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Verdict: 
Fast-accelerating, sharp-handling and lightweight; you'll do well to find a better race bike at this price
Weight: 
6,080g
Contact: 
www.canyon.com
Canyon Ultimate CF SLX 9.0 SL
9 10

The Canyon Ultimate CF SLX 9.0 SL is fast-accelerating, sharp-handling, lightweight - and you get a helluva lot of bike for your money.

Yes, we know that £3,700 is way more than most people will ever spend on a bike (and you have to pay about £50 extra for packaging and delivery), but this is a professional level race machine. We made the same model our Bike of the Year in 2011, though it has had a major redesign for 2013.

First, we'll take three different aspects of the new design and explain how Canyon have worked on each...

Weight

Everyone likes to know about a bike's weight. We all know that the first thing people do when they see you have a new bike is to pick it up and judge how light it feels. In this case, it's so light it makes people laugh.

Our complete Ultimate CF SLX 9.0 SL, a Large, hit the road.cc Scales of Truth at 6.08kg (13.4lb) without pedals. Bear in mind that the minimum weight for a bike in a UCI-sanctioned event is 6.8kg (15lb). We think that's the lightest bike we've ever had in on test. The frame is just 790g with the fork and Acros Ai-70 headset adding 400g.

How have Canyon saved weight over the previous Ultimate CF SLX? Well, they've shaved off a few grams by using carbon dropouts on both the frame and fork. They've also used a PressFit bottom bracket here, the housing being made of carbon rather than aluminium, to save a bit more weight.

Additionally, Canyon have redesigned many frame features. They've updated the Maximus seat tube, for example. You might remember the Maximus seat tube because it bulges out on the non-driveside for additional rigidity but doesn't do the same on the driveside, so there's more clearance for the drivetrain there. Canyon and Cervélo had a falling out over the design before patching it all up.

Anyway, this third generation Maximus seat tube is a lot slimmer than before, the idea being to add a little more flex for extra comfort, and bring down the weight a touch.

Stiffness

None of these changes seem to have reduced the frame stiffness a bit. On the contrary, the additional width of the PressFit bottom bracket increases the rigidity. Canyon say that this design also allows them to fit the chainstays further out, again adding to the stiffness.

They've pulled a similar trick with the seatstays which are now routed along the side of the seat tube and flow right into the top tube. This increases the width of their stance marginally.

Canyon have dragged the fork legs a little further apart too, which also allows you to fit wider tyres. The front end is was already very stiff thanks to the tapered (1 1/4in top, 1 1/2in bottom) head tube/steerer, but Canyon say that it's now 8% stiffer thanks to changes they've made.

Comfort

Like everyone else, Canyon want to add vertical give to the ride to provide comfort while retaining lateral rigidity – it's one of the biggest clichés in cycling. With the Ultimate CF SLX 9.0 SL, the engineers have slimmed down the Maximus seat tube (see above) to allow a little more flex, and they've flattened the top tube as well for the same reason.

Canyon use a combination of basalt and carbon fibres in the fork blades to help with comfort and it's a similar deal with their own VCLS (Vertical Comfort Lateral Stiffness) seatpost. It's a slim 27.2mm in diameter and it's designed specifically to dampen road vibration. If you want more comfort, you can upgrade to the Canyon Flat Spring Post 2.0 for an additional £111.36 (at the time of writing). This gives you up to 20mm of travel.

Ride

Okay, so that's all theory – a brief explanation of some of the Ultimate CF SLX's key features – but what really counts is the ride, so let's crack on with that.

Guess what you notice first. It's that exceptional lightness. I first rode this bike after a few weeks on a £600 bike and the difference was astonishing... which is exactly what you'd expect. But even compared to bikes closer to its price, the Canyon is incredibly quick off the mark. Put the power down and it's like it was just waiting for an excuse to spring into life.

When you get up to speed and you're riding on the flat, the light weight doesn't make a whole heap of difference, but if your riding is anything like mine you'll be constantly hitting hills, slowing for corners and accelerating out, chasing a mate who has just necked an extra energy gel... and in those situations that lack of weight results in instant responses.

