying and the gear ratio not too friendly when loaded with luggage. But, for this type of ‘flashpacking’ it was great and is a very good all-rounder that can be used for a variety of rides.

The 200km Randonnée was next up, and the route offered a variety of terrain with a heap of elevation – 3600m in fact. The ardours ride accumulated over nine hours of saddle time, so I could really get to grips with the bike. It rolls efficiently on bitumen but really comes into its own along wide gravel roads, ploughing through anything in its path. The tyres offered a lot of traction when accelerating, and plenty of grip through corners. The forgiveness of the suspension made for a more comfortable long day in the saddle, and I had less arm and shoulder fatigue during and after the ride. I had a lot of fun in rough terrain and, as each section came and went, I couldn’t wait to get back onto the gravel, dirt, and bulldozer track. Stable handling and supreme predictability gave me confidence to bomb descents. I ended the Randonnée completely empty but didn’t have any issues, nor discomfort, with the bike – which says a lot.

My time aboard the Grizl CF SLX 8 eTap Trail made for great adventures. Having the right tool for the job really helped with the pure enjoyment of these rides. The German brand have delivered on a very well-considered all-round gravel bike. I like the addition of the RockShox Rudy Ultimate suspension fork, adding to the bike’s capabilities and overall comfort. The adequate geometry allows for multiple-hour rides and, coupled with good handling, a great groupset and very nice frame, it makes a great gravel rig. If detouring off into the woods, down gravel lanes or just exploring new routes, this is definitely a bike for consideration.