Canyon Ultimate CF SLX 8.0  £2619.00

9/10

A pro-level frameset at the heart of a fast, efficient and comfortable bike that's exceptional value for money

Weight 6960g   Contact  www.canyon.com

by Mat Brett   June 6, 2011  

You won't have seen Canyon bikes in the shops because the German brand sell direct to the consumer, cutting out the middle man. This Ultimate CF SLX 8.0 is built around the same carbon fibre frameset that's used by the Omega Pharma-Lotto pro team, and it's equipped with Shimano's top-level Dura-Ace groupset. On the face of it, that looks like incredible value for money...

Frame

The Omega Pharma-Lotto team, home to Classics specialist Phillippe Gilbert, actually ride the more aerodynamic Aeroad CF for some races/stages, and the lightweight Ultimate CF SLX for others. They use a different component mix - you can buy a replica model - but whereas some teams use custom-made frames, all of Omega Pharma-Lotto's come from stock, so you can ride the exact design that, for example, Bart De Clercq rode to victory on stage 7 of this year's Giro d'Italia.

When the designers first got together to draw up the blueprints for this bike, they must have had the word 'rigidity' written on the flip chart in big letters... or whatever that is in German. This has to have been one of the key objectives here. Check out the head tube. It's a chunky old beast that houses a 1 1/4in bearing up top rather than the usual 1 1/8in, and a 1 1/2in bearing at the bottom. On our 58cm test bike, most of that tube is reinforced by the junction with the down tube; the area where they meet being over 10cm tall.

The axis of the down tube's ovalisation switches along its length so that it reaches right across the bottom bracket for more rigidity down there - really right across; it couldn't be any wider - and meaty chainstays provide more support at the back. The seat tube is interesting. Canyon call it their Maximus design. It starts out skinny at the top before bulging out massively on the non-driveside. It doesn't swell as much on the driveside but instead squares off with a flat outer face. The idea is to provide as much frame rigidity as possible while still offering enough clearance for the front mech and the chainset. Cervlo use a similar design having come to an arrangement with Canyon involving various patents, a couple of sets of lawyers and a judge.

The top tube slopes down significantly while at the same time tapering from its wide head tube junction to its narrow seat tube junction and the seatstays, in stark contrast to the rest of the frame, are super-skinny - just 13mm in diameter, if you want to get precise about it. Canyon call these VCLS stays - vertical comfort, lateral stiffness. Basically, it's a different way of saying that they engineer in some good old vertical compliance; they make them slim so they'll flex a bit for an improved quality of ride.

The VCLS post is designed to do a similar thing. It's 27.2mm in diameter which is slender by today's standards, and Canyon include basalt fibres in there. You know basalt, yeah? It's a common extrusive volcanic rock. It is usually grey to black and fine-grained due to rapid cooling of lava at the surface of a planet. Oh yes, we all know that. Okay, I might have had some help from Wikipedia there but the point is that basalt fibres are more elastic than carbon fibres, apparently, so they provide better damping to absorb shock.

The blades of Canyon's One One Four SLX fork contain these basalt fibres in with the carbon for the same purpose. It's a sub-300g fork and the carbon steerer is held in place by an i-Lock headset that Canyon have developed with fellow German brand Acros.

With most headsets these days you preload the bearings by tightening the top cap which is attached to a star nut or an expander cone inside the fork's steerer. Then you check the stem is straight and tighten its bolts. With the i-Lock system, you push down on the stem and tighten it to start with, then you remove any play with a tiny Torx bolt. What's the benefit? The idea is to remove any possibility of damaging the steerer. Plus, you can swap the stem or adjust it without affecting the preload on the headset.

You might be different, but I can't say any of that has been a massive problem for me in the past. Still, it's a system that works well. My only reservation is this... You're away from home and you need to adjust the headset: what are you more likely to have trouble laying your hands on, a 5mm Allen key or a tiny torx wrench? That's my two-penn'orth. Of course, if you were a Boy Scout or Girl Guide and you're always prepared, that won't be a problem.

