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In the space of two weeks, the bike you see here has survived commuting, a brace of Sunday rides, race training sprint efforts, a 90-mile sportive and two easyjet flights. It has excelled.
You know how your non-cycling mates always lift up your bike and marvel at how light it is? Well this bike surprises even fellow cyclists. Tipping the scales at just 6.4kg in its Dura-Ace equipped form, the Ultimate CF SLX 9.0 is lighter than the official minimum weight limit for professional racing bikes. It’s no great surprise, then, to learn how good it is at climbing.
The aforementioned sportive – this year’s Marrakech Atlas Etape – is an out-and-back ride of 140km, but the first half is all uphill, with an ascent of 2,257m to a ski resort. Even in this 11-speed, 11-25 guise, there were only a few occasions when a 28-tooth gear would have helped (and you can specify a cassette to suit when ordering). Most impressive was the stiffness of the chassis when the gradient increased: stiff enough to allow out-of-the-seat efforts and exemplary transfer of every last watt to heave me up a mountain. The bike responds amazingly to sudden inputs of power, leaping up the road like a motorcycle given a fistful in first gear.
Most lightweight bikes will shine on an ascent, but 44 miles of fast, flowing descent on less than perfect roads is one of the toughest tests possible. The SLX behaves like a race bike in its sure-footedness (it’s the weapon of choice for both the Katusha and Movistar teams).
The frame allows an element of vertical flex without sacrificing overall stiffness – something Canyon calls VCLS (Vertical Comfort, Lateral Stiffness). Pencil-thin seat stays combine with the firm’s groundbreaking seatpost, made from basalt fibre, which is said to flex better under load and upon shocks. I hit potholes, traversed pitted concrete and straightlined gravel-strewn roads, so take it from me – this works! No bucks out of the seat, not a single “Oof!”
Rigidity in the corners is peerless. Approach a sweeping left-hander at 30mph, left pedal up, apply pressure through the right pedal, look where you want to go, and the whole exhilarating sequence is over before you’ve a chance to think.
Shimano’s top-end mechanical Dura-Ace gear set-up pleases with its positive shifting, while the brakes pull off the rare trick of being super-strong yet progressive in their power. Special blocks grip Mavic’s in-house Exalith braking surface – a texture that, beyond offering supreme stopping power on alloy rims, also makes a very cool ‘whooosh/scream’ noise as you slow.
For a bike that’s not far off genuine Tour de France spec, the price is thousands less than you’d pay for rivals’ pro-team models. Selling directly via its website allows Canyon to keep costs down, and the complete package is the best we’ve ever tested.
Riding all day? No problem. Racing? The SLX is straining at the leash. If you’re at all interested in speed, responsiveness, lightness and stiffness, you’ll want one of these.