Lighter, more aerodynamic and women's specific. German bike brand Canyon has released a new version of the race-ready Ultimate and made a significant number of changes.
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The geometry and carbon frame has been completely redesigned, based on three years of work and data collected from customers to the Canyon website. A new XXXS size has been added which means the range will fit riders 152cm and up, and interestingly there are no rim-brake options available.
The model I tested at the recent launch in Canyon's home town of Koblenz, Germany, is the range topping Ultimate WMN CF SLX Disc 9.0 Team CSR, which is likely to make an appearance in the women's pro peloton this year powered by the legs of the Canyon//SRAM team.
I've ridden this bike out and about around Koblenz and my initial impressions are below, but I'll be getting this bike in for further, more comprehensive testing on BikeRadarWomen in the near future, so you can expect a full review shortly.
New women's specific geometry
In a change for the brand, Canyon has now opted to develop two of its most popular road bikes — the Ultimate and the Endurace — with women's specific geometry. This decision to develop a different frame geometry was based on data entered by customers on the Canyon website, which asks for certain body measurements when customers are looking to buy a bike and determine the correct frame size.
Canyon concluded that there were significant enough differences to warrant changing the geometry; most notably, it states its data showed the company that women tend to have (on average) shorter arms and therefore a shorter reach, a lighter weight and lower power output per height, and a lower average height.
As a result, the company has adapted the geometry to give a shorter reach, extended the sizing range down to XXXS, opted for 650b wheels on the XXXS and XXS models, and altered the frame design to lower weight and produce a more aerodynamic profile.
Those smaller wheels are significant. The geometry of smaller frame options is typically tweaked to accommodate proportionally larger 700c wheels, which in turn affects the handling. The smaller wheel size means geometry and therefore handling is consistent across the size range.
Also noteworthy is the fact that this bike is fitted with disc brakes and there are no rim brake alternatives. Canyon feels that disc brakes offer a better, more reliable braking action, though for some countries — such as the UK, where disc brakes are currently banned for racing — the lack of a rim brake option may well be a barrier to purchasing for those wanting to race.
Lighter and more aerodynamic
Canyon didn't just tweak the geometry; the company went back to the start and looked at every element including the frame shape. Since female riders are on average lighter for a given height, according to the data the company collected, it has redesigned the tube shapes themselves with carbon layups designed to reduce weight and a profile and cross-section that reduces aerodynamic drag over previous models of the Ultimate.
This, essentially, makes the new women's specific Ultimate lighter and more aerodynamic than the unisex Ultimate, size for size. Canyon claims the XS size of the model featured here weighs in at 765g, its lightest road bike to date.
Top whack spec
It's good to see a bike aimed at women that goes right to the pro-end of the parts and tech spectrum. Often, women's specific offerings stop a level (or several levels) below, which means if you do want a race bike you need to opt for a unisex version, but if you prefer women's specific bikes you aren't catered for and this could be interpreted as an ever-so-subtle statement on the view that women don't race.
Given that British Cycling has seen a 43% increase in race license ownership in women this is clearly shifting. However, as mentioned above, currently this bike wouldn't be approved by British Cycling.
That women's specific carbon frame is pared with a set of Canyon One One Four SLX forks and a top-of-the-line SRAM Red eTap groupset. 22-speed gearing comes via a 50/34t crankset and 11-32t cassette, with the 3XS and 2XS size bikes fitted with 52/36t chainrings.
Crank length is also sizes specific, with XXXS and XXS fitted with 165mm cranks, XS with 170mm cranks and S and M with 172.5mm cranks.
Reynolds Assault LE wheels and Schwalbe Pro One 25mm tyres are a stiff, aggressive combination.
In keeping with the race-focus of this bike is the one-piece carbon cockpit, the H31 Ergocockpit. This is an integrated stem and handlebar system with an aerodynamic profile.
Having recently ridden the previous unisex incarnation of the Ultimate, the fit does feel more compact and less stretched out without compromising that more aggressive race position
Sadly, the ride wasn't enough to really test the aero claims of the new Ultimate or draw firm conclusions on the comfort, but acceleration did feel fast with noticeable frame stiffness and a direct feeling from power input to forward momentum.
The Ergocockpit seemed to reduce road buzz keeping the hands and arms feeling fresh and the bike felt responsive and planted in corners. More testing is required though.
SRAM Red eTap gearing gave an intuitive shifting movement, with predictable and reliable gear changing. Disc brakes are known for their powerful stopping action and provide a good level of modulation to control braking, allowing subtle and predictable speed control and deceleration where needed.
BikeRadar Women will be getting in an Ultimate WMN for full testing and review in the near future, so watch this space. In the meantime, check out my first impressions of the Ultimate and its stablemate the Endurace in our video below.
Fans of the iconic colour flashes of the Canyon//SRAM team will be pleased to know that this bike will come in this colourway for two of the models in the range; the top-of-the-line version I rode, pictured here, and also the £2,999 Ultimate WMN CF SLX Disc 8.0 Team CSR version.
For those who like their bikes a little stealthier looking, the alternative is a plain black colour, referred to as 'stealth' by the brand.
Canyon Ultimate WMN: sizing, pricing, models and availability
The Ultimate WMN tested here comes in at £6,199 (US and Australian pricing not yet available), and is available to order from today via the Canyon website.
There are four models in total in this line, including the one mentioned above.
The second-from-top model is the Ultimate WMN CF SLX 8.0 Di2 (£4,299) which, you won't be surprised to learn, comes with Shimano Di2 electronic gearing. The other variation from the top model is the DT Swiss PR 1400 DICUT DB 21 wheelset; spec is comparable otherwise.
Next down is the Ultimate WMN CF SLX Disc 8.0 (£3,399) which comes with Shimano Ultegra, those DT Swiss PR 1400 DICUT DB 21 wheels and Canyon H17 Ergo AL bars plus stem.
Last but not least is the Ultimate WMN CF SLX Disc 8.0 Team CSR (£2,999) in Stealth or Team colourways. This features a SRAM Force groupset, DT Swiss PR 1600 Spline DB 23 wheels and Canyon H17 Ergo AL handlebars plus stem.
All bikes are available in sizes XXXS, XXS, XS, S and M.
Looking for a more endurance-focussed ride? Check out our first impressions of the new Canyon Endurace WMN CF.