Canyon's new road bikes are lighter, more aero... and women's specific

New women's specific geometry for popular Ultimate and Endurace models

German brand Canyon has just unveiled two updated and redesigned versions of its popular Ultimate and Endurace models. The bikes are lighter and more aerodynamic than previous models, have a raft of other interesting new features, and have a women's specific geometry — a new direction for Canyon.

The new ranges, which include the carbon-framed Ultimate WMN CF and Endurace WMN CF, plus the aluminium framed Endurace WMN AL, all feature hydraulic disc brakes with no rim-brake options available — could this be the direction Canyon is planning to take for its road bikes going forward?

Canyon has also extended the range to include a new XXXS frame size, which means riders from 152cm and upwards will be catered to. Furthermore, the two smallest sizes in the range, the XXXS and XXS, now feature 650b wheels rather than 700c.

The redesign doesn't just extend to the frame geometry: both bikes have been entirely re-engineered, resulting in a lighter carbon layup and redesigned frame tubing which is narrower in places, and now has a more aerodynamic profile.

Why women's specific?

The topic of whether or not women need bikes with a specific geometry is an ongoing and hotly debated issue in the world of cycling, with brands favouring a range of approaches.

Some in the bike industry feel that the physical differences between the average man or woman aren't significant enough to warrant it, and that the correct frame size plus a good bike fit, and swapping in and out parts, achieves the best fit.

Others, notably Liv Cycles, say that according to the data they have, the average woman is physically different enough to mean that they would benefit from a different geometry to that typically on offer with unisex frames.

Until now, Canyon has only offered unisex frames across its unisex/men's and women's specific (denoted by the suffix WMN) bicycles, instead using women's specific finishing kit such as saddle and handlebar widths to achieve a better fit.

Take a look at Canyon's WMN Endurace and Ultimate in our video

So, what's changed?

The decision to investigate whether or not to produce women's specific bikes was made three years ago, according to Katrin Neuman, women's product manager at Canyon, and was based around research into body dimensions collected by Canyon itself.

When you purchase a bike via the Canyon website, you input various dimensions including height, arm length and leg length, and gender. This means that Canyon has a large database of body measurements spanning many years to draw from.

Now, there are a few things to note with this data. Firstly, it only tells you Canyon customer body dimentions, not the body dimensions of the population at large. It may be representative or there may be differences; without access to the dataset and a comparative population set, I can't say for sure. Also, the data is self-measured, so you have to assume that everyone inputting the data has measured themselves correctly, since there is no-one there to take the measurements for them.

Those caveats aside, the dataset is likely to run into thousands of individuals, and the observations and conclusions Canyon has drawn are interesting.

Firstly, it says that women have, on average, slightly shorter arms than men, which affects reach. It also says that the oft-cited 'longer legs, shorter body' view isn't borne out by the data collected.

Secondly, the women in the dataset are, on average, of a lower weight to height than men.

Thirdly, women are on average shorter than men, and the average height of the women in the dataset meant that the average size bike for a woman in the Canyon range is a size extra small, rather than the medium which is the most popular among men.

The result: new geometry and frame design

To take into account the body dimension differences mentioned above, such as shorter arms, Canyon has opted for bikes with a shorter reach and higher stack compared to the unisex frame design it had previously.

By doing this, Canyon says that it allows women to achieve the same on-bike body position as men. 

A comparison of the body position for a women's vs. mens'/unisex Canyon
A comparison of the body position for a women's vs. mens'/unisex Canyon

The two models are designed to suit two different preferences for riding styles as before.

The racier Ultimate WMN features what Canyon says is its Sport Pro Geometry and places the rider in a more aggressive race position on the bike.

The Endurace WMN has Sport Geometry and is a more upright, comfort-focussed ride.

Because the average size women's bike is an XS, Canyon has opted to use this size as the model around which its other sizes are based, rather than the medium in the case of the unisex/men's range.

Since the data suggested that women are lighter per height than the average male rider, this also meant that Canyon had the opportunity to look at the carbon layup and design of the frame tubing itself. Lighter riders need less material to support their weight and a thinner tube structure also allows greater flex, which in turn means better vibration absorption and comfort.

