Whilst some brands step away from female specific frame design, Canyon is embracing it with data led frames and the Ultimate WMN impressed us no end
Developed alongside the Canyon-SRAM Racing Team, the Ultimate WMN is a bike which boasts a touch of speed that is clearly at home in the pro peloton – but offers enough comfort to make it a versatile option.
This tempting blend of performance and rideability has earned it a place in our Editor’s Choice collection of 2017.
At a time when many high profile brands seemed to be stepping away from female specific frame design, Canyon did the opposite – launching its Canyon Ultimate WMN road bike in 2017, alongside the more all-day focused chassis of the Endurace WMN.
The Ultimate WMN is a thoroughbred race bike – it was developed to offer the Canyon-SRAM women’s race team a heady mix of speed and agility – and of the two new additions to the Canyon family it was our chosen favourite.
Based on 60,000 data sets
The WMN bikes represented Canyon’s first foray into fully female specific frame design, and they were built following extensive data collection and analysis.
Since Canyon’s direct sales method means they collect anatomical data on all shoppers, it was able to use measurements from 60,000 female customers.
The brand, who employed Women’s Product Manager Katrin Neumann before beginning the project, started with the simple question ‘do we need to make a women’s specific frame?’ – and the answer following analysis was ‘yes’.
The numbers painted a picture of the average woman as being shorter, lighter, and producing less power. A casual glance at your average collection of club riders could probably tell you that.
But alongside narrower shoulders, Canyon also found women had an average wing span 2cm shorter than a man of equal height, as well as greater pelvic flexibility.
If the arm length discrepancy was hard and fast fact, it meant that an average female rider, of identical height to an average male rider, would generally be riding in a more stretched position when aboard an identical bike.
The aim, then, was to provide a bike which would take an average woman’s anatomical data, and give her the same ride quality afforded to the average man on a unisex bike.
Neumann told us: “We position the women in the same way that we do men on a bike – taking into account the average differences between measurements. In average, we have shortened the top tube a little bit and lengthened the head tube a bit – but it is different in every size.
“Each frame size has been developed as an individual frame – the differences are greater on the smaller frames.”
To do this, Canyon made the bold decision to offer 650b wheels on its smallest bikes – providing the same ride quality to smaller riders as is afforded to their taller ride buddies. All the bikes were based around a size XS, with the range going from 3XS to M.
The smaller bikes use a mid-compact chainset, to offset gearing alterations caused by the smaller wheel and Canyon teamed up with Reynolds and DT Swiss plus Schwalbe to create the 650b wheels required.
Lighter and more aero
The Ultimate WMN was built to be ridden at World Tour level by Canyon-SRAM Racing Team riders – push the pedals and you’ll find it’s got a bite to it which is coupled with swift and responsive handling thanks to a steep head angle and short wheelbase.
It’s also the lightest bike Canyon offers – an XS frame comes in at 765g with disc brakes – and the integrated cockpit saves 5 watts over the previous unisex Ultimate models. The bikes all feature rotor stoppers – now legal in UK races.
Aboard the Ultimate, our tester found that whilst imperfections of road surface were notable, they were softened in part by the integrated seat post.
The stiffness of the front end was undeniable – this is a chassis brimming with anticipation and ready to fire when a sprint was required.
Climbing felt strong and the integrated handlebar provided a stiff platform which was easy to power through but not overly solid or unyielding.
All of this talk of stiffness and race pedigree might leave a reader feeling that this is an unwavering bike created only for storming punchy pedal strokes over perfect tarmac – but it’s actually a frame that comes with the capacity to accommodate tyres up to 30mm.
If the journey brings rutted roads, the 25mm rubber specced (Schwalbe Pro One) could easily be swapped for a little more cushion – and likewise narrowed for an even livelier ride.
Our tester felt immediately at home and comfortable aboard the Ultimate – and whilst we can’t speak for every female cyclist and their preferences, we can place a fair amount of trust in the research carried out by Canyon and its 60,000 data sets.
The Canyon Ultimate WMN CF SLX Disc 8.0 Aero featured comes with a price tag of £4,449, with Shimano Dura Ace Di2 groupset, hydraulic discs and Reynolds Assault LE Disc Carbon hoops with Schwalbe Pro One tyres.
The cockpit set up is the Canyon H31 Ergocockpit CF found on the 9.0 model, and it’s this, paired with the deeper wheels that afford it the ‘aero’ addition to the title. If that’s a little out of your price range, models start from £2,649, with a SRAM Force groupset.