The bike was a mixed success. I chose an all-mountain bike, the Canyon Strive AL8.0. An all-mountain bike turned out to be good in that it could cope with anything. I did the down-hills with Switchbacks in the Sierra de Malaga, where others were using full-on down-hill bikes with 200+mm travel, and it coped well with that. I had difficult and dangerous gorge descents in the middle of no-where on my own, and it brought me safely through them. It could tow the trailer up 12% inclines off road, and more on tarmac, which is all I could ask of it.
But it was a bit heavier than a cross country bike and the big tyres created a lot of drag making flat and up hill more difficult. And I was doing up-hill 80% of the time (time wise rather than distance wise). In fact, one of the best changes I made was to change my tyres from the Maxxis Ardent/Minion set up the bike came with, to Maxxis Downhill Highrollers. They really do reduce your rolling resistance a lot – and grip very well down-hill. The only disadvantage is that the shape that reduces rolling resistance also gives you less grip up-hill, so I occasionally found my tyres spinning on gravel as I tried to tow the trailer up steep gravelly inclines. But overall they were the best balance.
Back to the wider issue of what bike to choose, I guess you need to make a call: do you want:
1) a bike that is over specified 80% of the time, but will deal with the 10% or 20% when you really need it, or:
2) a bike that has what you need 80% of the time but will let you down 20% of the time.
As being “let down” may involve a fall into a gorge, I’m kind of happy with option 1. So for me an all-mountain bike was the best balance. You could certainly have done my route on a Cross-country bike, you’d just have to go slower on the descents. You could even have done it on a hard-tail with a lot of care. But I am happy with the choice I made.
If you are towing a trailer, the other advantage of an all-mountain bike is the bigger brakes it comes with. On steep descents you need a lot more braking power with 25kg behind you, and the smaller XC brakes would have more difficulty stopping you, and would tend to heat up and warp more easily. So again, for heavy weights down-hill0, the all-mountain bike wins.
Now to the question of the brand of bike. I had a lot of difficulty test-riding a full range of brands, so I chose Canyon on the basis that they were the cheapest for any given level of specification. By that I mean the quality of the components. As I was on a long distance ride the quality of the components was pretty important, so for the money I had the Strive gave me the best quality in gears, brakes and suspension, compared to all the competition. This strategy largely paid off as I had very little trouble with most of the components.
But if you were following the blog you’ll know that was not the case with the hub. I had problems with the bearings and the freewheel round Valencia (100km), where I had to replace them. Canyon sent me a whole wheel as they could not source the components individually, and on inspection I found the new axle had a crack in it. So I had to put the old axle in the new hub. I have just serviced my bike after returning home, and found that old axle has sheared in half (though it kept on working!). So I think the hub is the disappointing part of the bike – and it was a Sunringle hub. I think Canyon should have gone for a Hope hub – I’d have been happy to pay the extra.