At road.cc every product is thoroughly tested for as long as it takes to get a proper insight into how well it works. Our reviewers are experienced cyclists that we trust to be objective. While we strive to ensure that opinions expressed are backed up by facts, reviews are by their nature an informed opinion, not a definitive verdict. We don't intentionally try to break anything (except locks) but we do try to look for weak points in any design. The overall score is not just an average of the other scores: it reflects both a product's function and value – with value determined by how a product compares with items of similar spec, quality, and price.
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The Team Movistar edition of Canyon's Ultimate dressed with Campagnolo's fantastic Record 12-speed groupset and Bora 50mm race wheels makes a great bike even better in my opinion. Although it's undeniably a big ticket item, comparatively you're getting a lot for your money here and the bike comes fully ready to race. It's stiff, fast and impressively light for a disc brake bike, and although you can no longer get it in this exact configuration, a Canyon Ultimate paired with any high-end groupset and race wheels would be right near the top of my wishlist for an all-round race bike.
The Ultimate has been around in disc brake form since late 2016 (the Ultegra Di2 version was very positively received by Dave) and the geometry is unchanged on my test bike.
Differences to the rim brake version (which Stu tested in 2016) are pretty negligible: the chainstays are 5mm longer at 41.5mm for a size medium frame, and the wheelbase is 99.6cm as opposed to 98.8cm. The disc version essentially rides the same as the rim brake Ultimate but just with that extra stopping power provided by the 160mm disc rotors, and marginally more weight – although at 7.2kg with the superlight Campagnolo Record components and Bora carbon wheels, it's already close to bothering the UCI weight limit anyway.
As is usual nowadays, a flat-mount standard with 12mm thru-axles is used front and rear for more security and a cleaner look, with the single detachable lever used to remove either axle, negating the need for tools.
Canyon's Sport Pro geometry is used for the Ultimate CF SLX, the same used by Canyon's pro riders. It's the same stack and reach as the lower-end Ultimate and overall I found the bike pretty easy to live with on long rides, even though it's pretty much an all-out racer.
Canyon's H36 integrated bar and stem provides a surprisingly settled front end that didn't feel at all twitchy, something that can be an issue with one-piece handlebar designs. It's also got a really comfortable flat top section and appears to provide some vibration damping, with the only small annoyance being that the shape won't accommodate standard out-front GPS mounts; Canyon sells mounts for most of the major brands that bolt under the stem.
Although there are plenty of spacers to adjust your height, the stem length is fixed, and unless you manage to attend a Canyon demo day (such as our own BikeLive at Cannock Chase in April!) then you'll have to take extra care in making sure you order the right size.
For further rear comfort Canyon has placed the internal seat clamp quite far below the top of the seat tube, which it claims has provided a 15% improvement in vertical deflection. Teamed with the VCLS seatpost, it adds up to a bump-taming ride. I also found Fizik Antares R5 saddle to be plenty comfy enough, even though I'm usually accustomed to using a saddle with a central cutout.
The Ultimate CF SLX Disc will take up to 30mm tyres if you want some extra plush comfort, although I found the 25mm Continental Grand Prix 4000s hit the spot and provide a reliably smooth ride. The same can be said of the Bora One 50mm clincher wheels, which strike an excellent balance between stiffness and speed while being very light. You don't have to worry too much about sidewinds at this depth, and it's a high quality wheelset: an excellent and good value addition to the bike build with an RRP of over £1,800 when bought separately.
The test bike came with the mechanical version of Campagnolo 12-speed Record, but the frame is fully compatible with electronic groupsets such as Shimano Di2, Campag EPS and the new SRAM eTap AXS 12-speed system. Although Canyon is no longer selling the Movistar bike I tested with this groupset, there will be one coming out soon with another version of it, if some electrifying rumours are to be believed.
