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(The Gear Loop) - With three Grand Tour victories, two World Championship titles, as well as countless stage and GC wins at the world’s most prestigious races, it’s safe to say the Canyon Ultimate is one of the most important bikes in the German marque’s extensive line-up.

Initially launched in 2004, it set it stool out early, offering an extremely focussed and racy ride that went on to win numerous awards, accolades and stage wins. Rapidly garnering a reputation in the pro cycling peloton, it was also adopted by ambitious amateurs and those who wanted cutting-edge tech in their daily rides.

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With this, the fifth generation of the Ultimate, Canyon has attempted to build on its successes and improve the offering, without spoiling the key pillars that make an Ultimate the, erm, ultimate road machine for most scenarios.

Arguably a little slow to market with this update, especially considering the likes of Specialized, Giant and Cannondale have all either updated their high-end race bikes or released new models entirely, there’s a lot riding on the Canyon Ultimate to ensure it remains competitive in a busy field.

Roo Fowler/CanyonCanyon Ultimate CF SLX 8 Di2 review photo 2

We saddled up and took the CF SLX 8 Di2 model (it sits somewhere in the middle of the line-up and price range) for a spin around the South Downs to see if the long wait has been worth it.

Our quick take

Canyon has built on the solid reputation of the Ultimate with a machine that seemingly does most things incredibly well. It manages to blend speed with comfort, stiffness with lightm weight and sharp, responsive steering with a sort of playfulness that makes you fall in love with road cycling again.

For more info, visit the Canyon website.

Canyon Ultimate CF SLX 8 Di2 review: Canyon's lightweight road ripper gets even better

Canyon Ultimate CF SLX 8 Di2

5 stars - The Gear Loop editors choice
For
  • Pleasingly lightweight
  • Beguiling kit list for the price
  • Easy adjustments to cockpit for great fit
  • Sharp but fun
Against
  • Dizzying array of model choice
  • Canyon’s new accessories will make you part with more cash
  • Lightest models are expensive

In the Loop

Everything you need to know about the Canyon Ultimate CF SLX 8 Di2 in short:

  • DT Swiss ARC 1400 50/50 Rims
  • Schwalbe Pro One Skin tyres
  • Room for up to 32mm tyres
  • Selle Italia SLR Boost Superflow Ti316 saddle
  • Huge frame size range: 3XS, 2XS, XS, S, M, L, XL, 2XL
  • Overall weight: 6.67kg
  • Available in Frozen Black and Iced Berry colour schemes
  • Shimano Ultegra Di2 shifting
  • Built-in power meter

Design and build 

Rather than ripping up the Ultimate rulebook and starting again, Canyon engineers have chosen, instead, to build on the incremental design language.

Roo Fowler/CanyonCanyon Ultimate CF SLX 8 Di2 review photo 4

Keen eyes will notice a revised headtube, a more angular shape to the top of the carbon forks, chunkier chainstays and extra carbon around the bottom bracket.

Despite the seemingly additional sections of carbon fibre, the team managed to save weight by redesigning the cockpit, seatpost seatpost clamp to ensure they are lighter and more efficient than ever. The result is a UCI-compliant 6.8kg in most variants of the Ultimate (there are many). Although CFR models go even lighter still thanks to the carbon lay-up used in the frame and components.

Roo Fowler/CanyonCanyon Ultimate CF SLX 8 Di2 review photo 36

Light is one thing, but stiffness is key to power transfer and as an example of improvements in this arena, Canyon claims there is a 15 per cent increase in headtube stiffness compared to the outgoing model, while it is 10W more efficient at 45km/h thanks to an ongoing partnership with F1 aero maestros Swiss Side. In short, this is a lighter, stiffer and sharper ride that still manages to offer the all-important compliance to make perching atop the thing comfortable.

Kit and components

Three individual underlying platforms will be offered, starting with the most affordable CF SL models, rising to the CF SLX and topping out with the race-ready CFR models. The latter is essentially the same bike that is used in the pro peloton and represents the pinnacle in Canyon’s carbon technology.

Roo Fowler/CanyonCanyon Ultimate CF SLX 8 Di2 review photo 10

On top of this, buyers are presented with a number of sub-models, which offer varying levels of kit that come bolted on to that attractive frame. This ranges from the groupset used, to the quality of the wheelset, the width of the tyres and so on.

Interestingly, Canyon also offers some of the more affordable models with external cabling, despite internal cabling being a standout feature of some of the more technically-accomplished machines.

Roo Fowler/CanyonCanyon Ultimate CF SLX 8 Di2 review photo 34

Bar the Ultimate CF SL 7, all Ultimate CF SL models are equipped with integrated power meters, while all aside from the Ultimate CF SL 8 have electronic shifting. It’s a tempting offering that allows potential buyers to balance out the initial outlay with the sort of components they require. 

