Thanks to its online-only model, Canyon has always produced good value bikes. As with many German bike manufacturers, though, it was obsessed with combining low-weight with ultimate stiffness, which meant bikes that wowed on paper but failed to deliver on anything but ideal road surfaces.
Along the way, though — thanks maybe to its commitment to professional racing or feedback from its highly regarded Endurace project — Canyon has managed to develop the Ultimate CF (RO51), a chassis that works as both a race machine and a bike you can ride, train on and enjoy without feeling like you've been sparring with the road surface for several hours.
The Canyon Ultimate CF SL Disc 8.0 Aero is one of our Bike of the Year bikes for 2019 and has been crowned best road bike for climbing. To read reviews of the other contenders and the categories tested across road, mountain and women's bikes, visit our Bike of the Year hub.
The lightweight frame (920g) and slender, straight-bladed fork does mean a firm ride, but Canyon has been clever, opting for its own (S13) VCLS seatpost with buzz-killing flex, and 28c Mavic Yksion tyres on Mavic's excellent new Cosmic Pro carbon wheels.
The tyres will perform even better if you run them tubeless as intended. (Canyon ships the bike with standard tubes, but delivering a mail-order bike with sealant slopping around the rims would be tricky.)
Canyon Ultimate CF SL Disc 8.0 Aero ride impressions
The Ultimate CF SL earns its 'Aero' title thanks to the addition of the Canyon C10 one-piece bar and stem up front. The Kammtail-like design and smooth leading edge look smart, and the pointed front edge and flat back is great to hold onto.
The downside is that the front end is firmer than the rear, and noticeably firmer than the Canyon Ultimate Evo superbike I’ve also been testing, which has the newer H36 bar/stem combo.
Most of the time it feels great, but when you hit a particularly scarred stretch of tarmac the front end resonates at just the right pitch to make your fingers tingle, forcing me to shift my grip or stretch my hands out.
The Ultimate CF SL frame is unreservedly racy, with a 592mm stack and 399mm reach on my large test bike. The steep head (73.3 degrees) and seat angle (73.8 degrees) combine with the 1,011mm wheelbase to make the SL’s ride position very forward-centric, which results in a bike that you constantly want to be on top of, pushing the pedals hard and driving for more and more speed.
The bike's geometry is designed for rapid handling. You can make corrections and change direction in an instant, so you need to stay focused when riding hard, especially when heading downhill fast.
It’s not that the SL will run wide in corners or drift off line (if anything it oversteers) it’s just that a rut, bump or longitudinal track will bounce the Ultimate CF SL off line.
Canyon has been very clever with the specification, kitting out the Ultimate CF with a complete Ultegra groupset and top-grade IceTech rotors to get the best out of the Shimano brakes.
The gear range is spot on too, with a pro-compact 52/36 up front and a col-friendly 11-30 out back. Add in a great Fizik Antares saddle and the aforementioned 28c tyres and you get a race-orientated bike that’s also a great all-rounder.
Canyon Ultimate CF SL Disc 8.0 Aero specification
- Sizes (*tested): XXS, XS, M, L*, XL, XXL
- Weight: 8.04kg
- Frame: Carbon
- Fork: Carbon
- Crankset: Shimano Ultegra, 52/36
- Cassette: Shimano Ultegra, 11-30
- Shifters: Shimano Ultegra
- Mechs: Shimano Ultegra
- Brakes: Shimano Ultegra disc
- Wheels: Mavic Cosmic Pro carbon UST
- Tyres: Mavic Yksion Pro tubeless tyres 28c
- Bar: Canyon C10 carbon one-piece bar and stem
- Stem: Canyon C10 carbon one-piece bar and stem
- Seatpost: Canyon S13 VCLS carbon
- Saddle: Fizik Antares saddle
Canyon Ultimate CF SL Disc 8.0 Aero geometry
- Seat angle: 73.8 degrees
- Head angle: 73.3 degrees
- Chainstay: 41.5cm
- Seat tube: 55.4cm
- Top tube: 57.1cm
- Head tube: 17.4cm
- Bottom bracket drop: 7cm
- Wheelbase: 1,011mm
- Stack: 59.2cm
- Reach: 39.9cm