The bike I tested came specced with 52/36 chainrings and an 11-29t cassette, the cassette being the closer-ratio 12-speed unit. The only other option is an 11-32t, with Campag claiming there's no longer any need to provide a narrower range with the advent of 12-speed. (You can read more about the new 12-speed groupset in my full review, here.) Briefly, I think it's pretty flawless, never dropping out on me and providing very accurate shifting for the whole test period. The buttons and levers are super-comfortable in use and the ergonomics are fantastic. If I had unlimited funds I would go for Campagnolo on a dream race bike build.
In terms of value, there's not much out there to compare it with, not off-the-peg with Record 12-speed, although you can buy a 'Boss Build' Handsling A1R0evo with the groupset and Handsling's own tubeless-ready carbon wheels for £4,799. That's an impressive price point and might be well worth looking at if you are as/more interested in a Campag build than a Canyon, but the frame or wheelset won't come with Team Movistar credentials of course. If you want to stick with an Ultimate and buy it with a groupset from SRAM or Shimano then you're looking at £5,699 for a build with the new SRAM eTap AXS groupset, and £5,899 with Shimano Dura-Ace Di2.
Overall, I found the Ultimate to be pretty much as described. It sort of does it all, so in Canyon's lineup at least it's arguably the ultimate race bike for high mileage road racing and training sessions where your back won't quite forgive you if you opt for a Canyon Aeroad or something similarly aggressive. In this spec with 50mm-deep carbon hoops and an aero cockpit we're talking perhaps a watt lost here or there that can only really be detected in a wind tunnel compared to a full-on aero road frame, making the Ultimate a truly complete all-rounder. Whatever spec you buy it in – unfortunately it will no longer be the one I tested – you won't be disappointed.
Stunning all-round racer made even better with 12-speed shifting and superfast wheels
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Canyon Ultimate CF SLX Disc 9.0 Movistar
Size tested: Med
About the bike
List the components used to build up the bike.
Canyon Ultimate CF SLX carbon frame, Movistar team edition colours
Canyon One One Four SLX disc carbon fork
Campagnolo Bora One 50mm clincher wheels
Continental Grand Prix 4000 25mm tyres
Campagnolo Record 12 crankset, 52/36 chainrings
Campagnolo Record 12 front and rear derailleurs
Camgagnolo Record 12 cassette, 11-29t
Campagnolo Record disc hydraulic shifters
160mm Campagnolo disc rotors
Campagnolo Record 12 chain
Campagnolo Record bottom bracket
Canyon H36 aero cockpit
Fizik Antares R5 saddle
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 says: "The Ultimate is just such a beautiful looking machine that you may sometimes be reluctant to take it out in anything but perfect conditions. But if you are considering buying an Ultimate CF SLX 9.0 LTD, you can be certain that we have designed it to be an all-weather bike with an undoubted durability. And for those Campagnolo devotees, this will be just about the greatest bike you could imagine having. The carbon layup for the Ultimate has been optimised to increase comfort while maintaining its responsive rigidity. With the Sport Pro Geometry, you'll be able to slam your stem and get into that aggressive position that you need to maximise your interval training and your race-winning attacks. The whole setup perfectly matches the H36 Aero Cockpit, since it is super lightweight and reliable while looking very slick. The S13 VCLS CF seatpost has been included and paired with the Wing Flex comfort of the Fizik Antares R5 saddle. The fact that this is a very similar setup to what Movistar races is pretty good indication that the Ultimate CF SLX 9.0 LTD is a Grand Tour-worthy bike that is ready to help you on all your grand tours."
Where does this model sit in the range? Tell us briefly about the cheaper options and the more expensive options
The Ultimate starts from £1,449 for the CF SL 7.0, going all the way up to £11,799 for the Ultimate CF 10.0 Evo Ltd. The CF SLX version starts at £3,199 for the women's frame with DT Swiss wheels and mechanical Ultegra, going up to £5,899 with Mavic carbon deep rims and Shimano Dura-Ace Di2.
