Bike Test: Canyon Aeroad CF SLX 8.0

August 31, 2015
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What do bullet trains, hot pizza from a vending machine and Canyon bicycles all have in common? Easy, they’re all things that anyone who lives in America is forced to live without. Most people realize how awesome the first two things on the list could be, but why would one more bike brand matter? As the largest consumer- direct brand in Europe and team bike of Movistar and Katusha WorldTour teams, Canyon brings technology, style and value to the worldwide market unlike any other brand—just not to the U.S. market.

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Canyon has had an aero-road bike in their line since the first Aeroad CF was launched in 2011, where it was ridden to a number of Classics wins by Philippe Gilbert. Just prior to the 2014 Tour de France, Canyon introduced the updated Aeroad CF SLX that featured a significant redesign in tube shapes and integration that claims impressive increases in stiffness and aerodynamics. Canyon says the Aeroad CF SLX is a direct descendant of Canyon’s Speedmax CF time-trial bike. The basis of the frame is the Trident 2.0 tube profiles, which are a variant of the extremely popular Kammtail tube shapes that have become commonplace on aero-road and time-trial bikes because of their ability to achieve aerodynamic drag close to that of a complete airfoil shape but make for a stiffer and lighter tube.

The Abroad SLX features a number of aero elements throughout, yet it achieves  a level of stiffness few other aero-road bikes have attained.

The Abroad SLX features a number of aero elements throughout, yet it achieves a level of stiffness few other aero-road bikes have attained.

It’s not just the frameset that has been looked at for aerodynamics, but the entire bike and how each component interacts with each other. For instance, in order to reduce the wind turbulence hitting the rear wheel, the seatstay/seat tube junction has been lowered to reduce the size of the rear triangle so that a seat tube fairing can better shield the wheel. In looking for ways to decrease drag compared to the previous design, Canyon went with direct-mount brakes in traditional mounting locations rather than tucked away in hard-to-access places.

The most notable aspect of the Aeroad CF SLX’s changes doesn’t have anything to do with the frame itself; it’s the new one-piece handlebar and stem that’s not only sleek but has internal cable routing and a recessed area to hide a Di2 junction box. The stem continues its aero profile all the way back to the clamp and subsequently uses headset spacers of the same shape. Canyon claims the one-piece setup alone is worth a 5.5-watt savings over a round handlebar and stem, but the “concept bike” appearance it adds to the entire bike could quite possibly be its single best selling point for many.

Canyon offers the Aeroad CF SLX in seven different builds that range from a Team Katusha replica version with Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 down to a mechanical Ultegra build for close to half the cost. Our 8.0 version had Ultegra Di2 and Reynolds 62mm Strike carbon clincher wheels, a wheelset that retails for $1950 alone. It’s also available as a module that includes frame, fork, handlebar/stem and Dura-Ace brakes.

Canyon's new one-piece handlebar and stem combo called the Aerocockpit comes in the customer's choice of eight different-size combinations.

Canyon’s new one-piece handlebar and stem combo called the Aerocockpit comes in the customer’s choice of eight different-size combinations.

A few years back we had a chance to ride the original Aeroad CF, and after a bit of time on it we were of the belief that in order to make aerodynamic gains, sacrifices had to made elsewhere, namely stiffness. Now that some brands are onto their second generation of aero- road bikes, we’re seeing a clear step forward in evolution and performance, and the Canyon is one that qualifies for the better. Just as Pinarello has done with the Dogma F8 and Cervelo with the S5, the Aeroad SLX’s stiffness has increased to the point that the sluggish aero-road bike feel has been replaced with one much more in line with a round- tube bike. And that’s a good thing.

Stack is quite low at 551mm (compared to a 56cm Specialized Venge at 566mm), and even with the stock spacers under the stem, it made for a low, racy position. Our low frontal position and the deep Reynolds wheels made rolling at speeds in the mid- 20-mph range manageable for long durations, since maintaining speed was noticeably easier than on our typical setup. One thing that is unique to Canyon (as far as we’re aware) is an adjustable fork rake design. Spacers in the drop- outs can be switched to further tune the ride. The difference between the two settings is quite noticeable, taking it from a stable feel to one with sharp handling that will keep you on your toes.

Canyon_Aeroad_side_BikeTest_web_CF SLX 80

By and large, it’s safe to say that mail-order bikes rarely carry the elite panache that normally binds the collective world of brand-conscious group rides. Not so with Canyon. A mail- order brand, sure, but also one capable of winning WorldTour races and holds the UCI number-one team ranking. We still hear that Canyon plans to enter the American market someday, but they can’t say when and that’s a real shame. The Aeroad CF SLX is one of the best bikes right now, and Canyon’s consumer-direct pricing makes them considerably cheaper than the competition. While the consumer-direct model is not good for the local bike shop, there’s no denying the Aeroad CF SLX is built for performance from head to toe, and it completely delivers.

• Unmatched performance for the mail-order price
• A complete, all-around, aero bike
• Detailed design that pays off in ride quality

Price: $4750, $3050 (frame, fork, handlebar/stem, brakes and seatpost)
Weight: 16 pounds
Sizes: XXS, XS, S, M (tested), L, XL, XXL


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