The Mavic R-Sys SLR wheels help there. They're very lightweight at about 1,350g the pair (Mavic claim 1,295g) and they really don't flex much at all whatever you do to them. They're not as aerodynamically efficient as many other wheelsets out there but I still have a soft spot for them on the basis that they climb so fast... and that's usually where people will try to drop you given half a chance.

While I'm talking about the wheels, the rims come with Mavic's Exalith coating which is a treatment that's designed to increase the durability of the aluminium – allowing them to take off a few grams – and improve the braking performance. It's true that braking is excellent in both wet and dry conditions but I have to disagree with Mavic's claim that pad wear is the same as with other wheels. Initially at least, the grooved surface munched through our pads fast and they're £18 a pair to replace.

Anyway, back to the frame... It certainly feels like Canyon have retained all the stiffness of the previous Ultimate CF SLX that we tested, despite the drop in weight. That front end in particular feels absolutely solid even when you wind the bike up for a full Cav-esque sprint, and it's super-precise through the turns.

We had a couple of larger riders (14st +) take the bike for a spin and both were super-impressed by the lack of movement at the bottom bracket when pedalling hard out of the saddle. Pick the bike up and you think it'll bend all over the place in the breeze, never mind when you put a serious amount of power through the cranks, but that really isn't the case (there is a rider weight limit, but it's 120kg). This is one solid chassis.

The Canyon scores highly for comfort too. Well, one of the other guys reckoned he'd change the Selle Italia SLR saddle immediately if it was his, whereas it's probably my favourite saddle ever... proving once again that saddles are very much a matter of personal preference.

That aside, everyone who rode the Ultimate CF SLX agreed that it's a comfortable setup without too much vibration getting through to either your hands or your butt. As I said above, if you want more comfort you could always upgrade to Canyon's Flat Spring Post 2.0 seat post, or you could go for wider tyres than the 23mm Mavic Yksion Pros that come fitted.

Canyon offer the Ultimate CF SLX in 11 – count 'em – different builds, starting with the £2,589 Shimano Ultegra-equipped Ultimate CF SLX 7.0 and going up to the £5,439 9.0, available with either Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 or Campag Super Record EPS (the exact prices vary according to the sterling/Euro exchange rate).

As you can see, the 9.0SL comes with SRAM's top-level Red groupset throughout. It's 10-speed – the 2014 11-speed group isn't available yet – the cables routed internally. I won't go into a big discussion on SRAM Red because it's not really the deal breaker here. If you don't like the DoubleTap gear shifting, for example, you can just opt for a Shimano or a Campagnolo build. It is worth mentioning, though, that you can choose between a standard or a compact chainset and you can select the cassette that you want.

Unlike most brands, Canyon sell direct to the consumer rather than going through bike retailers. You go online, put in your order, and the bike gets delivered straight to you. This allows Canyon to cut out the margin that would usually be added by the bike shop, meaning lower prices, which is why the Ultimate CF SLX is able to compete with bikes that are much, much more expensive.

We recently reviewed the Merida Scultura SL Team, for example. We're not into 'testing by spreadsheet' here at road.cc - it's never, ever as simple as just totting up the value of the components – but it's worth mentioning that the Merida, with a SRAM Red groupset but with other components different to those of the Canyon, is priced at £6,000. As I said, it's not a direct comparison, but it does help illustrate the value for money you're getting with Canyon.

All in all, this is a superb bike: lightweight and responsive, rigid and efficient, and easy to handle. Of course, £3,700 is far from cheap but you'll do well to find a better race bike at this price.

Verdict

Fast-accelerating, sharp-handling and lightweight; you'll do well to find a better race bike at this price.

road.cc test report

Make and model: Canyon Ultimate CF SLX 9.0 SL

Size tested: Large

About the bike

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

It's a carbon-fibre monocoque using more ultra-high modulus carbon fibre than in the previous version.

