The Canyon Experience – Riding bikes, touching priceless cars, meeting legends. It’s all here

by Sam Alker 0

This weekend sees the inaugural Canyon Experience event, taking place at Mercedes World in Brooklands motor circuit in Surrey. The combination of brand new bikes, legendary motor vehicles and equally legendary two-wheeled heroes like Fabien Barel was too much temptation, so we sent Dean Hersey, our intrepid southern correspondent down to see what the deal was.
Take it away, Dean-o!

If you’re quick, this is all still on display for the next few hours…

Mercedes Benz World in Surrey plays host to Canyon and its first ever Experience Weekend. With over 40 bikes from the range of road, urban, kids and of course mountain bikes on show all in one location.

Oh, this old thing? I park it here all the time…

Canyon has been offering the chance to meet with professional athletes from across all disciplines. On hand was the three times world downhill champion, Fabien Barel. This gave me the perfect chance to interview him about his take on the brand, racing and mountain biking as a whole.

Dean and Fabien obviously heard that it was plaid shirt day.

DH: Can you describe to us what your role is at Canyon?
FB: My main role for the brand is as an ambassador. But I interact with many levels of the company. I support everything that is on the racing side of things in gravity (Enduro and DH) at Canyon. I manage and direct the two teams as well as being heavily involved with project leaders in all the development of the new product. Particularly from the 140mm travel (so the Spectral…) all the way up to and including the Sender DH bike. To help to develop the products and make them as good as we possibly can.

DH: Of all the places you have been where is your favourite riding location?
FB: I am fortunate enough to have been able to ride everywhere in the world. Every country has something amazing to offer mountain bikers. I have had an amazing time riding in British Columbia which is amazing, but then i have ridden my bike on volcanoes in Guatemala offering a unique type of sand to ride on. Also I am lucky with where I live and I love my home trails too.

DH:Where is the strangest place you have raced?
FB: I raced in Les Gets, Crankworx three years ago. There was so much rain and the ruts were epic. I have never seen a track that damaged before in my whole career. This meant it was a tough race, that was strange to ride and required a unique type of riding skill. Also as I mention before the steep and sandy volcanic terrain of Guatemala was really special.

Fab talks tech with Dean

DH:Who is your money on for the overall in 2018 DH World Cup?
FB: Obviously there is Aaron (Gwin) who is super strong and Loic who just keeps progressing. Also i think Danny Hart is a good bet and he has a great chance this year. But I honestly do believe the work we do with Troy (Brosnan) is very solid. It has been our goal to to not bang straight in but instead to build with him, his results and his amazing talent. He has been showing consistency over the past few years and being on top of the podium is not far for us now. We have had a solid winter to build from and I feel he has his chance this season.

DH:What about the (notoriously difficult to predict) EWS champion?
FB: Thats a different challenge. Its longer with a lot stages over the course of the season with a lot of risk. Anything can happen. It’s tough to hold it together and make it happen for the overall. We have a very good solid team this year with two French guys that are not really well known. With Florian Nicolai already in the top ten backed up with a new guy Dimitri Tordo and with Joe Barnes continuing again inside the top ten last season we have a solid men’s team. Also Ines Thoma in the women’s title fight. We have a real chance at the team overall. In terms of leaders there are three top guns, Sam Hill, Martin Maes and Adrien Dailly. I feel that Florian has his chance this year especially with all the work we have done this winter.

If this cab driver shows up, DO NOT GET IN!

DH:Tough question, What is your favourite bike in the Canyon range? And why?
FB: Thats a tough one. But I am a DH racer and I love my Sender. With the unique character and platform we have given to the Torque developed from the Sender, I have to say I really like riding the Torque at the moment. With 180mm of travel meaning I can attack the downhills just like I would on the Sender, but then I can climb back up on it too. This is something that I enjoy and find really fun. It might come as a surprise to some but I really like riding the E-bike as well. It is a new way of riding and I am always learning what I can do in the climbs. Paired with the stability it provides in the downhill it’s again something new. For me the day of riding that we shared together on the Spectral:ON launch was prime. A good day.

The Sender – the bike that has helped make the new Exceed so fun to descend on.

DH:What would you say is the future for E-mtbs? Will racing play a part?
FB: Well I don’t know if people are at the moment ashamed or worried to ride them, the situation of not really knowing where it stands doesn’t help. The only thing I know right now is that I love riding my E-Bike. That is something that for me is clear. But it’s not all that easy, we should all worry about trail access and also the difference between E- bikes and E-motorcycles. With the market exploding we should be anticipating and acting to prevent things from escalating now. We need to consider all things from power output and the EU regulations to a certain awareness of what insurance cover there should be. With more riders on the trail the chance of a serious accident will be increased, we need to anticipate this and face reality. We also need to ensure that this explosion in e-bike sales does not damage the access rights for regular mountain bikers and other users.

On the racing side of things I think there will be, and should be, racing, but there needs to be solid regulations and technological control of the what the power limit should be to ensure there is fair racing. Let’s make sure we avoid what happened at the beginning of the EWS when the organisers were not ready, luckily they are now. There were too many things up in the air all due to the lack of experience. So let’s make sure we do some test events and that we learn before actually launching something official.

DH:Typically how many prototypes would you ride and test before Canyon settle on the final bike ready for production and the consumer?
FB: So it will depend on how good we are. So when a design and the process goes well it could be three prototypes maybe 80-90% of the time. In the seven years I have been involved at Canyon we have never seen more than five prototypes during the whole process.

