CANYON STRIVE 29 CFR ENDURO BIKE REVIEW – TWO BIKES AT YOUR FINGERTIPS

The shapeshifting enduro racer

ON THE RIDER Giro Insurgent Spherical Helmet ($350) Manzur Race Air jersey ($48) Leatt Pant MTB Enduro 3.0 V22 ($100) Zoic Gloves ($35) Ride Concepts Hellion Clip shoes

CANYON STRIVE 29 CFR ENDURO BIKE REVIEW

Canyon’s Strive has been considered a formidable enduro race bike since its introduction in 2015. At that time, the Strive was ahead of its time and offered a feature that allowed racers to dramatically shift the geometry of their bike with the flip of a switch on the handlebar. The new technology, dubbed Shapeshifter, provided a pedal-friendly “Click” position for climbs and transfer stages, then allowed riders to drop into the “Clack” descending mode with more travel and slacker geometry.

In its first and second iterations, the Strive has proven that geometry-adjustable bikes have their place, even on the most aggressive terrain; however, the first-generation Strives had durability issues with the first Shapeshifter components, and there was criticism that the geometry was less capable than that of other enduro race platforms. This newest iteration of the Strive seeks to address those shortcomings and give the Canyon Collective race team the bike they’ve been striving for between the EWS tape.

FRAME

The Strive’s carbon fiber frame is built and tested to Canyon’s “Category 4” durability, which they claim makes it ready for some seriously punishing days on the trail. There are updated frame protectors designed by Canyon’s EWS team mechanics to damp chain slap, protect from impacts and silence trail chatter.

To keep the internal cables from rattling, the Strive has lightweight liners and removable clamping ports to keep housing in place. Protective film is also installed in high-wear areas like the chain- and seatstays. Canyon uses cartridge bearings in the suspension throughout, a threaded bottom bracket for ease of maintenance and a universal derailleur hanger.

The Strive is Canyon’s enduro race bike and comes with the proprietary Shapeshifter system, which adjusts travel between 160- and 140mm via the Shapeshifter remote system. Shapeshifter works by changing the shock position via a remote-controlled gas spring that extends and contracts to change the kinematics of the system.

Canyon says they intentionally give the Strive a relatively long front-center for excellent stability in steep, fast, and rough enduro trails.

In addition to changing rear-wheel travel, switching between modes also changes the geometry by 1.5 degrees, taking the head angle from 64.5 degrees to 63 degrees and the seat angle from 78 degrees to 76.5 degrees. It also changes the ride height by 10mm. That may not sound like much on paper, but the two modes are meant to feel like two completely different bikes on the trail.

Additionally, Canyon designed the Strive with replaceable headset cups for an additional 10mm of reach and wheelbase adjustability. Speaking of reach, Canyon has adjusted the size chart considerably with the new Strive. Our “large” test bike felt much longer in both reach and wheelbase than previous generations because it is at 500mm.

COMPONENTS

Canyon only offers the Strive in the CFR or Canyon Factory Racing spec. This means there’s no performance left on the table, and the price tag suffers for it. That said, this Canyon comes with a seriously fun-to-shred build kit. The suspension duties are handled by Fox Factory components, while the group set is Shimano XTR top to bottom. No need for upgrades here.

The wheels are DT Swiss 350 hubs laced to 5.11E rims, which may not be as ultra-lightweight or stiff as a carbon set, but deliver plenty of performance, as well as a lively yet forgiving amount of stiffness. The house-brand G5 components are subtle rather than flashy but ultimately well designed. No-frills performance and aesthetically appealing designs in things like the stem, handlebars and dropper post make the Strive feel more polished.

SUSPENSION

The Strive’s 160mm-travel suspension platform is a relatively conventional Horst four-bar link system that uses a normal Fox Float X2 Factory shock. The Shapeshifter is a proprietary system that uses a gas spring in the rocker mount to adjust the pivot locations and alter the bike’s geometry and leverage ratio.

In the long-travel Shred mode, the Strive feels like a big-hitter enduro sled with ground-leveling travel and a super-slack geometry to utilize every bit of it. In the short, 140mm-travel Pedal mode, the suspension still feels active, although it is tuned to feel more supported and efficient than in the Shred mode. Up front you’ll find a simple, 170mm-travel Fox Float Factory 38 to complement the more complex rear suspension.

CLIMBING

A critique of the previous-generation Strive was that since the long-travel mode was still climbable, the short-travel mode was superfluous and gimmicky. With this bike, the Shred mode is overly plush and creates a somewhat rearward-biased rider weight distribution. Some test riders preferred to climb in the long-travel mode and skipped the complexity of using the Shapeshifter altogether; however, this also left the bottom bracket low and prone to pedal strikes on anything technical, negating any benefit of having added traction from the suspension.

When clicked into the Pedal mode, the rider weight shifts into a higher and fairly efficient feeling position with plenty of power over the pedals. There is no pedaling switch on the shock, although this bike wasn’t built for speed on fire road climbs. If you ride this bike like a trail bike, without the help of a chairlift or shuttle, know that you’ll spend a good deal of your time battling gravity in the short-travel mode until you get to the fun part.

