The Ultimate is Canyon’s go-to race bike, an all-rounder that balances the three demands of weight, stiffness and comfort. The fourth-generation version was launched at the Tour de France last year - we had a first ride on it - and it gains some aerodynamic improvements to eke out even more performance.
Canyon is a direct-sales business, and as such it passes some impressive savings on to the customer, which means you get a lot of kit for your money basically. There are 11 bikes in the Ultimate range, priced from £2,699 up to £5,399. The bike pictured is the Ultimate CF SLX 9.0 costing £3,599, and which includes a complete Shimano Dura-Ace mechanical groupset and Mavic Ksyrium Pro Exalith SL wheels.
We’ve been impressed with every Ultimate we’ve ridden over the years, and the new bike, based on a first ride last summer, was no less impressive. The changes to the new bike are subtle and not immediately detectable, Canyon has retained the key lines and shapes that identify the Ultimate. It's a good looking, if unassuming bike.
The big change is an attempt to bring some aerodynamic gains to the Ultimate platform. Canyon, of course, offers the Aeroad if aerodynamics is top of your list of priorities, but Canyon isn’t trying to push the Ultimate too much in that direction. It’s instead a small number of changed that bring about better aerodynamic efficiencies while maintaining the same stiffness-to-weight ratio of the previous version.
The key feature is the D-shaped downtube. It has a narrower and rounder nose profile compared with the previous Ultimate, and it’s designed to decrease flow separation by ensuring the air sticks to the tube. The new down tube is narrower which impacts stiffness, so to counter this, Canyon developed a new box section top tube and wider seat stays to provide the necessary frame stiffness.
The frontal surface area - how much of the bike is presented to the air - has been reduced. The head tube is narrower with a 1 1/4in steerer tube, an hourglass profile and some very slim headset bearings. The fork blades are slimmer as well.
One of the biggest visual differences is the new top tube and seat tube junction. Canyon has sought to increase comfort and has integrated the seat clamp into the seat tube. This provides more exposed seatpost which increases the available deflection.
“The fundamental difference here is that the actual clamp is moved from the conventional position at the exit of the seat tube further down inside the frame,” says Canyon. “The hybrid injection moulded synthetic insert is one of the most complex components Canyon has ever developed and consists of three parts: a fibre-reinforced base, a soft seal where the seat tube ends and an aluminium press to transfer the tightening screw’s force onto the seatpost.”
The result of those changes is a frame that, according to Canyon’s claims, is 10 percent more compliant and 10 percent more aerodynamic. The frame weighs 780g and the fork is 295g.
So we were impressed with our first ride on the new Ultimate last year, and now we’ve got our hands on the bike for a proper test. As mentioned previously, this model has a full Dura-Ace mechanical groupset with a 52/36 chainset. Wheels are Mavic’s Ksyrium Pro Exalith SL model with matching Yksion Pro Griplink and Powerlink tyres.
Another nod to aerodynamics it Canyon’s H36 Aerocockpit CF one-piece handlebar and stem. The handlebar came about at the same time as the development of the Aeroad. Realising that the handlebar is a critical part of the whole aerodynamic discussion, the designers set about creating a product that would reduce the frontal surface area.
In its tests, Canyon reckons the Aerocockpit CF provides an “aero advantage that adds up to approximately 5.5 W at 45 km/h against a conventional bar and stem, thanks to the minimal frontal surface area.”
As well as the very flat top section, Canyon has reduced the width of all the bars, following tests that showed that a narrower stance (pushing arms closer together) provided aerodynamic improvements.
As a result, they recommend a bar that's 10mm narrower than you would normally use - so if you normally ride a 42cm, you’ll be put onto a 41cm bar instead. Make sense? There will be three widths - 39cm, 41cm and 43cm - and five stem lengths - 90mm to 130mm.
Lastly, there is a Fizik Antares R5 saddle. On the scales, the size medium bike we have here weighs 6.53kg (14.39lb).
More info at www.canyon.com
David worked on the road.cc tech team from 2012-2020. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds, and you can now find him over on his own YouTube channel David Arthur - Just Ride Bikes.