In terms of looks, the Canyon divides opinion. There are those who like the simple black and white approach, and those who think it's a bit dull. It's a matter of taste, of course. You can go for exactly the same bike in matt black if you prefer.

Components

The Ultimate CF SLX is available in five different builds, the most expensive being the Campagnolo Super Record and Mavic R-Sys SL-equipped 9.0 Team (£3,909). This 8.0 is the cheapest model but the spec sheet still reveals an all-star cast.

The groupset is Shimano top-level Dura-Ace which provides excellent shifting at a light weight and some of the best all-condition braking out there. The usual Shimano groupset on bikes of this price is next-level-down Ultegra. We have a standard 53/39 tooth chainset on our test bike along with a 12-25T cassette although you can go for a compact 50/34T option if you prefer, and a wide-ranging 11-28T cassette. Horses for courses.

The wheels are Mavic Ksyrium Elites. Ksyriums have been around for years now but they still keep on performing. At 1,550g the pair, the Elites are reasonably light although not featherweight. The best thing about Ksyriums, in my experience, is that they last ages with very little attention. I've ridden thousands of miles on them with very few problems. Hit a tooth-shattering pothole... not a worry. The straight-pull, bladed spokes don't snap and the rims are still straight. Get them soaking when you're caught in a cloudburst and the cartridge bearings keep the water out well. Of course, other people might not have been so lucky, but I've got only good things to say about them... and this is my review, so there. The Conti Grand Prix 4000 tyres are great too, offering very good grip in all conditions and they're a reasonable weight.

The aluminium cockpit comes from Ritchey in the shape of a WCS 4-axis stem and Logic II bar - lightweight and reliable stuff - and the saddle is a Selle Italia SL Kit Carbonio. Each to his/her own on the saddle front but this is a popular option with quite a bit of flex in the body to smooth the ride. I've mentioned the VCLS seatpost already - volcanoes, remember? - but it's also worth pointing out that you can shimmy the clamp 20mm fore and aft to alter the setback and, effectively, the seat angle.

Speaking of angles, our 58cm test bike's has both head and seat angles of 73.5, which is pretty standard. As ever, they're slightly different for different frame sizes.

Okay, enough of this nonsense. How does it ride?

Ride

 

If you saw the pics of the Ultimate CF SLX and thought, 'That looks like a bike that combines efficiency with an unexpected amount of comfort,' you'd be absolutely right. Give yourself a pat on the back.

Efficiency really is the key here. The Canyon's bottom bracket shell is actually a fairly restrained size by modern standards but it doesn't shift to any noticeable degree when you punch the pedals around with all the power you've got. It's the same at the front end, which isn't all that surprising given the size of the head tube/down tube junction,

If I ride a bike that flexes up front, even if it's just a small amount, I struggle to trust it. I find myself backing off a little going into tight corners and braking on fast descents just in case it does something, you know, weird. The last thing you want when you're leaning the bike over at 40mph is for it to head in a slightly different direction to the one you're expecting. You want to point it where you want to go, then end up in that exact spot without making any allowances or needing to adjust things.

That's what you get here. The Canyon is very precise and very well-behaved... and that translates into confidence and speed. It's not all down to the frame and fork, of course, the Ksyrium wheels help on that score too. They're not as stiff as their R-Sys stablemates but they certainly hold their own when you sling them through the tight turns. And one other factor that allows you to take everything at a gallop is the braking. Dura-Ace anchors are excellent in all weather whether ('weather whether'? I'm going with it) you're feathering off a bit of excess speed or performing an emergency stop.

The Canyon is almost as impressive in terms of response speed too. Our 58cm model weighed in on the road.cc scales at 6.96kg (15.3lb). We get used to hearing crazy-low weights bandied about but don't forget that this is a £2,649 bike - not cheap but, compared to top end bikes from most other brands, not mega-expensive either. Sub 7kg is pretty darn impressive. As we never tire of pointing out, a light weight means nothing if you bend it like Beckham as soon as you get busy on the pedals, but that's not the case here. What happens when you put the power in is that you get an immediate reaction.