The more advanced and agressive test riders got along best with the Strive.

DESCENDING

With descending chops that can truly handle beastly enduro trails, the new Strive sets itself apart from its predecessors. The bike is designed to handle speed and find the quickest lines, even if those are strewn with boulders. The low-slung geometry and active suspension stay planted to the ground over rough terrain and allow the tires to maintain grip and confidence.

While the suspension can be tuned to feel playful down the trail, this is a bike built for speed first. The suspension is exceptional at absorbing obstacles and keeping the tires on the ground gripping the dirt, so if you want to get airborne, that’s on you. Flow trails are more fun, generally, in the short-travel mode, where the suspension makes the bike feel more “poppy.”

The long wheelbase and ultra-slack angles in the Shred mode provide unflappable stability. On slow-speed turns and switchbacks, the long Strive can be a handful. The short-travel mode is useful on descents that don’t involve steeps and helps keep the pedals from striking if there are pedal-y sections.

With the Shred mode engaged, the Strive feels ready to plow over any obstacle to find the finish line first. It takes skill to ride the bike fast enough to take advantage of its true descending abilities. Some of our test riders loved this bike and the way it descended with such speed. Others felt like they couldn’t ride it fast enough to reap the benefits of its truly impressive descending capabilities.

 

The Strive feels right at home on steep and technical downhill courses like Mammoth Mountain’s Velociraptor.

 

WHAT DID WE LOVE?

The Strive is as capable and fast as any enduro bike we’ve tested on gnarly, steep terrain. The more skilled the riders, the more they loved it. Although the bike is not cheap, it comes well spec’d for the money.

WHAT DID WE HATE?

Even though Canyon assured us this gas-spring mechanism is simpler and more robust than previous designs, the Shapeshifter on our test bike lost oil and partial functionality during our test. It still changed modes, but the motion felt more spring-like and undamped. This required a new part from Canyon, and while this certainly would be covered under warranty, it was a hassle.

Nearly all our test crew who typically ride a size large felt this bike was too long and would size down to a medium, or even a small in some cases. Racers on the Canyon Collective EWS team, such as 6-foot-2 Jack Moir, sized down to a medium and even briefly tried a small at the opening EWS round. We think Canyon took the long-reach concept too far with this bike, but thankfully the solution is as simple as sizing down.

 

Even with its long front-center, the Strive feels surprisingly nimble in the corners.

 

BOTTOM LINE

The new version of the Strive proves that the German super-brand is in tune with what’s going on and what’s needed to go fast down enduro trails and race tracks these days. This bike sports a race-ready build with ultra-capable geometry and suspension that would be perfectly suited for enduro racers at any level. It would be happy on any ride with gnarly descents, and there’s a plan to find some help to the top of the hill.

The Shapeshifter system truly allows riders the feeling of two distinct bike setups with the flip of a switch. Switching from one mode to another is like instantly changing suspension travel and flipping a geometry chip. While this gives more versatility, the system still had hydraulic gremlins during our test period. Canyon claims they designed the new Strive with racing first in mind. Jack Moir’s EWS win at Crans-Montana, and multiple other podium finishes in 2022 certainly back up that claim. 

CANYON STRIVE 29 CFR

www.canyon.com

CATEGORY: Enduro

SUSPENSION: 160/170mm (6.3-7.1″)

WHEEL SIZE: 29″

Price:

$7299

Weight:

34.4 pounds (without pedals)

Sizes:

S, M, L (tested), XL

Frame tested:

Carbon, 160mm travel

Shock:

Fox Float X2 Factory

Fork:

Fox Float Factory 38 (170mm travel, 44mm offset)

Wheelset:

DT Swiss 350/EX511 aluminum (30mm inner width)

Tires:

Maxxis Assegai/DHRII WT 3C MaxxGrip/MaxxTerra (29×2.5/2.4″)

Seatpost:

Canyon G5 dropper (170mm travel)

Saddle:

Ergon SM10 Enduro Comp

Handlebar:

Canyon G5 Riser (20mm rise, 800mm)

Stem:

Canyon G5 (40mm)

Grips:

Canyon G5

Headset:

Canyon G5

Brakes:

Shimano XTR Trail 4-piston

Rotors:

Shimano XTR (6-bolt, 180/200mm)

Rear derailleur:

Shimano XTR

Shifters:

Shimano XTR

Crankset:

Race Face Next R

Bottom bracket:

Race Face BSA Cinch

Cassette:

Shimano XTR (12-speed, 10-51T)

Chain:

Shimano XTR

Chainrings:

Race Face (32-tooth)

Chainguide:

e*thirteen ultra-compact upper slider

 

GEOMETRY

Head tube angle:

63-64.5°

Reach:

500–510mm (19.7–19.8″)

Stack:

642mm ( 25.3″)

Effective seat tube angle:

76.5–78°

Bottom bracket height:

341-349mm (13.4-13.7″)

Chainstay length:

435mm (17.2″)

Wheelbase:

1,291mm (50.8″)

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