Canyon Ultimate CF SL 9.0 road bike costing £1,899 is the perfect bike for the aspiring racer
Think ‘race bike’ and it’s easy to be put off with negative ideas about cost and comfort. Surely an out-and-out racer is supposed to be as stiff as a board and prohibitively expensive, right?
Well, apparently not. As well as supplying race-winning bikes to top-level professional teams like Katusha and Movistar, Canyon has garnered quite a reputation for providing high-spec bikes at great prices to Joe Public, and the Ultimate CF SL 9.0 is perhaps the best example we’ve come across yet. Weighing in at 7.45kg and coming equipped with a whole list of big-name brands, it’s ‘race-ready’ in the truest sense with no need for any upgrades before hitting the local road race or criterium.
Canyon is also pretty keen on giving its customers options, with a slick website that allows the buyer to configure the bike how they want it. Typically, this machine would have come supplied with a compact chainset (50/34) but we requested a more race-focused 53/39 setup that came fitted at no extra cost. Similarly, those seeking a little assistance on hilly sportives will be pleased to hear that they can even ask for a triple chainset with an 11-28t cassette.
There’s something a little industrial about the silver matt effect finish with its blue accents. The other colour option is black and white, which also relinquishes a lustrous sheen in favour of a stealthier look.
The frame itself is angular and purposeful in appearance. That said, though many had positive comments on the price and specification, far fewer remarked upon the Canyon’s looks.
The carbon-fibre frame is bang up to date with internal cabling for clean lines and improved aerodynamics with a real emphasis on stiffness.
The One One Four SLX fork is another nod toward racing aspirations with a design that Canyon claims contributes towards “stiffness for the sprint” together with a unique i-Lock headset system that does away with a top-cap and clamping cone, further reducing weight and, quite frankly, looking pretty neat.
For all this stiffness, something had to give. Literally. Canyon’s approach to rider comfort starts with the asymmetric chainstays, continues to the seatstay/seat tube junction and ends with the VCLS seatpost. Not only does this cleverly-designed post provide a little bit of suspension, it also offers a massive range of fore and aft adjustment, so riders who prefer a lot of layback are well catered for.
Given this is a sub-£2,000 machine, Canyon has been pretty generous. In addition to a complete Shimano Ultegra 11-speed groupset, the contact points have been equally well-specced with Ritchey WCS handlebar and stem.
The bars have great ergonomics with a slight curve back to shorten the reach and a fairly shallow drop together with padded, oval tops for climbing comfort. The Fizik Antares saddle is another welcome addition to this top-quality line-up.
The wheels come courtesy of French firm Mavic. The Ksyrium Elite wheelset is well known for its low weight and all-round ability, making it a great choice whatever the terrain. After 800 miles of mostly wet-weather riding, they’re still spinning freely and running true despite some rim-clanging pinch-punctures through puddled potholes without suffering so much as a dent.
Even after a short ride, you’re left in little doubt as to this bike’s purpose in life. Everything about it feels direct. It accelerates like a race bike should, with very little sense of flex even under the duress of a sprint. It turns fast too and drops eagerly into corners with a high degree of feedback that lets you know exactly where the limit is, even on the standard Mavic Yksion Pro tyres. If ever there was a bike built for the club criterium, this is it.
Shimano’s latest version of its second-tier Ultegra groupset means a total of 22 ratios to choose from, and shifting is never anything but slick. The front mech trims perfectly with a light ‘semi-click’ of the shifter to avoid chain rub throughout the cassette’s vast range. Braking is assured, providing ample, consistent stopping power, even when the pads are biting on a wet rim.
Canyon’s wide range of road and race bikes is on their website: canyon.com
This bike wants to go racing, that’s obvious. But it would also make a superb sportive bike. Indeed, the few concessions Canyon has made to comfort — compliant seatpost, quality saddle and ergonomic bars — add up to more than their apparent sum. In fact, the only thing that’s lacking is the personal touch you can only get from buying from your local bike shop. Provided you know exactly which version you want, there’s little to rival the Ultimate CF SL 9.0. Particularly for those struggling to resist the lure of their first fourth-cat race…