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There are two or three bikes I'm really keen on - spec and review-wise they tick all the boxes. Unfortunately there are no stockists nearby, or they're only available online, so I can't even see them, sling a leg over 'em and generally get nosy and check out the build, paint job, etc.

In this world of online shopping this is getting more and more common, but when you're looking at spending about £2-2,500 (a lot of money for me, maybe not for all) it's a bit of a leap of faith.

So, dear reader, give me your warts-and-all opinions of these if you have time. And any tips about making the right decision based on a manufacturers photo image, rather than seeing the bike in the flesh, would be most welcome.

Orbea Terra https://www.orbea.com/gb-en/bicycles/road/terra/cat/terra-m30-d

Canyon Grail (https://www.canyon.com/en-gb/road-bikes/gravel-bikes/grail/grail-cf-sl-7... )

Giant Revolt Advanced (https://www.giant-bicycles.com/gb/revolt-advanced-2-2020)

Thanks!

28 comments

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ktache [2467 posts] 1 month ago
1 like

I did it.

And a litle more cash too.

Unridden steel frame, rohloff, jones bar, 3 inch tubeless and disk brakes.

Wild shots in the dark.

A bit informed, and very hopeful.

Worked out though, little slower than I might have wanted, but I can give her longer legs and faster wheels and tyres if I want but she will just go anywhere, though the chosen tyres don't handle deep thick mud very well.

With the amount spent I suppose I would have just had to get used to it if I hadn't liked it too much.

I think that most can get on with most bikes, there was an e-assist I tried that I really didn't want to ride more than a few metres, but that was the disconnect between my input and the bikes output.

Most things are tweakable as well.

Plus I don't think that even a few days of test riding will tell you if you will love your bicycle, just not hate it.

And there are very few awful bikes out there,

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Mungecrundle [1708 posts] 1 month ago
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I once came into a fair bit of cash from share options in a small biotech company I worked for. I blew some of my ill gotten gains on a brand new Ducati 748 without even a test ride. About 200yds down the road after picking it up I was convinced that I had made a huge mistake, uncomfortable, heavy clutch, weird over the nose riding position but trade in would have cost £thousands so I was stuck with it. Hated it for about 1000 miles, then it started making sense, 18 years later it still lives in my garage but doesn't get ridden much.

It has lasted better than my shares in the Biotech company which tanked pretty soon after and eventually became worthless.

Sorry, not much of a story and no help to the OP except maybe to say that purchasing as an object of desire can turn into a serious long term relationship if you are prepared to compromise.

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srchar [1705 posts] 1 month ago
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I don't think it's much of a leap of faith now that online reviews and geo charts are easily accessible. I'd be amazed if more than a handful of Canyon buyers actually test ride the bikes before buying.

If you're really worried, buy from an online retailer with a test ride policy. Wiggle, for example will let you exchange a bike within the first 30 days, no questions asked.

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EddyBerckx [768 posts] 1 month ago
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Canyon do test rides around the country at various points in the year, check out their website to see if any are convenient to you.

But as long as you get the right size, I doubt you'll be disappointed (love mine!)

Before that I bought a Rose cx bike without seeing one in the flesh. Again, was a great purchase.

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vonhelmet [1652 posts] 1 month ago
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I have four bikes, all bought online unridden.  I checked the geometry charts and used some websites to compare them to a known good fit on an existing bike to make sure I could adjust things to fit well.

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LastBoyScout [680 posts] 1 month ago
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I bought a frame online based on matching up the geometry from a bike fit at a local bike shop I trusted. Still my Sunday best bike and I still love it.

Would have been very hard to return it, as I had to build it up to test it - helped that I had a reassuring second opinion from a very knowledgeable and trusted friend based on the data. He helped me put it together and reckoned it's one of the best bikes he's ever built.

If the worst happens, you can always sell it as a whole or strip it and swap the frame.

