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RCUK100 - Canyon Ultimate CF SLX

Reviews

Canyon Ultimate CF SLX

Successor to former RCUK favourite continues winning trend

The previous version of the Canyon Ultimate CF SLX was one of our favourite bikes. Incredibly light with an urgency and directness to it when you turn up the heat on the pedals, and with lightning fast and accurate handling.

It was our bike of the year in 2013 and so the German firm’s engineers had a job on their hands when designing its successor.

With a frame weight of 790g, could they make it even lighter? Perhaps – there are certainly lighter frames out there – but not without unduly sacrificing stiffness-to-weight ratio, apparently.

The previous Canyon Ultimate CF SLX was our bike of the year in 2013 and so the German firm’s engineers had a job on their hands when designing its successor.

Weight, after all, is only one half of the equation and ensuring a featherweight frame remains stiff enough to handle the power output of a WorldTour pro, with Katusha and Movistar sponsored by Canyon, is no mean feat.

As it turns out, the 2016 Ultimate is lighter than its predecessor – but only by 10g. Instead, Canyon have focused on improving the frame’s aerodynamic performance and comfort.

This isn’t an all-out aero road bike – that status is reserved for the Aeroad, launched in 2014 and ridden to victory by Alexander Kristoff at the Tour of Flanders – but Canyon have applied some of what they learned in the development of the Aeroad, and before that the Speedmax time trial bike, and applied it to the Ultimate in a series of truncated airfoil tube profiles.

Selected models of the 2016 Ultimate CF SLX also come with Canyon’s Aerocockpit one-piece handlebar and stem, aerodynamically profiled and built to hide the majority of cables. The integrated Garmin mount on our machine is available as an upgrade and is another smart touch, as it’s otherwise tricky to mount a computer on a proprietary stem like this.

Other small, well thought out features across the bike include a splash guard where the front derailleur cable exits, to stop debris collecting and help maintain smooth shifting, and bespoke cable stops to ensure the cables have the straightest possible path through the frame.

RCUK100 - Canyon Ultimate CF SLX road bike
RCUK100 - Canyon Ultimate CF SLX road bike
RCUK100 - Canyon Ultimate CF SLX road bike
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It’s a bike which combines pedigree and performance, but Canyon’s direct sales model also means it’s one which represents truly remarkable value for money 

As for comfort, we like what Canyon have done. The seatpost clamp has been moved from its standard position at the top of the seattube, to lower down at the point where the seatstays meet the seattube.

The benefits are two-fold: it hides the seatpost clamp itself, bringing a negligible aerodynamic benefit but, more importantly, it frees up more of the seatpost to flex above the clamp. It’s a simple engineering solution but a clever one.

There’s also room for 28mm tyres within the frame. Wider tyres needn’t be the preserve of endurance bikes, particularly with a number of manufacturers beginning to offer 28mm race rubber, including Continental and their superb Grand Prix 4000S II tyre and Schwalbe’s first class Pro One tubeless tyre – another boon for comfort but also potentially improving grip and reducing rolling resistance.

Back to stiffness-to-weight and, despite improving the aerodynamic performance and comfort, the 2016 Ultimate retains the rigidity of the machine it replaced.

After the launch of the latest version of the Ultimate CF SLX in June 2015, Movistar’s Nairo Quintana went on to ride it to second at the Tour de France, immediately underlining its status as a top-level bike.

RCUK100 - Canyon Ultimate CF SLX road bike
RCUK100 - Canyon Ultimate CF SLX road bike
RCUK100 - Canyon Ultimate CF SLX road bike

And we’ve been nothing but impressed by the Ultimate on the road. It has perhaps lost a little of the agility which made the previous version feel so alive, but it ultimately remains a super-fast and pinpoint race machine, and, while we can’t necessarily comment on any aerodynamic benefit, the amount of comfort afforded through the rear end is certainly appreciable on rough roads. The old Ultimate was certainly no bone-shaker but this steps things up a notch and the 2016 bike is an impressively smooth ride.

It’s when the road points uphill that the Ultimate feels most at home. It’s a joy to climb with and a completely willing partner – the low weight and rigidity of the frame mean it’s only ever the rider who lets the package down. It’s a dream of an all-rounder as far as any race bike is concerned but really remains a climbing machine at heart.

So it’s a bike which matches pedigree and performance, but Canyon’s direct sales model also means it’s one which represents remarkable value for money – even if you will have to wait to get your hands on one.

The range starts at £2,699 for the Shimano Ultegra-equipped Ultimate CF SLX 8.0, which comes in below the UCI weight limit at 6.7kg, and rises to £5,399 for the flagship machine we’ve featured in the RCUK100. Zipp’s outstanding Firecrest 303 wheels, also in the RCUK100, are the perfect match for the Ultimate, bringing low weight and aerodynamic performance to the party. But whatever spec you choose, you’re getting a lot of bike for the money.

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