Less than half-a-mile after leaving RoadCyclingUK HQ on the maiden test voyage of the Canyon Endurace CF SLX, a rider draws alongside me at the traffic lights. "Is that the new Ultimate or the Endurace?" he asks. "The Endurace," I tell him, before he asks how it rides.
Having barely turned the pedals, I had no way of knowing, but now the answer is simple: it's simply superb. Canyon have struck gold with the Endurace CF SLX as a machine which finely knits all-day comfort and race-worthy performance, while continuing to offer the strong spec and value-for-money for which Canyon have become known.
The clue, really, is in the name Endurace - a marriage of endurance and race. However, while Canyon first launched the excellent, rim brake version of the Endurace back in May 2014, and that machine remains in the range as a more affordable offering, the new, disc-equipped Endurace CF SLX is based around a significantly different frame and steps things up once again. The result is a lightweight and responsive machine which also offers a wonderfully smooth ride, a riding position which is a little more relaxed than Canyon's race bikes, and the additional versatility which hydraulic disc brakes and wide tyre clearance bring.
It's easy to confuse the Ultimate CF SLX and the Endurace CF SLX, as so happened on that initial test ride in London, as both frames cast a similar shadow. The key difference, on the surface, is that the Endurace CF SLX is only available with disc brakes, whereas the Ultimate CF SLX is the super-light, rim brake race weapon ridden to consecutive Tour de France podium finishes by Nairo Quintana. Canyon are working on a disc-equipped version of the Ultimate and we expect that to be launched in 2017 - riding the Endurace CF SLX has sufficiently whet our appetite for that.
The Endurace is part of a new breed of bikes which look to narrow the performance gap between endurance and race (that's evident in its similarity to the Ultimate) for riders who want a more comfortable and relaxed position, while also adding a healthy dose of versatility into the mix.
The Ultimate CF SLX was revamped in May 2015 and when the Endurace CF SLX was updated a year later, it borrowed heavily from Canyon's lightweight race frame. In fact, disc brakes aside, the two brakes are barely distinguishable, from the subtle truncated airfoil tube profiles to the integrated seatclamp, lowered to the junction of the seattube and seatstays.
The Endurace CF SLX looks to combine low weight and aerodynamics - and with a claimed frame weight of 820g (and 325 for the fork), it's certainly one of the lightest disc-ready frames available. By comparison, the Ultimate's frame and fork come in at 780g and 295g respectively. The Endurace's lightweight chassis provides the basis for a very light bike, with this 8.0 build - with a mechanical Shimano Ultegra groupset and DT Swiss RR21 Dicut db wheels - coming in at just 7.4kg.
£2,999£2,699* (see update at bottom of page)
- Sizes: XS-XXL
- Size tested: M
- Weight: 7.4kg
- Website: Canyon
The Endurace isn't an aero machine in the mould of Canyon's Aeroad race bike, but it has a number of features to help the frame cut through the wind, from the svelte, hourglass headtube and truncated fork design, to the D-shaped seattube and downtube. Just as was the case when the latest Ultimate CF SLX was launched, Canyon say these tube profiles improve aerodynamic efficiency without compromising stiffness or low weight.
Comfort is key to any endurance bike and, again, the Endurace borrows a key feature from the Ultimate to boost the ride quality. Canyon have lowered the seattube clamp to the junction of the seatstays and seattube, and that gives the skinny 27.2mm seatpost more room to flex (Canyon say the seatpost’s effective flexing length is increased by up to 110mm).
Is the Endurace CF SLX just a more affordable, slightly heavier version of the Ultimate, then? The two have their similarities, no doubt about that, but there are also a number of key differences. First up, every bike in the Endurace range is specced with Canyon's comfort-enhancing VCLS 2.0 seatpost.
The leaf spring design offers significantly more flex than a conventional seatpost but the curved design also places the rider further behind the bottom bracket. Canyon say this can potentially have a negative impact on the rider's ability to put power down, so they have added a subtle kink to the Endurace's seattube to effectively shorten the toptube length without affecting the seattube angle.
The Endurace CF SLX also has significantly more tyre clearance than the Ultimate. Wider tyres have the ability to significantly improve comfort and the Endurace comes specced with 28mm rubber as standard, with clearance to accept anything up to 33mm.
That tyre clearance comes partly from the fact the Endurace is a disc-equipped machine. Canyon have adopted the now ubiquitous flat mount standard to attach the Shimano disc brake calipers to the frame, with 12mm thru-axles at the front and rear to add a little extra security and stiffness to the braking interface.