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dmack [56 posts] 1 month ago
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A lot of the online shops give a money back if you don't like it deal.  I can recommend Sigma Sports.  bought a bike from them didn't  like the fit when I got it, and they took it back with no quibbles.

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Dangerous Dan [24 posts] 1 month ago
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Having a bicycle that fits you is going to make all the difference.  I once rode a Specialized Roubaix, and I found it to force me into a much more upright position than I normally ride.  Also, I didn't like the feel of the brakes and shifters.  It might have been a great bike, but it didn't fit me.  So I didn't  buy the bike.

That said, every single bicycle I currently own was purchased without being ridden.  Actually, none of them could have been ridden because I built them up from frame sets.

But I know what my sizing range is, and I only buy a frame in that range.  And I have a strong preference in brakes and shifters.   And I have no problems swapping components to tailor the fit.

So, if you know what size frame and cockpit you want, buying from specs is just fine.  If you don't, ask around and find someone who can tailor a bike to you.

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nopants [41 posts] 1 month ago
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Hi Jon,

Like 1000's of others, I bought a Canyon without riding it. I was very cautious about this, as anyone should be when spending a lot of hard-earned cash.

I found a local bike shop who (for £45) were happy to put me on their bike fitting jig, and dial in all the dimensions. This was hugely reassuring, really helped with decisions and sizing, and I would not hesitiate to do it again.

Have fun on the new bike!

(Incidentally, if you're the man I think you are, I've been meaning to get in touch about quiver killers...)

Cheers

Nick

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peted76 [1664 posts] 1 month ago
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I've spent without testing too.

 

Of your picks they are all very nice.. I've ridden a grail and liked it a lot. The handlebar thing might be marmite to some. However the weight on the Canyon for that kind of bike looks good,. with decent wheels and it comes with excellent tyres out of the box too. Three plus points over the others, but minus a point for customer service, no first hand experience, but of the many people I know who have had canyons, they all seem to have had some sort of issue or delay in getting a resolution when they've had issues. Also I'd question whether they are still using that awkward headset?

The Giant, I've seen and touched and honestly they seem good, I'd happily own and ride one, but they aren't very exciting to look at, I think they look a bit odd with the compact frame and larger tyres.  However I 'trust' the brand of Giant more than most to put together an excellent bike at a good price.  Plus points for bike quality and warranty/service.

The Orbea I think 'looks' the best of the three, spec wise it's as good as the others.. however I'm put off by their wheel upgrade option, having to spend another £150 to get the same wheels as the Canyon.  Plus point for simple looks. 

 

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cougie [105 posts] 1 month ago
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Back in the day we'd buy custom steel frames and build up with whatever we wanted so yeah, no chance to test ride it.

 

It depends how fussy you are really - they're only bikes and easy enough to change the feel - bars, stem, saddle, post height, tyre choice, gearing - you can sort all of this later if you don't get on with it. 

 

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Xenophon2 [206 posts] 1 month ago
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I have the Grail.  Bought unseen.  I'm happy with it but if you purchase the CF version with the carbon 'double decker' cockpit you should be very aware of the fact that there is NO possibility for adjustment of that cockpit.  None.  You can fiddle with the saddle position but that's it.  It'll either fit or it won't.  I was lucky but in retrospect it was a very risky thing to do. 

Otoh a 10 minute test ride doesn't give you all the info either.

Their size calculator is good if you're an average build but be very, very cautious if by chance you'd fall exactly on the limit between two sizes.  They have an option to send the bike back for an exchange but that's a lot of aggra.  Canyon gets you a lot of bike for your hard earned.  The only caveats are almost systematic delivery delays and an ignorant customer service.

No experience with the other two bikes.

 

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chocim [16 posts] 1 month ago
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My wife bought a women's version of the Canyon Ultimate, did around 100 km on it but didn't really like it because 650b alloy wheels felt a bit sluggish, Canyon accepted the return without any problems (she clearly stated that it was after a test ride). A month later she bought an Endurace with 700c carbon wheels and is very happy with it. So it's not like you have to return the bike fresh out of the box with Canyon, they have an outlet in which they offer slightly used bikes.

