Gear News

Canyon launch ‘more comfortable and more aerodynamic’ 2016 Ultimate CF SLX

New frame to be ridden by Nairo Quintana at the Tour de France

First came the super-light bike, then came the aerodynamic bike, and that was followed by the endurance bike – now Canyon have sought to combine all three with the launch of the fourth generation Ultimate CF SLX, close to the Canyon-sponsored Movistar team’s headquarters in Pamplona, Spain.

The Ultimate CF SLX platform has existed for more than a decade, and it has achieved notable success in that time, with major victories from Cadel Evans’ World Championship victory in 2009 through to Nairo Quintana’s 2014 Giro d’Italia triumph. Quintana will now prepare for a tilt at the 2015 Tour de France title aboard this latest version of the Ultimate CF SLX.

The bike will be available to the public from October/November, with ten models planned, including one machine with women’s-specific components. UK pricing is to be confirmed. If you want more photos of the new Canyon Ultimate CF SLX, check out the bumper gallery at the bottom, otherwise here’s the tech lowdown…

The 2016 Canyon Ultimate CF SLX has had an aero overhaul (Pic: George Scott/Factory Media)

The heritage of the Ultimate platform has always been stiffness-to-weight ratio, according to Sebastian Hofer, Canyon’s carbon fibre engineer, but the new Ultimate seeks to maintain the stiffness-to-ratio of the previous version, while, crucially, improving comfort by ten per cent and reducing aerodynamic drag by ten per cent. That three-way goal made up Canyon’s chief objective for the Ultimate CF SLX.

How have Canyon achieved that? The tube profiles of the Ultimate CF SLX have been overhauled, with particular focus on the headtube and downtube, while also introducing the integrated Aerocockpit first seen on Aeroad, resulting in a claimed 7.4-watt improvement (or an eight per cent drag saving) for the frameset, and a claimed 12.9-watt improvement (14 per cent drag saving) for the frameset and Aerocockpit combined. The challenge for Canyon has been in achieving those improvements without negatively impacting on the frame’s stiffness-to-weight ratio, which we’ll come on to in more detail.

Comfort, meanwhile, is taken care of by Canyon’s Vertical Comfort Lateral Stiffness concept, which was part of the make-up of the previous Ultimate. In truth, it’s a fancy way of saying the carbon fibre layup has been tuned to build in additional comfort. The key with the new Ultimate CF SLX, however, is the innovative integrated seatpost clamp, which results in a claimed 15 per cent improvement in comfort, with the seatpost reportedly able to absorb up to 50 per cent of vibrations from the road.

We’re at the launch of the Ultimate CF SLX in Pamplona, Spain, home of Quintana’s team and, following the product presentation, will be leaving with a diploma in carbon fibre engineering and aerodynamics – so let us share some of that information with you and the story behind the new frame.

The Ultimate CF SLX’s tubes have been reworked in a bid to improve aerodynamics (Pic: George Scott/Factory Media)


While the Aeroad CF SLX, unveiled ahead of the Tour de France last year, remains Canyon’s all-out aero road bike (see what they did with the name there?), the aerodynamics are now also at the heart of the Ultimate CF SLX.

The biggest challenge in development, however, was to boost the Ultimate’s aerodynamic prowess without adversely affecting the frame’s stiffness-to-weight ratio, according to Canyon’s aerodynamics engineer Michael Adomeit. That’s because stiffness comes in the width of the tube (by doubling the width of a tube, you increase its stiffness eight-fold, says Adomeit), while aerodynamics is all about reducing the front area of the tube exposed to the wind.

Typically, any aerodyamic gains are offset by increased weight and/or reduced stiffness, and so Canyon weren’t able to use the Trident 2.0 tube profiles adopted on the Aeroad, simply because they would add too much weight and thus reduce the stiffness-to-weight ratio of the Ultimate.

“Adopting previously developed tube profiles such as Trident 2.0, as used on the Aeroad CF SLX, was not an option as these are only effective when they are applied above a certain aspect ratio, something that was incompatible with the voluminous tube shapes required to achieve our STW targets,” according to Canyon.

Canyon spent significant time in the wind tunnel during development (Pic: Rene Zieger)

To combat this, Canyon have adopted a narrower, rounder D-shape profile on the new Ultimate’s downtube, which gives the tube a far blunter profile and is said to decrease the separation of airflow from the tube. This does result in a loss of lateral stiffness, but Canyon say they’ve overcome this by introducing a broader, box-like toptube and wider-set seatstays, as these areas have a smaller impact on aerodynamic performance. Canyon have also applied a D-shape profile to the seattube and seatstays.

