There are ‘better' bikes out there - of course there are - but for the purpose of winter riding, the Inflite AL 8.0S is in a league all of its own.
Perfect winter bike
Step forward Canyon. The German company has released the Inflite range, a series of three bikes especially for the coldest quarter. Modelled on the utilitarian design of cyclo-cross bikes, the triplets comprise two proper race-ready CX bikes and this, a specific, purpose-built winter trainer, the Inflite AL 8.0S.
It's big, it's robust, and it's built to laugh in the face of potholes. Canyon has kept the Inflite AL 8.0S in line with the rest of the range, with the exception of a few tweaks for road cyclists. The 8.0S, being the predominantly-road offering, has a Shimano 105 Black groupset with a compact (50/34t) chainset. There are different options for the size of cassette, but the demo came with a fairly standard 11-28t. A wider spread of gears is possible, thanks to the GS rear derailleur, which can accommodate a whopping 30t sprocket.
A specification, which runs throughout the range, is 160mm disc brakes. Though they are liable to split opinion, the Shimano BR-CX77 brakes worked in all conditions. For many road cyclists, the thought of disc brakes goes against tradition, while there's also the technical aspect to consider of getting them tuned to taste. However, that is easily done, and when set up, the braking is consistent, even in the wet (when road calipers can cause grief).
The stopping distance is greatly reduced too. A minor adjustment had to be made after a few rides, as the brake pads bedded in and the cables stretched (as they do on any new bike), but that's all that was required over the course of the test - a small price to pay for brakes that the rider can trust.
Aluminium is the chosen material for the Inflite AL 8.0S frame - hence the ‘AL' in the name - and each bike in the range features this frame. Canyon claims the frame weighs 1,480g, with the full build coming in just shy of 9.5kg. Internal cable routing, running to the derailleurs, keeps the frame uncluttered and out of the muck. The cables to the brakes are directed along the top tube and down on to the fork respectively - again, a nod to the bike's cyclo-cross DNA.
Forget any preconceived ideas that the ride will be harsh and road buzz will rattle loose anything not bolted down, from bottles, to loose change or fillings. Canyon has addressed this and kitted out the bike with its VCLS 2.0 seat post (in case you're wondering, VCLS stands for Vertical Comfort Lateral Stiffness).
This design sucks up the vibration from the road before it reaches the rider, and as a result limits muscle fatigue over the course of the ride. The principle of this distinctive technology is based on two parallel and independent leaf springs. It's very effective and, more to the point, noticeable.
Up front, the bike has Canyon's new One One Four SL disc-specific carbon fork with tapered steerer. The fork dampens vibrations from the road, as well as providing assured handling - it looks neat too.
The ride isn't compromised as it can be on some cyclo-cross-cum-road bikes, because the wheelbase hasn't been extended, so the bike still feels excitingly agile.
For a bike that isn't necessarily designed for speed, it's by no means a slouch. The chassis gives an indication as to why: the slim Maximus seat tube runs into a press-fit bottom bracket that's rigid and efficient at supporting what's going into the pedals. It's a well-thought-out design, one that has granted plenty of clearance around the tubes, making it easy to clean.
Just the job
The seatpost sits above slim VCLS stays; the pairing is devised to work in harmony and results in the back end of the bike feeling secure and comfortable - just the job for a ride of this ilk. But how much of this is thanks to the tyres?
Canyon has paired the Mavic CrossOne 29er wheels with heavy-duty 28c Continental Grand Prix 4-Season tyres, for a robust combination. It's these tyres that make worrying about punctures (almost) a thing of the past. They're not the quickest on the market, obviously - they're beastly - but they're certainly a lot faster than a tyre with a deflated inner tube slopping around inside.
True to the Canyon road bike range, and its pro team Katusha, all the Inflite models come with a Ritchey cockpit. The 8.0S has an alloy WCS 4-Axis stem and Ritchey Comp Curve compact handlebar, and the saddle is a special-edition Selle Italia XI.Popularity on the club run has also been taken into account by those clever thinkers at Canyon - by way of their integrated SKS mudguards, which are an add-on and don't come with the bike; for the extra £28.95 for the set, they're well worth the investment. They are so good, however, that you may be obliged to spend more time up at the front.
Cycling is about getting out there, clocking up the miles and enjoying the outdoors; in other words, having fun. It's why we all do it, isn't it? As the saying goes, there's no such thing as bad weather, there's only inappropriate clothing. Or to put it another way, there's no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate bikes.
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