Tour de France tech: Katusha's Canyon Ultimate CF SLX
By James Huang in Liège, Belgium | Monday, July 2, 2012 10.40am
Canyon previewed their overhauled Ultimate CF SLX flagship prior to the start of stage 1 of this year's Tour de France. Claimed improvements include more stiffness, less weight and increased comfort, plus revised geometry that closely mimics that of the latest Ultimate AL range James Huang/Future Publishing
Katusha team sponsor Canyon Bikes have stuck with the traditional weight and stiffness performance metrics for their next-generation Ultimate CF SLX. They've reportedly shed nearly 200g from the current version while boosting its efficiency and, possibly, ride quality.
While Canyon designed their Aeroad CF aero road bike to have as small a frontal area as possible, that clearly wasn't a concern for the Ultimate CF SLX – the tube cross-sections are larger than ever. Special headset bearings with smaller-than-usual outer diameters, from German supplier Acros, enable a narrower head tube profile than the underlying 1 1/4 to 1 1/2in diameter steerer would typically allow. But otherwise it's a seriously puffed-up machine.
Much of the down tube's extra girth is afforded by the new bottom bracket shell, which is now 86mm wide and designed for press-fit cups from Shimano, FSA, SRAM and others. Canyon make good use of the extra real estate, with wide, asymmetrical chain stays out back. The seat stays take a broader stance where they join the seat tube.
Seat stay attachments have been pushed out to boost stiffness
Almost all the aluminum bits on the old bike have been replaced with carbon ones, including the rear dropouts, fork tips and bottom bracket sleeve. Canyon say higher-modulus carbon fibers are used throughout as well, adding up to a weight loss of 160-180g and a claimed bare frame weight of 800g for a 58cm bike. The matching fork is now just over 300g, according to Canyon.
We found the older Ultimate CF SLX to be surprisingly comfortable out back, but the stout front end couldn't quite match up. The new version looks to improve on that with a slightly softer-riding fork plus an asymmetrical 'Maximus' seat tube that's more relieved on the back than before, allowing for more flex. Up top will be an optional VCLS Flat seatpost, with a novel parallelogram-type structure for taking the edge off even further.
Canyon's VCLS Flat seatpost promises increased comfort over the basic VCLS
Additional features include dropout thicknesses shared with the Aeroad (making life easier for the mechanics), and compatibility with Shimano's upcoming internal Di2 battery option. There's also a clever two-piece, four-bolt, box-section rear derailleur hanger whose sandwich-type layout protects the dropout from wear and provides a "very, very stiff" foundation for accurate shifting.
Cable routing will be fully internal, although Canyon will stick with separate frames for mechanical and electronic drivetrains. "It looks better for an expensive frame and, actually, we have no requests from customers – only from an employee from Mavic," said Canyon road bike product manager Sebastian Jadczak.
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A front derailleur secondary set screw braces against the seat tube for stability
Canyon will include the new frame in their mid-October website update, but the first deliveries won't be until the end of December 2012 or early January 2013. Unsurprisingly, the greater performance will carry with it a higher price, although Jadczak insists it reflects an increase in raw material costs, not a bigger profit margin.
"The frame is much lighter and the price for us is more expensive," he told BikeRadar in the team pit area. "We are using a much higher modulus carbon fiber than the current frame."
Frameset price is still to be determined, but a complete bike with Shimano Ultegra will cost about €3,000.
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