Home > MTB

Review: Canyon Exceed CFR LTD

A World Cup-worthy cross country race bike that just wants to go fast

If you’ve ever wanted a World Cup-level cross country bike, the Canyon Exceed CFR LTD is your machine.

The German direct-to-consumer brand redesigned its cross country hardtail with a laser focus on the finish line. It is an ultralight hardtail tailored to the needs and demands of elite level racing.

How does that translate to those of us without van der Poel or Batty-level fitness? Well, this isn’t a casual Sunday driver. Comfort does come second to performance. But if you’re looking to Exceed expectations (pardon the pun), and want a bike that will help you meet goals and push your limits, Canyon’s offer is hard to beat.

The top-end build Exceed CFR LTD’s exceptionally light frame and factory-level array of parts certainly don’t leave you any excuses for not going your fastest. But, if  you’re not looking to hammer every hill, there may be better options out there.

Canyon Exceed CFR LTD

Canyon Exceed

Canyon’s new to Canada, but not to cross country racing. The current Exceed is the latest version of the bike raced – with much success – by Mathieu van der Poel and, last year, Pauline Ferrand-Prevot. Emily Batty joins those ranks, replacing her French rival.

The new Exceed is longer in reach, adding stability while descending, without letting go of its World Cup pedigree. Canyon’s added 10 mm reach (475 mm for the XL test bike) and brought the stem in to 80-mm on the integrated CP08 cockpit. Showing that the Exceed is still rooted in XC racing, Canyon’s calling the 69-degree head tube angle “slack.” The result is a nimble race bike that’s more comfortable in the air or floating over technical trails at speed.

Another part of the redesign is that chainstays are now size-specific. Starting at 425-mm for the XS-M, they grow to 430 mm for the L, and 435-mm for the XL. That the frame geometry stays balanced, keeping riders positioned in the center of the bike as reach grows.

Cables are routed internally through a new headset design. The headtube area also houses Canyon’s Impact Protection Unit (IPU), which prevents the bars from rotating into and damaging the frame. Bonus: it also keeps you from pulling out cables / hoses when you crash. An integrated seatpost clamp, tucked inside the frame away from mud, sheds a few more grams.

The 29″ race hardtail comes in three different carbon fiber options. This starts with the CF before CF SLX then the top-end, pro-level Exceed CFR. The CFR is both the lightest (835g for a Medium frame) and stiffest option. All Exceed use the same mold, but the CFR uses lighter material in a different layup. Based on Canyon’s stated weights for the CF versus the CFR, the material – Toray M40X carbon fibre for the CFR – and layup changes make the CFR frame an impressive 477 grams lighter.

There’s also a wide range of prices. Exceed CF builds start at $2,600 for the CF 5 and CF 5 WMN. The Exceed CFR LTD, built with a dream list of the best parts available, is $8,800.

Canyon Exceed CFR LTD

There’s two CFR versions of the Exceed. A CFR Team, which comes in Alpecin-Fenix colours, and the CFR LTD. The latter, tested here, comes in a matte “Eclipse black” with rainbow lettering that shimmers when it catches the light.

As for what you get with the LTD’s price tag, there are really no missteps. It’s all the best parts available, including some of Canyon’s own.

Starting up front, there’s Canyon’s CP08 integrated bar-stem combo, which is both incredibly stiff and, according to Canyon, “optimized to tuck in an aerodynamic position.” I’ll leave that to you to try, but it definitely delivers on the stiffness front. It measures at 740-mm wide with the equivalent of a 80-mm stem, though there’s options on that front.

A full SRAM XX1 AXS Eagle wireless drivetrain hangs from those bars, including 10-52-tooth cassette and 34t chainring. Stopping power is supplied by SRAM as well, with lightweight Level Ultimate brakes (180-mm rotor front, 160-mm rear).

