Canyon Ultimate CF SLX 8.0 Disc first ride review

Stiff, agile and smooth, with braking to match

We’ve heard rumblings about this bike for a while now, but just before Christmas it was actually placed in our sweaty, overexcited hands: the Canyon Ultimate CF SLX 8.0 Disc is here. 

Described by its maker as “a perfect road bike”, it’s basically a better-stopping version of Movistar’s WorldTour winning machine. Though for 2017 there are a few changes in spec — so does it live up to those big claims and a race-winning pedigree?

Canyon Ultimate CF SLX 8.0 Disc spec overview

  • Frame: Canyon Ultimate CF SLX
  • Fork: Canyon One One Four SLX Disc
  • Brake/shift levers: Shimano Di2 ST-R785
  • Crankset: Shimano Ultegra 52/36t
  • Cassette: Shimano Ultegra 11-28t
  • Rear/front derailleur: Shimano Ultegra Di2
  • Wheels/tyres: Mavic Cosmic Pro Disc / Mavic Yksion Pro (25mm)
  • Saddle: Fizik Antares R5
  • Handlebar: Canyon H36 Aerocockpit
  • Weight: 7.8kg (medium)

Canyon Ultimate CF SLX 8.0 Disc frame and equipment

The integrated seatpost clamp is a lovely piece of design
The integrated seatpost clamp is a lovely piece of design

The frame weighs a claimed 800g in size medium, which is respectable — impressive even — for a disc road frame that has been reinforced around where the Flat Mount calipers are located, to withstand the specific stresses imposed by disc brakes. It shares many features with the rim brake version, like a very neat integrated seatpost clamp design that tucks away behind the seatstay/seat tube intersection, yet leaves enough space to use a torque wrench.

Canyon has sensibly specced 12mm thru-axles front and rear, and neat Flat Mount interfaces for the (excellent) Shimano hydraulic disc brakes. We’ve already said so many positive things about these brakes and are yet to find serious fault with them — I think they remain the gold standard for road brakes to date. This bike comes with the brand’s larger 160mm IceTech rotors rather than 140mm rotors, which will be welcome to those concerned about heat dissipation.

Shimano Di2 ST-R785 levers are popular with BikeRadar testers
Shimano Di2 ST-R785 levers are popular with BikeRadar testers

There’s some very tidy Di2 cable routing and this disc version of the Ultimate frame also lacks a brace at the seat stays. This gives an even cleaner look compared to the rim brake version and allows for tyres up to 33mm wide, at the front as well as the rear. Elsewhere it’s an appetising mix of Shimano’s 6870 Ultegra Di2, which includes the Ultegra-level R785 Di2 shifters/brake levers that most BikeRadar testers seem to like and Mavic’s new Cosmic Pro Disc wheelset, shod with Mavic Yksion Pro 25mm tyres.

The riding position encouraged by Sport Pro Geometry is sleek, but doesn’t require Houdini-like contortions nor feel strained

Frame geometry is close, though not identical, to its rim brake brother; there’s a slightly longer wheelbase to the disc models (993mm on the medium I tested), mostly down to a slight extension at the rear chainstays that’s likely to be necessitated because a wider disc hub requires longer chainstays to maintain an acceptable chainline. The bike’s head and seat angles stay within a fraction of a degree of the rim brake frame, at 73.25 degrees and 73.5 degrees respectively. Reach and stack remain identical too at 391mm and 567mm respectively. All this translates into a moderately aggressive position that Canyon dubs ‘Sport Pro Geometry’.

Finishing kit is an appealing combination of Canyon’s H36 Aerocockpit, which includes a carbon integrated stem/handlebar that accepts an optional Garmin computer mount, an impact-absorbing carbon VCLS seatpost and a Fizik Antares R5 saddle.

Canyon Ultimate CF SLX 8.0 Disc ride impressions

On my 40km testing loop I found that it combines a planted, confident feel with an immediate turn of speed
On my 40km testing loop I found that it combines a planted, confident feel with an immediate turn of speed

That’s enough about the spec, how does it ride? Well… like an unassuming, housetrained rocket. The riding position encouraged by Sport Pro Geometry is sleek, but doesn’t require Houdini-like contortions nor feel strained.

I took the bike on a favourite 40km loop near home that I use when I only have a couple of hours free to ride. It has a bit of everything: a straight TT blast, some bumpy, mucky farm roads, some short and very sharp little winding climbs and descents to keep you on your toes, and great views across the Somerset countryside. On a drab mid-winter’s day, Canyon’s top-flight race bike was an enormously enjoyable companion.

Mavic's new Cosmic Pro Disc wheelset comes shod with Mavic Yksion Pro 25mm clinchers
Mavic's new Cosmic Pro Disc wheelset comes shod with Mavic Yksion Pro 25mm clinchers

I deliberately sought out the same bumpy sections of road that I normally blast through on my fatter-tyred gravel bike and the Ultimate CF SLX Disc 8 calmly dispatched each bump, never feeling nervy or fragile. It was buttery smooth, confident and assured, which is quite an achievement on those roads for a sub-8kg bike on 25mm tyres.

