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The Canyon Commuter 5 is a fast and fun urban bike that provides all the performance that people who are ready to splash £1,000+ on a commuter are probably looking for. It's not the most forgiving ride, but – ironically – considering how responsive it is, that's actually quite easy to forgive. Perhaps most surprising, though, the Commuter 5 provides all its thrills while also coming with a hub gear.
When it comes to ride quality, the typical compromise is comfort at the expense of a bit of speed, or speed at the expense of a bit of comfort. Sometimes you stumble upon a two-wheeled holy grail that can seemingly do it all, but even if that's not the case, as long as the bike you're riding is hitting its desired brief, any weaknesses are easy to accommodate.
The Canyon Commuter is not a holy grail; its stiffness might be just a bit too much for precious posteriors. But in terms of hitting its brief – in this case, providing the kind of performance that will satisfy people who are willing to spend more than £1k on a flat-bar road bike – it is an astounding success.
Let's get that stiffness issue out of the way first. Yes, over very poor road surfaces you can feel just a little uncomfortable at times. Simply 'rough' roads are handled pretty well, but any overly-sunken manhole covers can knock you off your pedal stroke. The flipside, though, is that this is a superb bike when it comes to rewarding your effort.
We'll look at the fitted hub gear in more detail later, but it's fair to say that hub gears are not necessarily the first choice for intracity speed demons. However, even with the extra weight that the hub brings at the rear, the Commuter 5 is an absolute joy to get up to speed, with perfectly reactive acceleration and efficient high-speed cruising.
Steering, balance and overall bike control are awesome too. No matter what speed you reach, you always feel like you have the right bike underneath you to handle things. Cornering is exciting but always well under control. Quite simply, it's the most fun I've had on a bike with a hub gear.
The Commuter 5's frame is Canyon's UO22 Commuter aluminium offering. It's very nicely put together with a mixture of tube profiles used throughout, and particularly square-edged options at the top and down tube. The substantial down tube also features a little bit of goose-necking where it meets the head tube.
That front end looks super strong and goes some way to explaining the on-point control. The second ingredient in that excellent handling is Canyon's straight-legged FK0083 carbon fibre fork. Although it only has a quick-release dropout for the disc brake front wheel rather than bolt-thru, there's no shortage of front-end confidence, and the minimal fork rake means it's a fairly direct path from you to wheel to road surface.
In terms of sizing, I tested a medium model which required me to use all the available seatpin to accommodate my 6ft frame. Reach-wise, though, there wasn't anything I could do to overcome its shortness. To be fair, Canyon's website and suggested size guide does say as much. Despite this, I can still say the Commuter 5 would offer quite a nice halfway house between head-down speed and all-about-you vision, which is an ideal compromise for speedy commuting.
It's not all good news, though. I suspect some readers are going to go crackers about this: despite being called a Commuter model, there are no mounts for a traditional rear rack and even the mudguard mounts are hidden away a bit.
Canyon has a bit of a history using integrated mudguards-cum-racks on its Commuter models – all the other models in the current Commuter range feature such things – but I still think it's a bit of an omission not to spec traditional rack mounts on a bike branded 'Commuter'.
Anybody spending £1k+ on a high-speed commuter might hope to find a stripped-back package like this weighing in somewhere close to 10kg. The Commuter 5's overall weight of 11.6kg might seem a tad heavy against that, but I think when you factor in the added mass of the Nexus hub, it's actually very good.
Which brings us to the elephant in the room. Anybody who has read my reviews of hub-geared bikes before might be surprised to notice I am yet to moan about the 8-speed Shimano Nexus hub fitted here.
I'm not normally a huge fan because, 'IMO' as the kids says, hub gears dampen the overall performance of a bike with fair bit of extra weight at the back and – especially at this entry-level end of the hub gear market – are not quite as plush a gearing experience as their many fans would have you believe. At road.cc, as we typically only have a bike to test for a month, we have to focus on performance rather than long-term reliability – which I admit is an area where hub gears do excel.