Canyon have also re-worked the headtube, using an untapered 1-1/4″ fork steerer, which is said to improve handling performance and torsional stiffness. While this could potentially result in a larger frontal surface area than a 1-1/8″ fork steerer, Canyon say this is offset by the headtube’s sleek, hourglass profile, helped by the use of compact Acros headset bearings.

Besides the downtube and headtube, aerodynamic performance is also improved by a new fork which adopts a similar D-shape to the downtube, seattube and seatstays, while the integrated seatpost clamp also has an impact (as well as boosting comfort). Canyon also say the position of the two bottle cage mounts has been optimised with aerodynamics in mind.

Those aerodynamic changes to the frame come while still achieving a super-low claimed frame weight of 780g, with the fork a claimed 295g – and, crucially for Canyon, maintaining a high stiffness-to-weight ratio, with particular attention also paid to the carbon fibre layup to help in that regard.

The seatpost clamp has been moved further down the seattube to free up more of the post to deflect and thereby improve comfort (Pic: George Scott/Factory Media)

“Comfort can make you faster”

That’s aerodynamics and stiffness-to-weight sorted, but what about comfort? Comfort has become a key trend (or buzz word, depending on how you look at it) in recent years, and that’s no different here, with the thinking that, even at the top level of professional cycling, a more comfortable bike will help you save energy, which in turn can then be used to press harder on the pedals.

While the carbon fibre layup plays a significant role in the comfort of the Ultimate CF SLX, as it does any bike, the key talking point here is the innovative seatpost clamp, which has been moved from its traditional position at the exit of the seattube, to the junction of the seatstays and seattube. Canyon say this frees up more of the seatpost for deflection, contributing significantly to that claimed 15 per cent improvement in comfort.

“The hybrid injection-moulded synthetic insert is one of the most complex components Canyon has ever developed and consists of three parts: a fibre-reinforced base, a soft seal where the seat tube ends and an aluminium press to transfer the tightening screw’s force onto the seatpost,” say Canyon.

Comfort is a hard thing to quantify, but Canyon have arrived at this number by clamping the frame at the dropouts and applying a torsional load to the headtube to measure vertical deflection.

Canyon sought to improve aerodynamics and comfort without affecting the frame’s stiffness-to-weight ratio (Pic: George Scott/Factory Media)

Small details matter

While stiffness, weight, aerodynamics and comfort are at the heart of the Ultimate CF SLX, Canyon haven’t overlooked the small stuff, with an impressive level of attention to detail across the frame.

When it came to cable routing, Canyon’s aim was to achieve a frictionless braking and shifting feel and they’ve sought to do this by first using a ‘splash guard’ around the front derailleur cable exits, where dirt and debris can collect. This is said to keep the internals clean, reducing friction.

The toptube cable stop has also been redesigned – to the point that it verges on over-engineering, Adomeit admits – and using a synthetic, folding design that provides a secure fit and reduces the cable angle from 22 degrees to 17 degrees, again to improve feel and performance, with the thinking that the cable should run as straight and smooth as possible in order to maintain tension.

The headtube cable stops, meanwhile, are made from aluminium and weigh just 2g each, and have again been designed to ensure the cables have the straighest possible path through the frame. They’ve also been moved closer to the steering axle to make it simpler to route the cables from the handlebars to the frame without rubbing against the toptube.

Finally, as far as the small details are concerned, Canyon have redesigned the rear derailleur hanger using finite element analysis, resulting in a single part design with two screws, rather than the more complex two-part construction with three screws used on the previous element. What does that actually achieve? Canyon reckon that eliminating the outer part of the previous design results in a stiffer hanger (by some 25 per cent), said to shift precision by reducing the hanger’s elastic deformation under heavy load.

Oh, and one other thing, just like the previous Ultimate CF SLX, this new frame has clearance to accept 28mm tyres at the front of year. We expect all bikes in the range to come with 25mm rubber, but the option’s there shoulder you wish to use a fatter tyre.

Canyon have got the small details covered, down to the ‘splash guards’ in the bottom bracket shell (Pic: George Scott/Factory Media)


Finally, the geometry of the Ultimate CF SLX has also been revised. Canyon sought to achieve ‘symmetrical size distribution’, so the options now run from XXS to XXL, rather than XS to XXXL as before.

As a result, the stack-to-reach ratio has been tweaked across the range. Canyon say smaller riders have more to gain from this move, with the XXS size offering a greater range while, at the other end of the spectrum, the XXL frame is said to be almost identical to the previous XXXL. A medium frame, meanwhile, is said to be 35 per cent closer to the previous large size, benefiting riders who previous fell between an M and an L.

That’s it for now but we’re about to head out for a ride in the hills surrounding Pamplona with a handful of the Movistar team, including Quintana, so look out for a first ride report.

Website: Canyon

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