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Xenophon2 [206 posts] 1 month ago
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@chocim:  Canyon clearly state -at least for Belgium- that they'll only accept cost-free returns for unused bikes.  Indeed, you can ship it back later but it will cost you a variable amount, depending on the degree of use.  I don't know if they dropped that in your wife's case because she purchased another model.  And you can't exactly slip a 90x180X20 cm package in the letterbox so that means waiting for a courier and taking the day off.  I'm happy with my Canyon Grail, great bike.  But I found Canyon's customer service essentially clueless, though their maintenance center (located 30 km from where I am) are good.

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chocim [16 posts] 1 month ago
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Xenophon2 wrote:

@chocim:  Canyon clearly state -at least for Belgium- that they'll only accept cost-free returns for unused bikes.  Indeed, you can ship it back later but it will cost you a variable amount, depending on the degree of use.  I don't know if they dropped that in your wife's case because she purchased another model.  And you can't exactly slip a 90x180X20 cm package in the letterbox so that means waiting for a courier and taking the day off.  I'm happy with my Canyon Grail, great bike.  But I found Canyon's customer service essentially clueless, though their maintenance center (located 30 km from where I am) are good.

Canyon collected the bike free of charge and the second bike was only purchased later, so we didn't pay a cent and Canyon returned 100% of the price. This was in Poland, policies may vary. Courier, yes, of course, the same goes for ordering a bike online even if you don't return it. Customer service clueless - I'll grant you that, they managed to mislay the refund so it was two weeks late…

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The _Kaner [1235 posts] 1 month ago
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Marin Rift Zone - Bike shop 1997
Ribble - Online 2010
Kona Jake - Online 2011
Giant Defy - Online 2016
Canyon Aeroad - Online 2016
1/5 bikes ridden and tested before purchase. Never made a bad choice online. Measure, check the charts, measure again. Review. Make decision. Ride and (tweak) enjoy...

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DaveS [8 posts] 1 month ago
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Have bought 4 bikes from Planet X all trouble free, delighted actually, and have never spoken to a Canyon buyer who was disappointed. Actually, can't say the same for some bike shops . . . .

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vonhelmet [1652 posts] 1 month ago
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DaveS wrote:

Have bought 4 bikes from Planet X all trouble free, delighted actually, and have never spoken to a Canyon buyer who was disappointed. Actually, can't say the same for some bike shops . . . .

The only problem I had buying a bike from planet x was that they had no black stems in so they built my bike with a ludicrous polished silver one. They sent a replacement when I complained, though, so it was ok in the end.

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spooks1982 [1 post] 1 month ago
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I spent 6k on my Specialized Tarmac without ever seeing it or ever riding a tarmac. I also own a Specialized Roubaix and many Specialized bikes in the past. I was confident that it would ride really well so just went for it. I'm about 1000 miles into the bike now and have no regrets. Its now safely tucked up for winter however.....

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Compact Corned Beef [25 posts] 1 month ago
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I pulled the trigger on a new bike recently, but only after a very good look at the geometry of the new vs. my current bike. Factored in a slightly longer stem and slimmer bars (aero gainz). I was a bit iffy on crank length but a quick rootle around the interwebz suggested that going from 175 to 172.5 wouldn’t necessarily make a huge difference. Anyway, I really like the look of the Giant, and if my cycle-to-work scheme provider did them I might have been swayed.

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longassballs [159 posts] 1 month ago
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Like already said 50% is you; whether you know what size/geometry of bike you're comfortable with. The other half is trusting the company. At least with Giant and Orbea I assume you will have a dealer somewhere near you.