To this end, the company has completely redesigned the shapes of the various frame tubes, resulting in a much lighter frame — Canyon claims the new Ultimate is the lightest frame it makes, at 765g for the XS size. It was also an opportunity to make the frame more aerodynamic and you'll notice the new tube shapes, which Canyon claims results in a more aerodynamic bike.

A detail on the new aerodynamic tube design of the Ultimate WMN
A detail on the new aerodynamic tube design of the Ultimate WMN

High-end bikes for serious riders

Canyon has not been ungenerous when it comes to making bikes for serious riders, and it's as you'd expect from a brand that sponsors one of the biggest teams in the pro women's peloton, Canyon//SRAM.

Coming in at over £5,000, both the top of the range Ultimate WMN and Endurace WMN feature SRAM Red eTap, carbon Reynolds wheelsets, carbon seatpost, hydraulic disc brakes and Canyon's integrated one-piece carbon aero Ergocockpit handlebar system. Both are race ready.

The brand was also careful to provide for those without a massive budget too, and the Endurace WMN comes in an aluminium-framed version which still features carbon forks, hydraulic disc brakes and a DT Swiss wheelset, plus either a Shimano 105 or Ultegra groupset.

Disc brakes only

One point that caused a stir at the press camp in Canyon's home town of Koblenz, Germany, was the revelation that there were to be no rim-brake options on any of the new bikes.

Canyon says that its opinion is that disc brakes perform better and are therefore the future. In the experience of our testers and speaking to the other riders at the camp, many of whom race, the power and control offered by disc brakes was universally agreed, particularly with the advent of flat mounted brake calipers and thru-axles, which add stiffness to the system.

However, riders from the UK noted that British Cycling doesn't currently allow disc brakes, which is likely to have an impact on the purchasing decisions of some potential customers. Others commented that the differentials in braking power of rim brakes over disc brakes would need to be taken into account in group riding and race scenarios.

While the technology works, there is still complication and debate in its application.

Smaller wheels and smaller sizes

Another major factor is the addition of the new XXXS size, which means the Endurace WMN and Ultimate WMN ranges now cover women from 152cm to 186cm. This makes Canyon one of only a few brands to offer bikes to women at the more petite end of the height spectrum.

Furthermore, Canyon has opted to fit both the XXXS and XXS bikes with a smaller 650b wheel. Usually, smaller frame sizes in a range fitted with 700c wheels have to have tweaked geometry into order to fit wheels correctly. This usually involves slackening off the head angle, which affects the handling of the bike. Going for a smaller wheel sizes means the head angle, and therefore handling of the bike, can remain consistent across the range of sizes.

There are a few downsides to this I can think of, and it's mostly to do with wheel and tyre choice — there just aren't as many options out there for this wheel size. However all models are fitted with what I'd consider a good wheelset, so upgrading these is unlikely to be your first priority.

Younger riders looking to progress in racing may also benefit from these new smaller size, being able to access a high-end, performance bike designed to suit smaller riders without compromising on parts and spec.

Smaller wheel sizes also mean less likelihood of toe overlap, which is a significant improvement in riding experience.

Although I don't have direct experience of riding the smallest sizes because I ride a small frame, I did speak to a number of journalists on the press launch who rode smaller framed bicycles. They commented that unlike other small size bikes they've ridden with 700c wheels this felt like it actually fitted them and as though they were 'riding the bike' rather than 'riding on the bike'. Overall, the feedback was very favourable.

Availability

The new bikes are available to order now via the Canyon website if you're based in the UK or Europe. Canyon isn't available in the US... yet! This may change in the near future.

Check out my first rides on both the Ultimate WMN and the Endurace WMN for more details on both those models.

Aoife Glass

Women's Cycling Editor
A mountain biker at heart, also drawn to the open road. Likes big long adventures in the mountains. Usually to be found in the Mendip Hills or the Somerset Levels in the UK. Passionate about women's cycling at all levels.
  • Discipline: Mountain, road
  • Preferred Terrain: Rocky, rough and a long way from anywhere.
  • Current Bikes: Liv Avail Advanced Pro 2015, Juliana Furtado 2013, Canyon Roadlite AL
  • Dream Bike: Juliana Roubion, Liv Avail Advanced SL
  • Beer of Choice: Red wine for the win!
  • Location: Weston Super Mare, Somerset, UK

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