We put Canyon's lightweight climbing bike through its paces
The Canyon Ultimate has been in the German company’s range since the early 2000s, so it should be no surprise that the bike has evolved into something rather special.
Daubed in a stunning electric blue paintjob, the Canyon Ultimate CF SLX 8.0 Di2 looks an absolute treat. The slender seatstays, slim seatpost, and dead-straight fork make for a classically beautiful bike that will really stand out against all the deep-tubed aero bikes being pumped out of the factories at the moment.
That’s not to say that Canyon has ignored aerodynamics in the creation of the Ultimate, with the redesigned tube shapes apparently saving 7.4 watts over the old model at 45kph, while the aero handlebars on more expensive models will shave off another 5.5 watts.
A lowering of the seatpost clamp down the seat tube has also improved comfort, although this means that the bolt is located on the back of the seat tube, making it liable to becoming clogged with mud and dirt.
There are plenty of different spec options available with this frameset, with ours, a model towards the bottom of the CF SLX range, coming with a Shimano Ultegra Di2 groupset and Mavic Ksyrium Pro Exalith SL wheels.
Regular readers won’t need telling about the impressive performance of the Ultegra Di2 groupset, with sharp shifting both front and rear, and minimal effort required to change rings.
It’s also good to see Canyon speccing its bikes with a mid-compact 52/36t chainset that means you won’t spin out on fast descents, but will still have ratios low enough for the steepest climbs.
The only thing that might put you off is that we’re expecting Shimano to release a new version of Ultegra next year, which will appear on 2018 bikes.
It should still be compatible with this version, the only downside being that fashionistas might find their bike looks a bit out of date a little too quickly.
The all-black Mavic wheels add to the overall aesthetics, and generally do a solid job. The braking is excellent even if they squeal a bit while the brake pads bed in, but it doesn’t take much effort to generate brake rub even by a lighter rider such as myself, so more powerful riders might want to change to a stiffer wheelset.
The 15mm internal rim width is also narrower than most other modern wheelsets, and increasing this would certainly improve comfort, while I wasn’t too impressed with the Mavic tyres’ wet weather performance either.
Looking for a Shimano Ultegra groupset?
With a pro-level frame and an all-up weight sitting slap-bang on the UCI weight limit, you get no prizes for guessing that the Ultimate is a joy to ride.
An absolute climbing machine, the Ultimate comes into its own in the hills, letting you dance up really steep gradients and it really flew down the descents when I treated it to some super-stiff carbon wheels.
The comfort is also impressive when compared to other high-performance race bikes, with rear end stiffness not coming at the expense of a comfortable ride.
Finally the handling is very impressive, with the relatively short 98.8cm wheelbase of the 56cm test model making for a snappy bike that swoops and ducks through tight bends.
Traditionally Canyon’s direct sales model has attracted customers looking for value for money, and although this bike is still one of the best value Ultegra Di2 bikes you can buy, I don’t think the value is quite as outstanding as it once was.
I actually bought the previous model with Shimano Ultegra Di2 and slightly lower spec Mavic wheels for less than £3,000 in 2013.
Is this model £650 better, even with the step up in the wheels? I’m not sure.
Canyon’s consistency in hitting delivery schedules may have been called into question over the last year, but its consistency in producing exceptional bikes cannot be faulted. Once again the latest Ultimate has ticked all the boxes. Its stiff rear end and low overall weight make it an absolute rocketship when the road rears upwards, while the sharp handling means it will thrive in a crit environment. Add the impressive comfort for a top-end race frame and you can’t help but applaud Canyon on the work it has put into this model. The only things holding it back are the wheels, which are well-built but don’t seem to be up to the high standards that we’ve come to expect of Mavic