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This Old-School Mountain Bike Is Perfect for Cheap Thrills (No Frills)

Canyon's classically styled Grand Canyon 7 hardtail is frisky, fun and just $1,299.

blue grand canyon 7 hardtail bike leaning against a tree in the woods
Steve Mazzucchi

Wraparound shades. Mullets. Jorts. If you haven't noticed, all three of these '80s/'90s staples are very much back in fashion. And they aren't the only throwbacks rising, zombie-like, from the nostalgia graveyard.

After all, Germany's two-wheeled DTC sensation Canyon — makers of excellent road, gravel and mountain bikes and recent recipient of a $30 million investment from LeBron James — believes in at least one product whose heyday resided in this era. I speak, of course, of the hardtail mountain bike.

Hardtail is slang for a bike featuring only front suspension, and back in the day, such a set-up was your only realistic option. Yes, full-suspension bikes technically date back to well, 1885(!), but mountain bike innovators didn't start seriously experimenting with them till the '90s, and even then hardtails were the standard.

Fast-forward to 2022, and full-squish bikes are all over the trails, whereas hardtails are almost like stick-shift cars: increasingly rare. Yet, just as there's a certain satisfaction in properly operating a manual transmission, these old-school bikes have their own appeal. So when Canyon offered me the opportunity to test out its affordable, anachronistic Grand Canyon 7, I pulled a Doc Brown and said, "what the hell?"

So having not ridden a hardtail in probably 20 years, I saddled up. Here are my impressions after several weeks of testing.

What's Great About the Canyon Grand Canyon 7

The Grand Canyon 7 Is Surprisingly Cheap

Most people I know who are interested in mountain biking but haven't tried it yet are quick to mention that mountain bikes are, in a word, expensive. And certainly if you are in the market for loads of bells and whistles, or multiple shocks or even, say, a motor, you probably will be going deep into the four figures — especially if you are buying new.

That's why I blink every time I look at the price tag for the Grand Canyon 7. Yes, there's no rear suspension, but it does have a lively Rockshox Judy Silver front shock, a smooth SRAM SX Eagle 1 x 12 drivetrain, beefy Schwalbe Tough Tom 2.25-inch tires and a sweet Iridium dropper post. And yes, none of these are top-of-the-line components, but that's still a hell of a lot of value to pack into a bike that costs... wait for it... $1,299.

grand canyon 7 hardtail bike leaning against a tree stump
Steve Mazzucchi

The Grand Canyon 7 Is Relatively Light

Considering there isn't an ounce of carbon fiber present in this bike, you might not expect it to be featherweight. But the frame isn't steel, it's aluminum, which is fairly light in its own right. And as great as rear suspension is, there's no question it adds a few pounds.

Those two factors leave the Grand Canyon 7 tipping the scales at 30.8 pounds, on the lower end of the scale for an aluminum MTB. For comparison, Canyon's new, carbon-framed Neuron CF 9 weights 28.6 pounds, a 2.2-pound difference that you probably won't notice nearly as much as the fact that your wallet is $5,200 lighter than it would be if you bought the bike being reviewed here.

As I have mentioned in previous reviews, I often ride tester MTBs to Cunningham Park in Queens, New York, a distance of 16 miles from my place on the west side of Manhattan. That distance can be a slog on bikes not designed for road riding, but with the Grand Canyon 7, I was positively cruising.

It’s worth noting that most modern mountain bikes have little dials you can turn to adjust the level of suspension — and basically disable it for maximum efficiency on paved roads. The Grand Canyon 7 has a little lever/button combo on the left handlebar that lets you switch the front shocks simply “on” or “off.” It’s less flexible than higher-end MTBs, but the fact the switch is at your fingertips is, literally, kind of handy.

The Grand Canyon 7 Is Incredibly Fun

Of course, neither of those first two points would mean a damn thing if, in practice, the Grand Canyon 7 were clunky or awkward or boring. But it's none of these things. The user-friendly drive train (complete with an 11-50 cassette and 454 percent gear range) and relatively light weight combine to make for a pretty capable climber. When it comes to obstacles, I found the front fork and its 120 mm (nearly five inches) of travel was happy to bounce over rocks and surmount mid-sized logs.

Going downhill, while not exactly effortless, was totally doable. In addition to front shocks, the two MTB components I rely on most are a dropper post and reliable disc brakes. Having those three elements working together, I had the confidence to tackle the three biggest descents at the park — and have a blast doing it. (Granted, it's a little mountain bike park in Queens, but these aren't, like, bunny slopes.)

grand canyon 7 hardtail front tire
grand canyon 7 hardtail dropper post

Because the reality is, if you get back behind the seat, stay loose and gently push the bike over the features facing you, that front wheel and your own "human suspension" will absorb the majority of the impact. The suspension-less back wheel may bounce around under you, but you can stay upright and get to the bottom in one piece — just like the hardtailing mountain bikers of yore — most likely with a simultaneously relieved and blissful grin on your face. That was my experience, anyway.

What's Not So Great About the Canyon Grand Canyon 7

The Grand Canyon 7 Can't Do Everything

As I mentioned above, 30.8 pounds is pretty light, and 4.7 inches of front fork travel is pretty good for taking on run-of-the-mill trail features. But if you're looking to go bigger — in the form of epic climbs, gnarly descents and rock gardens — this entry-level trail bike is likely to leave you feeling, shall we say, under-biked. In other words, with less suspension and capability than you really need.

The Grand Canyon 7 Is Less Forgiving Than a Full-Squish Bike

The nice thing about full-suspension mountain bikes is that in many situations you are actually over-biked. You have more than you need, which means that if you misread a situation and hit a feature going too fast or too slow or at the wrong angle, the bike will cut you some slack. It might not be pretty, but you won't skid out or endo or otherwise bail. With the Grand Canyon 7, you might not be so lucky.

I know this from experience too. About an hour into my first trip to the park on this bike, I didn't realize that the backside of a roller didn't, well, exist. As I came over the top of it, I looked down to see my front end just drop, and the next thing I knew, I was flying over what was actually a little jump. It wasn't the worst crash in the world, and it was almost entirely my fault, which actually helps make the point: riding a hardtail, you've got to be a bit more locked in and skillful — and, you know, maybe actually inspect the trail features before blindly rumbling over them.

The Verdict on the Canyon Grand Canyon 7

I feel like I've pretty much said it all, but in closing, I'll jump back to my very first point. If the major factor preventing you from giving mountain biking a shot is thinking that you have to spend four or five grand to even get started, the Grand Canyon 7 is a 31-pound piece of proof that you don't. It's not the lightest, fastest or gnarliest mountain bike out there, but for the money, it's a great way to get your foot in the proverbial door — and once you do, there's no telling just how far you can go.

Canyon Grand Canyon 7

$999.00 (23% off)
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