Spending £3,500 on a bike online is a daunting prospect, but direct sell bargains like this make it enormously tempting. German direct sales brand Canyon have ﬁnally got a dedicated UK service centre and their Ultimate CF SLX is truly outstanding in terms of top-performance value for money.
The Canyon is an impressively innovative chassis that delivers drive and precision handling with kit selected to amplify that to a dizzying degree in acceleration and altitude gain. It might not be the lightest or comﬁest chassis but for maximum performance ampliﬁcation per pound we’ve not ridden anything matching it.
Ride & handling: “Think it – done it” precision
While the low weight of the bike is enough to impress people at cafe stops, it’s the ride quality of the Canyon that makes it stand out. Clip into the pedals and there’s a resonant ‘thunk’ through the massive frame tubes radiating out from the bottom bracket. Squeeze a bit of power through the soles of your feet and the response brings a whole new meaning to tired clichés such as immediate and undiluted. The bike snaps forward the second your sinews take up the slack with a dramatic drive delivery.
The lightweight, super-taut Mavic R-Sys wheels grab gobfulls of speed from standing hill starts or rolling group sprints alike. Its constant urgency ﬁlters through as a potent ﬁzzing, ego-boosting energy that’s dying to be unleashed out of every corner or up every climb however far you ride. The same massive head tube and oversized stem that let you put all your shoulder power behind each pedal press mean unerring “think it – done it” handling precision. It’s not twitchy or nervous even at high speeds on rough descents, but it’s a bike you need to direct rather than dozing off on. Going for a longer stem will add stability for those looking to use aero bars or take corners more steadily.
The precision feedback from the Continental tyres and carbon-spoked wheels allows you to take proper liberties with traction. All this acceleration and laser-cutter accuracy comes at a price in comfort, and it’s not the most forgiving through hands and feet. The skinny seatstays and VCLS seatpost make it comfortable in the saddle on long days, and the faster you can skim it along the road, the smoother the chassis and wheels get anyway.
Frame: Well under a kilo
Canyon aren’t cutting corners in innovation or technology to hit a price point. The super-oversized, 1.25-1.5in tapered head tube backs on to a massive down tube. The patented asymmetrically offset Maximus seat tube stops mid-frame twist, while super-deep, slightly tapered chainstays take power straight to the rear wheel. Pencil seat stays then use a VCLS (Vertical Compliance, Lateral Stiffness) basalt and carbon-ﬁbre materials mix to reduce road vibration before it gets to the rider.
The same VCLS technology is also found in the custom Canyon seatpost with its fore and aft sliding seat clamp top and the curving fork blades. The I Lock headset also uses a miniature Torx key driven ramped collar to preload the oversized bearings rather than a heavy internal fork bung. The only obvious concessions in cost and weight are a standard bottom bracket ﬁt and alloy dropout tips at both ends, but the frame is still well under a kilo.
With eight different frame sizes and a custom-kit sizing they’re not compromising on ﬁt. Just be wary of relying on the online ﬁt engine as it recommends frames on the small side in length and the stems for each size are short too. You can swap your stem for a different length for free at any point during the ﬁrst month of ownership though.
Equipment: Minimum-weight componentry selection
Canyon are going straight for the minimum-weight jugular with their componentry selection. SRAM’s Red stop-and-go suite is the lightest groupset available and Canyon deliver a complete set-up, right down to the outrageously expensive £220 forged and machined steel block OG1090 cassette. The minimalist carbon-railed Selle Italia saddle weighs under 140g and Ritchey provide a gram-conscious alloy stem and carbon compact bar. Size and shape of the bars, crank length and compact or full size rings can all be changed when ordering too.
It’s the Mavic R-Sys wheels complete with machined rims and hollow carbon spokes that take the weight below that of some the Canyon's more expensive peers. Continental Grand Prix 4000S tyres are a high-performance benchmark too. The only downside is that there’s not much left to upgrade to get the bike signiﬁcantly lighter without paying a stupid amount for every gram more you save.
This article was originally published in Triathlon Plus magazine.