The time you'll be most thankful of that light weight/ impressive stiffness combo is when you head uphill. The Ultimate CF SLX is as keen to get to the top as you are. Spirited, I'd call it. Eager. Words like that. I keep going on about the Ksyrium wheels but, again, they do a fine job on the climbs, working with you rather than against you. As I said before, there are lighter wheels out there, and there are stiffer wheels out there, but these are a good combination of the two. Add in reliability and you're onto a winner.

The one other big characteristic is the comfort. I don't know about you but when someone tells me they've put basalt - or anything else out of a volcano, for that matter - into a seatpost or a fork, it triggers a little alarm in my head. There's this whirring noise and a flashing light and I start to think there might be some hardcore baloney coming my way. Just to put my cards on the table, like.

Now, whether or not it's down to the basalt (basalt, for goodness sake!) I couldn't say for sure, but this is a comfortable bike. I always do a 5hr ride on every bike I review (I don't test folders) and I felt absolutely fine and dandy at the end of my big ride on the Canyon. Personally, I'd put that down to the skinny seatstays, the slimline nature of the seatpost and plenty of vibration-damping flex in the saddle more than anything basaltic, but I guess I could be wrong.

What else useful can I tell you? The Dura-Ace drivetrain played nicely throughout; it always does. The lever hoods provided a comfy, flat perch for my hands, as usual, and the lengthy straight section on the drops of the anatomic bars was great for just resting on or for grabbing tight for an out of the saddle sprint.

I'm struggling for anything negative to say, to be honest, because this is an incredibly good bike for the money. Yes, if you paid a bit more you could get some truly lightweight wheels, for example, but you could always say that. You really can't complain about a bike with this spec priced at £2,609. It's an absolute bargain.

Verdict

A pro-level frameset at the heart of a fast, efficient and comfortable bike that's exceptional value for money

road.cc test report

Make and model: Canyon Ultimate CF SLX 8.0

Size tested: White 58cm

About the bike

State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.

Frame Canyon New F10 technology - carbon fibre

Fork Canyon One One Four SLX - carbon fibre

Headset Acros Ai-70 1.25in - 1.5in

Rear derailleur Shimano Dura-Ace 7900

Front derailleur Shimano DuraAce 7900

Shifters Shimano Dura-Ace 7900

Brake levers Shimano Dura-Ace 7900

Brakes Shimano Dura-Ace 7900

Cassette Shimano Dura-Ace 7900 11-28

Wheels Mavic Ksyrium Elite

Tyres Continental Grand Prix 4000 S

Chainset Shimano Dura-Ace 7900

Bottom bracket Shimano Dura-Ace 7900

Stem Ritchey WCS 4-Axis (31,8)

Handlebar Ritchey WCS Logic II

Saddle Selle Italia SL Kit Carbonio

Seat post Canyon VCLS Post

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?

Canyon say, '"Canyon has sent one of the fastest and lightest bikes with a super frame into the race." This was the opinion of Roadbike in its 03/2010 edition. The bike received the overall mark Very Good. The ride characteristics also impressed the testers from Roadbike: "The bike follows every command from the handlebar with razor-like precision and accelerates uncontrollably in a way that few other bikes on the market can match." Naturally, because this bike represents the first one in the elite category. Outstanding ride characteristics thanks to the innovative fork and an outstanding combination of stiffness and comfort thanks to the optimised carbon lay ups.'

It's a performance road bike.

Frame and fork

Overall rating for frame and fork
 
9/10

Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?

Spot on; no worries at all.

Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?

The frame is multi-modulus carbon fibre, and the fork is all carbon too.

Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?

Our 58cm model has head and seat angles that are both 73.5 and a wheelbase of 99cm.

How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?

Pretty standard. The 58cm size has a seat tube of 57cm and a top tube of 56.5cm.

Riding the bike

Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.

Yes, comfortable enough even on long rides on crap roads.

Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?

Yes, stiff and efficient through both the bottom bracket and at the front end.

How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?

Yes

Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?

None

How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? Manoeuvrable.

