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Canyon Ultimate CF SL 9.0 review

27 Sep 2016
Verdict:

The Canyon Ultimate CF SL 9.0 is billed as a climbers weapon, but thanks to some high tech assistance it's good everywhere else too.

Cyclist Rating: 
Price: 
£2,349
For 
Exceedingly good bike
Against 
Exceedingly long name

German direct-sales firm Canyon offers the Ultimate CF SL as a more affordable alternative to its even lighter SLX range. The (deep breath…) Canyon Ultimate CF SL 9.0 Di2 is particularly well specced for the money, featuring not only electronic gearing but an excellent set of wheels in the shape of Mavic’s Ksyrium Elites. If you’ve already got suitable wheels and components lying around and fancy building your own bike, then Canyon will even sell you a frameset-only option for just £749. What a time to be alive!

Frameset 

Canyon Ultimate CF SL 9.0 frame

Canyon’s Ultimate CF SL carbon frameset differs from the higher-end CF SLX frame by virtue of its carbon lay-up. It still carries identical geometry to the bikes raced by WorldTour teams Movistar and Katusha. Canyon claims a weight of 1.235kg for the frame and fork, which marks them out as a fairly svelte combination.  The One One Four SLX fork is a race-spec frame component that has been designed to isolate you from the tarmac’s bigger imperfections. The seatstays pass either side of the seat tube to form a wide connection with the top tube, which Canyon says provides a stiff junction but also sufficient flex to keep you comfortable for longer. Even the entry points of the internal Di2 cables is something to shout about - their sharp angle designed to prevent frame rub. 

Groupset 

Canyon Ultimate CF SL 9.0 Ultegra

No corners have been cut in specifying the Canyon’s Ultegra Di2 groupset, from shifters and front/rear mechs through chainset, cassette and excellent brakes. The biggest gear of 52x11 is plenty for even the biggest sprinter or downhill daredevil, while a smallest ratio of 36x28 should be enough to propel you up all but the longest and most vicious inclines.

Finishing kit 

Canyon’s own-brand kit is used throughout and it’s good quality aluminium bunch. The H17 Ergo alloy handlebars offer a comfortable short drop that allowed us to get low and aggressive in relative comfort. We’re also big fans of the CF SL’s Fizik Antares saddle, for its relatively forgiving construction, flat perch and suede-effect edges that resist slip. It’s fixed to the top of Canyon’s effective 27.2mm carbon seatpost, which has been tuned to make the ride as comfortable as possible.

Wheels 

Canyon Ultimate CF SL 9.0 fork

When we’re testing lower-priced bikes with heavy but sturdy wheelsets, we’ll often suggest an upgrade to Mavic’s Ksyrium Elite wheels. Here, they come as standard. The matching Mavic Pro Griplink and Powerlink tyres are 25mm in diameter, instill big confidence and enforce the overall feeling of smoothness in the ride. Much better than the Mavic tyres of a few years ago that were famous for their lack of grip in the wet.

The ride

It stands to reason that light bikes with light riders descend slower than an equivalent bike with a heavier pilot. Gravity, innit? But we weren’t hampered by the Canyon’s lack of bulk at the downhill outset of our ride, the electronic shifting keeping our cadence as high as possible as quickly as possible, in as tall a gear as possible. Progress was rapid and seamless. And that’s before we’d even hit a climb…

We’ve ridden many incarnations of Canyon’s super-light ‘Ultimate’ series over our years of testing, and each of them is a bike we’d happily take to the Pyrenees for a week. This version does not disappoint. There are many bikes that stand up to a hard day in the saddle, but this one is in the premier league of comfortable climbers. With 25c tyres, the extra comfort that comes from bump-taming wider rubber is allied to the VCLS (vertical compliance, lateral stiffness) seatpost, which eliminates virtually all harshness from the road.

Canyon Ultimate CF SL 9.0 review

Thin seatstays at the rear and a narrow, carbon fork out front help to dial out any residual vibration. Even without Di2, the Ultimate CF flies up hills with ease, but the addition of electronic shifting makes finding the right gear from the 11-28 Ultegra cassette even easier, whether sprinting on the flat or heaving yourself up a sizeable climb. Electronic shifting makes this great bike truly superb. The 52/36 chainset offers an almost perfect combination of gears when matched to an 11-28 block. The Mavic Ksyrium Elite wheelset is a good compromise between speed and durability, with no brake rub in evidence.

It’s not all about the climbing, however. The Canyon instills huge amounts of confidence in its ability to take corners downhill, or winding country lanes on the flat. It’s seemingly unflappable - kept stable thanks to a head angle that’s on the relaxed side, and a wheelbase that keeps it all in check. We ran Mavic’s front and rear wheel-specific 25c tyres at 85psi for much of our testing, and noticed no discernible handicap in terms of speed, but stacks of difference in comfort and cornering confidence over and above previous Ultimates we’ve ridden on 23s. A slightly wider footprint allows you to crank the bike over in confidence much further. And they shake off mid-corner surface changes and bumps almost as if they’re not there. Unusually for a test bike, considering the budget we’ve set ourselves for these bikes, there’s not one component we’d change that would make a demonstrable difference to its performance. 

Buy the Canyon Ultimate CF 9.0 from £2,349 from Canyon.com

Geometry

Geometry chart
Claimed Measured
Top Tube (TT) 537mm 536mm
Seat Tube (ST) 505mm 505mm
Down Tube (DT) 622mm
Fork Length (FL) 387mm
Head Tube (HT) 138mm 138mm
Head Angle (HA) 72.5 72.4
Seat Angle (SA) 73.5 73.8
Wheelbase (WB) 973mm 974mm
BB drop (BB) 77mm

Spec

Canyon Ultimate CF SL 9.0
Frame Canyon Ultimate CF SL
Groupset Shimano Ultegra Di2
Brakes Shimano Ultegra
Chainset Shimano Ultegra, 52/36
Cassette Shimano Ultegra, 11-28
Bars Canyon H17 Ergo, alloy
Stem Canyon V13, alloy
Seatpost Canyon S13 VCLS, carbon, 27.2mm
Wheels Mavic Ksyrium Elite
Saddle Fizik Antares R5
Weight 7.28kg (Size Small)
Contact canyon.com

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