Verdict The Canyon Ultimate is a capable all-rounder but it absolutely sings on the climbs. It’s a bike to be ridden hard, and seems to let you turn a gear you thought you couldn’t. On the flat, it’s a bit like turning up at your local chippy and being given pan-fried halibut, sautéed sweet potatoes and a drizzle of balsamic glaze. You’re not going to complain, but sometimes cod, chips and mushy peas is what you really want. This bike is something for special occasions — for races, for big rides, for biking holidays. It looks and feels special, and if you’re spending over four thousand pounds on a bike, then that is what you want.
Confidence-inspiring handling at speed
Doesn't roll as easily on the flat
Stealthy looks aren't for everyone
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Despite its understated matt black looks, the Canyon Ultimate is the sort of bike that grabs people’s attention. If I had a penny for every time somebody muttered, “that’s a nice bike,” I’d be well on my way to buying one for myself. The stealthy colours aren’t for everyone but there can be no denying that this bike looks the part.
However, it’s much more than just a pretty face, something which became apparent when it was taken for a ride in God’s own bike testing ground — the northern French Alps.
The Ultimate gets better and better as the road gets steeper and steeper. It’s obviously very light — a claimed mass of just 790g for the frameset and 6.20kg for the complete bike, but it is also responsive and excitable like a little puppy yapping and jumping up around your legs.
Watch our tips on how to nail any climb
That said, put it under a rouleur pushing 12 stone and it feels just as fun. Heading uphill, it manages to pull an extra gear out for you when you least expect it; you can be riding at what feels like flat-out and yet you find you can shift down, accelerate, and shift down again, the little Canyon pulling at the lead.
Given the climbing prowess, it’s a good job that you can do six downshifts in one go on the Campagnolo Super Record groupset levers. The looks of that modern-day Campagnolo groupset divides opinion too; black carbon and understated metal is not for everyone. Shifting down on Super Record can take a bit of getting used to, particularly compared to the flick of a Shimano lever.
However, shifting up feels unanimously crisp and light. The pro compact chainset is spot-on for those heavy climbing days; seldom do you spin out over 35mph but that smaller inner ring comes into its own on climbs where you’re struggling to get over 7mph for any meaningful length of time. It just feels like the right tool for the job.
And despite weighing less than seven kilograms, the bike doesn’t feel delicate on the descents, thanks to the Mavic R-Sys wheelset and tyres. Canyon has clearly invested considerable time and effort in the bike’s overall aesthetic; the stem, bars and seatpost are all Canyon own-brand.
Confidence going downhill at 45mph is as much down to the rider as to the bike, but the wheels certainly give the rider a useful helping hand. For starters, they look and sound fantastic.
I took the bike out for a ride with an aeronautical engineer and he said that the sound of pads on the Exalith braking surface (where tiny grooves have been etched into the rim surface to improve braking) is like a jet engine decompressing. What’s more, it is predictable and makes normal alloy braking surfaces feel like trying to cling onto a laminate floor with your fingernails.
>>> How to use your brakes properly
On the flat, you can feel the directness of the power transmission, although the combination of extreme lightness and a slightly more upright position means that the bike doesn’t roll along as well as more aerodynamic offerings. That said, after over six hours in the saddle, the Canyon isn’t uncomfortable.
Indeed, Katusha uses the Ultimate frameset for the cobbles of the Spring Classics. On test, it felt as if the wheels and 23mm tyres picked up on the lumps and bumps of British roads, after 40 hours’ riding they remained as crisp and as true as they were out of the box. Even so, they’d definitely feel more at home on the superior asphalt of Continental Europe.
Bikes don’t come with their price tags when they roll out of the CW offices; seeing that this whole machine can be owned for less than £4,500 is jaw-dropping. With different groupset options, the price can be whittled down even lower, although this would mean shunning your local bike shop and its after-sales support, since Canyon only sells direct to customers.
If you’re OK with that, then there’s no way you won’t be happy with the bike. Casting aside personal preferences on groupsets and looks, the Canyon Ultimate is bags of fun and, provided you’re willing to put in the effort, it makes you faster. What more could you want?
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Richard Abraham is an award-winning writer, based in New Zealand. He has reported from major sporting events including the Tour de France and Olympic Games, and is also a part-time travel guide who has delivered luxury cycle tours and events across Europe. In 2019 he was awarded Writer of the Year at the PPA Awards.