My favourite thing about this bike though is that it constantly wills you to ride faster, thanks to the frame’s lateral stiffness which amply rewards hard efforts. I found myself sprinting out of the saddle on the straight TT blast for the sheer hell of it, enjoying slicing through this familiar route at high speed. The steering I’d describe as eager, not quite twitchy but not far from it; going fast downhill on muddy, rough surfaces I felt in control, but you’ll want to stay alert.

Cornering is pinpoint sharp. I found myself attacking steep and bumpy downhill sections that require your complete attention and at low speeds I was happily flicking the bike around obstacles, gates, small dogs etc.

The 45mm-deep wheels seemed to float over tarmac irregularities at speeds of over 40kph on the flat and held no nasty surprises when climbing or descending on bumpy back roads. At 1,760g the weight is about what you’d expect for a 45mm-deep clincher. The 25mm Mavic Yksion Pro tyres were excellent and grippy (I ran them at 80psi).

No complaints regarding the Fizik Antares R5 saddle
No complaints regarding the Fizik Antares R5 saddle

No complaints either with the Canyon H36 Aerocockpit. The aero cross-section tops are of course much flatter than you'd find on a traditional alloy handlebar, but even when climbing for longer periods I was quite happy to keep my hands there. Saddle choice is a very personal thing of course, but I found the Fizik Antares R5 perfectly comfortable and would happily sit there all day if necessary.

Canyon Ultimate CF SLX 8.0 Disc price and availability

This model as tested is priced at £4,399 / €4,899 and sits in the middle of three disc brake options, along with a disc frameset that’ll retail for £2,199 / €2,999. When you consider that the Mavic Cosmic Pro Disc wheelset alone costs £975 / €1,200 / $1,299 and it still comes with Ultegra Di2, this bike looks like incredible value.

It’s in stock and available to purchase now from the Canyon website.

Canyon Ultimate CF SLX 8.0 Disc vs the competition

Cannondale's SuperSix EVO Hi-Mod Disc Ultegra Di2 is a worthy rival
Cannondale's SuperSix EVO Hi-Mod Disc Ultegra Di2 is a worthy rival

Now that Canyon has fully committed itself to road disc brakes, those rivals who were enjoying a head start here will be starting to sweat. The Specialized S-Works Tarmac Di2 Disc is a mighty fine machine, we called it the “best road race bike we’ve ever ridden” back in 2014 and despite a growing amount of competition, it’s still a contender.

Cannondale’s SuperSix EVO Hi-Mod Disc Ultegra Di2 will be at the top of many people’s lists, and after riding it last summer we suggested it can easily hold its own against any rival; it’s easy to encourage up to a high pace and loves staying there. On the climbs it's willing and on descents it's dive-bomber quick.

The Focus Izalco Max Disc is a bona fide superbike
The Focus Izalco Max Disc is a bona fide superbike

We’d also suggest looking at Merida’s Scultura Disc, which is a lively, likeable bike that’s smoothly fast and full of zing through twists and turns. Finally, don’t forget the Focus Izalco Max Disc, which made it onto the shortlist for our 2016 Superbike Of The Year; a high-value and bang-up-to-date superbike that cranks handling, comfort and speed up to the max.

Canyon Ultimate CF SLX 8.0 Disc early verdict

Canyon's Ultimate CF SLX Disc 8 is a subtle-looking road race bike that dazzles
Canyon's Ultimate CF SLX Disc 8 is a subtle-looking road race bike that dazzles

Naturally we want to spend more time with this bike before we give it our definitive verdict, but initial impressions are very good — this is a subtle-looking road racing bike with disc brakes that dazzles. It rewards hard sprinting efforts with an immediate turn of speed and once you point it downhill you’ll find sharp steering and a planted, confident feel that begs to be pushed harder.

Jamie Beach

Deputy Editor, UK
Jamie's been addicted to bikes from the moment his stabilisers came off. Earliest cycling memory is the chipboard-ramp-on-bricks, but happiest one is bombing down a Mallorcan mountain pass that seemed it might never end. Always on the hunt for the perfect rain jacket, a keen collector of hats.
  • Age: 34
  • Height: 182cm / 6'
  • Weight: 80kg / 176lb
  • Waist: 81cm / 32in
  • Chest: 97cm / 38in
  • Discipline: Road, gravel
  • Preferred Terrain: Big mountains with long climbs, equally long and fast descents, the chance to get above the treeline.
  • Current Bikes: Genesis Croix de Fer, Brompton M3L
  • Dream Bike: BMC TeamMachine SLR01, Moots Routt
  • Beer of Choice: Augustiner
  • Location: Bath, Somerset, UK

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