There are many reasons why the Canyon Ultimate WMN CF SLX Disc 8.0 Team CSR is noteworthy, and yes, that wordy product name is one of them. The others include the eye-catching Canyon//SRAM paintjob, its light weight and quality parts, and the fact you can have a bike with the same carbon frame as the pros but for a much lower price.
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The Canyon//SRAM team was instrumental in the development and refinement of the new Ultimate WMN, which was a new addition to the Canyon line-up for 2017/18. Yes, Canyon offered a 'women's specific' Ultimate before, but this was based around a unisex frame with a women's specific finishing kit.
This review has been updated to reflect the new spec on the 2018 version of the Canyon Ultimate WMNCF SLX Disc 8.0 Team CSR.
Carbon frame, women’s specific geometry
The Ultimate WMN features a carbon frame with a geometry specifically designed for women, which is based on customer data collected by Canyon through its online fit guide. And, as this is a bike aimed more towards riding and racing, the on-bike position is suitably aggressive.
Canyon claims (according to the body dimension data it has collected) that women tend to have, on average, slightly longer arms than men, a lower weight-to-height ratio, and a lower average height (these last two are hardly a revelation). This, in turn, will affect the fit and, potentially, the design of a bike made with just female-body data in mind.
Comparing the Ultimate WMN geometry to the unisex or men's Ultimate, in small, there are some interesting differences.
The geometry comparison reveals a slightly taller seat and head tube length, and greater stack for the women’s bikes, combined with a shorter top tube length than the men’s. The reach is also shorter at 378mm rather than 385mm.
While these may look different, Canyon says women on the Ultimate WMN can achieve the same body position as men on the Ultimate. In other words, there is a more uniform ride experience.
The Ultimate WMN has also had an overhaul of its frame-tube shape, making it more aerodynamic and lighter per size than the original version — according to Canyon, the XS frame is a reported 765g.
While the bike’s more comfort-focused sister the Endurace WMN comes in two aluminium entry-level models, in addition to the carbon-framed model range, there is no alloy-framed option in the new Ultimate WMN range.
Emblazoned with the team colours of the Canyon//SRAM Cycling pro women’s team, this bike stands out from the crowd. Lines are kept sleek with internal cable routing and a seat clamp integrated into the seat tube.
Smaller sizes with smaller wheels
Thru-axles make a noticeable difference to stiffness and stability when braking hard. It's also easy to slot the wheel in the axle, while ensuring the position of the disc relative to the brake pads is spot on. The whole package also looks a lot neater.
While the wheels are fitted with 25mm tyres, there’s room enough in the frame to accommodate up to a 28mm tyre. However, I had no issue with the comfort versus efficiency payoff on the 25mm Pro One tyres the bike comes specced with.
Canyon sizes its bikes differently to the majority of bike brands, so a small in a Canyon would be around a medium in other brands. I usually ride a medium or 54cm bike based on my 5ft9in-ish height, but for the Canyon Ultimate WMN I took a small.
However, since the frame geometry has changed, I’d still recommend going through the online measuring and fit system on the Canyon website. And, as ever, it’s always worth investing in a bike-fit at your local bike shop to get it tailored exactly right for you.
The Ultimate WMN line now goes down to a 2XS and up to an M, which means the range covers a rider height range of 152cm to 186cm / 4ft9in to 6ft1in
Canyon has opted to fit the two smallest bikes in the range with smaller 650b wheels. There are also differences with the groupset and finishing kit — more on that below.
Canyon says these smaller wheels are more in proportion with the smaller bikes, which also means that the frame geometry doesn’t have to change in smaller sizes to accommodate proportionally bigger wheels. So the rider experience is more controlled and uniform across the whole range.
While I can’t comment directly on what impact the smaller wheels have on performance, I did speak to the journalists at the launch who rode the smaller sized bikes and the view in general was that they felt more comfortable and less ‘perched’ than they did on similarly sized bikes from other brands.
Disc brakes all the way
As a whole, another notable feature of the new Ultimate range is the presence of disc brakes. There are no non-disc options though, so if you want an Ultimate WMN you’re going to have to go with discs. It’s a strong statement of intent from Canyon, who clearly sees discs as the future of road-bike braking.
In 2017, this was an issue for UK-based racers because British Cycling had banned the use of discs brakes in domestic competitive events. However, as of November 2017 this ban has been lifted, so it's unlikely to be a barrier for anyone considering the Ultimate WMN as its race bike for the 2018 season.
In terms of performance it’s hard to fault the SRAM Force disc brakes. The hydraulic brake system combines flat mount brake calipers with 160mm SRAM Centreline rotors. The reach on the levers is adjustable, which is a bonus for both comfort and control, allowing you to tweak them to a position that's easy to get to without stretching the hand uncomfortably.
Combined with the modulated action on the brakes themselves, which allows you to shave a little speed here and there if you want subtle control, or a powerful full-on brake, the result is a system that doesn’t fatigue the hands and arms on long descents.
Groupset and finishing kit
One interesting element is the inclusion of a SRAM PG 1170 11-speed 11-32t cassette — race-focused bikes would tend to feature an 11-25t or 11-28t cassette. However, I appreciated the wider range, particularly on long climbs, where it was nice to have a bit more leeway to spin when I needed to.
The double chainring is a 50/34t on most sizes, 52/36 with the 2XS and 3XS bikes, and size-specific SRAM Force 22 cranks.
The Ultimate WMN is finished off with an alloy Canyon V13 stem and H17 Ergo handlebars with a short reach, plus drop and bar-top diameter are adjusted for each size.
Saddle choice is a personal thing and I didn’t get on with the San Marco Aspide Supercomfort Wide saddle, though it is designed to suit an aggressive race position.
The Ultimate WMN in action
Overall, not only does this bike have a wonderfully fast and light feeling, but it's also surprisingly comfortable for a bike built for racing. There's enough compliance in the frame to smooth out much of the road chatter, particularly when you get up to speed, and if you're after more comfort you could up the tyre width.
The integrated seatpost clamp is a little fiddly, but the internal cable routing and sleek paintjob contribute to the Ultimate WMN's good looks.
Power transference feels urgent and immediate, and the geometry places you in an optimal position to power out those pedal strokes. In the corners the bike has a planted, confident feel that encourages you to push it further.
While adapting specs, such as wheel size, for smaller frame sizes is a fascinating decision, and certainly of benefit to smaller riders, I'd be concerned about limited choice in terms of wheels and tyres on the 650b options of the 2XS and 3XS.
Canyon Ultimate WMN CF SLX Disc 8.0 Team CSR pricing and availability
This model of the Ultimate WMN costs £2,699 / $2,999 / AU$4,299, and is available direct through the Canyon.
If you're in the market for a bike and want to know what else is on offer, have a look at the following list of tried, tested and reviewed options.
- Trek Domane SL 6 Disc Women's
- Specialized Tarmac S-Works SL6 Women's
- Endurace WMN CF SL Disc 8.0 SL
- Liv Langma Pro Disc
- Trek Emonda SL5 Women's
- Liv Avail Advanced 1
- Specialized Ruby Elite
Want more? BikeRadar Women has loads of women's cycling news, reviews, interviews and advice and more.