By David Kennedy
It’s been five years since Canyon last updated their Ultimate series. For 2023, the performance road bike has received a handful of modern updates that follow in line with tech and design moves already made from many other big-name brands.
Aesthetically, Canyon fully integrated the routing for hydraulic lines through the one-piece handlebar. Frame shapes underwent a redesign with airfoil shaping used more prominently throughout. Notably, the seatpost is now D-shaped for improved compliance. Carbon layers have been added around the bottom bracket, top tube and seat tube junction for added stiffness.
At the launch the Canyon team was quick to bring up the phrase “perfect balance” as the theme for this fifth-generation Ultimate. He andthe design team were clear that there was no singular focus they desired to improve. Rather, the goal was to modernize the compliance, stiffness and aerodynamic characteristics without adding weight. In Canyon’s eyes, it was an update without any sort of compromise.
There are 11 models of the new Ultimate over three separate levels CFR (3), CF SLX (3) and SL (5). Colors are a specialty at Canyon, and in addition to our two-tone berry colorway (above), five other finishes are available.
Our SLX-level test bike is equipped with mid-depth DT Swiss carbon wheels and 12-speed Shimano Ultegra Di2. Canyon also offers Dura-Ace- and SRAM Red-level builds for the CFR and the SLX series while the entry-level models sport more price-conscious specs.
Canyon invited us to Nice, France, to get a hands-on experience with the latest iteration of their flagship road bike, the Ultimate. As happy as I was to have been invited, I was fighting off a serious bout of jet lag after my expected 16-hour journey had instead become a 40-plus-hour adventure, an increasingly common occurrence for many returning to traveling this year.
Located on the French Riviera, Nice is best known for its beaches and luxury accommodations. Quality riding can be found in every direction, as the area is a top choice for many pros due to the close vicinity of the French Alps just outside of town.
It was clear upon arrival that Canyon was not only here to promote the bike but to have fun, too. The (mostly) German team behind the brand has set trends in the past as an original adopter of the consumer-direct sales model and has proven they pay attention to the modern trends in the industry. Like their customer base, the age range of the Canyon team skews young.
Refreshingly, the atmosphere at the launch felt more like summer camp than an all-important press camp. Canyon supplied a fleet of their Precede:ON e-bikes to traverse the tight, winding urban roads along the way to a transformed villa temporarily named “Camp Canyon.”
UP LA MADONE
To showcase the new ride, Canyon called upon a few local friends to act as guides for a jaunt along the Mediterranean to Col de la Madone. In addition to being a popular climb among the locals, and one that’s been used in the Tour de France, the Madone is also the very climb that lent its name to Trek’s own high-end race bike. The road begins just outside of Monaco and winds its way from sea level to nearly 3000 feet. The pack of riders wound between the shade of palm trees at the bottom of the climb to the cover of pine trees atop La Madone. S
witchbacks catapulted the elevation by seemingly 100 feet at a time. It was here that the weight of our 15.8 pound CF SLX model was appreciated as well as the compact gearing of the Ultegra spec. Coming in at under 16 pounds, the CF SLX model is competitive with other performance road bike around its $6999 price point but we were left longing for a few pedal chance to ride the claimed 13.9 pound CFR Dura-Ace build.
An average gradient of 8 percent began to wear down my already jet-lagged state, but once coastal views became uniquely Alpine, the road began to level out as we neared the peak.
As luck would have it, while we had lunch at the summit, we happened to run into friend of RBA and Ineos rider Cameron Wurf, along with teammate Richie Porte, who were enjoying a meal as well. After a quick chat with Cam about his future in gravel racing and Richie’s future plans to improve his tan in retirement, we headed down the mountain.
Descending is where the “balance” of the Ultimate shines. Handling is quick yet forgiving. Unlike many Euro brands’ preference for a twitchy, stiff frame, the Ultimate exudes modern handling with exceptional vibration damping and an overall smooth ride.
Thankfully, the Ultimate managed to retain a snappy handling, too.
The narrow French roads required a bit more attention than our local loops at home, but the Ultimate navigated them confidently. The forgiving nature of the geometry allowed me to push harder, as the bike rarely felt at its limit. This is a quality that many brands are beginning to emulate and one that’s easy for us to get behind. A rider does not have the feeling of all-out speed and, in turn, is able to ride more confidently at higher speeds. After a ripping 15-mile descent, we found ourselves back in Nice ready to celebrate a successful day in the saddle.
Making the celebration that much sweeter for the Canyon team, on the same day as our ride, Jay Vine and Enric Mas both rode the new Ultimate CFR to a podium finish on Stage 6 of La Vuelta, with Vine earning the new design’s first pro win. Canyon said the Ultimate will be available to the public starting today, in prices ranging from $2999 to $10,999.
A full long term review of the Canyon Ultimate will be available online and in an upcoming issue of Road Bike Action Magazine in the future.
CANYON ULTIMATE STATS
Weight: 13.9 pounds (claimed weight of Ultimate CFR w/Dura-Ace), 15.9 pounds (our CF SLX test bike weighed)
Tire clearance: 32mm
Sizes: 2XS, XS, S, M, L, XL, 2XL
BONUS CANYON GEAR
Canyon also announced two new apparel series as well as a made-in-Germany 3D-printed computer mount.
Signature Pro LTD Kit
– Fast drying
– Bibs, no seams = more compression
– Produced by Etxeondo
– Men’s and Women’s spec
Signature Lightweight Kit
– Dyneema fabric in bibs to provide abrasion resistance on thighs
– Canyon’s first 3D print product, printed in one piece
– 17 grams (shockingly light)
– Stiff no vibration
– Made in Germany
– Garmin and Wahoo compatible versions
– Tested on Flemish and Roubaix roads
Photos: Simon Gehr, Dan King