A day after installing my pedals and doing a quick shakedown ride on the Canyon Ultimate CF SL Disc 9.0, I was happily bombing down Austrian Alpine roads I'd never ridden, topping out at 100kph / 64mph. That is to say, I have great confidence in this bike and the Shimano Ultegra-level hydraulics.
- Canyon Ultimate CF Evo 10.0 SL review
- Shimano Ultegra R8000 and Ultegra Di2 R8070: all you need to know
With race geometry, a plush ride courtesy the VCLS seatpost and Continental Grand Prix 4000S II clinchers, and dependable Shimano Ultegra and Ultegra-level components, the Ultimate CF SL Disc 9.0 is a quality machine. And, for this price, you'd be hard pressed to find anything better.
US readers: The RS685 bike isn't available in America, but the Ultegra R8000 model will be soon for $2,799, and the frame and all other components (wheels, stem, seatpost, handlebar, tires) will be the same as listed here.
Canyon Ultimate CF SL Disc 9.0 highlights
- Canyon's second-tier carbon frame (SL, not the top-end SLX)
- Shimano Ultegra 6800 cranks, derailleurs and cassette
- Shimano RS685/805 levers and hydraulic brakes
- DT Swiss R23 Spline DB wheels
- XXS-XXL sizing
- Black or powder blue
- 7.7kg complete bike in M, as tested
Race handling, with one-finger braking
Alongside the German brand's Aeroad aero bike, the Ultimate is Canyon's all-around race bike, with steep angles, a short wheelbase and a low front end.
Like many brands, Canyon has multiple levels within a given bike family, and the Ultimate CF SL Disc 9.0 sits just behind the Ultimate CF SLX, with the primary difference being the type and cost of the carbon.
While you can tell the difference with a scale, you can't with your eyes. Similarly, the SLX and SL frames handle the same as they come out of the same molds, with the same geometry.
For me, the bike hits the sweet spot of ride characteristics. Push harder to accelerate, and the rigid chassis launches forward before you've completed a pedal stroke. Lean gently with your hips, and the front end goes exactly where you want. Stand up, and the bar/stem/fork will meet you with firm leverage for muscling the bike. But the VCLS seatpost, with a healthy extension thanks to a gently sloping top tube, soaks up the bumps like a sponge without ever feeling too mushy under hard pedaling.
For those who prefer slightly more upright positioning, Canyon has the Endurace platform. Personally I like the lower front end for getting weight on the front tire and my torso out of the wind as much as possible.
I rode the bike in the days before Eurobike in Austria with other journalists, and we had the chance to do some good climbs and subsequent sharp descents. I've been going back and forth between test bikes with rim brakes and test bikes with disc brakes, and the difference is just laughable. While today's rim brakes are quite good, the deceleration return you get for the amount of force at the lever is just worlds apart from a good hydraulic system.
Do you need hydraulic discs on road bikes? Of course not. In addition to a number of guys on rim brakes, Stages marketing director Matt Pacocha descended alongside us on his Ritchey travel bike with old-school cantilever brakes. But are hydraulics better at slowing you down? Of course they are.
At 7.7kg / 16.9lb (in the size Medium I tested), the bike isn't a featherweight, but it is right in line with other carbon bikes with Ultegra-level gears and hydraulics.
Plush ride, courtesy Conti and a Canyon post
Two things tag-team the relatively plush ride of the Ultimate: Continental's Grand Prix 4000S II clinchers and Canyon's own VCLS seatpost. Conti's GPs have been a perennial favorite of many riders for years. They tested well in our recent rolling-resistance test at Wheel Energy, their grip is reliable and durability — for a race clincher — is good.
One thing I learned at Eurobike this year is that the GPs are also the most aero tire, when normalizing for width, of any standard clincher on the market. This is according to Jean-Paul Ballard of SwissSide, a former Formula 1 engineer who has been studiously testing every aspect of road and triathlon bikes. Evidently the tread pattern acts as a laminar trip layer, smoothing the airflow around the wheel.
In any event, Canyon doesn't skimp on rubber, nor does Conti skimp on width, with the labeled 25mm clinchers measuring much wider on most rims.
The VCLS seatpost also does wonders for ride quality. We lab tested this post and a few others last year, and the deflection numbers don't lie.
I swapped out the Fizik Antares saddle for a Specialized Power, used a longer stem and tested Stages' new LR Dura-Ace power meter cranks. I mention this just for discrepancies you may see between specifications and the photos.
Bottom line: Great bike for a great price, with more coming for 2018
Canyon certainly isn't the only brand making great road bikes with Shimano's stellar hydraulic brake systems. I'm testing a Trek Emonda SLR Disc at home now, and the ride — and braking — quality is ridiculously good. And most of the other big brands have adapted if not completely overhauled some of their road bikes to work well with discs.
But Canyon's direct-to-consumer model paired with its quality engineering is what really sets bikes like this apart. Comparing Ultegra-level carbon bikes with similar geometry can be splitting hairs — but comparing the price differences certainly is not.
The 2018 model of the Canyon Ultimate CF SL Disc 9.0 will have the new Shimano Ultegra R8000 group (and 11-30 cassette) with the same Canyon and DT Swiss parts as shown here. My colleague Warren Rossiter has ridden and praised the new Ultegra hydraulics, and I can see no reason that the 2018 model would be anything but better than what is already a great machine at a great price.