If the Canyon Ultimate CF SL looks familiar to regular readers then that’s because – at first glance – it is.
But looks can be deceiving. While the Ultimate CF SL shares the same geometry and tube profiles as RoadCyclingUK’s 2013 Bike of the Year – the Ultimate CF SLX – the frame is, in fact, a new addition to Canyon’s range for model year 2014, first unveiled at Eurobike last September.
Canyon have tweaked the carbon fibre layup to increase the SL’s frame weight from 790g to 940g compared to the SLX, while dropping the price. But don’t be fooled into thinking the SL is just the heavyweight, second-class sibling of the SLX. It’s at this point that we should insert a joke about German precision as our test model – the 9.0 SL – is bang-on the UCI’s 6.8kg weight limit on the RCUK scales, which, given the £2,299 price tag, is quite an achievement.
It’s for that reason that I’ve brought it with me on a training camp in Andalucia, Spain, where there’s no shortage of climbs to put what is a very light bike through its paces.
Carbon layup aside, the Ultimate CF SL shares many of the features of the Ultimate CF SLX. In fact, apart from the model name printed on the side of the frame, the chassis is largely identical.
That means it has the same flattened toptube, which reduces the surface area of the frame and, Canyon say, reduces weight, as well as the Maximus seattube design, which is both slim to improve comfort while maintaining a wide connection with the PressFit bottom bracket to boost stiffness. The direct connection between the seatstays (super-skinny to help reduce road buzz before it reaches the rider) and toptube is also said to improve the stiffness of the rear triangle.
Up front, the Ultimate CF SL uses the same full-carbon One One Four SLX as the Ultimate CF SLX and that slots into a tapered headtube. The Ultimate CF SL uses an Acros i-Lock headset, which does away with the traditional clamp inside the fork steerer and replaces it with a ramped collar to save weight and, Canyon say, protect the carbon fibre fork steerer. All cables are routed internally.
The frame uses Canyon’s ‘Sport Pro’ geometry and on our medium test bike (seven sizes are available from XS to XXXL) that translates to a 549mm toptube, 150mm headtube, 73.25 and 73.5 headtube and seattube angles, 410mm chainstays and 980mm wheelbase. Those are fairly racy numbers, as you’d expect on a machine which shares the same geometry as the two bikes (the Ultimate CF SLX and Aeroad) ridden by Canyon’s two WorldTour teams, Katusha and Movistar.
The Ultimate CF SL is available in six builds – all based around the same frame – from the Shimano 105-equipped 7.0 for £1,399, to the top-of-the-range 9.0 Aero for £2,399.
Our test model, the 9.0 SL is the lightest of the bunch – hence the SL, or Super Light, moniker – thanks largely to the SRAM Force 22 groupset and Mavic Ksyrium SLS wheelset.
SRAM Force is often considered the privateer racer’s groupset of choice thanks to its low weight, high performance, and relative affordability, and the latest ’22’ incarnation adds a sprocket to jump from ten-speed to 11-speed. It’s cheaper than the old ten-speed Force, too, while borrowing much of the technology of the flagship Red 22 group, including the excellent Yaw front derailleur, which when setup correctly, eliminates chain rub in all gear combinations.
The groupset is deployed in its entirety and the 9.0 SL is specced as standard with a compact 50-34t chainset and 11-28t cassette to provide a wide spread of gears. It’s also available with standard 53-39t chainrings and a 11-25t cassette and that’s how our machine arrived, though we’ve swapped the rear block to an 11-28t setup to take the sting out of Andalucia’s long and plentiful climbs.
Otherwise, the Mavic Ksyrium SLS wheels help keep the weight low, thanks to a claimed weight of 1,395g. They’re part of a wheel-tyre system from Mavic so come wrapped in the French manufacturer’s Yksion Pro tyres.
The aluminium handlebar and stem come from Ritchey’s WTS range, while the seatpost is Canyon’s own-brand VCLS carbon fibre post, which is infused with basalt to improve comfort. The VCLS 2.0 split seatpost, which we were impressed with when we reviewed the Ultimate CF SLX, is available as an optional upgrade for riders in search of a more comfortable ride. Finally, a Fizik Antares saddle completes the build, so, as we’ve come to expect from Canyon, no corners have been cut as far as the spec sheet is concerned. Now to find out how it rides.