Inflite review: One bike to do it all?
My bike: Canyon Inflite
Basics – CX design bike with some gravel friendly features (tires, ride, geometry)
Weight: 7.9kg (17.4lbs)
Price: $3- $3.3K
The Good: extremely fast acceleration and climbing, light and agile. It is 10% faster than my previous 20lb aluminum CX bike in a sprint.
The Bad: It’s a race bike, not a bikepacking or touring bike. Not designed for fast sweeping downhill gravel runs. Stack is lower than the typical gravel bike. Bike fit can be awkward with mail order and the integrated stem/handlebar.
My surprises: Nice crank, responsive and compliant, sweet seat post. 23mm internal wheels make my tires balloon out nicely (compared to 19mm internal). Easy to carry – even has super low mounts for the 2 water bottle cages. It inspires me to throw the bike over my shoulder and run up stairs or over logs. I’m going places I avoided before.
Comparable bike: Specialized Crux. Opposite bike in category: Specialized Sequoia
Other bikes considered: Salsa Warbird, Open UP, Niner RLT RD0, but this high end build is comparable in price to a bare frame for those bikes.
My goals: A bike that can sustain 25-30 mph in a paceline and do 40+ mph, do a 100K gravel ride/race, play in some light single track (no jumps, rock gardens), play in some CX races.
The difference in CX vs Gravel. Gravel bikes tend to favor stability for long rides and touring. CX bikes are about agility and speed.
The Inflite as a crossover: New CX designs like this have a cush ride, and can comfortably run 40mm tires. This bike has mountain bike inspired long top tube and short stem.
Where this bike excels over a gravel bike.
1) Acceleration & hill climbing
Acceleration: This bike is 4-6 lbs lighter than the typical gravel bike. Compared to my last bike, I dropped 2lbs, but this bike is much more efficient. On a 30 and a 60 second hill climb, I beat my best time by 10%. Its friggen snowing here – I don’t have my summer legs. On long hills I’m more refreshed at the top, and on single track hills – well my mountain bike can’t dream of climbing this easy – it feels like I have a little electric motor pulling me up the hill
Agility: on a tight 60 second course I am again 10% faster, even on winter legs. I’m guessing that this bikes ability to corner hard (without losing momentum), and accelerate easily out of corners is giving the bike its edge.
Steering is super precise – great for CX or road, not so much for gravel.
All day rides.
Speed: Its too early in the season to do a direct comparison. Subjectively the speed at 200 watts on gravel is probably about the same on this bike vs a typical gravel bike. Taking more of an extreme – comparing this to a 30lb mountain bike – at the end of a long ride the weight is making a big difference, and I am able to ride and climb strong at the end of a long ride – where on the heavier bike my speed and endurance drop significantly at the end of a 100km ride.
I talk about fit below, but the hand positions were all shockingly comfortable. This may be because of that unusually long top tube/short stem and a well designed handlebar.
Front: My impression is that the ride in the front is a little harsher than I am used to, although the gravel around here in March looks like a meteor field or washboard – so part of it could be the shape of the roads. Part can be that I am used to canti brakes, and those forks can be made much plusher than disk. And, the Inflite has a very tight precise front end.
Rear: I like it. On a long gravel ride I had been using a thudbuster for gravel comfort. I have no need for that on this bike – it is compliant on gravel and responsive to my legs. Bonus points for the top tube kink. I had bought a CG-R seat post to smooth out the ride on a road bike with a similarly high top tube. It just didn’t work and seemed like a waste of $$$. But on this bike it works beautifully. The difference: the seat post kink gives me plenty of exposed seat tube with the CG-R. This changed everything, allowing the CG-R to flex when it needed to, while the elastomer was there for big hits. Not bad. Ironically the stock Inflite seat post looks normal but tests show it having better dampening than the CG-R. No need to get a better seat post.
What I don’t like:
In addition to the sizing difficulties (see fitting below)
The tires are weird. Who (other than a CX racer) would want 33mm knobbies? Too heavy and inefficient as a road tire, way way too narrow for Gravel. Riding on fresh gravel – they are way too skinny and unstable. On the road they are surprisingly smooth and fast. Still, there are some damp to muddy CX races I have done where these would cut through the muck, track well, grab well, and shed mud well. I took them off, but may use them for wet CX races in the fall.
Design. In black/dark-grey and its angular proportions it really looks industrial, functional, Bauhaus, and something only a German could love. It reminds me of some of the stuff Porsche and Audi have done. It’s different, it’s unique, and it needs some color. The yellow version would have been nice, but I’m not giving up two chainrings for yellow.
The fit: I’m rather between sides, which is a bit awkward with a fixed stem/handlebar. All the 5’10” reviews say the bike fits perfectly. Well, lucky you. At 5’9” I’m in a bike that is smaller than what I would have chosen. The bike is shorter and lower than my target. The Medium bike, but with the stem from the small (80mm) fits my stack and reach target. But, need a stem that is 10mm shorter than stock? That is going to cost you $400. Ugh. For my body, it is a good geometry combination. But, it’s just not worth the $400 for a stem length change.
Surprisingly I really like the smaller frame. It is surprisingly comfortable on the tops, fits great on the hoods, and is very comfortable in the drops. I have never ridden a bike where all hand positions are so comfortable. On a 100km ride my hands are all over the place, and I’m loving the ease and variety of usage.
Conclusion: Its fast, its agile, & it feels like a race bike. It’s ideal for a CX race where the ability to do short bursts of power, and hold its speed on a tight U-turn/switch-back can be crucial. On the road it lacks nothing. On gravel it is cush with 40c tires. I would not choose this bike for backpacking, long fast downhill rides, or super loose gravel. But I bought it because its agility and playfulness make me smile and want to get out and ride more.