We review the Canyon Ultimate CF SLX 9.0 SL road bike

Canyon Ultimate CF SLX

Canyon Ultimate CF SLX 9.0 SL
£3,500
canyon.com

German direct-sales brand Canyon has finally got a dedicated UK service centre and its Ultimate CF SLX is truly outstanding in terms of top-performance value for money.

FRAME AND FORK

Canyon isn’t cutting corners in innovation or technology to hit a pricepoint. The super-oversized, 1.25-1.5in tapered head tube backs on to a massive down tube. The patented asymmetrically offset Maximus seat tube stops mid-frame twist, while super-deep, slightly tapered chainstays take power straight to the rear wheel. Pencil seatstays then use a VCLS (Vertical Compliance, Lateral Stiffness) basalt and carbon-fibre materials mix to reduce road vibration before it gets to the rider.

The same VCLS technology is also found in the custom Canyon seatpost with its fore and aft sliding seat clamp top and the curving fork blades. The I Lock headset uses a miniature Torx key driven ramped collar to preload the oversized bearings rather than a heavy internal fork bung. The only obvious concessions in cost and weight are a standard bottom bracket fit and alloy dropout tips at both ends, but the frame is still well under a kilo.

With eight different frame sizes and a custom-kit sizing they’re not compromising on fit. Just be wary of relying on the online fit engine as it recommends frames on the small side in length and the stems for each size are short too. You can swap your stem for a different length for free at any point during the first month of ownership though.

KIT

Canyon is going straight for the minimum-weight jugular with its componentry selection. SRAM’s Red stop-and-go suite is the lightest groupset available and Canyon delivers a complete set-up, right down to the outrageously expensive £220 forged and machined steel block OG1090 cassette. The minimalist carbon-railed Selle Italia saddle weighs under 140g and Ritchey provides a gram-conscious alloy stem and carbon compact bar. Size and shape of the bars, crank length and compact or full size rings can all be changed when ordering too.

It’s the Mavic R-Sys wheels complete with machined rims and hollow carbon spokes that really help bring then weight down, though. Continental Grand Prix 4000S tyres are a high-performance benchmark too. The only downside is that there’s not much left to upgrade to get the bike significantly lighter without paying a stupid amount for every gram more you save.

RIDE

While the low weight of the bike is enough to impress people at cafe stops, it’s the ride quality of the Canyon that makes it stand out. Clip into the pedals and there’s a resonant ‘thunk’ through the massive frame tubes radiating out from the bottom bracket. Squeeze a bit of power through the soles of your feet and the response brings a whole new meaning to tired cliches such as immediate and undiluted.

The bike snaps forward the second your sinews take up the slack with a dramatic drive delivery that none of the other bikes here could match. The lightweight, super-taut wheels grab gobfulls of speed from standing hill starts or rolling group sprints alike. This made the Canyon the undisputed drag-race winner whenever things got silly during testing. Its constant urgency filters through as a potent fizzing, ego-boosting energy that’s dying to be unleashed out of every corner or up every climb however far you ride.

The same massive head tube and oversized stem that let you put all your shoulder power behind each pedal press mean unerring “think it – done it” handling precision. It’s not twitchy or nervous even at high speeds on rough descents, but it’s a bike you need to direct rather than dozing off on. Going for a longer stem will add stability for those looking to use tri bars or take corners more steadily. The precision feedback from the Continental tyres and carbon-spoked wheels allows you to take proper liberties with traction.

All this acceleration and laser-cutter accuracy comes at a price in comfort, and it’s the least forgiving bike of the four through hands and feet. The skinny seatstays and VCLS seatpost make it comfortable in the saddle on long days, and the faster you can skim it along the road, the smoother the chassis and wheels get anyway.

Spending £3,500 on a bike online is a daunting prospect, but direct sell bargains like this make it enormously tempting. The Canyon is an impressively innovative chassis that delivers drive and precision handling with kit selected to amplify that to a dizzying degree in acceleration and altitude gain. It might not be the lightest or comfiest chassis but for maximum performance amplification per pound we’ve not ridden anything matching it.

PROS
The fastest accelerating, most direct responding bike we’ve ridden
Superbike performance for a fraction of the price of its peers

CONS
£3,500 is a lot to spend without the support of your friendly local shop
Not cultured and cruise comfy as the other bikes here