However, all that said, the Commuter 5 is the most satisfying hub-geared bike I've ridden to date. Part of that is down to the Gates Carbon Belt drive, which offers faultless transmission of power. But I think the greater part of it is due to the fantastic frame and the overall exuberant ride experience. I'd be intrigued to test a derailleur-geared Commuter model to see if the frame becomes almost too exuberant without the extra weight of the hub at the rear.
Whatever the case, if you're looking for a fun hub-geared bike – something that at times feels like an oxymoron – look no further. The combination of 55-tooth chainring, or rather 'belt-ring', and 8-speed Nexus hub means you'll find a ratio for most jobs. The smallest gear is good enough for fairly testing climbs although, overall, I'd say the selection slightly favours higher-speed riding.
Thankfully, for all that on-road enthusiasm Canyon has also fitted suitable stoppers: the M200 Shimano hydraulic disc brakes are among the best value-for-money discs you'll find, with good power and superb feel. In fact, allied with the super-compliant frame and excellent tyres, when faced with a possible head-on country lane collision with a Chelsea tractor on a damp descent, the M200s brought me to a swift stop without even a hint of locking up.
There are a few other secret ingredients in the Commuter 5's recipe that I didn't notice at first. One of which is the decision to spec Alexrims GX26P rims. Alexrims kit on an off-the-shelf bike is not normally a reason for excitement, but these are 650B (27.5in) rims, rather than expected 700C (29in) hoops and, it seems to me, that smaller size plays some role in making the Commuter 5 feel alive.
As I mentioned, the tyres are fantastic, too. I'm a big fan of Schwalbe's G-One Allrounds – in fact, they're the only tyres I have bought with my own money over the last few years – and these 40mm versions offer excellent grip even on damp days, but are certainly not so sticky that you feel like you're pedalling in treacle.
It's a speccing choice that contributes nicely to the positive overall feeling – in this case, speedy but secure cornering. The tyres' only negative is a relative lack of puncture protection.
I can't be nice about everything and there are a couple of little niggles, but they can be overcome. The first is the all-in-one bar and stem. It looks uber cool and feels nice and solid in use. But if this bike is a little too long or short for you, it's going to take a bit of work – and extra cost – compared with a typical aheadset setup to swap in a longer stem and new bar.
That said, I do have to give credit to the Ergon ergonomic bar ends that feel great.
My second minor gripe is the Canyon Sport Saddle. When I first got the Commuter 5, the saddle was ever so slightly upwards pointing, which is always a cause of discomfort. However, even when levelled off, it was still a touch tough. I'm no southern softy who runs a mile at the idea of a svelte seat – quite the contrary, overflowing amounts of foam and gel fill me with horror – but this perch seems just a bit too minimalist even for my liking.
Despite my hesitancy in unconditionally recommending hub-geared bikes, looking back at my past reviews reveals that the last bike I tested with a Nexus hub gear was also something of a corker. The Vitus Dee VR City Bike is also fast and fun and only costs £429.99. But with just three available ratios at the hub – and a far less refined overall ride – it can't match the Commuter 5 in absolute terms, although in relative value-for-money terms, it's very close.
Nearer the same budget, the Marin Muirwoods at £985 featured a lot of the same ideas as the Commuter 5 but with a heavy and unenthusiastic frame that ruined the ride. Marin's current Muirwoods model is now derailleur geared, but its Presidio 2 looks like a heavily updated version of a similar theme, with a 7-speed Nexus hub, for £845.
Funnily enough, talking of heavily updated versions, looking back at my past bike reviews I found this little gem from late 2019: the previous Canyon Commuter 5.0. While the model names and market positioning might be essentially the same, go through the frame design and specs and you'll find significant differences (even the Alexrims rims are different, lest anyone put the different scores down to fickle reviewing!). In terms of performance, the overall ride is now in a different league to what I tested back then.
