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The Canyon Commuter 5.0 looks like a true 21st century commuting bike. The spec is comprehensive and the core ride experience is perfectly decent. It's just a shame that a couple of things, not least the drivetrain based around a Shimano Nexus hub gear, slightly dampen the joy of riding it.
I was going to start this review with a riff about the disappointment one feels when you see somebody attractive, only for them to open their mouth and ruin the magic. Imagine James Bond with the voice of Alan Carr, if you will. In truth, the Canyon Commuter 5.0 is nowhere near those levels of incongruity – more of a James Bond with the voice of David Beckham. Or, essentially, David Beckham.
The reason for this disappointment is partly, I admit, down to high hopes. I really love the look of this bike, both in the flesh and on the spec sheet. It is a practical urban bike that seems to really mean business. Hop aboard the saddle, though, and something just takes the edge off the unadulterated, unbridled pedalling perfection I was anticipating.
There's nothing inherently wrong with the core of the Commuter 5.0 at all. Control at the front is lively enough to keep you interested, but never tiresome if you want to switch off and enjoy the cruise. For what seems like a fairly stiff thing, comfort is very, very decent. Of course, British road surfaces tend to make their presence known, but over decent roads it's faultless.
Where my ardour really cools, though, is with power delivery. There's nothing bendy or slack about the Commuter 5.0 – the rigid aluminium frame seems perfectly suited to effective pedalling, both in and out the saddle. But start climbing or trying to get above cruising speed and it seems the Canyon just doesn't want to play ball.
With conditions in your favour, it's not too bad. Encounter something that requires or inspires a bit more effort and pedalling is just not as well rewarded as I'd hoped.
So what's the problem? I think part of it has to be attributed to the Shimano Nexus 8-speed hub gear. I know all the arguments for hub gears. You can change gear while stationary. They require less maintenance. And in the case of this Nexus hub with its carbon Gates belt, there's no chain to derail and no oil to dirty your slacks.
Those are all valid points and as an idle dandy I'm sympathetic to them all. But hub gears are also heavy, and in the case of the Nexus they're not particularly dynamic bits of kit.
Now, before people start arguing the toss about how great hub gears are, I have done a bit of research into the subject. A 2014 study by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers looked into the efficiency of hub gears and found that a 7-speed Shimano Alfine hub gear (the Nexus's better quality bigger brother) ranged between 90.4% to 96.6% efficiency depending on ratio, compared with 97.7% to 99.4% efficiency for a 7-speed derailleur system. Having tested my fair share of Alfine and Nexus hubs in the past, I think we can safely assume the Nexus's efficiency results will be no higher than an Alfine's.
Another of the supposed benefits of hub gears is that they change ratio while under load better than derailleurs. The Nexus might be better than some derailleur systems, but it's definitely not super-smooth and, in crucial moments when you're suffering, it'll momentarily whirl, click and complain with the best of them.
Finally on this Nexus rant, because it comes with a Revoshift 'twist shift'-style shifter, swapping gears simply doesn't feel as satisfying as using thumbs and/or fingers to whizz through ratios. I don't care if I'm classed as a snob for saying this – twist shift-style controls always make me feel like I'm riding a Raleigh Grifter. Okay, that's something that'll come down to personal taste.
This disappointment with the drivetrain is all the more irritating because there's little fault to find in the frame. It's a very smart and subtle design with quite exciting (for a commuting bike) compact geometry, internal cable routing and – my personal preference – round aluminium tubes used throughout. The carbon fork follows the same trend and is also very classy.
Best of all, the Commuter 5.0 is light. It might not be an official Euro-style trekking bike but – with a hub dynamo, lights front and back, hydraulic disc brakes, places to park your panniers, full-length aluminium Tubus Wingee mudguards, and a Gates carbon belt-driven hub gear – it features many of the ingredients you'd want on a trekker. In fact, the only things it misses out on are a frame lock and a kickstand.
The fact that this bike weighs just a smidge more than 12kg – which includes 1.6kg for that Nexus hub – should put the lie to anyone who thinks it's perfectly fine for a trekking or trekking-style practical urban bike to come in north of 15kg.
One small concern, though, is sizing. I tested an 'L' model, which Canyon says is suitable for riders 183cm-190cm tall (6ft-6ft3). I'm just a fraction over 6ft, but it felt a little too short in reach for me and I needed plenty of seatpost exposed, so be aware.