Rate the bike for efficiency of power transfer:
 
9/10
Rate the bike for acceleration:
 
9/10
Rate the bike for sprinting:
 
9/10
Rate the bike for high speed stability:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for cruising speed stability:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for low speed stability:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for flat cornering:
 
9/10
Rate the bike for cornering on descents:
 
9/10
Rate the bike for climbing:
 
8/10

The drivetrain

Rate the drivetrain for performance:
 
9/10
Rate the drivetrain for durability:
 
8/10
Rate the drivetrain for weight:
 
9/10
Rate the drivetrain for value:
 
9/10

Excellent spec, especially on a bike of this price

Wheels and tyres

Rate the wheels and tyres for performance:
 
8/10
Rate the wheels and tyres for durability:
 
9/10
Rate the wheels and tyres for weight:
 
8/10
Rate the wheels and tyres for comfort:
 
8/10
Rate the wheels and tyres for value:
 
9/10

Controls

Rate the controls for performance:
 
9/10
Rate the controls for durability:
 
8/10
Rate the controls for weight:
 
9/10
Rate the controls for comfort:
 
9/10
Rate the controls for value:
 
9/10

Your summary

Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes, very much

Would you consider buying the bike? I'm not after anything similar but if I was it be one to consider

Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes

Rate the bike overall for performance:
 
9/10
Rate the bike overall for value:
 
9/10

Anything further to say about the bike in conclusion?

An absolute bargain

Overall rating: 9/10

About the tester

Age: 40  Height: 190cm  Weight: 74kg

I usually ride:   My best bike is:

I've been riding for: Over 20 years  I ride: Most days  I would class myself as: Expert

I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, sportives, general fitness riding,

13 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

Reviewer is right about the wheels.

I have R-Sys on my Canyon and they match the frameset so well. They do transform the bike.

posted by gazzaputt [181 posts]
6th June 2011 - 8:14

15 Likes

Mat - Great review, thanks!

I am wondering about the size you ended up with. The Canyon website tells me I need a 60cm frame and I am a little bit shorter than you. Is 58cm the recommended size for your measurements or did you intentionally (or unintentionally) finish up with a smaller frame than Canyon would suggest?

Cheers. Dave.

posted by ourdave [32 posts]
6th June 2011 - 9:17

13 Likes

You like it then, Mat ? I reckon this bike is a beaut - ticks all my boxes ... not flashy, just understated and clean - when my current stead falls apart, I might look at this one, if I cannot justify a hand-built Rourke !

Cycling - not just a pastime or sport - free your soul on the open road.

timbola's picture

posted by timbola [209 posts]
6th June 2011 - 9:57

15 Likes

Hi Dave
No, the Canyon site recommends a larger size for me, but I went for the 58cm because the down tube and top tube measurements are closest to those recommended for me in a bike fit I did with Velo Solutions (http://road.cc/content/feature/26270-bike-fit).

A 60cm frame would have fitted almost as well, to be honest.

posted by Mat Brett [1887 posts]
6th June 2011 - 10:03

13 Likes

ourdave wrote:
Mat - Great review, thanks!

I am wondering about the size you ended up with. The Canyon website tells me I need a 60cm frame and I am a little bit shorter than you. Is 58cm the recommended size for your measurements or did you intentionally (or unintentionally) finish up with a smaller frame than Canyon would suggest?

Cheers. Dave.

Dave,

Just as an aside on the whole sizing thing - the canyon online size guide is the only one that has ever come close to recommending the size that I arrive at from comparing geometry to the results of my bike fit. YMMV and all that but I was surprised given that I'm 5'10" and would need a 58 (long legs and all that - I won't bore you with the detail, but I ride a custom steel frame as a result).