I've said it a couple of times in this review already, but it's worth saying again: the Commuter 5 is the most fun I've had on a hub-geared bike. If you want all the sensibleness of reduced maintenance and long-term reliability, but don't want to forgo a fair dose of fun in the saddle, this is the best option I've yet come across. Add in an all-round great spec – including excellent brakes – and this is a (light) commuting wonder weapon.
Excellent fast, fun and assured bike for light commuting and urban blasts, and it's got a hub gear
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Canyon Commuter 5
Size tested: M, 58cm
About the bike
List the components used to build up the bike.
Frame: Canyon U022 Commuter aluminium
Fork: Canyon FK0083 carbon-fibre disc
Shift Lever: Shimano Nexus 8-speed
Crank: Gates CDN S150 55T
Transmission: Gates CDN Belt
Brakes: Shimano MT200 hydraulic disc
Hubs: Shimano TX505 (front) Shimano Nexus 8-speed hub gear (rear)
Rims: Alexrims GX26P
Tyres: Schwalbe G-One Allround 40mm
Stem/Handlebar: Canyon CP16 Cockpit aluminium
Grips: Ergon GA30 Twist Shift
Saddle: Canyon Sport Saddle EP1249
Pedals: Iridium VP-536
Tell us what the bike is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?
This is a fast and agile commuting bike aimed at light commuting (i.e. not those laden with files, books, etc). Canyon says: "The minimalist design and clean silhouette of the Commuter 5 are sure to turn heads out on the street, but the durable components and easy handling are what will make this urban bike your first choice for getting around town day after day."
Where does this model sit in the range? Tell us briefly about the cheaper options and the more expensive options
This is the entry-level model in a 12-bike range (including women-specific versions). All the other models in Canyon's Commuter range appear to be better suited to more practical commuting duties, coming fitted with mudguards and rear racks.
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Very nicely put together.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
The frame is aluminium. The fork has carbon fibre legs.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
The frame is a straightforward compact shape offering a middling wheelbase length. The fork is relatively straight with not a whole lot of rake, making for quite direct steering feel.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
For me at 6ft, this medium size was too short in terms of reach, although I could achieve the saddle height (just).
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
It certainly wasn't cosseting, but it was comfortable enough when you take other aspects of performance into account.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
It felt stiff.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Yes, power transfer was very impressive.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so was it a problem?
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively neutral or unresponsive? I wouldn't say too lively – more direct and reactive.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
Very assured handling on road.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
The saddle was just a little too tough for my liking.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
I think the 650B wheels, albeit not particularly fancy, probably helped to keep things stiff.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
The 40mm Schwalbe G-Ones are great multi-condition tyres, but you could fit something slicker if you want even more speed.
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
The 8-speed Nexus hub gear worked really well here.
Wheels and tyres
Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
Because of the integrated bar/stem, swapping out to perfect your position is a bit trickier than it would be otherwise.
Anything else you want to say about the componentry? Comment on any other components (good or bad)
Shimano's M200 hydraulic discs are great brakes.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes
Would you consider buying the bike? Possibly
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes
How does the price compare to that of similar bikes in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
The Vitus Dee VR City Bike is also a fast and fun commuting bike with a 3-speed Nexus hub that only costs £429.99. It can't match the Commuter 5 in absolute terms, although in relative value-for-money terms, it's very close. Nearer the same budget, the Marin Muirwoods I tested in 2020 at £985 featured a lot of the same concepts as the Commuter 5 but with a heavy and unenthusiastic frame that ruined the ride. Marin's current Muirwoods model is now derailleur geared, but its Presidio 2 looks like a heavily updated version of a similar theme, with a 7-speed Nexus hub, for £845.
Use this box to explain your overall score
This is a really great fun bike to ride, with all the practical benefits of the hub gear but none of the typical performance constraints they can sometimes bring. Only a slight lack of comfort and no rear rack mounts stopped the Commuter 5 from scoring higher.
About the tester
I usually ride: Islabikes Beinn 29 My best bike is: 25-year-old Dawes Galaxy
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, sportives, general fitness riding, mtb, Leisure