I have a Grail. I love the bike, and after 2000km have grown indifferent to the bars, and sometimes when riding I even forget about them! The bar concept doesn't work. It's completely the opposite of what you want. Normal bars are more compliant the further away from the stem you get, the Grail bars are stiff in the drops and hoods - exactly where your hands will be on the brakes when it gets rough. On the tops it is comfy but it's generally an unnatural position to place your hands. It's also irritating to find lights that fit and where to place a bell. If it had normal bars it would be the perfect bike. The Schwalbe tyres compensate for the stiff bars. They are fantastic in all conditions apart from mud. I've had them down to 20psi - caution going up or down steps that low though. I generally ride 25-30psi depending on terrain and it is so comfy.

The ride was disconcerting for the first month or so as I had been used to the agility of a cx bike. I compare the Grail to a cruise ship - unstoppable in a straight line but a bit of a tank to turn. However I appreciate it now as a steady & reliable ride over longer distances that would be uncomfy on a cx bike. This is probably true of most gravel bikes though. I'm glad I went with a double chainset, however the grx lower gearing will definitely be an improvement because the compact 50/34 chainset is not the same as on a road bike because of the larger circumference tyres.

I did have quite a few problems with faulty Grail bars too detailed here https://road.cc/content/forum/246940-canyon-grail-2019 and https://road.cc/content/forum/262951-opinion-damage

Make your own mind up about Canyon after reading those threads. They will sort most problems out but it will take a long time. After all my problems would I buy from Canyon again? Probably. Would I buy the Grail now knowing what I know? Probably not. I'd want normal bars, and a more utilitarian frame with bosses for racks and maybe a third bottle cage.

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flobble [156 posts] 1 month ago
1 like
The _Kaner wrote:

Measure, check the charts, measure again. Review. Make decision. Ride and (tweak) enjoy...

This.

Have only ridden 1 of last 9 bikes before purchase.

I still have 8 of them, and even though I've subsequently tweaked the fit on most, it worked out quite well I'd say.

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Xenophon2 [206 posts] 1 month ago
1 like
longassballs wrote:

Like already said 50% is you; whether you know what size/geometry of bike you're comfortable with. The other half is trusting the company. At least with Giant and Orbea I assume you will have a dealer somewhere near you. I have a Grail. I love the bike, and after 2000km have grown indifferent to the bars, and sometimes when riding I even forget about them! The bar concept doesn't work. It's completely the opposite of what you want. Normal bars are more compliant the further away from the stem you get, the Grail bars are stiff in the drops and hoods - exactly where your hands will be on the brakes when it gets rough. On the tops it is comfy but it's generally an unnatural position to place your hands. It's also irritating to find lights that fit and where to place a bell. If it had normal bars it would be the perfect bike. The Schwalbe tyres compensate for the stiff bars. They are fantastic in all conditions apart from mud. I've had them down to 20psi - caution going up or down steps that low though. I generally ride 25-30psi depending on terrain and it is so comfy. The ride was disconcerting for the first month or so as I had been used to the agility of a cx bike. I compare the Grail to a cruise ship - unstoppable in a straight line but a bit of a tank to turn. However I appreciate it now as a steady & reliable ride over longer distances that would be uncomfy on a cx bike. This is probably true of most gravel bikes though. I'm glad I went with a double chainset, however the grx lower gearing will definitely be an improvement because the compact 50/34 chainset is not the same as on a road bike because of the larger circumference tyres. I did have quite a few problems with faulty Grail bars too detailed here https://road.cc/content/forum/246940-canyon-grail-2019 and https://road.cc/content/forum/262951-opinion-damage Make your own mind up about Canyon after reading those threads. They will sort most problems out but it will take a long time. After all my problems would I buy from Canyon again? Probably. Would I buy the Grail now knowing what I know? Probably not. I'd want normal bars, and a more utilitarian frame with bosses for racks and maybe a third bottle cage.