G-bitch's picture

posted by G-bitch [306 posts]
6th June 2011 - 10:39

12 Likes

2619 quid is a lot of money for a bike. I guess it has been a few years since I bought any high-end kit, and everything has shot up in price since. But regardless of whether you think the Dura-Ace, or the Ksyriums, or the frame and fittings are a bargain, together or as a whole, it is a lot of money to slap down on a bike you won't see or feel until a big box arrives in a delivery van from Germany. Just because Mr Brett likes it, doesn't mean you will. Especially if you are thinking of buying your first plastic bike, it may be prudent to visit your LBS, get measured up and try out a few bikes before buying. Sure, going direct you may get lucky and snap up a (relative) bargain on what could be all the bike you'll ever need. But if you think there is any chance that you will, like me, detest the ride feel of plastic bikes, 2619 is a lot of money to spend to find that out.

posted by handlebarcam [529 posts]
6th June 2011 - 13:39

15 Likes

handlebarcam wrote:
2619 quid is a lot of money for a bike. I guess it has been a few years since I bought any high-end kit, and everything has shot up in price since. But regardless of whether you think the Dura-Ace, or the Ksyriums, or the frame and fittings are a bargain, together or as a whole, it is a lot of money to slap down on a bike you won't see or feel until a big box arrives in a delivery van from Germany. Just because Mr Brett likes it, doesn't mean you will. Especially if you are thinking of buying your first plastic bike, it may be prudent to visit your LBS, get measured up and try out a few bikes before buying. Sure, going direct you may get lucky and snap up a (relative) bargain on what could be all the bike you'll ever need. But if you think there is any chance that you will, like me, detest the ride feel of plastic bikes, 2619 is a lot of money to spend to find that out.

Canyon has a UK rep and bikes can be test ridden before purchase.

I own 2 Canyons and they defo are a 'bargain' compared to higher priced makes out there.

posted by gazzaputt [181 posts]
6th June 2011 - 15:19

17 Likes

handlebarcam wrote:
2619 quid is a lot of money for a bike.

The exchange rate has changed. It's £2,669 now. So you can not buy it even more. That's another £50 you're in profit, so it's not all bad, eh?

posted by Mat Brett [1887 posts]
6th June 2011 - 21:27

13 Likes

The gear cable seems to have a nice frame protector on it next to the headtube(third picture). Anyone know where I can get something similar? Seems a good solution.

arrieredupeleton

posted by arrieredupeleton [562 posts]
9th June 2011 - 9:52

12 Likes

Jagwire do something similar but even easier to fit as you dont need to feed them on when you fit a cable. Not sure if they come seperately but they come with these kits and are pretty good cables to boot
http://www.wiggle.co.uk/jagwire-racer-brake-and-gear-cable-kit-for-road-...

Trev Allen's picture

posted by Trev Allen [163 posts]
9th June 2011 - 23:04

13 Likes

Thanks Trev. I've found some that BBB do: http://www.dotbike.com/p/5245?utm_source=google&utm_medium=base&utm_camp...
a bit cheaper at £7 for 2 but you need to undo cables to fit. Crying Big Grin

arrieredupeleton

posted by arrieredupeleton [562 posts]
10th June 2011 - 10:15

13 Likes

arrieredupeleton wrote:
The gear cable seems to have a nice frame protector on it next to the headtube(third picture). Anyone know where I can get something similar? Seems a good solution.

iv'e seen them on giant defys which have jagwire cables but it must be total hassel putting them on without taking apart the cabling Cool

hi

posted by cool guy 999 [54 posts]
14th June 2011 - 16:39

15 Likes

I bought the Ultimate CF SLX frameset alone least year when they were selling them with 20% off. I put my measurements on the online fitting guide and it said I should be a 58cm which I thought seemed ok as I am just under 6,3". I was emailed after ordering the frame stating that with my measurements the Guy's at Canyon thought I should ride a 60cm Frame. When I received the frame in Black Matt it was marked so I contacted Canyon and had the frame sent back in exchange for a White 60cm which was the right choice after all. I have fitted mine with Sram Red / Force groupset and Dura-Ace 7850 wheels. I can't believe how good the bike is compared to my old Giant TCR 2. It cost under 2.5k for the whole bike and at that price I am really happy with the bargain I have. I would recommend Canyon to anyone interested.

posted by gstuplin [1 posts]
16th June 2011 - 14:27

12 Likes

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