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Cool paint job, smooth looking and well engineered frame.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
Full carbon frame weighing 820g, full carbon fork with 12mm thru-axles and flat mount disc standard.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
Not too aggressive but sharp enough, just a really solid all-round racer.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
The size medium was fine for me – it's important to get the right size because the one-piece bar and stem doesn't offer much adjustment.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
For a race bike it's very comfortable and fine for long rides for me.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
Sharp and stiff enough to race to your heart's content.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Responsive and sharp, no efficiency is lost.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so was it a problem?
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively neutral or unresponsive? About neutral.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
Surprisingly easy to get on with, accurate through corners and comfortable.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
I wasn't overly keen on the channel and would prefer one with a cutout/a bit wider, but that's personal preference of course.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
The build is almost as good as it gets in my opinion. The one-piece bar and stem might create a bit of a fitting issue for some, but it feels really stiff and is way better than some one-piece carbon bar and stem combos I've tried, which can be very flexy.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
The build is great, there's not really anything I'd change.
Very stiff and aggresive when you want it to be.
Not an out-and-out aero sprinter, but it feels pretty fast.
Very light for a disc bike, so it climbs very well.
Record 12-speed works very well, pretty much flawless over the test period.
No issues over the test period, perfect.
Record 12-speed is expensive, there's no getting away from it.
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Record 12-speed, as stated in my full review of it.
Wheels and tyres
Ideal - stiff, stable and very fast in their 50mm depth.
They took a bit of a battering over the test period and are still running true.
There's a lack of weight, but that can only be a good thing considering how solid they feel.
Yep they're expensive, but thrown on this build at this price it's possibly the best value way to get them.
Tell us some more about the wheels. Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels? If so what for?
For racing and hard training I may well choose these wheels if I could pick any under the sun... just to preserve them, I might buy some less flashy training wheels if I were to use the bike year-round.
Good, but of course not as good as the recently launched GP5000s.
Plenty of comfort in 25mm.
Tell us some more about the tyres. Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the tyres? If so what for?
I'd change for the new Continental Grand Prix tyres perhaps!
Record 12-speed is pretty expensive.
Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
160mm disc brake rotors fine for larger riders, shifting paddles also plenty big enough for big/clumsy thumbs.
Anything else you want to say about the componentry? Comment on any other components (good or bad)
Everything works pretty flawlessly, I was very impressed with the groupset.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes
Would you consider buying the bike? Yes (if I could afford it).
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes (if they could afford it).
How does the price compare to that of similar bikes in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
It's quite an impressive price considering the RRP of the components – although Handsling offers a full bike with a comparable race-ready build for £4,799.
Use this box to explain your overall score
You're pretty much getting a pro-level race bike here, just with mechanical gearing instead of electronic, so for the price I reckon comparatively it's a steal (even if it's quite far out of my modest price range). It's impressively light for a disc brake road bike, and there are no discernible compromises to the stiffness by adding the superlight Bora Ultra wheelset. I can appreciate the one-piece bar and stem might not be ideal as you can't usually try a Canyon for size before buying, but if everything fits there are few better all-round race bikes out there.
About the tester
I usually ride: Road bike (currently Specialized Tarmac) My best bike is: Ridley Chronus TT bike
I've been riding for: Under 5 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, triathlon races
Arriving at road.cc in 2017 via 220 Triathlon Magazine, Jack dipped his toe in most jobs on the site and over at eBikeTips before being named the new editor of road.cc in 2020, much to his surprise. His cycling life began during his students days, when he cobbled together a few hundred quid off the back of a hard winter selling hats (long story) and bought his first road bike - a Trek 1.1 that was quickly relegated to winter steed, before it was sadly pinched a few years later. Creatively replacing it with a Trek 1.2, Jack mostly rides this bike around local cycle paths nowadays, but when he wants to get the racer out and be competitive his preferred events are time trials, sportives, triathlons and pogo sticking - the latter being another long story.