Frame Canyon Ultimate CF SLX

Fork Canyon One One Four SLX

Headset Acros Ai-70 Fiber

Rear derailleur SRAM Red

Front derailleur SRAM Red

Shifters SRAM Red SL

Brake levers SRAM Red SL

Brakes SRAM Red

Hubs Mavic R-Sys SLR

Cassette SRAM CS XG-1090 10s (three options available)

Rims Mavic R-Sys SLR WTS

Tyres Mavic Pro SSC

Cranks SRAM Red Compact

Chainrings 50/34 or 53/39

Bottom Bracket SRAM Press-Fit GXP

Stem Ritchey WCS (31,8)

Handlebar Ritchey WCS EvoCurve Carbon matt

Saddle Selle Italia SLR Special Edition

Seatpost 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?

It's designed as a full-on race/sports bike.

This is Canyon's write-up: "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. The brand new SRAM Red is a case in point.

"It is a state-of-the-art lightweight champion, delivering peak performance, impressive speed and the trusted technological and ergonomic SRAM features. The high-end Mavic R-Sys SLR wheels with Wheel-Tyre system are genuine lightweights in their class, providing outstanding acceleration performance. The hard anodised aluminium braking surface (Exalith) reduces brake wear, allowing for thinner walls and scoring another victory in the battle of the scales. Super lightweight and impressively strong – the Ultimate CF SLX 9.0 SL is a born winner."

Frame and fork

Overall rating for frame and fork
 
9/10

Riding the bike

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:
 
9/10

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:
 
8/10

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:
 
9/10
Rate the wheels and tyres for comfort:
 
6/10
Rate the wheels and tyres for value:
 
8/10

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:
 
8/10
Rate the controls for value:
 
8/10

Your summary

Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes.

Would you consider buying the bike? Yes, definitely worthy of serious consideration.

Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes... and I have.

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

Overall rating: 9/10

About the tester

Age: 41  Height: 190cm  Weight: 75kg

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, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding,

 

Mat has worked for loads of bike magazines over the past 20 years, and been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. He's been road.cc technical editor for seven years, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a past winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer.

48 comments

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ricolek [40 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

May I ask you what size frame did you ride?

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Danzxer [77 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

I'm around 187 cm i have the Ultimate AL which have same geometri as the CF SLX and i'm riding a XL or 60 cm frame.

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ScotchPoth (not verified) [368 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

Who can afford all this stuff?
Maintaining regular cycling costs a fortune,ripped off right left and centre for parts,clothing,accessories
whos got this sort of money? 4k for a bike,id love to have one but it will never be in my reach,ever

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Ghedebrav [1100 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

Looks like it might be invisible to radar, too!

Drool. Will never be able to afford though  2

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Nick T [971 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

This one's marked as a Large.

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russyparkin [570 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes
ScotchPoth wrote:

Who can afford all this stuff?
Maintaining regular cycling costs a fortune,ripped off right left and centre for parts,clothing,accessories
whos got this sort of money? 4k for a bike,id love to have one but it will never be in my reach,ever

hate to say it but a very large amount of people do. its all realtive. my uncle could buy one of these a month with his excess salary. its horrifying.

i could buy one but it would have to last 3-4 years i just happen to love what i currently ride so i will stick money aside each month and in 2-3 years buy something then. possibly something like this

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jollygoodvelo [1540 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes
russyparkin wrote:
ScotchPoth wrote:

Who can afford all this stuff?
Maintaining regular cycling costs a fortune,ripped off right left and centre for parts,clothing,accessories
whos got this sort of money? 4k for a bike,id love to have one but it will never be in my reach,ever

hate to say it but a very large amount of people do. its all realtive. my uncle could buy one of these a month with his excess salary. its horrifying.

i could buy one but it would have to last 3-4 years i just happen to love what i currently ride so i will stick money aside each month and in 2-3 years buy something then. possibly something like this

Agreed, I was thinking about this the other day and relatively speaking bikes are really, really cheap. You can buy the bike that the pros ride (more or less) for £3k. On a credit card, that's £250/month for a year. Plenty of people spend more than that on car finance or on their two weeks in the Maldives.

