Canyon’s Ultimate joins the party of highly evolved aluminium bikes that give any carbon a run for its money; bikes like previous Bike of the Year winner the Cannondale CAAD12, along with firm favourites such as Trek’s alloy Domane and Specialized’s smartweld range.
The Ultimate’s blend of super skinny stays, oversized main tubes, and a substantial bottom bracket shell hit all the right note and at 1,220g it's not excessively heavy. There's a super-light fork too (just 295g) and the complete bike in XL weighed 7.65kg.
So any doubts that aluminium is compromised on the scales when up against carbon can be shelved as it’s this along with the mighty spec that actually makes the Canyon one of the lightest bikes on test in Bike of the Year.
In the past, the Ultimate AL was always a full-on race machine, but over the years Canyon has evolved the shape into what it describes as Pro-Sport geometry — to the rest of us that means the shape has shifted far more towards an endurance shape.
My XL (58cm) test bike has a stack of 613mm and reach of 418mm, which comes up longer than most endurance bikes (especially with the 120mm stem), the stack however is about what I’d expect of an endurance bike (save a few mms).
Spec wise, the SLX Aero is the usual top value offering I’ve come to expect from Canyon, with a racy Ultegra groupset (with no exceptions) running 52/36 and 11-28. It also comes with a classy Fizik Antares R5 saddle, SL3 carbon post and, the star of the show, Reynolds Assault SLG carbon clinchers.
These 41mm deep and 25mm wide aero rims (17mm internal) are laced to lightweight hubs for an all up weight of 1,475g, and in this company that’s seriously svelte.
As soon as you get on board the SLX you can feel that lack of mass in the rims making pick up and the sense of acceleration truly impressive. Match that with the slick shifts of Ultegra and a big bottom gear (52/11) and the Ultimate is a brilliant machine for covering ground quickly.
The light front end (thanks to the fork and wheel combo) makes the steering agile, in a good way, but out of the saddle in the drops, sprints do induce a feeling of disconnect between front and rear with a little twist in the frame, again its not overtly so, just noticeable.
As the road starts to rise the Ultimate shows again how much of a benefit lighter wheels are for climbing, and the ride position suits in the saddle power efforts.
Braking on the SLG carbon rims is impressive in the dry, with a fair progressive feel and only occasional grabbing under high pressure — but no more than your average alloy rim.
In the wet however, you do get a bit more pulsing under harder braking, it’s a rare occurrence and I’d rather have a little grabbiness in the rain than a lack of power you can experience from lesser wheels.
Comfort wise, the Ultimate is acceptable, not as impressive as some alloy machines I’ve ridden and it would certainly benefit from an increase in its rubber. Its running GP 4000s II tyres, which I love, but in a 23mm width both the frame and the wheels can take a 25 and for UK roads 25mm has pretty much become our minimum width.
The back end is much better at coping with road noise thanks to a quality carbon post and great saddle, but up front the skinny straight bladed fork, skinny tyre, and stiff aluminium bar ends up transmitting a fair amount of buzz into my hands. After a couple of hours on board it was a case of shaking out tingling fingers following every section of noisy tarmac.
I’ve no doubt that this could be solved by an upgrade to a quality set of carbon bars and as you're getting so much for your money (the Reynolds wheels alone retail for £1,299) it would be an investment worth making.