Canyon CF SLX 9.0 SL £3279

Responsive all-rounder

BikeRadar score 5/5

German direct sales bike company Canyon have had success supplying bikes to the pro peloton for the past two years, thanks to the Lotto (2011) and Katusha (2012) road teams. 

Riding the ultra-light, explosively rapid SLX 9.0 SL, it’s certainly obvious that the bike is a genuine advantage whatever level you’re at. That’s before you realise that the complete bike is cheaper than many other production versions of Tour de France framesets.

Ride & handling: Confident climbing and comfy on long rides 

Wherever we took this bike on a group ride it never suffered in comparison with the other bikes, often showing them a clean pair of heels in some situations. 

It was the standout, explosive climbing performance we really noticed and were continually impressed by. Even when we were tired after a long time in the saddle, hitting steep ascents was something to be relished. This was because we knew everyone else would be suffering a whole lot more than we were. They knew it as well, which made repeated snap attacks towards every summit an addictively aggressive default setting.

For all the talk of aerodynamic rims and wheels, the Canyon never felt noticeably less efficient when cruising or charging along the flat. This really backs up Mavic’s claims that turbulence caused by the fat spokes can decrease overall bike drag, and reinforces the all-round versatility of the SLX. 

The VCLS seatpost also does a sterling job of muting the harshness we could feel through our feet when hammering out of the saddle, while still keeping the perch a comfortable place to sit. This certainly isn’t a lazy, featherbed thing to ride, but it’s easily tolerable for long back-road days. 

While the handling can get a bit light and flighty at high speeds, or twitchy under heavy braking into corners, it was never enough to undermine our confidence on descents. 

Frame & equipment: Well built, with weight-saving a priority

The Canyon’s remarkably good value certainly hasn’t been achieved by skimping on the chassis. While the frame is unchanged for this year it’s still loaded with innovative components. 

The tapered One One Four head tube and fork uses the same oversized 1.5-1.25in dimensions as Giant’s OverDrive 2. The patented design of the asymmetrically offset, squared base tapering Maximus seat tube maximises rigidity and pedalling efficiency. 

The VCLS seat tube (included with the £1,399 frameset) uses elastic basalt fibres within the carbon lay-up to produce a springier, smoother riding seatpost. The massive chainstays and super-skinny seatstays are also bang on trend in performance terms. 

While features such as the conventional rather than press-fit bottom bracket and riveted 3D alloy front mech plate might seem cost-cutting measures, they add greater chainset compatibility and more accurate front shifting performance respectively. External cable routing is also lighter and easier to service than internal routing, and even the bottle bolts are titanium to bring the frame in at a respectably light 945g.

Low weight is definitely a theme running right through the kit choice on the complete bike. The Mavic R Sys wheelset has hollow carbon spokes and is one of the lightest clincher sets available. Plus, it’s ultra tight but still ride-smoothing thanks to the spokes. 

SRAM’s Red groupset is the lightest transmission available, and the solidly mounted front mech shifts noticeably better than most SRAM setups we’ve used. You even get the ultra-light, hollow OG1090 SRAM cassette included, which most manufacturers skimp on. Canyon also let you choose compact or standard rings and an 11-25 or 11-28T cassette.

Because these particular bikes are delivered direct to your door via a UK service centre rather then being available to try in your local shop, Canyon also offer a stem swap facility if the initial bike fit software doesn’t get your individual dimensions quite right – a useful touch, as we generally find their stems to be on the short side.

The minimalist Selle Italia saddle also proved a bit uncomfortable for some of our testers, but others found it fine and there’s no arguing that the 135g weight helps make the Canyon extremely light for the price.

SRAM’s Red transmission is the lightest gearset going

This article was originally published in Triathlon Plus magazine, available on Zinio.

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