Canyon Strive CFR review

Santa Cruz Hightower Gx Axs Rsv Carbon C 29

The Canyon Strive CFR is built for one thing – to take racers as fast as they can go.  Until the Strive was updated in April 2022, Canyon had to use its enduro machine to please the long-travel 29in-wheel crowd, even for those more interested in trail riding than racing. Now, Canyon has its new Spectral and Torque ranges, so the German brand has managed to go back to the Strive’s pedigree. With big wheels, ample travel, progressive geometry and on-the-fly adjustment, is the Strive the ultimate enduro machine?This is a bike that excels when being ridden hard, though more cautious riders may find it an uncompromising experience. Ultimately, the Strive CFR is an unapologetic race bike designed to stand on the top step of any enduro podium and that’s reflected in how it rides.

Canyon Strive CFR frame and suspension details

Canyon Strive Cfr 3 4 4F1Be09

Travel is increased to 160mm on the new Canyon Strive CFR. While aesthetically similar to the old Strive, the frame has been extensively overhauled.  Canyon has upped stiffness by a claimed 25 per cent, by changing the tubing profiles, carbon layup and pivot locations, while rear-wheel travel has increased to 160mm. Being an uncompromising race bike, the frame is available only in Canyon’s higher-spec CFR carbon fibre to help reach its stiffness-to-weight goals. One thing that stays the same is the 29in wheels, which Canyon claims are the fastest options for the varying trails found in enduro racing.

Canyon Strive Cfr Headset Cups 6Ae5962

Changeable headset cups enable you to adjust the reach plus and minus 5mm from the standard setting. Here, it’s in the -5mm setting. The new bike still uses Canyon’s Shapeshifter technology, which enables you to change its geometry and suspension kinematics while riding. It has two modes, ‘pedal’ and ‘shred’. For this model, Canyon has introduced changeable headset cups that give you 10mm of reach and front-centre adjustment.

There are also bosses for a water bottle (medium-size and bigger frames will fit a 750ml bidon) and a frame-mounted tool, plus plenty of chainstay protection and a down tube guard.  Other features include clearance for a 2.5in rear tyre, Boost hub spacing and a threaded bottom bracket.

What is Canyon’s Shapeshifter technology?

Shapeshifter is Canyon’s geometry and suspension adjustment system. A shifter on the handlebar actuates a Fox-built air piston at the upper shock mount, which alters the position of the damper to give two modes. In ‘shred’ mode, the geometry, suspension travel and kinematics are suited to aggressive enduro racing. Switching to ‘pedal’ mode alters the angles, travel and leverage ratio to improve the Strive’s pedalling efficiency.

Canyon Strive Cfr Boss Mounts 91B87Ea

A boss mount under the top tube enables you to attach spares and tools to the frame.

Canyon Strive CFR geometry details

I tested the size-medium frame. This has a reach of 480mm, which can be shortened or lengthened to 475mm or 485mm with the changeable headset cups. There’s a slack 63-degree head tube angle in the Strive’s ‘shred’ mode and a low 36mm bottom bracket drop. Canyon has made this bike long, low and slack. It has kept the rear stays short, though, at 435mm for every size.

Canyon Strive Cfr Shapeshifter 1812023

Canyon’s Shapeshifter changes the Strive’s geometry and suspension kinematics. In the ‘pedal’ mode, the effective seat tube angle is a steep 78 degrees and the bottom bracket is lifted by 15mm to help you pedal in technical terrain. The head tube angle steepens by 1.5 degrees. Standover heights and seat tube lengths have been lowered. The medium frame has a 420mm seat tube.

Canyon Strive CFR (pedal position)
Seat tube length (mm)400420435460
Top tube length (mm)601627654683
Head tube length (mm)105110120140
Chainstay length (mm)435435435435
Bottom bracket offset (mm)36363636
Wheelbase (mm)1,2431,2701,3001,334
Head angle (degrees)64.564.564.564.5
Seat tube angle (degrees)78787878
Stack (mm)627632641658
Reach (mm)455480505530
Canyon Strive CFR (shred position)
Seat tube length (mm)400420435460
Top tube length (mm)601627654683
Head tube length (mm)105110120140
Chainstay length (mm)435435435435
Bottom bracket offset (mm)36363636
Wheelbase (mm)1,2431,2701,3001,334
Head angle (degrees)63636363
Seat tube angle (degrees)76.576.576.576.5
Stack (mm)627632641658
Reach (mm)455480505530

Canyon Strive CFR specifications

Canyon Strive Cfr Drivetrain 9Ceda63

A mixture of Shimano Deore XT and XTR, plus Race Face Next R cranks, make up the drivetrain. The kit on the Strive CFR is a very high spec, as you’d expect. This is the top-of-the-line Strive (also available in limited-edition TLD trim with RockShox suspension for £200 more) and the spec reflects that.  It comes with Fox 38 Factory GRIP2 forks and Fox Float X2 Factory shock. Shimano’s top-level XTR range takes care of the gear shifting and brakes, and the cranks are Race Face’s carbon Next Rs.

Dependable DT Swiss EX 511 wheels are shod with one of my favourite rubber combos – a Maxxis Assegai front tyre and Minion DHR II rear tyre in 3C EXO+ form. The rest of the bike is from Canyon’s in-house brand G5, including the cockpit and dropper post. The complete bike comes in at a claimed 15.84kg.

Canyon Strive Cfr Fox Suspension 3Efc7B9

Fox Factory suspension keeps the build kit premium.

