German manufacturer Canyon celebrated their sponsorship of Spanish team Movistar this year by releasing a replica of the squad's Ultimate CF SLX 9.0 team bike, offering you the rare opportunity to ride exactly the same bike as the professional team. And in case you need reminding, this is the bike that Nairo Quintana rode to Giro d'Italia victory. Only his was a bit pinker.
Add your own team jersey and shorts and you're a pro contract away from looking the part. And about 30,000km of hard training a year and a good set of genes. That aside, there aren't that many manufacturers in the professional peloton that offer a full replica. Sure it's easy, if you've got the funds, to build a bike with the same specification, but getting a frame with the team livery and colour matched components, well that's a bit harder.
This bike shows us how far bicycle development has come in the past couple of decades. At one time the professionals used to race equipment that money simply couldn't buy, and you wouldn't have been able to buy the same bike the pros were racing without some really deep pockets. Now though it's possible to actually buy a bike that is lighter than what the pros are allowed to race; that's a startling display of the rapid development that has occurred in road cycling over the years.
Pro level equipment
This replica bike costs £6,869.60 and for that you get a Canyon Ultimate CF SLX frame built up with the same parts as those used by the Movistar team. That means a Campagnolo Super Record EPS groupset with a pair of Bora Ultra TWO 50mm carbon fibre tubular wheels with Continental tyres glued to them.
The Ultimate CF SLX range does start from just £2,999 however, using the exact same frame - the pros don't get any special treatment - but if you really want this exact specification, the replica is your only choice. There is a £5,168 version with Campagnolo Super Record EPS, but different wheels. So there are choices if your budget doesn't stretch to this replica version.
None of the other bikes in the Ultimate CF SLX range look nearly as nice as this replica model however. There aren't many team kits that really do it for me in the peloton, but on this bike the Movistar brand colours really work, and Canyon have brilliantly gone for a reserved approach that avoids being lairy and, as a result, it looks rather fine. So no you don't need to be a Movistar team fan to ride this bike, it looks good in its own right. There aren't even that many Movistar logos on it.
Shimano might be getting most of the attention with their Di2 electronic groupset at the moment, but Campagnolo's Super Record EPS is a very credible alternative. Shift performance is fast and precise, as good as Shimano in this department. But where the Italian company's groupset really draws ahead is in the feel of the shift levers; they feel less like the buttons of Shimano's groupset, or more like the mechanical shift levers they've clearly tried to emulate. That, I feel, makes EPS just a bit nicer to use.
Canyon use the latest EPS internal battery and it's concealed inside the seat tube.
Canyon supply their own VCLS carbon fibre seatpost and Ritchey the carbon handlebar and aluminium stem, with Movistar branded and coloured Lizard Skin bar tape and a colour matched Fizik Antares saddle.
Electrifying ride and smooth handling
That's quite a package of parts and produces, as you would imagine, an electrifying ride. The Canyon delivers superbly in all areas. It's properly quick, accelerates rapidly, handles with verve and vim and is surprisingly comfortable.
The performance really is right up there with the best road bikes I've ridden. Punt it down the road and the only limitation to your speed is your legs. This bike screams potential and the exciting performance encourages you to fully exploit it all of the time. The compact 50/34 (the pros will ride a 53/39) is the only limitation to outright speed.
When it comes to hills, the UCI minimum weight limit busting 6.15kg weight ensures the Canyon gallops up ascents, steep and short or long and gradual, with a rapid pace. Of course you'd expect that of such a lightweight bike, and it certainly doesn't disappoint.
Something this low weight clearly indicates is how hopelessly out of date the UCI's weight limit is. It might have been meaningful when it was first implemented, but it simply doesn't serve a genuine purpose today. Not when the team mechanics have to add lead weights to the bikes to bring them up to the legal minimum.
That low weight isn't a problem for us though, and means we can enjoy the benefits that lack of weight brings. And any expectations that the low weight creates nervous and twitchy prove unfounded from the first couple of miles on the Ultimate CF SLX.
Instead it's very well balanced with handling that provides stable road manners. You can waft along the road as comfortable as you would be on a touring bike. Yet inject some pace or verve into your riding and it quickly comes alive.
The Ultimate CF SLX, through a combination of the frame and fork and the build kit, delivers outstanding acceleration. In race situations or the weekly chaingang, this really helps to launch after breaks and attacks.
Comfort isn't sacrificed in this pursuit of stiffness and weight. I was surprised just how comfortable the bike was, even with the 50mm carbon fibre wheels. The Canyon smooths rougher roads and sections of broken tarmac are smothered as well as any of the best carbon bikes I've ridden to date.
Bigger impacts are well handled, the 27.2mm seatpost providing a decent amount of deflection and the skinny seatstays helping here too.
