The consensus in road bikes has continued to drift towards all things carbon fibre. Many riders now dismiss any other material for the serious business of going fast on tarmac. But we think aluminium still has a lot to say for itself when it comes to performance bikes.
The Canyon Ultimate AL 9.0 will initially turn heads because of the exceptional spec it offers for the price. Wheels are Mavic’s excellent Ksyrium Equipes, there’s a full Shimano Ultegra Di2 electronic groupset and a smattering of finishing kit that wouldn’t be out of place on a bike costing twice the Canyon’s £1,989.
However, just looking at the trinkets adorning the Canyon is doing the Ultimate a massive disservice. The frame and full-carbon fork are as light as on any composite bike you’ll find at this price, with an all-in weight of just 7.5kg. But the Ultimate isn’t only about impressive numbers – the ride itself is quite simply excellent.
The stout head tube tapers to a 1.5in lower stack and is mated to a fork that amply resists side-to-side flex, though it does have enough fore and aft movement to cushion rougher road surfaces. The down-tube is as oversized as a classic Cannondale’s, and combines with the beefy chainstays for a very positive response when stamping on the pedals.
The remaining tubes are slimmer, the seat tube tapering from the oversize bottom bracket to the 27.2mm seatpost. The seatstays are super-slim, for a look similar to high-end Cervélo. A rigid aluminium bike like this could be uncomfortable, but the seatpost helps prevent this. The Canyon VCLS post combines carbon with basalt, offering plenty of comfort-increasing flex.
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Video: Canyon Ultimate Al 9.0 Di2
The result is an almost perfect blend of stiff, taut frame and plush, cushioned ride. The geometry means that this is a real performance bike too, its short wheelbase and quick steering making it eminently flickable. We’ve revelled in the Ultimate’s direct feel, but its combination of race-prepped handling and excellent comfort ensures it’s equally at home on epic rides or hooligan-style attacks.
The weight makes climbing a breeze, and that’s even with a standard 53/39-tooth chainset, though a compact is also an option. As for Di2, probably its biggest benefit is allowing you to shift safely while the drivetrain is under load. The ability to adjust the mechs while riding is a boon, too, and should make chain rub a thing of the past. We’ve ridden with it in sub-zero temperatures and the heaviest rain, and it’s performed faultlessly, and hasn’t needed a charge after days on the road.
Our conclusion is that Canyon’s Ultimate AL offers as good a ride as any sub-£2,000 bike we’ve tested, with a better spec than most too. Get over any anti-aluminium prejudices and you’ll find Canyon have created a brilliant bike that represents a serious biking bargain.
This bike was tested as part of Cycling Plus magazine’s 2012 Bike Of The Year feature – read the full results in issue 260, on sale Friday 2 March.