On the Ultimate CF SLX 8, Canyon nailed the bike’s handling, which balanced nimbleness and stability, a surprise given the relatively slack head-tube angle of the extra-small model. I was expecting a stable, verging on sleepy steering response, but the Ultimate CF SLX was great fun in corners and carves a beautiful line. It’s a reminder that bikes are more than a collection of numbers on geometry charts. The German brand also imbued the Ultimate with a composed ride without giving up snap under power. The bike gave me a feeling of confidence, noticeable on broken pavement where it holds its line well through choppy corners. I wasn’t bounced off-line as I might be on a stiff-as-a-board bike. The Ultimate is a race bike, but a refined and well-mannered one.
The Ultimate CF SLX 8 easily clears 30c tires, big enough for dirt roads and light gravel duty. Maxed out with rubber, the bike does a decent impression of a gravel racer, ideal for the 70/30 road/gravel routes that I favour for my weekend rides. It’s fast on the roads to get out of town, and capable enough for the country lanes and dirt roads, once I’m there.
The real value proposition of the Ultimate is it’s, uh, value. At $7,049, it is not cheap. But it is equipped with a full SRAM Force eTap groupset (with Quarq power meter) and 50-mm deep DT Swiss ARC 1400 wheels. The rest of the finishing kit is rounded out with Canyon’s own, very good, one-piece bar/stem, seatpost and a Selle Italia SLR Boost saddle. Similarly equipped bikes from other major brands are approximately $1,500 to $1,800 more. Canyon is able to achieve these savings by selling the bike to you directly, without a dealer. There is no dealer support. How important that is will depend on how confident you are with your bike fit and how comfortable you are with basic bike adjustments. The Ultimate CF SLX arrived with the shifting already tuned. All I had to do was install the handlebars and pedals, and adjust saddle height. If you’ve ever travelled with a bike, this process will be familiar. You will also want to peruse the geometry chart and spec list carefully before buying. Canyon’s sizing doesn’t quite line up with most other brands. While I am usually a small, the extra-small Ultimate fits perfectly. It also arrived with a narrower-than-usual 39-cm handlebar, which I discovered I liked, but might not be the case for you.
Compared with the pace of change for mountain and gravel bikes, road-bike development can seem conservative, downright frozen in amber. A slower rate of change, however, is not the same as no change. I tested the Canyon Ultimate CF SLX 8 back to back against my personal daily rider, its design nearly 10 years old. While I am no faster on the Canyon Ultimate (Strava numbers don’t lie), it is a far more versatile and capable bike, disc-brake equipped, able to take on more varied terrain confidently, while delivering a more pleasant ride. These are not-so marginal gains if you ask me.
Canyon Ultimate CF SLX 8
Components SRAM Force eTap AXS with 48/35-tooth chainrings, Quarq power meter, 10–28 tooth, 12-speed cassette
Wheels DT Swiss Arc 1400 Dicut DB
Sizes XXS, XS, S, M, L, XL, XXL
This story originally appeared in the August/September 2021 issue of Canadian Cycling Magazine