While the Endurace is equipped with a similar Aerocockpit integrated handlebar to that first seen on the Aeroad and subsequently introduced to the Ultimate, there are a handful of subtle but significant differences between the Aerocockpit H31 found on the Endurace and the H36 and H11 handlebars found on Canyon's racier rides.
The H31 cockpit is designed to offer more compliance (a claimed ten per cent improvement over the H36 unit, according to Canyon) and has a six degree sweepback to reduce pressure on the wrists, a three degree flare to increase control and leverage on the drops, and a shorter reach. All that helps place the rider in a more forgiving position.
Speaking of which, the geometry of the Endurace is key, and another key point of difference with the Ultimate. The frame is based around Canyon's Sport geometry, which is the most relaxed setup they offer (the Aeroad has the most aggressive Pro geometry, while the Ultimate's Sport Pro geometry sits between the two).
At first glance, the Endurace's numbers are very similar to the Ultimate, with a 56cm Endurace just 3.3mm shorter in the toptube and 2.5mm taller in the headtube. However, rather than adding more height to the headtube, Canyon have instead extended the fork, and that adds approximately 10mm to the stack and reduces the reach by 8mm. By adding that height to the fork, and not the headtube, the Endurace doesn't have the towering (and unsightly) headtube of some endurance/sportive bikes.
Versatility was the key theme which came out of the launch of the Endurace CF SLX in June - "no two rides are the same, no two roads are the same, no two riders are the same," read Canyon's accompanying press release - and it's a machine which offers very little compromise.
Get your head down on a fast, flat road and the Endurace is a willing companion; head into the hills and it will match every pedal stroke; point it down the subsequent descent and the self-assured handling and hydraulic disc brakes come to the fore; take a detour onto a rough country lane or gravel track and the Endurace has the confidence to come with you.
The Endurace perfectly captures the current zeitgeist in road bike development: it's light, stiff, aerodynamic and comfortable, with a sensible riding position, stacks of tyre clearance and the added benefits of disc brakes. Sure, everyone wants something different from their bike, but the Endurace offers a compelling package for the endurance rider.
As you'd expect, given the similarities in the frame design, the Endurace exhibits many of the qualities of the Ultimate, and most notably the rigidity of the frame. This may be an endurance bike but the Endurace is no slouch and it climbs very well, with the frame providing a stiff, efficient platform to put down the power. In fact, I set my fastest times on two local (and steep) climbs on the Endurace.
"This may be an endurance bike but the Endurace is no slouch and it climbs very well... I set my fastest times on two local (and steep) climbs on the Endurace"
Of course, that's helped by the low weight of the bike, and while the Endurace doesn't have the outright zip of the Ultimate (we'll come on to that), it still feels nimble and agile when the pace heats up or the road rises. Climb seated in the saddle and the frame remains rock solid under heavy torque; rise out of the saddle and it swings happily from side to side.
We have no way of testing the aero prowess of the Endurace but it's worth recognising the aerodynamic features Canyon have incorporated into the frame and cockpit. The idea behind the comfort-enhancing features of any endurance bike is to help you stay fresher, in order to travel further, faster, and if you can achieve that while throwing improved aerodynamics into the mix then it's a win-win situation.
Canyon also say the Endurace's disc brakes have a negligible effect on aerodynamics - a claimed 3.3-watt difference between the Ultimate CF SLX and Endurace CF SLX at 45km/h during wind tunnel testing, with the majority of that attributed to the effect of disc-specific wheels, rather than the frame itself.
While the Endurace is based around Canyon's most relaxed geometry, it's still an entertaining ride out on the road, with handling traits which befit its position as an endurance-cum-race bike. The wheelbase remains short at 990m on our medium test machine and that gives the Endurace a snappy quality.
The Endurace isn't quite as fast under hand or as immediately responsive to steering inputs as an all-out race bike or the Ultimate, for that matter, but it strikes a lovely balance between racy and relaxed. It has the stability to cruise at speed with no worries, while retaining the agility and confidence to tackle twisting, technical descents. That balance is key - confidence when riding downhill comes not only from stability, but also having the agility to respond quickly and accurately to changes in the road.
In terms of fit, the Endurace strikes a sensible middle ground between gate-like sportive bikes of old and out-and-out race bikes. It's a geometry which will allow a lot of riders to find a suitable position, even if you want to get your head down on an aggressive setup. Sure, it's not as low and long as Canyon's racier bikes, but the position and subsequent handling is well-suited to a versatile ride like the Endurace.
We've used Canyon's VCLS 2.0 seatpost before and it continues to impress here. It offers a remarkable amount of flex under load and that has an immediately noticeable cushioning effect when riding on consistently rough roads. If you stray into a pothole or hit a speed bump, it helps absorb the impact of heavier blows.