The wheels really contribute to the speed. They roll up to speed quickly, the freehub engages instantly, and they display a high level of stiffness when you're loading them up into corners, or swinging the bike along the road in a sprint. It's when you're cruising at race speeds that the aerodynamics really come into play, they gather and maintain momentum over crests and dips in the roads. Through corners they're taut and stiff, with not a hint of flex when you get animated on the bike.
A light 790g carbon frame balances weight and stiffness
Most frames being raced in the professional peloton boast claimed weights of well under a kilogram, with many very close to 800 and 700g. Canyon launched this updated Ultimate CF SLX last year and in the process reduced the weight down to a claimed 790g, for a size large. That's comparable to some of the so-called lightest frames currently being raced in the peloton.
It's probably getting harder for manufacturers to shed weight from already very light frames, while maintain the necessary stiffness, and ensuring they're still relatively affordable. Canyon made their gains with this updated frame not through any drastic changes, but a combination of tweaks that netted an overall weight loss.
The main tubes are slimmer where less material is needed. The top tube for example is flatter to reduce the surface area, and therefore the weight, while the seat tube slims and bulges where it needs to to cut the weight and provide stiffness.
Canyon use a press-fit bottom bracket now too, pretty much standard on all pro-level race frames. The wider shell allows the down tube to be larger, as well as facilitating oversized chainstays and the new seat tube.
The fork legs are much slimmer too, something you notice immediately you clap eyes on the bike from the side. They almost look too skinny for the chunky frame. Smaller details that you can't see like carbon fibre dropouts and internal cable and electronic wiring routing further help to decrease the frame weight.
All this weight loss hasn't had a detrimental impact on the stiffness. Canyon have managed to provide a really nice balance of stiffness, weight and comfort.
One thing you notice when riding the Canyon is how direct the front end of the bike is. This is partly a result of the oversized 1 1/4in top bearing (with 1 1/2in lower bearing), instead of the more prevalent 1 1/8in size, providing a larger diameter tapered steerer tube for the new fork.
That does mean none of your old stems will fit if you want to change, but Canyon will happily swap the stem for a longer, or shorter, one if you need it. The novel Acros Ai-70 headset, using a preload collar below the stem, makes it easy to adjust the height of the stem on the steerer tube without having to preload the headset bearings.
It didn't take many miles to realise the Ultimate CF SLX 9.0 is a class act, without doubt one of the best race bikes you can currently buy. The frameset offers outstanding ride performance, precise handling and impressive comfort, and in this build it's supremely light and fast when the hammer goes down.
Clearly, owning and riding a team replica bike isn't going to appeal to everyone, but the understated Movistar branding does mean you can happily buy this bike based on its own, very appealing, merits and not because it's a replica. If you really want to ride the exact same bike as ridden by the professionals, this is your chance.
Top-drawer pro level equipment and a lightweight carbon frame combines to create electrifying performance with great handling
road.cc test report
Make and model: Canyon Ultimate CF SLX 9.0 Team Mov
Size tested: 55
About the bike
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
Light. Stiff. Ready to race. The Ultimate CF SLX will provide the foundations for success of our pro teams in 2014. This flagship model, with its stunning combination of Campagnolo Super Record EPS groupset and Bora Ultra Two wheels, answers to all the demands placed upon it by ardent enthusiasts and professionals alike. Continental Competition tubular tyres provide perfect grip and low rolling resistance in all conditions.
Tell us what the bike is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?
"A frame weighing just 790 g, an 8% stiffer head tube and an even stiffer bottom bracket: the new Ultimate CF SLX combines uncompromising thrust with supreme comfort. A further reduction in surface area has been achieved by increasing the radius at the tube transitions, the steering tube and the bottom bracket, and by reducing some of the tube diameters. Less material means less weight. The new dropouts on the fork and the frame are made entirely of carbon fibre, for a further significant weight reduction. You can count on us to scrutinise every single component before we agree to use it.
Vertical Comfort Lateral Stiffness – the VCLS Stays in conjunction with the VCLS Post improve the suspension properties of the frame effectively, without affecting the lateral stiffness. The VCLS Blades on the fork, comprising a special combination of basalt and carbon fibres, complete the Canyon VCLS Technology.
i-Lock headset system
With the special clamping mechanism of the i-Lock headset system the drilling of the steerer tube and the fitting of a clamping cone are no longer necessary. This ensures that the carbon shaft of the fork stays intact and offers maximum safety in every riding situation.
Frame and fork
Riding the bike
Wheels and tyres
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes.
Would you consider buying the bike? Yes.
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes.
Anything further to say about the bike in conclusion?
The Canyon Ultimate CF SLX 9.0 Movistar replica is a superb package that delivers impressive performance and handling
About the tester
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, touring, mtb,