Canyon Strive CFR ride impressions

Canyon Strive Cfr Bpw Andy Lloyd1 5B45389

Back on UK soil with the Strive. Andy Lloyd / Our MediaI had a day and a half riding the new Strive around the famous trails of Finale Ligure when it was launched in April. In the UK, I took the Canyon to my favourite testing spots that include steep, natural tech, laps of Bike Park Wales, and root-infested runs. All to hunt out a wide variety of trails to put the Strive CFR through its paces. In Finale Ligure, there was a mix of fast, flowing trails with more technical rocky tracks and a few EWS stages thrown in for good measure.

I set the bike up with the recommended 30 per cent sag on the rear. I turned all the compression damping to open on the shock and ran the rebound at my preferred speed. I tested the size-medium bike and started with the cups in the middle reach position (480mm), but changed to the shorter 475mm setting.

Canyon Strive CFR climbing performance

Canyon Strive Cfr Bpw4 Andy Lloyd1 Ca48C02

The Strive is a competent climber. The Strive really does feel like two bikes in one.  ‘Pedal’ mode limits rear travel to 140mm, reduces shock sag and steepens the seat tube angle, putting you in a good position over the bottom bracket for comfortable pedalling. All these adjustments make the Strive a good climber. The steep seat tube angle put me in a good position over the bottom bracket for comfortable pedalling. I never felt there wasn’t enough traction on the rear tyre for steeper climbs. The bike doesn’t bob heavily or sink into its travel when you’re climbing seated, but there’s still some movement to help the rear tyre remain in contact with the ground over technical sections.  This is still an enduro bike, with its weight and chunky tyres, but it’s a proficient climber and feels more like a trail bike in this mode.

Canyon Strive CFR descending performance

Canyon Strive Cfr Riding 3 Aa80C78

The Strive CFR comes alive when you up the speed. Flicking the Shapeshifter to switch the Strive into ‘shred’ mode, the bike is ready to be ridden hard, and feels very taught. It handles slow technical sections well, but the frame stiffness and shock tune aren’t for gentle meandering rides. It’s like being in a high-performance car with low-profile tyres and stiff suspension. I spent the first few runs winding off the shock’s compression damping and speeding up the rebound to breathe some life into the bike, and when I got a good setting, it really shifted.

It performed admirably with plenty of grip in slick sections of trail. With its initial suppleness, the suspension also helps with traction. If I were being picky, it could be even more sensitive at the start of its travel. The rear suspension performs better when it needs to work hard, and it soaks up the fast middle and big hits well, especially at high speed.

Canyon Strive Cfr Riding 4 D362Bcf

Thanks to the low bottom bracket and short chainstays, the Strive can change direction quickly. The bottom bracket is very low, which I really like, but you must be careful where you place the bike. The bash guard on the chain guide was very welcome when picking my way through some of Finale’s famous awkward rocks. This low centre of gravity helps make it easy to lean from side to side, which is useful in successive turns and quick changes in direction.

The slack head tube angle and 29in front wheel never left me feeling that I would be pitched over the front on short, steep rocky drops and rolls. It’s once you get the Strive up to speed that you can really get the most from it.  Throwing the bike down some high-speed, rocky trails, it’s stable and direct. It will hold a line and doesn’t easily get bounced around. No matter how hard I pushed the Strive, it always felt as if it wanted more.

Canyon Strive Cfr Riding 2 B087828

The Strive CFR feels happiest when charging over rough terrain. The short chainstays and hunkered-down bottom bracket make direction changes easy through the turns. Still, you need to commit to the front wheel for the most accurate handling. Get your weight balance right, and the levels of grip at speed are impressive. I preferred the shorter 475mm reach on the medium bike I tested because I felt I could be more accurate with my front wheel.

Canyon Strive Cfr Bpw2 Andy Lloyd1 3C1Da35 E1676286555500

The Strive CFR can corner with the best of them, if you can adopt an aggressive riding position. Not all trails are full-on downhill descents though, and having the ‘pedal’ mode at the flick of a switch is excellent for undulating trails where you don’t need such an aggressive bike. I was a fan of the Shapeshifter on the old Strive, and now Canyon has improved the geometry it’s more useful out on the trail.

How does the Canyon Strive CFR compare to the 2022 Santa Cruz Megatower CC X01 AXS RSV?

Santa Cruz Megatower Cc X01 Axs Rsv F9C86E0

While the silhouette of the new Megatower looks remarkably similiar, Santa Cruz has refined the bike in many ways. Announced in the same week, the Canyon Strive CFR and the Santa Cruz Megatower CC X01 AXS RSV were the two biggest enduro launches of 2022. Canyon has been more streamlined in the quest for a race bike, and it shows on the trail. Long, low and direct, the Strive needs to be pushed hard to get the best from it, and it has tons to give, too, with a very high ceiling for top speed.

The 2022 Santa Cruz Megatower CC X01 AXS RSV is more playful and forgiving, but its slack head tube angle and low bottom bracket mean business when you open the throttle. As an all-round bike, the Megatower is easier to live with in terms of frame stiffness and comfort. However, it doesn’t have the versatility of the Strive and Shapeshifter for maximising performance on undulating trails. Both bikes rail corners and provide plenty of traction. The rear suspension on the Santa Cruz is plusher, but that doesn’t always mean faster.

Canyon Strive CFR bottom line

Canyon Strive Cfr Bpw3 Andy Lloyd 83B270D

If speed is your priority, look no further. Canyon clearly means business with the Strive CFR. If you’re after a bike that you want to ride at maximum speed every time, it’s a good choice. The Strive has a high ceiling for speed and, providing you’re happy to ride aggressively, it’s a bike that really comes alive when pushed hard. It’s capable, versatile and tons of fun, but it needs to be let off the leash to get the best from it. More sedate riders will find it too stiff and uncomfortable. Canyon aimed for a race bike with the Strive CFR, and it got one.


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