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Gravel Gear

BWR Utah recon with Pete Stetina on an e-gravel bike

Canyon's new Grail:On is a gravel bike with four levels of motorized assistance. Here's a quick look.

The gravel race Belgian Waffle Ride Cedar City is Saturday in Utah, and it includes an e-bike wave in the shorter-distance ‘Wafer’ route. On Friday, I borrowed a Canyon Grail:On gravel e-bike to check out last part of the course as 2019 BWR champion and Groad Trip columnist Pete Stetina did his recon.

WorldTour fitness on a regular Grail versus an old journo on an e-bike is fair, right?

Of course we weren’t racing; I was just tagging along. But I thought I’d share my quick thoughts here on on the bike, the course, and Pete’s chances of taking the W tomorrow.

Check out the video above for a visual sampling of the bike, its motor power, and parts of the sandy Utah course.

Game on, on the Canyon Grail:On

The Canyon Grail:On CF 8 eTap. Photo: Ben Delaney

The Canyon Grail:On has a Bosch Performance Line CX motor, which has four settings: Eco, Tour, Sport, and Turbo. As you can guess from the titles, each step gives you progressively more boost, up to a total 340% of what you are putting in.

The Grail:On, like most e-bikes, is pedal-assist, which means you have to pedal the thing to get a boost. It’s not a scooter with a throttle. In Sport and Turbo modes, the battery gives you a bit more juice when you pedal at higher RPMs, whereas the assist is steady on the other two settings regardless of cadence.

Power-assist is adjusted with the controller near the left shifter. And yes, as you can see, the Grail’s distinctive handlebar carries over to the Grail:On. Photo: Ben Delaney

Top speed is 32kph / 20mph. It was a funny thing to ride with Pete, because at steeper gradients and slower speeds, I could just cruise comfortably on Sport mode while he was really working. That is a novel experience! But when he was doing a few sessions at 300w on a false flat and was going well over 20mph, I had no assistance from the bike, and suddenly I wasn’t laughing so much, but instead tucked in behind, head down.

‘How long does the battery last?’ is a common e-bike question, and the answer is, it depends. As in, at full Turbo blast up a very steep and long hill, it probably wouldn’t last an hour. But on Eco or Tour for most of the day on rolling terrain, you can certainly get a few hours.

The motor adds heft — the bike weighs 35 pounds — but it also allows you to ride away from Pete Stetina on steep climbs. So there’s that.  Photo: Ben Delaney

Switching modes is easy, as the switch is clamped within thumb’s reach of the left hood. That’s good ergonomics, especially for an e-bike you’ll be riding off the smooth pavement.

Fit-wise, the Grail:On is a little shorter and a little more upright than the regular Grail. It comes in seven sizes, with 650b wheels on the smallest three sizes.

Canyon’s VCLS 2.0 seatpost is a thing of beauty for gravel. I’m sold on this part for any gravel bike. Photo: Ben Delaney

There are four models. I rode the top-end $6,999 Grail:On CF 8 eTap. The part package is excellent, with Canyon’s plush VCLS 2.0 seatpost, 50mm Schwalbe G-One Bite tubeless tires, SRAM eTap Force, and e-specific (read: beefy) DT Swiss gravel wheels.

Is it heavy? Yes. It’s a 35lb bike. Of course when the motor is carrying not just its own weight but much of yours, the weight isn’t always a factor. But I did notice it for sure when trying to bunnyhop holes or cattleguards, or just load the thing into a vehicle.

BWR really is gravel this time

There may be cows.

The original Belgian Waffle Ride in San Diego, California, is a brutal road race with a lot of dirt sectors thrown in. When we were polling riders for our Monuments of Gravel selection, most would volunteer that while BWR wasn’t ‘as gravel’ as most gravel races, it deserved inclusion among the top gravel races in North America.

Belgian Waffle Ride Cedar City, however, is a straight-up gravel race. Again, check out the quick-edit video above for some visual samplings.

Pete’s take on the 2020 BWR Cedar City, plus live coverage

Approximately 600 riders are slated to start BWR Cedar City Saturday, including a fairly robust list of professional and retired professional athletes from a few disciplines. Pete has his eye on two sections being critical: a sharp, 4km climb that comes about 107 miles into the 125-mile race, and a 4.4mi stretch of singletrack that could prove fairly technical for some on a gravel bike.

Wind, hills, fatigue, and sandy backroads will likely reduce the front bunch quite a bit by the 10-percent ‘Muur van Kanarraberg’.

Pete is hoping to being in a very small group on the false flat up to the Kanarraberg. He’s also hoping not to have national cross-country champion Keegan Swenson for company when he gets to the ‘Tolweg’ singletrack sector. “If Keegan is with me there, I’m in trouble!” he said.

You can follow the front end of the women’s and the men’s races on BWR’s Instagram and Facebook accounts, courtesy Pure Gravel.