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The Canyon Ultimate CF SLX 8 Di2 is a very good road racer's bike, and this model, though not cheap at £6,499, isn't bad value for money when compared with some of its main rivals. But Canyon isn't the bargain that it once was.
Personally, I prefer a lightweight aero race bike like this over a full aero machine. I think they're more versatile, nicer to ride, and unless you speed everywhere at 50kph, you're not going to miss the couple of watts that you'll lose over a full aero design.
The Ultimate has been designed as a race bike and that really sums up what you get here. This is a fast bike if you have the legs to make it so, and every time I decided to give things a nudge, the Ultimate was perfectly capable of matching me every step of the way.
Out of the box and built within about 30 minutes, the Ultimate and I headed straight out onto some rolling roads with plenty of fast corners and mixed efforts at road surfacing. The bike was instantly likeable, with the fast ride complemented by handling that's very fun.
As it's designed for racing, I wasted no time getting the bike out on a ride with some mates which, as we all know, is the only race that matters. Bragging rights are more valuable than any rainbow or yellow jersey, after all.
On these rides, there will always be races up hills, unspoken descending competitions, and an unnecessary number of sprints. The Ultimate was far too much bike for my distinctly average legs, but I'll take any help I can get, especially when the road goes up.
Climbing on this bike is great. You've got a really solid platform on which you can stomp through the pedals. There was no discernible flex, either through the meat of the frame or at the front end. It feels efficient and, if aero wizards are to be believed, on faster climbs you'll also be benefiting from the tube shapes.
Sprinting on this bike is good too. I would have preferred a longer stem – we'll get to that in a bit – but as much as I pulled on the bar, I couldn't get the front end or the drops to move. Add in the stability at speed and you've got a bike that allows you to get on with laying the power down.
Once we've all ruined our legs, it's time to sit back and tick off the miles. Getting the bike up to speed doesn't take much, and with a bit of assistance coming from the various aero touches on the frame, it's also easy to keep the bike rolling at a healthy pace. It feels very much like a lightweight aero race bike should.
Those unspoken descending competitions pose a bit of an issue for me these days. I've lost my bottle a bit after a few crashes, so having a bike under me that I feel confident on makes a massive difference. The Ultimate's composed nature really helped me to stop looking down at the road surface (I hate potholes – blame the crashes) and allowed me to focus on spotting the apex and then looking through the corner to where I needed to go.
The frame's compliance means that hitting a rougher patch of tarmac mid-corner isn't too much of an issue, but, as I'll get on to in a minute, this isn't the comfiest road race bike I've ridden.
Canyon has boosted tyre clearance in the Ultimate so that you can now fit 32mm tyres. The bike I tested was fitted with different tyres front and rear. The front measures up at 27mm while the rear is 29mm. Given that I run 28mm tyres on my own bike, this was perfectly fine.
That tyre clearance allows you to fit wider tyres for more comfort, but if I compare it with the Merida Scultura V Team that I rode last year, I'd have to say that the Merida is a bit better at isolating you from road buzz.
That's not to say the Ultimate is uncomfortable – far from it. You can cover big miles on this bike without getting beaten up. But if you're looking for the plushest ride, the Scultura would be the way to go.
This test bike comes in at 7.27kg. If that's not light enough for you, the higher spec model with Shimano Dura-Ace groupset, fancier DT Swiss wheels and a lighter saddle brings that down to 6.8kg. But I wouldn't bother paying for all of that. This is going to be just as fun, about as fast and you're going to have a few grand left in the bank to go and ride in a nice location.
Canyon has, it says, made an effort to ensure that its sponsored riders have the easiest time choosing between this and the Aeroad. Part of this is making the geometry in the key places absolutely identical, so that the riders can simply pick which bike suits that day's stage more and not have to worry about which bike fits them better.
That's not likely to be an issue for the majority of us, but what it does mean is that you're getting a geometry that is designed for racing. That results in a long and low position suited to those who can tuck their top half down for extended periods of time, and gives you a bike that feels best when it is going fast.
This small size has a top tube length of 554mm mated to a very short head tube, just 121mm, giving stack and reach figures of 542mm and 390mm respectively. That gives a ratio of 1.39 which is right at the racier end of the scale.
