by Mark Alker
May 24, 2013
In the UK you buy Canyon bikes via mail order. Whether you agree with the concept of direct sales bikes or not, they aren’t going to go away. There's only going to be more and more brands following this business model.
|Fork||Fox 32 Float CTD FIT Performance|
|Tyres||Schwalbe Nobby Nic 2,25in Evolution Line|
|Chainset||Shimano Deore XT FC-M780 42/32/24T|
|Front mech||Shimano Deore XT|
|Rear mech||Shimano XT RD-M786|
|Shifters||Shimano Deore XT|
|Brakes||Avid Elixir 5|
|Bars||Iridium SL 680mm|
|Saddle||Selle Italia X1|
|Weight||26.7lbs w/o pedals|
In the UK you buy Canyon bikes via mail order. Whether you agree with the concept of direct sales bikes or not, they aren’t going to go away. There’s only going to be more and more brands following this business model. Any bike test that purports to be an analysis of the market where people are going to buy their first proper mountain bike, has to include a direct sales bike. We’re not going to go into the pros and cons of the direct sales approach. It’s essentially ‘consumer bang for buck’ versus ‘the death of the high street’. Maybe we’ll do a whole feature about it sometime soon.
The Nerve AL 8.0 is a 120mm full suspension mountain bike. It’s made of aluminium. It uses a classic four-bar suspension design. It has 26in wheels. It has middle of the road geometry (69° head angle, 72° seat angle). In many ways it’s a hard bike to get excited about if you’re a bike journalist. There’s no ‘new’ or ‘controversial’ headlines about the Nerve AM 8.0. It’s just an exceedingly normal mountain bike. But normal mountain bikes are great things aren’t they? A 120mm full susser is like a Ford Mondeo. It may not have much in the way or quirks or flashiness but it’s a bike that does pretty much everything asked of it in a reassuringly reliable and predictable way.
The anodised grey and black finish to the bike doesn’t do much to allay the accusations of mundanity. It is, thankfully, also available in a much snazzier and inspiring white and blue offering. Regardless of the colour schemes there is a distinct lack of wackiness and flair to the Nerve AL 8.0 aesthetic. It is a very German-looking mountain bike. This is something we often find ourselves saying about German bikes, but it isn’t just lazy stereotyping. If you didn’t know anything about Canyon, you’d still be able to guess the nationality of its designers. There’s nothing actually wrong with this – if anything it’s indicative of a strong confidence in engineering design. Canyon doesn’t feel the need for unnecessary jazzing up. It justs get the important stuff right instead.
If you look closely at the Nerve AL 8.0 you’ll soon appreciate how well designed and constructed it is
If you look closely at the Nerve AL 8.0 you’ll soon appreciate how well designed and constructed it is. It’s all very clean and crisp. The internally routed cabling is subtly done (it also contributes to the bike’s impressive quietness on the trail in our experience, helped enormously by the XT clutch rear mech). The tyre clearance is ample for the sort of tyres that a 120mm bike is going to be shod with. The suspension pivots aren’t weedy nor are they particularly oversized. They’re as chunky as they need to be and no more.
Canyon’s big allure is its build kits. This bike is no exception. Take a look at the component list on the left hand side of this page. Then look at the bike price. Then understand why people buy mail order bikes.
A good value bike is not good value if it’s a complete dog to ride. No amount of unheard-of-at-this-price drivetrain can make up for a bike with poor geometry or woeful suspension performance. For the most part the Nerve AL 8.0 is fine. It rides along the JRA (Just Riding Along) trails perfectly well. The cockpit feels strangely old fashioned to riders who are accustomed to the ‘nu skool’ formula of longer top tubes, shorter stem and wider bars, but you adapt after a while and make do.
The suspension action at the back is far from the efficient-but-dull cliché oft aimed at similarly Teutonic mountain bikes. It has a pleasing level of interaction and playful pop to it. It’s neither a harsh and choppy hardtail-alike nor an overly linear soggy mess. It’s pretty much bang on for a trail bike that’s got its eye on covering the miles with a bit of fun thrown in.
It’s when you get to a bit of significant gradient that the Nerve’s strengths and weaknesses start to reveal themselves. In a nutshell, the Nerve absolutely flies uphill but is a bit wary on fast or super steep descents. Fundamentally this is due to the top tube and stem lengths. The former is on the short side; the latter is on the long side. There’s nothing unliveably wrong with this but any purchaser needs to be made aware of this bike’s bias towards the pedal-propelled rather than gravity-fuelled end of the momentum spectrum.