A former editor of mine once said, if a bike feels a bit dead and you're not sure why, it's probably the wheels. In the case of the Commuter 5.0, he'd be right. While the 27.5in Alexrims are fairly standard bits of OEM kit, the front wheel features a Shimano hub dynamo, while the rear features that Nexus hub gear. So both wheels are no lightweights and also play a role in inhibiting any liveliness otherwise found in the Commuter 5.0.
The choice of tyre – 35mm Schwalbe G-One Allround – does improve things performance-wise, with a really excellent blend of decent grip but low rolling resistance. However, on my first ride I had an encounter with its Achilles Heel: puncture protection. Although the G-One Allround does boast Schwalbe's RaceGuard protection – designed for fast, lightweight performance – that might not be enough for urban, suburban or even rural streets. A bit of roadwash flint embedded itself into the rear tyre during testing and popped the inner tube.
I'd upgrade to tubeless tyres with a good helping of sealant, because you really don't want to be taking the rear wheel off of this without some planning. Because of the Nexus hub and the carbon Gates belt, you can forget about a quick flick of the quick release and off comes the rear wheel. With the Commuter 5.0 you'll need a 2mm Allen key, a 6mm Allen key, a 15mm spanner and ideally some needle-nosed pliers to unhook the gear cable retaining bolt. And that's before you even fix the tyre.
Punctures notwithstanding, the Gates belt is an excellent long-term addition to the Commuter 5.0, which should guarantee a far more resilient drivetrain than anything chain-based. I'm equally impressed with the Shimano M200 hydraulic disc brakes. These might only be at the entry-level end of Shimano's hydraulic disc range but they work fantastically, offering both respectable stopping power and excellent modulation, so you can get your braking forces just right.
The Commuter 5.0 is positively awash with other fine speccing details. The Iridium Fitness saddle is quite firm – in a good way – and a serious step up from the soft squidgy offerings a lot of manufacturers feel they need to fit to commuting bikes.
The super-wide flat stem is a fun and slightly leftfield choice. As is the fab – and typically quirky – Knog Oi bike bell, which wraps around the bar rather than sitting on it.
The front and rear Supernova E3 dynamo lights – built into the excellent, rigid full-length aluminium Wingee mudguards – are very effective despite looking relatively humble. And the side bars built into the Wingee 'guards, designed to carry panniers, are a masterstroke in integrated practical cycling.
Of bikes I've tested recently, the most similar in terms of practicality and price is the £1,360.35 Rose Black Creek Urban, but that was super-heavy and even less fun to pedal than the Canyon. The B'Twin Hoprider 900 is heavier still, but at £549 it's a good budget option with a surprisingly lively ride. With that in mind, and considering the overall quality of the Commuter 5.0, I'd say value is fairly decent.
While it may seem like I've given the Commuter 5.0 a bit of a kicking, it's in large part because its appearance and spec look to offer so much. But Canyon has other options. For example, for £300 more you could have the Commuter 6.0 with Shimano's far superior Alfine 11-speed geared hub. Or you could save yourself £300 and go with the single-chainring 11-speed Shimano SLX derailleur-geared Commuter 4.0. Personally, I think I'd take the cheaper 1x bike.
The Commuter 5.0 is a very decent bike with a lot going for it. In the saddle, though, it just comes across as being a little less than the sum of its parts.
A commuting bike that does so much so well, but it is compromised by a practical but less than exciting drivetrain
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Canyon Commuter 5.0
Size tested: Large
About the bike
List the components used to build up the bike.
Frame: Canyon Commuter Performance Aluminium
Fork: Canyon CF Disc Carbon
Shift lever: Shimano Nexus C6000 Revoshift 8-speed
Cassette: Gates CDX 24T
Crank: Gates CDN S150
Chainring size: 55T
Bottom bracket: Thun BSA Zumba Jis
Chain: Gates Carbon CDN Belt
Brakes: Shimano MT201 hydraulic discs
Wheels: Alexrims MD19 on Shimano Hub Dynamo (f) and Shimano Nexus 8-speed hub gear (rear)
Tyres: Schwalbe G-One Allround RaceGuard 35mm
Handlebar: Canyon aluminium
Stem: Canyon aluminium
Grips: Canyon Bracelets
Seatpost: Iridium aluminium
Saddle: Iridium Fitness
Mudguards: Tubus Wingee full-length aluminium
Front and rear dynamo lights: Supernova E3
Pedals: Canyon VP-536 flat
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?
