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Canyon Aeroad SLX 9.0 LTD review

1 Feb 2018
Verdict:

The Canyon Aeroad SLX 9.0 LTD is well priced and at the pinnacle of aerodynamics and efficiency, even if it does lack a bit of comfort

Price: 
£5,900

When a bike looks like this, perhaps a review loses its meaning. The Canyon Aeroad SLX 9.0 LTD is the kind of bike that would be considered fast even if it wasn’t, purely as a consequence of looking like a stealth fighter. However, there is more to the Aeroad than its fetching appearance.

Canyon is, in a way, a bit of a cheat. The company uses a sales strategy that cuts out the normal distribution routes and sells straight to the consumer – meaning no middle man importers and no bike shops, which allows Canyon to offer its bikes at good value.

Considering the £5,900 pricetag it might seem odd to be talking about value, but with a Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 groupset, including sprint shifters, Zipp Firecrest clinchers, and no expense spared with the finishing kit, this bike appears to be a bargain.

As you go down the range, this value becomes even more impressive, with Ultegra Di2 and Mavic Cosmic Carbone SLE wheels specced on the £3,299 version.

Normally, perhaps, that would be balanced by a slightly frugal approach to the design of the frame in compensation for the high cost of the components. This is not the case with the Aeroad.

In the fast lane

‘Ninety-five per cent of all the Katusha riders now choose to ride the Aeroad,’ says Canyon designer Wolfgang Kohl.

Notably, superstar climber Joaquim Rodriguez chose the bike over the super-slender Canyon Ultimate CF SLX last season.

This is unusual among pro teams, with aero road bikes seldom being ridden in long stage races and the likes of the Specialized Venge or Cervélo S5 making only rare appearances at the Grand Tours.

The reason that the Aeroad bucks the trend should become all too evident in the course of this review.

Despite the cost-saving connotations of the brand, the Aeroad is not a cheap frame to produce.

‘I don’t  know how much other brands pay for frames,’ Kohl says, ‘but our price is very high.’ With the Aeroad, it’s not simply a case of intelligent and high quality construction, but a striking convergence of design, specification and finish.

Before going into detail, it’s worth establishing the central appeal of the Aeroad. This is a fast bike, to the point that it made me want to ride so quickly that my face started to ache in the harsh winter winds.

Day in, day out, I found myself riding harder and faster than ever before, and after handing back the Aeroad, I found myself in the best form of my life.

That speed isn’t down to a magically crafted frame, though, but rather an overall package that works in perfect harmony. First comes the own-brand finishing kit.

In the case of the Canyon, finishing kit may not be an appropriate description, as the handlebar, stem and seatpost are all essentially integrated components.

While aerodynamics is a big factor, the finishing kit has been designed with a view towards the broader performance of the bike.

‘The seatpost is not as aerodynamic as you can go. It’s been made narrower to increase comfort,’ Kohl says. ‘We don’t see that as trade-off, as comfort is also speed.’

That’s apparent on the road with the seatpost filtering out much of the road buzz, yet giving enough feedback to properly gauge the surface and traction of the road.

The cockpit and handlebars are noticeably geared towards aerodynamics, although Kohl argues that the extra surface area of the bars also increases comfort for the hands.

The teardrop profile of the handlebars does a lot to reduce drag, being the first point of contact with the open air, but more impressive is the neatness  of the whole arrangement.

Treating electronic groupsets as standard for this range, Canyon has designed a compartment for the Di2 head unit, concealing it within the handlebar.

This leaves only the front brake cable to blemish the clean lines of the aerodynamic cockpit. Even the headset spacers are designed to match the Kammtail profile of the stem.

Together, the consequence of those aerodynamic measures, along with a frame that went through four rounds of wind-tunnel testing, and Zipp’s drag-defying 404s, is that the Aeroad holds speed extremely well.

With its sub-1kg frame weight (making it 6.8kg for the total build) the Aeroad sped confidently up inclines and over rolling terrain.

I found myself able to sit easily above 35kmh for long and undulating rides, despite negative temperatures and brisk winds.

On the edge of a Canyon

With its mix of smoothness, feedback from the road and rapid acceleration, the Canyon is a highly enjoyable bike to ride.

Clearly it’s no endurance machine, and the stiff response to bumps and holes in the road is consistent with what I would expect from any bike in this class, but it was never so bad as to actually spoil the ride.

The real fun comes from the bike’s ability to change speed, which had me sprinting out of every corner.

As a consequence, I was thankful for the Di2 sprint shifters – additional thumb buttons easily accessible while in the drops – as I seemed to spend very little time cruising on the hoods.

Of course, the Aeroad does have its limitations. In comparison to the aero class leaders – the BMC TimeMachine, Cervélo S5 or Pinarello F8 (reviewed here: Pinarello F8 review) – the Aeroad is every bit as fast in a straight line, but lacks some handling finesse.

During testing, when descending or cornering tightly, the bike felt almost too light, too stiff and too responsive, making for a slightly skittish, occasionally unsteady feel.

Realistically, it was more a matter of sensation than of serious compromise to handling, but certainly a bike such as the F8 offers a greater degree of confidence when approaching a corner.

An unusual feature of Canyon’s fork is that its dropout can be rotated to increase the trail, and this lessened the effect to make the handling more stable.

There is so much that’s new and impressive about this bike, which leads me to speculate that, if robots were to ever gain artificial intelligence and take up cycling, this is the bike they’d choose.

It’s so mechanically advanced, so aerodynamic and so efficient that it’s almost frightening.

By the same measure, it perhaps lacks a bit of soul, but if cold Germanic perfection is what you’re looking for, it would be hard to find a bike better specced for the price, and you certainly wouldn’t find anything as fast.

The Canyon Aeroad simply sets the road alight.

Specification

Canyon Aeroad SLX 9.0 LTD
Frame Canyon Aeroad SLX 9.0 Ltd
Groupset Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 9070
Brakes Dura-Ace 9010 direct-mount brakes
Chainset Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 9070
Cassette Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 9070
Bars Canyon H11 Aerocockpit CF
Stem Canyon H11 Aerocockpit CF
Seatpost Canyon S27 Aero VCLS CF seatpost
Wheels Zipp 404 Firecrest clinchers
Tyres Continental Grand Prix 4000
Saddle Fizik Arione saddle
Contact canyon.com

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