Check out our Canyon Collection
I’d lusted for a Canyon for years before they finally came to the US. I first took notice in 2014, when Alexander Kristoff beat the world’s best sprinters aboard an Ultimate to win a long, grueling, and wet classic, Milan San Remo. It was one of my favorite races, and the photo of Kristoff at the end, covered in filth, arms raised in pure joy, represented everything I had come find beautiful about cycling. I bought a Giro Air Attack, just like his, hungrily clicked through Canyon’s website, dreaming of riding Ultimates and Aeroads, then took to online message boards to lament how difficult it was to get a Canyon in the US. Something about the Canyon Ultimate just looked so good to me. The tapered, squared off tubing and bolt italic fonts made it look purposeful, built like a fighter jet. So when Canyon finally came here I was excited to finally get my chance to ride one.
This 2018 Canyon Ultimate CF SLX is one of the nicest I’ve seen come through our shop. The CF SLX is their flagship model, and this one is spec’d with SRAM’s top-of-the-line Red eTap group, which provides precise, wireless, electronic shifting. To me, nothing compliments the svelte, angular lines of the Ultimate better than an ultra-clean, wire-free build.
Situated at the crankset is Quarq’s DZero power meter. Quarq has long been one of my favorite power meter options due to their accuracy, customer service, and ease of use. The DZero is their newest and most advanced model to date and is easily one of the best power meters on the market today.
The bar, stem, and seatpost are all Zipp, including their aggressive SL70 Aero handlebars. Finishing off the frame is an over the top pair of wheels, the extra deep Zipp 808 NSW. These wheels are usually found on time trial or triathlon bikes, and I can’t say that I’ve ever seen a roadie out in the wild riding on a set.
NSW is like Zipp’s internal skunkworks design department (it stands for Nest Speed Weaponry), and through them, Zipp has tweaked the 82mm deep 808 Firecrest with a slightly improved rim shape and hub design. The hubs are called Cognition hubs with “Axial Clutch” technology, which is designed to save forward energy as you freewheel. With a conventional freehub, friction in the ratchet mechanism slows you down slightly as you coast. With Axial Clutch, the ratchet mechanism is fully disengaged when coasting, then it re-engages with a magnet once you start pedaling. It sounds like a small improvement, but simply coasting down a hill I found it surprisingly noticeable how much much faster I was rolling. Of course, some of this could also be attributed to the extra momentum of the 808’s deep rims. Either way, on flat roads these wheels just felt fast, and they turned plenty of heads.
It definitely feels like you are riding a very, very deep wheel, with small gusts and crosswinds nudging you around, and the extra heft was quickly noticeable whenever the road turned upward, but overall it wasn’t a terrible experience and in most cases, they were actually pretty stable and not that ridiculous feeling. Still, if it were my personal build I likely would choose the more versatile and road-focused Zipp 404. The 808 is definitely still more suited to time trial applications, or for areas where the bulk of the riding is flat. Otherwise, the Ultimate CF SLX was a pure joy to ride. It feels incredibly stiff and responsive, but never to the point where it feels harsh over rough roads around the foothills here. It’s a bike I could see myself both racing crits and doing gran fondos on.
It’s a bike that makes me feel faster whenever I ride it. This particular one was unfortunately too large for me and I will have to wait for one a size smaller before I can add one to my garage. As an all-round road bike, it’s hard to beat, and it’s especially hard for me to find any fault with it. No matter how it’s built, or where you’re riding, the Canyon Ultimate CF SLX is a bike that has a single clear purpose: to go flat out fast.
Intended Use: Road Racing, Endurance Riding
Highlights: Stiff, lightweight frame, SRAM Red eTap, Quarq DZero Powermeter, Zipp 808 NSW Wheels.
Check out our Canyon Collection
Bruce is a writer who loves getting his bikes dirty, trying new tech, and riding tough trails that make him suffer for hours at a time.