Unlike the new Specialized Roubaix with its FutureShock front suspension, or the Trek Domane SLR and its front IsoSpeed, there's no obvious comfort-enhancing technology at the front of the Endurace. Canyon have focussed their efforts on the rear, with the lowered seatpost clamp and VCLS post, and so the front is a little harsher. That's nothing unusual, though, and the handlebar does a reasonable job at soaking up high frequency road vibrations.
Tyres have steadily got wider over the past few years - endurance bikes moved from 23mm to 25mm, with race bikes quickly doing the same, before endurance bikes once again stepped up to 28mm. It's a width which makes sense on a bike like the Endurace - contributing significantly to the comfort of the ride and also to the confidence-inspiring handling. Wider tyres don't feel quite as nimble on the road as slimmer rubber, but that doesn't have an adverse affect on speed.
Clearance for wider tyres adds some versatility into the mix, too, and the Endurace is as happy taking on broken country lanes as it is the odd gravel track or well-made bridleway. That said, while the Continental Grand Prix 4000S II tyres are superb for on-road use - they're some of the best out there - if you plan on regularly riding off the beaten track, or if you'll use the Endurace all through winter, then we'd recommend something a little hardier.
"The Endurace perfectly captures the current zeitgeist in road bike development: it’s light, stiff, aerodynamic and comfortable, with a sensible riding position, stacks of tyre clearance and the added benefits of disc brakes"
That's the beauty of the Endurace, though - a change of tyres (with room for 33mm rubber, there's the option to go really wide) and you'll bring out a new side of its personality. Fit something like a Panaracer Gravel King, Challenge Strada Bianca or Schwalbe G-One Speed and you'll bring out the gravel bike in the Endurace.
However, the one thing we'd readily change about the Endurace is the lack of mudguard mounts. Perhaps it's just our fascination with mudguards in the UK, but with rival bikes like the Trek Domane, BMC Roadmachine and Focus Paralane coming with hidden mounts for full mudguards, it looks an oversight on an endurance bike which has versatility as its calling card and otherwise well setup for year-round use. Realistically, if you have £3,000 to spend on a bike then the Endurace CF SLX 8.0 will do almost anything you want it to, and while you can get clip-on mudguards, like the Crud RoadRacer Mk3s, to use on road bikes with wider tyres and no 'guard mounts, the option of having the real deal here would complete the job.
Canyon offer the Endurace CF SLX in six builds, with the 8.0 we have here opening the range at
£2,999 £2,699* (see update at bottom of page), and the Shimano Dura-Ace Di2-equipped Endurace CF SLX 9.0 SL topping the bill at £5,099. The frame remains exactly the same through the range and while the 8.0 may be the entry point into the Endurace CF SLX line-up, there's nothing entry-level about the spec.
As we've come to expect from Canyon, no corners have been cut. That starts with a complete Shimano Ultegra groupset, with a 52-36t chainset paired with an 11-32t cassette. That might look an unusual setup on paper - a semi-compact chainset paired with a wide-ranging cassette - but it's a smart choice.
The 52-36t chainset occupies an ideal middleground for fast sportive and endurance riders, with only racers likely to demand more, while the 11-32t cassette provides a wide spread of gears for climbing. Stick the Endurace in the 36-tooth chainring and 32-tooth sprocket, and you'll be able to winch yourself up the steepest slopes.
The H31 Aerocockpit integrated handlebar and stem obviously doesn't offer any of the adjustability of a traditional setup (the length of the stem and width of the 'bar increases as you go through the Endurace's seven sizes). With that in mind, the shape has to work for you, but, all things considered, it's an easy handlebar to get along with, thanks to the short reach and comfortable tops. A Fizik Aliante R5 saddle complete the build and continues the theme of quality kit.
The Canyon Endurace is undoubtedly one of the best endurance bikes out there. Canyon have delivered a bike which offers superb levels of comfort, self-assured handling and a performance edge to satisfy the most demanding of endurance riders who want to go the distance. Throw in disc brakes, plenty of tyre clearance, a relaxed geometry and a no-compromises spec, and it's a potent mix.
Update (10/11/2016): Canyon have reduced the price of the Endurace CF SLX from £2,999 to £2,699 until November 13, 2016. Canyon will then introduce 2017 models, with specs and prices updated accordingly.
- Superb levels of comfort
- Lightweight, responsive ride
- Lively but confidence-inspiring handling
- Faultless spec
- No mudguard mounts
- Online sales only