Tiffany Cromwell’s all-new Canyon Grail: A gravel bike built for speed

Prior to its release, Canyon’s new Grail was put through its paces by Cromwell at the Gravel World Championships

Clock13:38, Thursday 12th October 2023
Tiffany Cromwell's Canyon Grail for the Gravel World Championships


Tiffany Cromwell's Canyon Grail for the Gravel World Championships

After months of rumours, Canyon officially launched the latest edition of the Grail on Thursday, although the release didn’t come as too much of a surprise.

The bike had broken cover multiple times throughout 2023 at some of the sport’s largest races and tasted plenty of success, including at the hands of Tiffany Cromwell who triumphed atop it at Unbound 100.

Fast forward to the Gravel World Championships at the beginning of October, just days before the Grail was officially unveiled, and Cromwell was riding the bike once again on route to an impressive top-10 finish in Veneto.

We got our hands on that World Championships bike and it’s a seriously impressive machine, with a more race-oriented design than ever before.

Canyon Grail: what’s new?

Remember the two-tiered hoverbar that made the previous Grail so famous? That’s been replaced by the more aerodynamic CP0039 cockpit, a decision that gives a clear indication of what the new bike is all about: winning bike races.

While Canyon hasn’t completely revamped the bike, beyond the handlebars, there are lots of smaller adaptations that give it a slight nudge further towards the racing end of the scale. That’s not to say that it has prioritised performance over everything else, far from it. It’s still a pure off-road machine, but it’s now designed to be faster at it.

This is displayed by the other headline feature, the ‘Aero Load System’. This is Canyon’s solution to carrying essentials on the bike, providing new in-frame storage on the head tube plus a frame bag called the ‘LOAD FidLock QuickLoader'. Canyon has essentially made the bike more practical, but in an aerodynamic way.

Considering the clear race-oriented nature of the bike, it’s no surprise then that Canyon-sponsored athletes have been putting the Grail through its paces at the biggest gravel events in the world this year.

Gearing for the climbs and flat

While certain riders bucked gravel trends by going 2x, including men’s winner Matej Mohorič, most stuck to a traditional 1x set-up. Cromwell was one of those riders, combining a mix of SRAM Red and Eagle components. The end result was a 48t chainring with, by our count, a 10-52t cassette.

Unlike last year, the second edition of the World Championships posed a much bigger challenge for riders with considerably more climbing and, living up to the name, gravel. A fairly large chainring combined with a wide-range cassette caters to all needs, providing something easy enough for vicious climbs, and more of a power gear for flatter sections.

As is usual for gravel riding Cromwell used a chain catcher. They’re a fairly common addition for 1x set-ups, theoretically preventing the chain from jumping off - it doesn’t always work out that way, though.

Tyre choice: all-in for speed

Along with the gearing, tyre choice poses the other big conundrum for gravel riders. It’s a race, so being fast is the name of the game, but the terrain complicates things. Selecting the right tyre is about balancing rolling resistance with grip.

Cromwell struck that balance through the Schwalbe G-One RS, a semi-slick tyre with a smooth centre tread and additional grip along the side. By gravel standards, this tyre is on the speed side of the scale.

However, some riders do push things even further by going completely slick, most notably Keegan Swenson who has gambled multiple times this season by using the Maxxis Velocita AR, including at the World Championships.

Those tyres were teamed up with a wheelset from SRAM’s in-house Zipp brand, namely the 353 NSW. Zipp’s wheels always catch the eye due to their undulating rim profiles and the 353 NSWs are no different, benefitting from an uneven 45mm rim profile that caters to both lightweight and aerodynamic needs.

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