This Canyon is a bike for punchy riders, or puncheurs in cycling parlance: it just feels like a caged tiger waiting to escape. It’s a sensitive ride, requiring a bit of concentration to maintain a line – and on blustery days this makes the cockpit a busy place, with constant steering corrections required.
That said, it’s also ultra-responsive to rider inputs, with almost telepathic direction changes and uncompromising acceleration. With its stiff wheelset, it’s little surprise that pedalling force is so efficiently converted into speed.
Alongside burlier bikes, the 790g Canyon frame starts to look anorexic, but its matt finish camouflages a beefy square-edged down tube, with the now common flattened top tube and huge, boxy chainstays. The Ultimate’s rear end has also gone asymmetric, with the chainstays and rear wheel both off-centre to counteract the drivetrain’s inherent imbalance.
The Ultimate CF SLX 7.0 handles sensitively and maintaining a line requires care
Slim VCLS seatstays are there to smooth the ride, and are topped by Canyon’s vibration-reducing VCLS carbon post, though they have their work cut out. The penalty for the responsiveness and aggression that make the Ultimate a great offensive weapon for the racer is a very firm ride that even the 27.2mm seatpost struggles to contain. It’s never harsh, and over a few hours probably won’t bother you, but you might want to temper the feel with some more compliant wheels if you’re planning an epic day out. But with our race face on, we revelled in the bike’s willingness to let rip.
Climbing is definitely a strong point. With low overall mass and feathery wheels, the Canyon bounds gleefully uphill, all that responsiveness making it a climber’s delight, and it’s pretty surefooted when coming down again too. Handling is progressive and predictable, even when performing unexpected sudden turns, and we never troubled the extremities of the Ultimate’s performance envelope.
The milled Exalith braking surface of the Ksyrium SLR wheels did take a little adjusting to, with hard stops being greeted by a piercing screech, and otherwise sounding like wood being filed.
Elsewhere the finishing kit is all of excellent quality, the Ritchey Evo Curve bar is a great shape, and we appreciated the swept-back tops. The Acros ‘The Clamp’ external headset clamp is neat but fiddly, taking a tiny T6 Torx key to adjust. (The 4mm bolts on the Ritchey stem can be soft, so tighten with care.) Fizik’s Antares is a fine saddle, too, with inbuilt flex to take some more sting out of rough roads.
All in all, the Ultimate CF SLX 7.0 is a hardcore competitor that takes no prisoners – and likes nothing better than having its wheels ridden off – although such stiffness won’t suit every rider.