The head angle is 72.75 degrees, which, when matched with the 983mm wheelbase, creates a bike that is ideally balanced in fast corners.
In terms of this build, there is very little to get picky about. It comes with a 4iiii power meter, this new Shimano Ultegra is brilliant, the DT Swiss wheels fly, that Selle Italia saddle is comfy and the bike as a whole looks really good to me.
The front end now features the CP18 cockpit that we first saw introduced on the latest Aeroad. This gives you a ton of adjustability, both in terms of bar height and width.
My initial impression of this system was that it was a bit pointless. It was engineering for engineering's sake, a cost-cutting exercise for Canyon and a gimmick to talk about on the product pages. But having reassessed my position and thought about this from the perspective of, say, one of my mates, who has literally just bought a bike with an integrated front end and simply can't be bothered to try setting up a different position, I can fully see the appeal of a system that allows riders to easily play with their position without needing new parts or a hacksaw.
Adjusting the front end is simple. You undo the single stem bolt with a T25 Torx key, wiggle the stem up a bit, take out as many spacers as you want (they separate into two pieces to make it easy), wiggle the stem back down and then use the special tool that is in the box to tighten up the top bolt. Do the stem bolt up and you're good to go. The fettling possibilities are endless.
Our test bike came with the bar taped at the point where it'd be finished perfectly in the narrowest position, so if you wanted to go wider, you'd need to unscrew the two bolts on the underside of the tops and then rewrap the tape to make it look nice. But still, the system is dead simple to play around with.
The seatpost is now a D-shaped design. The bike has plenty of rear-end compliance and I had no issues with slipping, so it seems to be working just fine. Topping this off is a Selle Italia saddle which I found comfortable, but that's personal preference.
One annoying thing is that Canyon doesn't, currently at least, ship the bike with a clamp suitable for saddles with 7x9mm carbon rails. The two Specialized frames I have bought in the last few years both had such clamps, so if you're ordering this bike at launch and intend to use a carbon-railed saddle, have a word with customer service when you order. Hopeful Canyon will be addressing this soon.
The groupset is the latest 12-speed Shimano Ultegra R8100 model and it works wonderfully. The shifting is superb and the brakes have been improved over the old model, but I won't write too much here. Go and check out the full groupset review for my thoughts.
Wheels come from DT Swiss in the form of the ARC 1400 and they complement the bike nicely, though they will suit rolling roads a bit more than properly hilly routes. The 50mm depth is one that I became comfortable with very quickly, despite spending the last few months rolling around on shallow wheels.
They do get nudged about by stronger winds, but they're some of the easiest wheels I've had the pleasure of riding in gusty conditions.
Mounted onto these wheels are Schwalbe Pro One Skin tyres. The spec sheet doesn't list the width, but the tyres that came on the test bike are 27/29mm f/r and sit nicely thanks to the 20mm internal rim width.
In terms of value, this is £6,499, which isn't bad. You're saving about £750 over the Specialized Tarmac SL7 for similar equipment (though no power meter), but the days of Canyon being the brand that offers incredible value for money seem to be over.
Giant's TCR Advanced Pro 0 is £4,999. Before you shout at me in the comments saying about cable integration, it will save you maybe a watt. Okay, hiding those cables might look better, but is it worth one and a half grand? It doesn't come with a power meter, either.
If you do want the hidden cables, the Merida Scultura 9000 is £5,950, and it is a brilliant bike. That said, I will admit that you might want to spend the £600 you've saved getting the Scultura resprayed. Why brown, Merida? And a power meter.
The fact remains, however, if you're looking for value, you can do better than the Ultimate.
I'm not going to end on a bad note. This is, after all, a bloody nice bike to ride. It is fast uphill, sails down them with balanced handling, and if you find yourself mixed up in a fast-paced group ride or race, you're not going to be left wanting. It also looks brilliant and I actually really like this front end from an end-user point of view.
Canyon says this isn't the lightest bike ever, nor is it the stiffest, nor the most aero. Instead, it says that this is the best combination of the three, and I would say that Canyon is pretty safe saying that. This thing climbs well, it is fast on the flat and I never got to the end of a ride feeling broken. It's a brilliant bike to ride, but buying from Canyon doesn't represent the value that it once did.