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zanf [869 posts] 3 years ago
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Gizmo_ wrote:

Agreed, I was thinking about this the other day and relatively speaking bikes are really, really cheap. You can buy the bike that the pros ride (more or less) for £3k. On a credit card, that's £250/month for a year. Plenty of people spend more than that on car finance or on their two weeks in the Maldives.

I've been stood behind people in supermarkets spending that amount on food shopping a week and they will still throw away about 25% in wastage.

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GerardR [127 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

Just as well "It's not about the bike". It looks a lovely toy, but I think the vast majority - even those who can afford it - would get just as much cycling pleasure from something a lot cheaper.

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Metjas [362 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

and don't forget you'll be saving at least £100 a month in food bills to come down to your race weight before buying this bike.

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Mostyn [396 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

I do like the Canyon Frames! My Daughters partner bought a Canyon CF 0.7 SL and it's as lightweight as the 0.9 SLX above? (well almost) with different wheels etc.. I really do like them. Lightweight with a stiff and responsive feel to them.

Cannot justify the outlay for it though!

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Karbon Kev [688 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

I didn't realise they were that light, wow, got me interested. If it is as responsive as touted, i'm in!

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Jovis55 [3 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

All the people talking about price, I agree, it is a lot, but if you can afford it, why not?

Also, Canyon have an excellent Outlet on their website which has models 2-3 years old at reasonable prices. Also, like the review says, the components you get with Canyons is fantastic.

Note: Currently saving for a new Canyon haha  1

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Paul Madden [9 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

It's a brilliant bike. I went to Koblenz in December to test ride it before ordering one. Figured if I'm going to drop this kind of wedge, I want to know how it rides first. Canyon now have a small showroom in Kingston, where you can go for test rides, which makes it a bit easier.

If you want one though, you'll have to wait. I ordered mine in January, and it's only arriving this week. Still it gives you time to save for it.

Actually mine was supposed to arrive 6 weeks ago, but got delayed. Fortunately Canyon were very accommodating, and lent me a demo bike for the Tour of Wessex, which was pretty decent of them.

The builds start fairly cheap for this level of frame, I would say. Depending on which spec you go for, if you tried to price the build yourself, buying the cheapest you can online, you effectively get the frameset for free, which is £1700 in itself.

And speaking of who buys this kind of thing. At the Tour of Wessex, the amount of £5k-£10k bikes on show was obscene. It's taken me a year and a half to save for this, but clearly some people just have no problem in dropping 10k on a bike just like Wiggo's.

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da123 [1 post] 3 years ago
0 likes

I've had this model since April and would agree with this review. I did find the stock Ritchey bar a little bit flexy however, so changed it for a Zipp SL2 bar that stiffened the front end up noticeably. The frame is a great blend of stiffness and comfort. It is certainly the most comfortable road bike I've ever ridden, and copes particularly well with typical UK tarmac. I suspect mine will be a bit softer than the stock model however, as I'm not using the very stiff Mavic R-Sys wheels.
The frame and fork weight mean you can easily bring the total bike weight down to silly light levels without resorting to boutique / exotic parts with questionable durability. Mine (a small) is currently 5.6kg with pedals.

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Nick T [971 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

Some people spend £100 per week on restaurants and pub nights and no one would begrudge them doing that, yet when someone puts away that same £400 a month and buys one of these after 9 months of saving they're suddenly mental for spending that much on "just a bike".

Seriously people, this is a cycling website. I'm here because I'd rather have "just a bike" to show for my money rather than the hangovers and indigestion.

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Paul Madden [9 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes
Nick T wrote:

Some people spend £100 per week on restaurants and pub nights and no one would begrudge them doing that, yet when someone puts away that same £400 a month and buys one of these after 9 months of saving they're suddenly mental for spending that much on "just a bike".

Seriously people, this is a cycling website. I'm here because I'd rather have "just a bike" to show for my money rather than the hangovers and indigestion.

Well said.

