Vital Test Sessions - Canyon Strive CFR Underdog 6

High on our list of bikes to try, we find out if the on-the-fly adjustment of Canyon’s Shapeshifter technology has anything to do with the Strive’s long track record of winning Enduro races or if it’s all hype.

The Strive is the second bike in our test with an EWS title to its name under 2021 EWS overall champion Jack Moir. The Strive has been in Canyons lineup since 2010 and has undergone several facelifts since then. Now in its 4th iteration, the Strive is larger than ever and was the biggest bike in our test in terms of wheelbase and reach numbers. 


  • 29-inch wheels
  • 160mm (6.3-inches) rear travel // 170mm (6.7-inches) fork travel
  • Carbon fiber frame
  • 64 degree head tube angle 
  • 78 degree seat tube angle
  • 525, 530, and 535mm adjustable reach (size XL) 
  • 435mm chainstay length across all sizes
  • Horst-link suspension with Shapeshifter for adjustable travel and geometry on the fly
  • Internal cable routing
  • Waterbottle and accessory mounts
  • 3D molded rubber downtube and chainstay protection
  • Clear frame protection on high-wear areas 
  • 12x148mm Boost rear hub spacing
  • SRAM UDH and T-Type compatibility 
  • 73mm BSA threaded bottom bracket with ISCG05 tabs
  • Price: $4,999 USD as tested (CFR Underdog)



  • Stability at speed
  • Shapeshifter very useful for pedaling efficiency or generating speed on smoother trails
  • Surprisingly nimble for its size
  • Durability concerns from the rear axle and main pivot bolt backing out during testing
  • XL sizing is more comparable to XXL; consider sizing down


The Strive is centered around 160mm of rear wheel travel that drops to 140mm with Shapeshifter and a 170mm fork up front. The CFR Underdog level Strive uses a Fox 38 Performance Elite fork, Fox Float X2 Performance Elite shock, and rolls on DT Swiss EX511 rims with 370 star ratchet hubs. Shifting is handled by a Shimano XT 12-speed drivetrain, with 4-piston XT brakes paired to 200mm rotors front and rear to help slow things down. The bar and stem are Canyon's in-house G5 components, as is the travel adjustable 200mm dropper post. All of this for $4,999, the Strive certainly wins the best bang for your buck category. 



Our size XL had very roomy 525, 530, or 535mm reach options, depending on the headset cup position. We opted to test in 525mm. The head tube angle sits at 63 degrees or 64.5 degrees with Shapeshifter, and the 76.5-degree seat tube angle steepens up to 78 degrees with Shapeshifter engaged for an upright peeling position. The whopping 1,325mm wheelbase has a short 435mm chainstay length that undoubtedly raised a few questions among our testers. The 140mm headtube length was a welcomed specification that offered plenty of stack height for our whole test crew with the stock 35mm rise bar.  

Long Travel Mode (160mm)
Short Travel Mode (140mm)

The reach number alone was concerning for someone who typically lands in the XL size range. The size XL Strive is more accurately placed in the realm of most XXL bikes. Even with the headset cup in the shortest position, the reach number still sat at 20mm longer, and the wheelbase was about 35mm longer than on my personal size XL bike. 


On the Trail

Pointed downhill, the Strive is surprisingly fun, given the dimensions. The bike hugs the ground as expected but can easily lift off almost anything. The short chainstays help with navigating awkward sections of trail, timing manuals, and changing direction on steeper terrain. Having such a short rear center with such a long reach would normally result in less front-wheel traction than desired. What balances the Strive out is the slack headtube angle, which helps stick the front wheel to the ground. We found front wheel traction to only be an issue across steep off-camber sections and required leaning forward with confidence to correct.


The rear suspension feeling is phenomenal, and it was one of the most straightforward bikes in the test to dial in. The exception is the bottom-out support. Bottom outs are rather harsh, but this could be solved by using volume spacers or by closing high-speed compression while on trail. While this happened a few times during testing, it's not necessarily a drawback for the application of the bike. Considering enduro races are long and demanding, slightly less ramp out of the rear is maybe beneficial when riding for more extended periods and also part of what made the bike track so well across chatter. We did experience the rear unsettling through larger square edge hits when leaning forward and think this would be less of an issue on a smaller size where weight distribution would be more balanced. 


The climb we used for testing consisted of a long section of fire road that funneled into singletrack and got progressively steeper. I spent the first half of the climb knowing that the Shapeshifter would come in handy as things became more difficult, but I wanted to get a feeling for how the bike pedaled without it engaged. From the couple minutes spent pedaling in the long travel setting, a fair amount of energy was going to waste from the amount of pedal bob alone. Hitting the "Click" button on the Shapeshifter lever propped the bike into a more upright pedaling position, reducing the rear wheel travel to a much firmer pedaling platform, magic. From there on, it pedaled about as well as any trail bike I've ridden and made easy work of the increasingly steep climb. Pushing the bar mounted back to "Clack" on the way back down returned the Strive to the small bump eating machine I'd grown accustomed to before the climb. 


What's The Bottom Line?

The Strive was the biggest bike in our Enduro Test Sessions comparison and was one of the top-finishing bikes among our testers. I chose this as the bike I would buy if it were on my budget, but I would prefer a size Large in hopes of a more maneuverable bike. The Strive is undoubtedly one of the best deals on the market at a mere $4,999 for a spec that would put most bikes at a $2-3k higher price point. Price point aside, the Strive has a proven track record on the Enduro world stage, and it is clear to see why after spending some time on it. 

We stayed right at the base of the mountain, courtesy of Visit Big Bear, and couldn't have asked for a more convenient way to spend the week testing bikes. With our condo less than a minute from the Snow Summit village, we could easily head back to our unit between laps to swap bikes and had plenty of space to work on our bikes. Off the bike, we were thankful to have enough room for our whole test crew, as well as a pool and hot tub within walking distance to relax after each day's testing. Big Bear has a wide variety of food options and a great downtown we explored when looking to mix up our dinner plans or just grab some ice cream afterward. If you'd like to explore Snow Summit or Big Bear, California for yourself, visit or for more information.​

Big thanks to those who sponsored this test and made our trip possible!

Head here to check out the entire 2023 Enduro Bike Test Sessions Feature

Learn more about the Intense Canyon Strive at

View key specs, compare bikes, and rate the Canyon Strive in the Vital MTB Product Guide.


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