Canyon’s stark aesthetic is reflective of the company’s engineering-centric nature (James Huang/Future Publishing)

Canyon Bicycles aren’t like most traditional bike companies. Instead of following the typical
multi-tiered distribution model, they go straight to the consumer,
selling a wide range of road and mountain bikes directly through their website.
We paid a last-minute visit to their headquarters in Koblenz, Germany, to
take a closer look at the company’s unique way of doing things – and the new
carbon fiber Grand Canyon CF 29er hardtail.

Canyon house a
warehouse, showroom, assembly area and all of their design, engineering,
marketing and sales offices inside a sprawling facility near the Mosel River. Nearly 300 employees work there, with the various
parts of the operation separated into distinct regions: offices upstairs and
most of the nuts-and-bolts down below. As is commonplace these days, frame manufacturer is done overseas.

direct-to-consumer model is admirably compact from a business standpoint. The company say it’s the reason for their impressively reasonable pricing.
However, it also means they have to handle any and all problems with
delivered bikes without the aid of a dealer network. Add the fact
that buyers are often hours away and it’s critical that bikes
arrive in proper working order.

One of the most
impressive aspects of Canyon’s QC process is the company’s new €350,000 CT
(computed tomography) machine
– an X-ray camera used to inspect parts and frames non-destructively, with image
resolution as fine as 0.2mm. Canyon claim to have the only CT scanner in the
bike industry. It’s proven so useful that it already runs two shifts
each day, with a third likely, making it a full-blown 24-hour

Virtual slices through a Canyon Aeroblade SL fork, as shown by the CT scanner

Canyon’s engineers use the new tool for research and development. A full
10-minute scan can quickly verify whether a finished frame is up to snuff. However, Canyon product
designer Vincenz Thoma admitted that his department only gets 10 percent of the
machine’s time – the rest is devoted to QC. Eventually, Canyon hope to use the
CT scanner to automatically inspect all “critical parts” prior to shipment.

As with many other
companies we’ve visited, Canyon also operate an extensive test lab
where nearly a dozen machines torture frames, forks and components. The cacophony doesn’t
exactly provide a suitable environment in which to get your zen on, but the information is obviously essential for research and development.
Canyon’s bikes might be lacking in visual flash but our experience at BikeRadar has repeatedly demonstrated how the
underlying engineering usually yields a highly favorable ride.

Complete bike
assembly sits at the opposite end of the production sequence, but the quality
control processes are still admirably stringent. Canyon don’t have a conveyor
belt running through their facility, but the train of custom rolling carts is
perhaps the next best thing. Each cart comprises one complete bike order, including the frame, fork and all associated parts. It keeps everything together but also serves as a mobile workstand.

Canyon’s portable assembly carts are used in place of a production line

Once a bike is built and tuned, even Canyon’s shipping containers help them
stay that way. Surprisingly sparse in terms of internal padding, the heavy-duty
cardboard boxes keep all the parts separated via a clever interior compartment system. Minimal
reassembly is required once the bikes reach their final destinations.

What about the
US market?

Europeans are no
strangers to Canyon, but for American
buyers the distinctive black-and-white bikes are still something of a novelty – the company don’t ship to the US and that’s not likely to
change in the near future. After lingering rumors of US online retailer
Competitive Cyclist joining forces with the brand, those plans are now on hold.

According to
Canyon’s head of international market development, Ward Grootjans, expanding to the US presents a huge risk. Not only is it far away in terms of distance
and time zones, there’s no Canyon subsidiary from which to base operations. That means a different distribution model would probably be needed. 

Canyon are still owned by original founder Roman Arnold. While the company have impressive reach, they don’t have an army of investors and venture
capitalists to help absorb the financial blow of potential missteps.

“Our strategy
is to be the most coveted brand in Europe,” said Grootjans. “The US
is definitely not off the agenda but we’ve said, okay, let’s first get our base
right and then make the move to the US.”

Also not to be
overlooked is the veritable 800lb gorilla in the room – America’s notoriously litigious consumerism.

“It seems
close but it’s actually very far away from how the European system works,
especially when it comes to liability,” Grootjans said. “This fear
has stopped us in our tracks at the moment. Carbon is never without risk. With
these machines we can always ensure quality but we cannot ensure the

As such, Grootjans
told BikeRadar that there’s
currently no projected timeline for bringing Canyon to the States. “It’s not off
the agenda, because it’s a major market. But when it comes to a specific time, I
would not at this moment put a year on it.”

For more details on BikeRadar’s behind-the-scenes Canyon factory tour, check out the video below.

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