RockShox updated SID Sl Ultimate fork adds 100-mm of travel up front, with a RaceDay Remote lockout mounted on the bars. Reynolds Blacklabel 308/289r XC LTD wheels add more high-end carbon fibre to the build. Consistent with Canyon’s precision design for the LTD, Reynolds’ uses rear and front specific design on the 29″ race hoops. The front have a 30-mm internal rim width, and 28-mm rear. These match with Maxxis 2.35″ Ikon front tire and very fast-rolling 2.25″ Aspen rear tire.

"Canyon Exceed CFR LTD

All of this high tech wizardry comes at a price, of course. The CFR LTD’s full-bling sub-20 lbs build clocks in at $8,800. That is a big chunk of cash for a hardtail, to be sure. But Canyon’s direct-to-consumer business model keeps it in check a bit. It’d be hard to find these parts together on one bike, never mind on a 835 gram frame, for less. If you want to ride what the pros race, the CFR LTD will get you there.

Canyon Exceed CFR LTD: On the trail

From the first pedal stroke, Canyon’s focus on stiffness-to-weight is obvious. Stamp on the pedals and the Exceed CFR leaps forward. Those big, boxy chainstays translate every ounce of effort into forward momentum. This immediate response provides more motivation to power into the base of punch climbs and stand up out of every corner. Feeling that instant acceleration provides positive feedback to accelerate again and gain.

What that power-to-weight ratio has no time for is comfort. You can feel the acceleration. But you can also feel every rock, root and bump in the trail coming back up through the frame and incredibly stiff CP08 integrated bar-stem. Fantastic for springs and precision steering. But you have to be on top of the gear and floating. If you sit back or ease off the gas, the Exceed CFR will let you know immediately.

Canyon’s mix of modern and classic geometry works well on the trail. The “slack” 69-degree HTA keeps steering sharp for twisty trails and tight switchbacks. Extending the reach works to balance out any twitch feeling, making it easier to stay centered and relaxed as the bike moves around under you in steeper, more technical sections. Race hardtails aren’t known for their excellent descending skills but, while the Exceed isn’t an effortless descender, the longer reach helps ease that OTB-feeling on steep rolls and features. That 60-mm DT Swiss dropper post doesn’t change the bike’s feel too much, but it does get out of the way just enough to make tech features comfortable.

On smoother singletrack – descents and rolling terrain – and flow trails, Canyon’s ultra-stiff layup helps the Exceed fly. The more the trail speed picks up, really, the happier the CFR is. It is even, somewhat surprisingly for a hardtail, confident and poised when hitting jumps, the smaller sort of which seem to be making much more regular appearances on cross country tracks the last few years.

Verdict? A race bike, for racers

The Exceed CFR LTD wants to go fast. That is its only concern (well, that and looking really good when the light catches the oilslick lettering). Some bikes are designed to make every ride feel good. Other bikes maximize your best days, making you feel like a better version of yourself.

Canyon’s Exceed CFR is very much the latter. If you’re off your game, it’ll punish you in technical sections. But when you’re on top of the gear, feeling good and in your rhythm, this race hardtail absolutely flies. On those days, I’d often look down and find myself further down the cassette than expected, and still turning the pedals over comfortably.

And that’s what a race bike should do, right? It’s not about averaging out good. It’s about maximizing your potential and, you know, chasing podiums.

If your main joy in riding mountain bikes is going fast, the Exceed is made for you. Especially if you tend towards faster, smoother trails or ride where there’s constant climbs. If you’re frequently riding, or racing slower or more technically demanding trails, looking over at the Lux might be a good idea.

The CFR LTD is impressively light and stiff. It is a bike that invites hyperbole with its extreme weight, integrated cockpit, and a parts build that ticks all the boxes. The only thing Canyon doesn’t include is excuses. Oh, and pedals.


Canyon Exceed CFR LTD – Pricing and availability

The LTD build Canyon Exceed CFR is only available in Eclipse black, with those eye-catching oilslick highlights. It’s available directly through Canyon’s Canadian website for $8,800.00.

The Exceed comes in five sizes available, from XS to XL.