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Nerve AL 7.9
An outstanding value, impeccably balanced cross-country bike that plays hard on the trail
If there is one company that defines the advantages of buying direct, it's Canyon. A quick look at the spec of this, the Koblenz firm's entry-level 29er, makes it clear why, but does the reality match the digital promises on your screen? Yes. Oh... spoilers! Sorry. As a bonus compensatory fact, Canyon were originally called Radsport Arnold. If the box your direct buy bike arrives in is indicative of the thought that's gone into its contents, then Canyon are onto a winner straightaway. The custom black boxes are solid enough to use for years of holidaying, and come with carefully designed cardboard origami that keeps everything superbly protected. Canyon even include a torque wrench and socket set to make sure you do up the few unfastened bolts exactly right. Our long term experience with Canyons has been excellent, despite deliberately inflicting the worst possible conditions on them, such as Scottish 24-hour solo races in winter. The specification is extremely well sorted. These Schwalbe tyres are premium triple-compound Evolution versions, and the clutch-equipped XT rear mech swings on a totally SLX (including chain and cassette) transmission. Quality. Building a decent trail bike involves more than a supermarket sweep component dash, but it's obvious immediately that Canyon have been diligent in getting the ride of the AL 29er as right as the spec. The way the steep 74-degree seat angle (topped with an inline seatclamp) pushes your weight forward feels weird at first, especially in combination with a low-set stem and the 70-degree head angle, but it creates a high-traction engagement with tight, twisty trails that slacker 29ers struggle on. The inherent stability of those wheels means it never feels overly nervous, even when speeds reach half-past sensible. The front end is stiff enough to strong-arm its way out of any rock fights you get into, and the screw-through axle rear tracks along accurately. The 110mm travel Nerve AL 7.9 29er can take a longer fork and a dropper post if you want to get lairier, although if that's the case you should probably go for Canyon's new 130mm travel Spectral 29 anyway. What it does brilliantly is cover ground with minimum effort and trauma. It's easy to be precise with these wheels, and they roll smoothly over normally momentum-killing stutter bumps. The neutral four-bar suspension means there's no distracting kickback or bounce between you and the trail either. Keep your head up and the power down and the Canyon charges through a remarkable array of rough and tricky terrain – whether it's pointing up, down or along – without even blinking.
The sub-13kg weight is very impressive for a big-wheeler at this price too, and the whole thing keeps the Nerve encouragingly responsive whether you're spinning upwards or launching yourself out of corners on a singletrack play session.