VIDEO: The Canyon Sender; From the POV of a Non-Downhiller...?!
April 5th, 2017
April 5th, 2017
Anna is a jack-of-all-bikes, and has been riding and racing in a myriad of genres for over seven years; from World Cup level cross-country, to grass roots coaching kids on the road.
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Ok, so this isn't your standard review, which hopefully makes it more interesting, especially to anyone out there who has never ridden a downhill bike, but has been thinking about it, or to anyone who thinks; 'downhill? Isn't that dead yet?!'. With trail and enduro bikes getting more and more capable, it's understandable that us normal, non-racing riders are getting our kicks from less burly bikes. Having ridden most of the UK's downhill tracks on my enduro bike, I was keen to see if there was place in my shed for something as specialist as the Canyon Sender.
The Techy Bit (Sort of..)
Being an avid enduro racer, I have a 650b bike in my shed with 170mm of front and rear suspension and a promise of being 'downhill oriented' at a not uncommon weight of 30lbs. So when I scanned over the stats on Canyon's website; 650b wheels and 200mm of travel in a 33lbs package, I was keen to find out how different a downhill bike really was. Pulling the Sender out of its box, it was clear it was a very different beast, and my 'downhill oriented' enduro bike looked like a cross-country whippet next to it. The Sender is long in the frame and in the wheelbase, the Fox Factory 40 forks add a promise of super stiff and plush landing in the burliest of terrain, but with the same air (not coil) feeling I am used to. The Sender has SRAM Guide RSC disc brakes with 200/180mm rotors, which is almost identical to what I have on my enduro bike. I'm also an avid Renthal fan too. So aside from the heavy duty wheels, and extra suspension travel, the spec is very similar to my usual ride. The biggest difference was the seven-speed gearing - something I don't expect to be using much on a descent, but nevertheless made me feel like, despite the recent upgrade in wheel sizes, perhaps downhill bikes are still stuck in an era long gone... how wrong I was. Less gears means a shorter derailleur to avoid all those high rocks, and you should only be using the bat-out-of-hell sprinting rings anyway. The lines on this bike are stunning. Something about it just looks right, and fast. It's a modern take on a modified four bar linkage system made possible by the complex-looking MX linkage nestled within the frame with the specifically tuned Fox X2 Factory. This design choice was primarily based on the desire to run air shocks on the bike, not just because it's the new 'trend' in downhill at the moment, but because this gives customers the opportunity to easily adjust the suspension system themselves at home. Together with the ability to alter the geometry yourself, the bike is ready for 'on the fly' adjustments for different tracks and trails at the flick of a few switches, and without the need to dip into a box of coils. Buying direct from Canyon makes this spec an absolute steal at £4,499 for the top spec model.
An Amateur's First Ride
Pulling the bike out of the car and setting it up a the downhill park highlighted obvious differences. The forks require an allen key to screw the bolt-through axel in, as well as to tighten four bolts through the fork legs itself. The handlebars only turn a small degree before hitting bumpers, a safety feature to prevent you smashing the frame on crashing, but a feature that made turning circles in the car park rather wide. I started to feel like I'd brought a bazooka to a knife fight. Looking at it leaning up against my car I was somewhat intimidated. It's a Small frame and yet the bike looks huge. It also looks fast standing still, which added some pressure as I headed out with competent downhillers. On the push-up the handlebars are noticeably wide, probably a bit too wide for me, but I embraced the hugeness of everything, and attempted to pedal up for as long as I could, which wasn't very long at all. These machines are very definitely not made for the ascents. Obviously.
A certain 'magnetic' property allowed it to stay glued to the ground, gathering speed like a boulder in an Indiana Jones movie
Ride number one had my heart racing before I even set-off, as I had no idea what to expect. My friend charged off down the track and I dutifully chased. So far, so good! The top of this run is pedally, even on a trail bike, but the Sender has an efficient linkage system that doesn't pander to harsh pedal strokes, meaning it transferred my actions into movement with minimal wastage, something I didn't really expect from such a big bike, but is clearly required for proper downhill racing. There was so much traction from the supple air shocks that all roots and bumps were smoothed out, leaving me to continue gathering momentum. In fact, the whole bike had a noticeable 'magnetic' property to its riding, which allowed it to stay glued to the ground, gathering speed like a boulder in an Indiana Jones movie. Next up; flat corners, something I totally expected to overshoot and botch up with such a long and heavy beast, and yet the Sender bounded in and out of them like they were barely there. I shot out of a few s-bends quicker than I came in and just kept going with a look of shock and excitement under my full-face helmet. Then; the rooty bit... errr... what rooty bit?! A few trails in, I decided to take the uplift and milk as much descending as I could out of the day. When the Sender was up to speed it no longer felt like a big heavy beast, it just felt right. I was barrelling into corners a lot faster than I was used to, so all my lines on my favourite tracks were changing. I was no-longer flicking around trees or popping off stumps, I was carving wide lines and ploughing everything in my path. Jumping was a little bit different at first, but landing was, well, quiet, for want of a better word. Suddenly large drop-offs weren't a big deal, and there was no disconcerting chatter over technical terrain thanks to various rubber bumpers, chain protectors and an internal 'Cable Cushion' that muffles the cable inside the frame. I had put off riding the Sender for a bit, thinking I didn't have the skills to justify it, but in fact, the Sender was teaching me new tricks, egging me on in the rough stuff, showing me new lines, and helping me corner like I'd never cornered before, often banking trees and taking lines that I'd never seen before, just because I could. It almost had it's own mind, and one that was far more experienced than mine.
Once settled on this bike, a few uplift days later, the bike came into its own. I stopped riding it like an enduro bike and started riding it like (what felt like) a downhiller. The Canyon Sender is unlike any bike I've ever ridden, and I've been told by well-versed downhillers that this is a Sender property, and not just because I was new to downhill bikes. It locks on to the ground with a burning desire to pick up speed, yet it corners with such conviction that speed is no longer the enemy to technically and twisty trails. It is a machine designed for speed and it takes as much of the workload off of you as possible, letting you concentrate on getting to the bottom in record time.
it's a wonder why you'd bother looking elsewhere for a new downhill bike
If you are a downhiller, you will know what a ruddy bargain this bike is. At £4,499 for the top spec model, carbon frame, DT Swiss wheels, Fox Kashima front and rear, and Renthal bars and stem, it's a wonder why you'd bother looking elsewhere for a new downhill bike. Thanks to the suspension being air instead of coil, buying direct is less of a worry as, once you have the right size, air shocks can be tuned by yourself at home and there's no need for carrying a box of coils with you to ensure the bike rides as it should according to your weight or chosen terrain that day. I'm sure air shocks won't be for everyone, but the progressive, top-end sensitivity really felt at home to me, and I loved how supple it felt over rugged singletrack. It also looks incredible in the flesh, with velvety raw carbon weave on show, and head-turning metallic colours, or stealth black-on-black for the shy. It is a seriously sexy bike that made no end of admirers on the push-up. I'm still not a downhiller, I am unlikely to ever race, but the value for money here is so exceptional that it almost makes me want to by one, just because. Yes, I'll need to start driving to bike parks, and yes I'll find myself pushing a bike more than riding it, but i'll also be pushing my perceived limits, and that's what it's all about. In the four weeks I've had this beast, I've learned a lot, and it has completely altered my riding and my line choices for the better. I never failed to have fun on this bike. Downhill ain't dead, even if you choose not to race.