 

Have to say, I'm not convinced by the benefits of the bars either.  As you say, they work on the tops but practically speaking you can hardly ever use them (I guess that cruising down a long, straight path it would work but there are few such paths where I am).  Together with the difficulties in finding stuff that mounts well  and the limitations in terms of adjustment you need to accept a lot of drawbacks for very little gains.  If I could change one thing, I'd like it to be a bit more aggressive and nimble, more like a Scott addict 10 (grail prixe x 2...).  But overall I'm happy, put broad tires under it at low pressure and you're golden for long days in the saddle.  I'll probably ride it another year, maybe 2, then flog it and get something more aggressive.

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matthewn5 [1444 posts] 1 month ago
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flobble wrote:
The _Kaner wrote:

Measure, check the charts, measure again. Review. Make decision. Ride and (tweak) enjoy...

This.

Have only ridden 1 of last 9 bikes before purchase.

I still have 8 of them, and even though I've subsequently tweaked the fit on most, it worked out quite well I'd say.

This, again.

Make up a table showing the geometry for your bike, and compare it with the bike you want. Can you get the same position by fiddling around with stem length and spacers under the stem? If yes, you can be reasonably certain the bike will fit. I've bought my last 5 bikes online, often just as framesets, and haven't had a problem yet.

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Zermattjohn [352 posts] 1 month ago
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Thanks everyone for your advice. It's not just about the sizing though, it's also the build/quality/etc.

I've seen plenty of bikes that look great on Evans (for eg) website but up close the paint job, the oddly cobbled-together cable routing (a zip tie on a £3k bike..?), the real weight of your particular size, the way it rides, etc means I don't want to part with my hard-earned. It's this type of thing I'm more concerned about - I know I can get the right size, but I'm still left with a fear that when I pull it from the box I think it's not up to scratch, or on the first ride I think "Oh oh!".

So, is it just a leap of faith? Other than finding someone I know who has the same bike so I can at least look at the thing it seems I'm just relying on the images that the manufacturer has no doubt paid a lot of money to make look absolutely amazing.

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ktache [2467 posts] 1 month ago
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Hey, zip ties are great, mines a bit more than 3k, but rufty tufty, full run double Nokon to Rohloff and braided hydrolics, many zip ties, very cheap and replaceble.

But I know what you mean.

Good luck, difficult choices.

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Xenophon2 [206 posts] 1 month ago
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Zermattjohn wrote:

Thanks everyone for your advice. It's not just about the sizing though, it's also the build/quality/etc.

I've seen plenty of bikes that look great on Evans (for eg) website but up close the paint job, the oddly cobbled-together cable routing (a zip tie on a £3k bike..?), the real weight of your particular size, the way it rides, etc means I don't want to part with my hard-earned. It's this type of thing I'm more concerned about - I know I can get the right size, but I'm still left with a fear that when I pull it from the box I think it's not up to scratch, or on the first ride I think "Oh oh!".

So, is it just a leap of faith? Other than finding someone I know who has the same bike so I can at least look at the thing it seems I'm just relying on the images that the manufacturer has no doubt paid a lot of money to make look absolutely amazing.

 

At least for the Grail, quality wise I can put your mind at rest:  everything's good, I've had no problems whatsoever over 11 months of hard use (700 km/month average).  Except of course for consumables:  chain has been exchanged once, come january I'll change it again and put a new cassette on.  Oh, and the protective stickers need replacing, where they descend they sometimes 'rub' a bit against the handlebars.  There's a sticker placed on the spot in question but I needed to replace it, else it'll start chafing the carbon.  Weight was spot on, no cheating by Canyon in that respect (nor with their other models from what I've heard).

Finish etc is uniformly good but nothing special.  Don't expect vibrant, sparkling paint.  It's a German brand, function over esthetics etc.

Reading what you wrote, maybe it'd be best for you to walk in a shop and purchase a bike that you see displayed there.  You can never be 100% certain that what you get will be identical to the display model or the pics in every tiny aspect. 

 

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guidodg [4 posts] 1 month ago
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I bought a Giant Defy Advanced Pro Force 2020 without ever having seen or ridden one....bought online....couldn't be happier