The Commuter 5.0 is aimed at people who want an efficient and fairly fast commuting bike without forgoing practicalities.
Canyon says: "With its Shimano 8-speed internal-gear hub and Gates belt drive, the Commuter 5.0 will redefine how you ride through your city. From lights to fenders, every aspect of the bike works towards making your commuting experience simple and enjoyable, while hydraulic Shimano disc brakes and Schwalbe tyres guarantee total control no matter the conditions."
Where does this model sit in the range? Tell us briefly about the cheaper options and the more expensive options
The Commuter 5.0 sits roughly in the middle of the range. Immediately either side of it lie the Commuter 6.0 with Shimano's superior Alfine 11-speed geared hub for £300 more and, for £300 less, the 11-speed Shimano SLX derailleur-geared Commuter 4.0. There are further options, too.
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
I was very impressed by the overall build quality of the frame and fork. The internal cable routing is done very well and everything looks clean, tidy and well made.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
Aluminium for the frame, carbon for the fork.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
Very compact geometry for a commuting bike frame.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
It was a little bit smaller than I expected both in terms of reach and height. I tested an 'L' model, which Canyon says is suitable for riders 183-190cm tall (6ft-6ft 3in). I'm just a fraction over 6ft, but it felt a little too short in reach and I needed plenty of seatpost exposed.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Yes. Considering it looks like quite an aggressive thing, I was surprised by how effectively it insulated road bumps.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
It felt stiff enough.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
This was the major stumbling block. Despite no obvious signs of flex in the frame, power transfer was less than sparkling.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so was it a problem?
No overlap at all.
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively neutral or unresponsive? It was quite lively.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
For a commuting bike, the steering felt impressively reactive. It was never tiresome but felt direct.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
Saddle was a bit firm but I far prefer that to squishy saddles.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
Nothing I'd change for stiffness.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
The Nexus hub gear and front dynamo hub I think contributed to the bike's relative lack of efficiency.
At times it felt like hard work.
Didn't exactly sparkle with increased input.
Not a bike you'd choose to sprint on.
Perfectly good – I never had a problem with handling or control.
Very nicely balanced.
Not a speed demon, but solid enough.
OK; I was a little more hesitant than I expected while cornering on descents.
I could just about get a cadence going but it was rarely fun.
I'm not a huge fan of Nexus hubs; I don't think they're the best examples of geared hubs.
Should last and last, though!
At 1.6kg for the hub alone, it's not light.
I'd spend more and go for an Alfine hub if you want a hub gear.
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
As a whole, the drivetrain just seemed to take the dynamism out of the bike.
Wheels and tyres
A little disappointing. Considering they are 27.5in rims, you'd expect some sense of liveliness.
Should last well.
With a hub gear and a dynamo hub, these hoops are not light!
Didn't affect the excellent comfort.
Tell us some more about the wheels.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels? If so what for?
In conjunction with the drivetrain – because they're all part of the same system – the wheels contributed to the slightly dead performance.
Great mixture of grip and rolling resistance.
Puncture within five miles. No glass or nails involved. Of course, that could have just been bad luck.
Quick and light.
Pretty impressive on the comfort front, too.
Tell us some more about the tyres. Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the tyres? If so what for?
I really like Schwalbe G-Ones, but I'd prefer something a bit hardier for commuting.
Brakes were excellent. Revoshift shifter a bit basic for my liking.
Should last as you'd expect – all quality kit.
Saddle was a bit firm but not enough to complain.
Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
Shimano M200 hydraulic disc brakes are only entry-level but do the job really well.
Anything else you want to say about the componentry? Comment on any other components (good or bad)
As a package, the Commuter 5.0 is really quite complete.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Sometimes...
Would you consider buying the bike? With a change of drivetrain? Absolutely.
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 most similar bike in terms of practicality and price that we've tested is the £1,360.35 Rose Black Creek Urban, but that was super-heavy and even less fun to pedal than the Canyon. The B'Twin Hoprider 900 is heavier still, but at £549 it's a good budget option with a surprisingly lively ride. Considering the overall quality of the Commuter 5.0, I'd say value is fairly decent.
Use this box to explain your overall score
The Commuter 5.0 is quite a tricky bike to score because it does a lot of things very well. The only real problem is with power transfer, but that is a crucial aspect of a bike's performance. I don't want to score it less than 7 overall, because there's so much that's good about it, but with a more enthusiastic drivetrain, as on one of Canyon's other Commuter models, it could be amazing.
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, mountain biking, leisure