Launched a couple of years ago, Canyon’s Aeroad CF SLX has impressed us with its racy personality, and the value for money that the German direct-sales brand offers. As one of the bikes campaigned by Movistar and Katusha, it’s prime for picking over around TdF-time, and by a stroke of luck Canyon had a test bike in the latter’s team colour built with a pro-level spec.
This paint job is now sold out and the SRAM eTap build isn’t one you could buy at the time of writing (we expect it will be in future), but we weren’t going to miss the opportunity to feature this remarkable machine. Clinchers aside, this is identical to Norwegian sprinter Alexander Kristoff’s race bike.
Katusha Canyon Aeroad CF SLX eTap
The Aeroad is a futuristic looking thing, sharing many design cues with its time-trial stable mate the Speedmax. Virtually every part of the frameset seems to sport an aerodynamic cross-section, with truncated aerofoils throughout, and the way different frame elements blend together is nothing short of lovely.
Our Canyon Aeroad CF SLX was an eTap-kitted custom buildReuben Bakker-Dyos / Immediate Media
The fork flows cleanly into the frame; the (slightly fiddly) seat clamp wedge sits flush with the top tube; and the seat tube hugs the rear wheel all the way round to the seatstays, which are dropped in familiar fashion for rear end compliance. The seatpost is aero too, and the one-piece H11 carbon cockpit is a thing of beauty that’s claimed to save 5.5 watts at 45km/h over a standard bar.
In total, the Aeroad is one of the slickest designs we’ve ever seen – if you want a bike to turn heads, you’d struggle to do better than this.
Where other range-topping bikes from big names like Specialized and Trek are awash with proprietary technology (think concealed brakes and aero fairings), the Aeroad is refreshingly straightforward.
While all the tubes have aero profiles, there’s a refreshing lack of additional fussy integration – the brake calipers sit in their normal places, for exampleReuben Bakker-Dyos / Immediate Media
While the calipers are direct-mount units rather than single-bolters, they’re mounted in the usual places rather than being tucked out of sight, making for easier adjustments and minimal hassle when swapping wheels. Despite the SRAM groupset, the brakes are from Shimano, as the American firm doesn’t currently make a direct-mount caliper.
Single-minded race machine
SRAM’s wireless-shifting eTap groupset is fantastic, with an idiot-proof logic that should have Shimano and Campagnolo’s engineers kicking themselves for not thinking of it: left paddle for easier gears, right paddle for harder ones, both together to shift the front. It works very well, and the click from the paddles means you always know when you’ve shifted.
SRAM’s eTap rear derailleur. The lack of metal wires or cables are still enough to prompt a double-takeReuben Bakker-Dyos / Immediate Media
Tech aside, the Aeroad is a focused racing weapon. It’s not uncomfortable by aero bike standards but it won’t cosset you, rewarding an aggressive riding style and an assertive approach to rougher roads.
The aim is not to endure bumps, it’s to fly through them so quickly you don’t feel them, taking advantage of the bike’s ample rear-end stiffness to send watts through your back tyre. On really broken surfaces things can get a bit chattery up front and we did wonder if the substantial bar-stem combo was a factor, but it was never excessive.
The Zipp 404 Firecrest carbon clinchers on our test bike are two versions out of date, but still a tasty set of wheels. Crosswind behaviour is impressive for their depth, and at high speeds they cause the steering to weight up slightly, helping keep you on your line. Braking is a noisy affair, but this is one area that Zipp has since made radical changes with its Firestrike and NSW models, so it’s not likely to be a factor in future buying decisions.
The Aeroad looks fast and it is. Point it down an incline and it becomes an absolute missile, seemingly gathering speed without impediment. The bike’s abilities are not in doubt, the only question becomes: are you brave enough?
Matthew Loveridge (formerly Allen) is an experienced mechanic and an expert on bike tech who appreciates practical, beautifully-engineered things. Originally a roadie, he likes bikes and kit of every stripe, and he's tested a huge variety of both over the years for BikeRadar, Cycling Plus and others. For a long time Matthew's heart belonged to the Scott Addict, but he's currently enjoying Specialized's sublime Roubaix Expert and having a torrid affair with a Giant Trance e-MTB. At 174cm tall and 53kg, he looks like he should be better at cycling than he actually is, and he's ok with that.