The model we rode, the Ultimate CF SLX 8, adopts a nice middle ground between eye-wateringly expensive and "too cheap to compete", with a beguiling array of kit coming as standard.

Roo Fowler/CanyonCanyon Ultimate CF SLX 8 Di2 review photo 9

Smooth shifting was taken care of by Shimano Ultegra Di2 groupset, excellent Schwalbe Pro One Skin rubber shod the free-rolling DT Swiss ARC 1400 50/50 rims and the Selle Italia SLR Boost Superflow Ti316 proved comfortable but aggressive enough to really push it on the flats.

The chainset also came (and will come for buyers) complete with a power meter, negating the need to fit anything else to your machine. The Canyon CP0018 cockpit might not be as focussed and sharp as the SP0064 version found on the CFR, but it’s still incredibly neat, doing away with any messy cabling to get in the way of aero gains.

Roo Fowler/CanyonCanyon Ultimate CF SLX 8 Di2 review photo 8

Performance on the road

A great road bike needs to be lightweight, stiff, aggressive when required but also (and most important to so many riders) comfortable. Let’s face it, most of us aren’t racing for a living, so inevitably end up with a sore lower back, painful glutes and irritated wrists when the kilometres start racking up.

The Canyon Ultimate has always felt like a great "do-it-all" machine, especially in its previous generation, making even the most ham-fisted riders feel fast and agile, while never straying too far into that rigid, overtly stiff territory that makes some machines borderline unrideable for most.

Roo Fowler/CanyonCanyon Ultimate CF SLX 8 Di2 review photo 41

We’re pleased to report the latest model builds on this legacy and immediately feels purposeful, familiar, fast yet comfortable over longer distances.

Riding with a group of more dedicated road cyclists, we immediately felt we would be a little out of our depth when it came to hitting the bigger climbs dotted around the South Downs and holding our nerve as we tackled the descents.

Roo Fowler/CanyonCanyon Ultimate CF SLX 8 Di2 review photo 1

A great bike irons out these little imperfections in a rider’s armoury and even with, ahem, reduced fitness levels from a summer of over indulgence, as opposed to training, we felt we could at least hang on to the coat tails of faster riders.

This is likely down to the improvements in stiffness where required, as well as tweaks to the tube shapes for increased aerodynamic efficiency. Get the Ultimate CF SLX 8 up to speed and it cruises along at an impressive pace. We feel those with even greater wattage on tap will be able to extract even more from this machine.

Roo Fowler/CanyonCanyon Ultimate CF SLX 8 Di2 review photo 5

Above all else, the inherent raciness never felt too taxing on the body, with even the worst road surfaces neatly smoothed out thanks to the built-in compliance. At one point, we found ourselves hacking along tight, twisty country roads that were covered in loose shingle, gravel and stones, but the small group didn’t ease up its pace. The Ultimate CF SLX 8 uses a hybrid set-up of tyres, with 25mm rubber on the front and 28mm on the back. The team claims this offers the best balance of aero gains (the wider rear tyre is shielded by a thicker seattube), comfort and grip.

The Ultimate CF SLX 8 inspires confidence on the hairy surfaces and, coupled with the sticky Schwalbe Pro One Skin tyres, encourages the rider to push that little harder. This was particularly apparent on a handful of the faster descents on busy road sections, where our Garmin Edge 1040 clocked up just shy of 80km/h. Powerful brakes, composed geometry and predictable handling meant these were actually fun, rather than life-affirming experiences.

Roo Fowler/CanyonCanyon Ultimate CF SLX 8 Di2 review photo 29

The final stretch of our relatively quick 55km spin consisted of gently rolling roads that sliced through the countryside. With a stiff breeze at our backs, the small group carved through the fields at pace, everyone happily chatting over the hum of carbon wheels.

Comfortable, fast, yet truly capable in the right hands, it feels like Canyon has nailed what Specialized set out to do (and achieved) with the fantastic Aethos - create a machine that puts the fun back into road riding while appealing to a broad spectrum of the road riding community. All the while it manages to push the diehard contingent to achieve or crush personal bests. 

Roo Fowler/CanyonCanyon Ultimate CF SLX 8 Di2 review photo 43
To recap

Available with a wide array of group sets, finishing kits and rims, there’s arguably an Ultimate for every rider type and budget, which will serve Canyon well considering the stiff competition. The direct-to-customer brand remains hugely competitive when it comes to pricing, too. Above all this, the ultimate is a fantastic platform and decked out on this CF SLX guise, it represents a superb package for the money. One that will reward accomplished riders and flatter those who perhaps aren’t putting out insane wattage.

Writing by Leon Poultney.