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Spooks [59 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

Seriously want one of these and the price , although high, is actually one of the plus points. There is very few bikes with this standard of equipment and ability ( if you have the legs) with this price tag.
A very capable sounding bike and there won't be hundreds of the exact same bike at the next sportive........anyone wanna chip in to buy me one

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issacforce [212 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

Imo when u get into that price range i would expect at least ui2

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russyparkin [570 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes
issacforce wrote:

Imo when u get into that price range i would expect at least ui2

not everyone wants di2. i dont at all. would take the super record cable version of this instead.

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Metjas [362 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes
issacforce wrote:

Imo when u get into that price range i would expect at least ui2

you can order the Ultegra Di2 version of this bike for £2919, but with the proven Ksyrium Elite wheels instead.

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Psycling [50 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

Very pleased to read this review. Have an Ultegra di2 version on order since January. Some delays apparently with a manufacturing problem but should be here by the end of the month. Not as light as the SRAM red version but still a light bike. Looking forward to riding it soon. Just hope summer can hang on a bit longer!!

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farrell [1950 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes
Nick T wrote:

Some people spend £100 per week on restaurants and pub nights and no one would begrudge them doing that, yet when someone puts away that same £400 a month and buys one of these after 9 months of saving they're suddenly mental for spending that much on "just a bike".

Seriously people, this is a cycling website. I'm here because I'd rather have "just a bike" to show for my money rather than the hangovers and indigestion.

Speak for yourself, I personally would prefer to be hungover to buggery and taking one of these bad boys for a ride down to the shops for some more rennies.

Moon on a stick for me.

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Pitstone Peddler [104 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

This whole article and thread combined sounds like an advert, shocking.

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dave atkinson [6261 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

sounds like an advert because canyon made a bike and we rode it and thought it was really good? what do you suggest we do next time that happens?

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issacforce [212 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

Russyparkin. I no not eveyone wants di2, ihavevit and love it, would put it on my winter bike if it would fit but alas. The thing with di2 is if ur not mechicly minded (spelt wrong i no) and spend that kind of money di2 is the way to go once set up that it but if not then go for the mechanical dura ace or campag record, it was only my opinion in the end  3

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sim1515 [141 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

I bought one of these last year (previous model obviously) and I love it.

It took a while to justify the money to the Mrs but I compared it to the £1000 wedding dress she was buying that she'd only wear for 12 hours and I've more than made the bike "good value for money" when compared to that! I also agree with the points saying that instead of spending £100 a week on going out (average night out in London), getting one of these bikes makes a lot more sense to me.

It's more bike than I'm ever going to need but I don't regret getting one even a little bit, I've seen a lot more expensive bikes being walked up hills by people on sportives!

I guess it comes down to priorities, if you are lucky enough to have a bit of spare disposable income, are disciplined enough to save it and you really want an amazing bike, you'll end up being able to buy one (this one) at some point! If you'd prefer an all inclusive holiday per year or to go our drinking two nights a week or to eat out every night, I guess it'll be harder.

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spaceyjase [54 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

Last time I filled the car it cost me £80. THAT's insane, can easily offset the cost of a bike by not driving two tons of motorised vehicle around. I'm in a position where I do very little driving (which equals more riding, fantastic!).

Awesome bike judging by the review, looks great too. I think I'm about due a new steed...  3

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boffo [34 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

I ordered one of these with ultegra spec at the beginning of May and payed on the required date by cash transfer at the bank, 24hrs later Canyon inform me there are delays in the frame manufacture and there will be another three weeks to wait. In the mean time they did thank me for being patient and sent a free Canyon scarf that i can look forward to wearing in November when its nice and cold again. No money, no bike, nice scarf and still waiting patiently  39

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Echo [9 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

You can't argue with the value for money but It look's like just another Chinese carbon frame that could have any bike brands name written on it.

Tapered head tube- check.
Big down tube- check.
Press fit BB- check.
Skinny stays- check.

I can't see any mention of the warranty period on this frame in the review, extremely relevant with a frame weighing just 790 grams.

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