Canyon is a German company that recently came to the United States to offer their direct to consumer bikes in the American market. The CF SLX is a full carbon frame and fork bicycle with a Shimano Ultegra build that will appeal to the value-minded consumer looking for a modern bike loaded with innovation. The Canyon has incorporated many aero design elements to the CF SLX included a wing-shaped aero bar with integrated stem, as well as internal cable housing and internal seat post “clamp.” There is a lot of innovation and technology wrapped up in the Canyon CF SLX.
I was interested in riding the Canyon. These bikes are well known to anyone that follows international cycling as quality racing machines that often assist their riders to stand upon the World Tour podiums. Canyon is known for the quality of their bikes, coupled with how they have successfully driven down the costs by going directly to consumers versus the traditional bike shop path. The first impression of the Canyon mirrored what I had previously understood, where the quality of the bike immediately was apparent from the first turn of the cranks.
The first impression on the Canyon is that it was built for comfort as well as efficiency. Some bikes more than others respond positively and quickly to power at the pedal, and the CF SLX is one those bikes where you feel as though every fiber of carbon was specifically laid down to assist you in riding the long miles without feeling beaten up by the road. The stance is slightly more upright than a racing bike, however, the front end is long and well out front making for a responsive (read active) front end that lacked coherence on fast downhills.
Shimano Ultegra R8000 cranks coupled with the CF SLX carbon frame provides for a stable platform that demonstrated little flex under load. Front and rear through axles work with the already efficient setup to enhance rigidity. Canyon’s H31 Ergocockpit carbon fiber bar handlebar and stem integrated into a single molded piece is stiff with no flex for the testers. Given the single piece nature of the bar and stem combo, there is no ability to make adjustments, and I found myself wondering if I could move the hoods to get a less forward stance. Moving the hoods would result in losing the flat hood to bar integration, which may or may not be an issue depending on the rider. Regardless, the stiffness of the front end is noticeable, and you can absolutely crank on the front end of the Canyon with no movement which is excellent for efficiency.
Canyon’s CF SLX has a pleasant climbing position. It is already more upright than an equivalent racing bike, and the wing-shaped Ergocockpit handlebar makes for a platform with many hand placement opportunities. The Canyon is light, weighing in at 16.1 lbs, which feels sprightly under the rider and overall the gearing created (Shimano cassette 11/32 and Shimano Ultegra cranks, 52/36) ample room on the steepest climbs. Canyon’s Sport Pro Geometry is focused on providing great climbing and cranking position while also ensuring back comfort is prioritized. We appreciated the way the SLX climbs.
Where the Canyon’s weakness is evident is on the downhill, at least for our testers. We rode the CF SLX on about 25,000 feet of downhill to see if we could figure out the dynamic, and we never got there. Somewhere between the deep dish wheels, the wing-shaped bar, the forward stance, and the overall rider position gave the steep and fast (nevermind if it is windy) descents a white knuckle quality that didn’t seem necessary. The front end was difficult to tame, and was prone to vibration, even speed wobbles when diving down. These qualities were exacerbated in the wind. Some of this is likely rider position and preference. Certainly, some further adjustments would have calmed the front end, nevertheless experienced riders found the bike difficult to tame on steep and aggressive downhill conditions.
Components: Drivetrain, Shifting, and Brakes
Shimano Ultegra all around is the right specification at this price point, even feeling like you are getting something a bit extra. The 11-speed shifting is crisp and flawless. I specifically like the feel of the hoods in my hands, where they are the “right” size to feel comfortable on the long ride, and controllable as you move your hand around. The breaking on the Ultegra discs is fantastic. They are quiet and show no fade even on the longest sustained downhill.
Reynolds Assault LE Disc Carbon wheels are lightweight wheels of high quality, definitely a pleasant piece of quality on this Canyon. The Assault LEs are relatively deep in terms of rim depth, and that was really well appreciated on long flats, climbs and down in the drops time trial type efforts. These wheels were less enjoyable on the windy downhills where their sail-like qualities showed up immediately. RWS quick release through axles with a detachable lever for use on both wheels is a great addition.
This is a lot of bike for the money. If you enjoy a quick front end bike, or stay away from the big climbs, the value of the bike overwhelms its shortcomings.
Seth Portner has been riding and racing mountain bikes since the late 1990s, specializing in XC, marathon and ultra-marathon events. He also enjoys regular multi-day road tours, and is an accomplished ultrarunner and XC skier. Seth, his wife and their daughter all split their time between Lyons and Winter Park.