Car geeks were equally well satisfied at the Canyon Experience

DH: My last question is a tough one, I have saved it until last for you. If you could share a ride with a single person (dead or alive) who would it be and why?
FB: Anyone? Even if that person doesn’t have the skills yet?

DH: Yeah anyone even if it is only a social ride where you can chat and maybe stop for a coffee or a croissant, you know?
FB: Okay….. One person I would love to share a ride with, it will probably happen one day, it has to be my 18 month kid! I honestly cannot wait. He is on a push bike already! I can’t wait to be able to ride out with him.

It’s not every day you get to hang out with a world champion…

And with Fabien in demand at the lecture theatre, it was time to search for more interesting people to talk to. Also in attendance at the Experience Weekend are some of the engineers responsible for the designs on show to give an insight into the bikes. Select engineers are hosting talks to the public and on hand to answer any questions.

Jack and Fabien go into another of their duets…

I managed tear myself away from the show to sneak some one-on-one time with MTB and gravity Product Engineer Lorenz Lay (one the guys from the design team responsible for the Spectral:ON E-Mtb) to ask some light hearted questions.

DH: How long have you worked at Canyon?
LL: So I have been with Canyon for three years now.

DH: Can you describe your job within Canyon for us? What does it entail?
LL: Well it starts with conceptual studies of new products. Then into mechanical design and also the manufacturing aspect plays a big part too. Anything really to do with a new bike, from scratch all the way through to production and out to the consumer.

It’s a brave new world now where XC race bikes come with dropper posts

DH: What was your last adventure?
LL: Not that long ago. It started just before Christmas. I had five weeks off to travel around Cambodia.

DH: Do you ride flat or clipped pedals?
LL: Clips! A few riding friends have recently moved to flats especially when riding a free ride bike. I’m thinking about giving it a go as flats seem to be more popular again, but for me I just feel more solid on clips.

DH: Do you prefer online digital or a printed magazine?
LL: I’m old fashioned. I like the touch and feel of printed. It was the same whilst I was studying I was always in the library. I found it easier with books in front of me. I’m a paper guy. I understand there is a market with the convenience of digital online magazines. {Thanks Lorenz! Chipps}

DH: What is your favourite bike in the Canyon range?
LL: For me it’s got to be the Spectral:ON. I ride it the most and I really like it. But before we had the E-bike it was the Strive. I like to switch between both now.

DH: And youre favourite riding location?
LL: I have spent a lot of time at Finale Ligure, I love it there. I also really like the downhill tracks of Schladming. Nice and steep with lots of roots.

Canyon’s new Grail – and the handlebar that broke the internet last week…

DH: Do you think E-Mtbs will take off in the U.S like they have in Europe?
LL: I hope so. but at the moment it doesn’t appear like it. Take locations like Washington State. I believe that the authorities have banned E-bikes from mountain bike trails, to protect the access rights of other trail users. They are definitely some way behind in their approach to E-bikes and the way we are thinking here in Europe.

DH: How about your favourite mountain bike product of all time?
LL: With the way it has changed mountain biking recently, it easily has got to be the dropper seat post.

DH: What do you predict will be the best selling mtb of the new Canyon range in 2018?
LL: I think in the mountain bike side of things it will be the Spectral.

DH: Can you think of a design requirement that our readers may not be aware of?
LL: There are many but Canyon took time to consider the consumer and we spent a while getting the packaging and the box perfect and easier for the customer of the Spectral:ON. This is an important aspect as it is the first interaction our customer has with our product.

How your bike fits into the shipping box is vital for a direct-sales company like Canyon.

DH :How can you see E-mtbs evolving in the future? Energy recovery for batteries?
LL: I’m not expecting a huge evolution in the next few years, when it comes to battery capacity. There are a couple of our competitors that are experimenting with dual battery systems and range extenders. I personally feel you need to consider the total weight of the bike. I do feel that sales will continue to grow and that the scene will take off. I think that an E-enduro series is just around the corner and that is something really appealing to me.

DH: What is the standout feature of the Spectral:ON (e-bike)?
LL: I feel that it has to be the agility and the bike’s descending capabilities.

And with that, it was time to fondle some more bikes and leer at some gorgeous cars at the Mercedes Benz Centre along with hundreds of Canyon fans who’d come along for this weekend.

Ignore that test track, this is cyclocross royalty right here!

The Canyon Experience Weekend gives the public the opportunity to get up close and personal with the full range of 2018 bikes on offer from the online ‘direct sales’ brand. There is a chance to ride out with some pros from the world of road racing as well as the best opportunity to test a selection of the 2018 range including the new Spectral:ON E-mtb. This gives the consumer a rare chance to see the bikes in the flesh and have a try before you part with your hard earned cash.

Canyon’s Experience Weekend is still going on. And we suspect that this won’t be a one-off.

For the impulsive, the show is still on today (Sunday) if you want to head over (Last minute entry forms are here…). It’s in a mega location. You can look at the new bikes on offer as well as see some historic drop bar race bikes from Canyon and talk to some of the bikes’ designers. Size up your next bike and even try a test ride. I enjoyed wandering around, grabbing a coffee and enjoying the collection of stunning cars from Mercedes too. What’s not to like?