What is it?
The same geometry and pedigree as the double handlebar Grail, the Grail AL is aimed at the gravel riders and racers that like the stiffness of alloy and the price point it offers. Decked out with a full Shimano 105 drivetrain and DT Swiss wheels – the Grail AL can dish out the performance and take the abuse.
- – Quick acceleration when out of the saddle and sprinting out of corners.
- – Agile handing in the single track and deep gravel.
- – Comfortable, all day style geometry is easy on the back and arms.
- – Top notch work-horse full Hydro-105 build works flawlessly in rough gravel.
- – Mate color hides small scratches and chips from flying gravel.
- – The DT-Swiss 1850 wheelset is heavy and noticeable on longer sustained climbs.
- – Finding a test ride can be difficult in some areas.
- – Does not come with signature double-bar like the Grail CF.
- – Alloy can be chattery over more extended sections of larger gravel and rougher terrain.
Canyon announced the Grail AL last year amidst the buzz of its double barred gravel warrior the Grail CF SL. Unfortunately, the Grail AL was unavailable for purchase until April 2019 – but fear not, we were able to give it a real gravel test ride at the famous Belgian Waffle Ride in Southern California – so get ready for some gravel impressions.
The Canyons Grail AL offers the same geometry and off-road prowess as the as its double bared brethren the Grail CF. The Grail AL comes in many different build options and sizes – the one that caught my eye the most was the 105 Grail 7.0 build. This build arrives with a full Shimano 105 Hydro group – DT-Swiss 1850 wheels and beefy Schwalbe G-One tubeless tires. The 7.0 is also available in a Sram 1X option (Grail 7.0 AL SL) with a 1:1 bailout gear for those that like the simplicity of a single chainring, as well as lightening the bike up a bit. For me, I enjoy a double, especially for a demanding ride like the Belgian Waffle and the 50/34 on the 105 Grail 7.0 is excellent for grind up the gravel.
The sizing of the Grail can be tricky – I originally went with the medium, but after a look at the geometry I decided on a small. The small has a top tube length of 555mm and the medium 577 – with the small, I can achieve a fit closer to my cyclocross bike and still keep a comfortable riding position. For those who are unsure, Canyon offers a Perfect Position System to assist with all kinds of fit questions. Canyon goes the extra mile in sizing, ranging from XXS all the way to 2XL. The XXS and XS sizes arrive with 27.5-inch DT Swiss C 1850 wheels in efforts to keep the geometry on par with the larger sized bikes – a neat touch that doesn’t change the spec or the performance of the bike.
The Grail has a longer wheelbase than other drop bar bikes in the Canyon catalog. Focusing on stability, fender accessibility, and tire clearance. Compared to most gravel bikes on the market, the wheelbase is on par with the heavy hitters like Salsa’s WarBird, and Bombtrack’s Hook EXT. The difference is in the chainstay length and where the rider is positioned on the bike. On the Grail, the rider is planted and stable over the bottom bracket, but the bike is lively and easy to whip around. This characteristic could be from the 80mm stem and short reach bars that the Grail arrives with, but I feel the ride is a combo of trustworthiness and fun.
For $1800 the Grail is a very attractive option for those looking to up their gravel game and start dipping their toes in serious racing. The Shimano 105 group performed flawlessly – the brakes are just as responsive as the Ultegra groupset I’m used to at home, and the shifting is spot on. The overall weight of the bike is around 20 pounds but climbs like a much lighter setup. The largest room for improvement on the Grail (if one was looking) is the wheelset. The stock DT-Swiss 1850 weighs in 1790 grams and with the money you save going with the Grail AL you could grab a race wheelset and shave a pound or so with tire money to spare.
After a long day on at The Belgian Waffle Ride on various terrain including but not limited to: Gravel, single track, sandpits, tarmac, and rock gardens I can confidently say the Grail handled them with poise and distinction. I never once wanted more bike or more snap in the pedals. And for a rider that’s tried the fancy stuff, that is high praise for this $1800 steed.
Sizes: XXS-2XL (Medium tested)
For more info check out: canyon.com