The Ultimate is a brilliant race bike – fast, comfortable and handles well
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Canyon Ultimate CF SLX 8
Size tested: Small
About the bike
List the components used to build up the bike.
Canyon Ultimate CF SLX R100
Canyon Ultimate Fork FK104
Shimano Ultegra Di2
DT Swiss ARC 1400 50/50 wheels, internal width 20mm
Schwalbe Pro One Skin tyres
Shimano Ultegra Di2 12spd + 4iiii Precision Powermeter 52/36 chainset - 11-30 cassette
Canyon CP0018 cockpit
Selle Italia SLR Boost Superflow Ti316 saddle
Canyon SP0055 seatpost
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?
"If you're not moving forwards, you're going backwards. At Canyon, the drive to innovate and improve is what inspires us every day. That's why we're constantly developing our bikes – to push things forward and make our products better all the time.
What does the Ultimate mean to us?
By leveraging the latest advancements in materials, technologies, and manufacturing methods, the Ultimate has taken a significant step forward with every new generation, always representing the bleeding edge of road bike performance and development. But despite this constant evolution, the essence of the Ultimate has always remained. This is a pure, classic road bike down to the core.
And now, the brand-new 5th generation Ultimate is writing the next chapter of the Ultimate's remarkable success story – by perfectly balancing the five performance factors that define a world-class road race bike."
Where does this model sit in the range? Tell us briefly about the cheaper options and the more expensive options
Pretty much slap bang in the middle. The range starts with the CF SL 7 at £2,699, equipped with mechanical Shimano 105, alloy wheels and a standard bar which doesn't allow for fully internal cable routing. At the other end, the CFR ETAP will cost you £10,999.
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
I can't see there being any issues, like there were with the Aeroad. Everything seems well finished with good surfaces on the brake faces and dropouts.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
Carbon, but Canyon doesn't give any more details.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
You're getting a long and low racer's position. The wheelbase is very tight and the stack to reach ratio is certainly aggressive.
If you're not a racer, have a look at the Canyon Endurace as it'll probably fit you better.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
It was comfortable for a road race bike, but the Merida Scultura is still the best I've ridden on this score.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
Yep. Plant some power down and the frame isn't moving at all.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
This feels very efficient, which is an excellent feeling when you get onto a slog of a climb.
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? Lively.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
This feels best at speed. It loves a fast corner.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
The tyres are nice and wide and they sit on rims with a decent internal width.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
The cockpit and wheels are usually what let a good frameset down, but here they work excellently.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
The wheels help to hold speed on flatter sections.
Wheels and tyres
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?
Very stable for the depth. They help the rolling speed on the flats.
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?
Gripped well in wet and dry conditions.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Loved it.
Would you consider buying the bike? No, I'd have the cheaper TCR.
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes, along with the Giant TCR and Merida Scultura.
How does the price compare to that of similar bikes in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
Giant TCR Advanced Pro Disc 0 is £4,999, though doesn't come with a power meter and has the brake hoses exposed at the front end.
The Merida Scultura 9000 is £5,950. Also no power meter.
The Specialized Tarmac SL7 Expert is £7,250 with no power meter.
Use this box to explain your overall score
It's very good – a fast, comfortable and balanced road race bike with a brilliant spec. The front end adjustability is a real highlight, but this doesn't offer the value that Canyon is known for.
About the tester
I usually ride: Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL7 My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Under 5 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, club rides, general fitness riding, I specialise in the Cafe Ride!
Son of a Marathon runner, Nephew of a National 24hr Champion, the racing genetics have completely passed him by. After joining the road.cc staff in 2016 as a reviewer, Liam quickly started writing feature articles and news pieces. After a little time living in Canada, where he spent most of his time eating poutine, Liam returned with the launch of DealClincher, taking over the Editor role at the start of 2018. At the weekend, Liam can be found racing on the road both in the UK and abroad, though he prefers the muddy fields of cyclocross. To date, his biggest race win is to the front of the cafe queue.