We test the Canyon Ultimate CF SLX Disc 9.0; Canyon's lightweight all-rounder
In years gone past, Canyon Ultimates in varying forms have been held in high praise by Cycling Weekly and with the latest iteration on test here – the Canyon Ultimate CF SLX Disc 9.0 – it’s easy to see why.
Sleek in silver and grey, the frame of the Canyon Ultimate looks built to ride fast; it’s all straight angles and sharp lines. Canyon uses a slightly different sizing system than other big name brands. For example, a size medium on the Ultimate has a top tube length of 55.6cm, while a large has a 57.1. I rode a medium, meaning that it was slightly smaller than the usual size I ride (56cm) but it didn’t feel cramped. If anything, it just felt easier to throw around the road and with a wheelbase of 0f 996mm – longer than the equivalent sized Specialized Tarmac SL 6 – it felt quite stable.
At 148mm it also has a pretty short head tube length which made it something of a back breaker, although happily this was balanced out with razor sharp handling.
The Canyon Ultimate also comes with an absolute belter finishing kit. In fact, it was this reason I was particularly keen to get to spend time on this machine as it comes sporting Shimano’s Dura-Ace hydraulic groupset – brakes that’d I’d previously been unable to spend any time on.
Shimano has done a good job of shaving down the size of the hoods, although these are obviously still bigger than mechanical or Di2 Dura-Ace because of the need to house the hydraulic master cylinder. Regardless, the chamfered hoods are nice to hold on to and the new black Ice Tech rotors look the absolute business.
The bike is rounded out with DT Swiss PRC 1400 Dicut carbon disc wheels with a 35mm depth which proved to be a nice balance between rolling speed and not being a chore to climb with. They’re also tubeless ready, although I never set them up that way, and they’re supposedly aero optimised which is a nice match to the Canyon’s aero cockpit with its integrated stem and bars.
At 6.8kg on the CW scales, the Canyon is bang on the UCI’s weight limit for racing, which is why it became my first choice for a trip to the highlands of Scotland. This trip would have me climbing the infamous Bealach Na Ba, one of the most beautiful, if not one of the toughest climbs in the UK. It’s 9.1km long and rises 626m from almost sea level and even has some hairpins up near the top for good measure.
Rolling up to the start of the Bealach Na Ba, I’d already spun 25km on the Canyon so was at least a little warmed up, which was important considering what was to come. The climb starts at sea level and the first kilometre or so slowly climb away from the Scottish rocky coastline. It’s a properly beautiful part of the world but there was a twinge of nerves over what was still to come.
The climb starts at a very modest 3%, rising gently above the rocky Scottish coastline and at these shallow gradients the Canyon Ultimate reacted exactly how you’d expect a bike of this pedigree to – desperately making you push on, chomping at the bit for more speed. There’s so much stiffness built into the frame, especially around the bottom bracket, that rounding corners made me want to ride explosively, pushing hard. The only downside is that I set a far too high early pace and paid for it at the top!
In my opinion, the worst part of the climb comes at 7km in, when you’re faced with a straight road for almost a kilometre at a steady 10-12% gradient. At this point, if you’ve gone off like I had, then you’re pretty far in the red. So it’s also at this point when you realise you’d be stumped on any bike that weighed more than 6.8kg. It’s the Canyon’s feather weight nature that made this part of the climb bearable and sitting in the 36/28 I winched my way through the pain to the final hair pins. The bike never felt like it was dragging or a chore to ride up, even with the middlingly deep 35mm DT Swiss wheels. At it’s steepest, the 17.2% gradient necessitated getting out of the saddle and when working hard on the pedals it’s easy to feel the bike doing a lot of the leg work.
Obviously, what goes up must come down, and specifically that means descending 7.57km at an average gradient of 7% down to the little town of Applecross. It’s a single track mountain pass which spends most of the year covered in snow and it has a road surface to match.
Often covered in gravel with blind corners and aggressive caravan drivers, you have to grab your speed where you can and, quite often, grab a handful of brakes too. It’s safe to say I would not have felt as confident on the descent if I was on rim brakes but with the Shimano disc brakes I felt in control, even if the lightweight bike was moving around in crosswinds.
Fortunately, Shimano’s hydraulic levers proved easily powerful enough to stop me in any situation. Beneath that immediate power, they also have a lovely amount of feel and modulation – which makes avoiding locking the rear wheel easy. There’s never any numbness or vague lever feel, and scrubbing speed is really easy leaving you feeling more in control. I also never had any problems with overheating, even on the steepest sections of the descent, but then I am a light rider.
In fact, the Fizik Antares R5 was the only spec choice that let me down. It’s personal preference really, but I’ve never been able to get on with Fizik saddles. For my long rides I switched it out for a Specialized Toupé model – my current favourite seat.
Overall though, the Canyon Ultimate CF SLX Disc 9.0 is a killer build, and considering the spec list the price of £4,899 is almost palatable.
The Canyon Ultimate CF SLX Disc 9.0 is the full package for a high end bike. It's amazingly light, stiff and has excellent power transfer.