Product Overview

Overall rating:

Score 9

Pros:

  • Comfortable
  • Confident inspiring ride

Cons:

  • Not much

Product:

Canyon Ultimate AL 9.0 ES Road bike

Manufacturer:

Price as reviewed:

£1699.00

While we’ve become familiar with the Canyon brand name over the past couple of years under the likes of Joaquim Rodriguez, Denis Menchov and the rest of the Katusha squad, we’ve not actually swung our own leg over one of the bikes, or indeed got up close and personal with one.



So when offered the chance to climb on board one we jumped at the chance. It’s worth taking a moment to explain the German brand. In summary, back in the late 1970s a salesman father saw an opportunity to make a few quid on the side at his son’s bike races by selling a few spares out the back of trailer.



Fast forward a few decades and the business Radsport Arnold had grown up, going from flogging a few rebadged off-the-shelf mountain bikes, to designing its own bespoke bikes and of course giving itself the more international-sounding brand name Canyon. It’s now a successful empire employing a team of engineers developing, testing and manufacturing its own range of road, mountain and time trial bikes.



Selling bikes worldwide isn’t necessarily a remarkable feat in its own right; but doing so without any bike shop presence is. While this direct sales model opens up a can of local-bike-shop-support worms, the Canyon theory is that there is no better-placed person to speak to about your bike needs than the manufacturer.



And this is why I find myself on the phone to Germany. Having worked though Canyon’s online Perfect Positioning System and ‘how to’ videos to ascertain my frame size, the end suggestion is two sizes bigger than I normally ride. I suspect gremlins in the system and one call to the Canyon helpline and we were all agreed I should stick to what I know. I am now astride an extra small Ultimate AL 9.0 ES.



Yes, AL does stand for aluminum. It’s the stuff I grew up riding on. The problem of this early experience is that I still expect a similar ride. Very stiff and uncomfortable. The kind of ride that gave so much road feedback that vision would actually become blurred on long stretches of rough tarmac.



Pairing the frame with a full carbon fork will hopefully help alleviate some of these road buzz issues, as will Canyon’s ‘VCLS Technology’ (Vertical Comfort, Lateral Stiffness) the name given to any part of the bike that’s been constructed to give some, er, give.



Sections such as the thin seatstays include a slight bend promising to absorb vibration and there’s an intriguing looking VCLS 2.0 carbon seatpost. It’s a seatpost of two halves – front and back. Each half fitting in the seat tube, flaring out at the top and then joined together by the saddle clamps.



It’s a bit like a vertical version of a ‘Softride’ suspension stem. You would be forgiven for concluding that this isn’t a sporty number, but one quick look at the geometry and finishing tells you otherwise. The head tube is 5mm higher than my old race bike at 125mm, and with a steepish seat tube angle of 73.5° this is by no means a sit-up-and-beg bike. The test bike colourway of stealthy matt black also alludes to its race bike status.



Coming more or less ready to rock out of the box, with just the requirement for pedals to be added, after tightening of a few bolts I’m rolling.



Sitting comfortably

The first thing you notice is, without doubt, that carbon seatpin. If I was carrying more weight, I suspect it would be significantly noticeable throughout the first few rides, but it wasn’t until the corners that I experienced the flex. Its akin to a full-suspension mountain bike – it feels like the corner is sucking you in. It’s unnerving at first and I needed to make other changes to become fully dialled into the ride before venturing out again.



Swapping the saddle to my preferred Specialized Toupe was easy enough, as was switching the spacers from under the stem to on top in order to get the front lower. The 1 1/2in Acros i-Lock headset system is another aspect of the bike that took some getting used to, albeit just visually. The system does away with the traditional star nut and works on a simple two-piece clamp that is placed over the fork steerer before the stem. The stem clamp bolts are tightened and headset play is removed by tightening the adjusting bolt on the clamp creating a gap between the two clamp pieces. It sounds more complicated than it is, and really the biggest change is that as there are no headset inners.



So, first-ride faff out the way, I’m out again with a more familiar position and this time rather than alarming me, that seatpost instils confidence. The flex in the corners now makes me feel planted to the tarmac. 



My concerns over road buzz vibrations were alleviated. In fact, I’ve thought very little about the frame material throughout our time together. It’s not the lightest, at 7.38kg, but that’s certainly not at the cost of using aluminum. A full carbon bike at this price point would possibly weigh more. The other benefit is that aluminum is a cheaper material and easier to work with, and, as I’ve experienced on the Ultimate AL 9.0 – when combined with a carbon fork – light years away from bikes of old.



To be fair, aluminum is seeing a bit of a renaissance within other brands, to varying degrees of success. The Ultimate AL 9.0 ES is a prime example of when it’s done well.

Coming with Ultegra 6700, equipped with a compact chainset and an 11-28 cassette it was perfect to take to the cols of southern France and hills of the Derbyshire Dales, both times proving itself as a spot-on choice. This time I noticed that saddle flex more on the lengthy sit-down climbs, but the bike put out more or less what I put in.



Having made another swap out for my favourite 25mm Michelin Pro4 tyres, the bike just keeps gifting in the descending and fast cornering stakes. The more I ride it, the more confident I get. It’s predictable in leaning over and swiftly reacting to potholes and other obstacles.



The climbing aspect could be pinpointed to the slightly squared seat tube, which Canyon claims adds a 30 per cent greater lateral stiffness to the frame in the bottom bracket area compared to a conventional round-section seat tube. Likewise handling predictability could be attributed to the fork rake/trail balance and wheelbase, but ultimately it just comes down to good holistic bike design

Verdict

The £1,699 price tag will no doubt raise the eyebrows of many, given its aluminum heart and all that. But when you check out the spec, the Mavic Ksyrium Elite wheels are around the £500 price mark and the VCLS Post 2.0 on its own that would set you back another £216.95.

Then there’s the complete Ultegra groupset, no cheeky swap-outs here, Ritchey bar and stem, Selle Italia saddle – this stuff isn’t budget by any stretch.

It’s a lovely ride, once you get the final set up correct. Canyon is super-helpful on the phone, and it actively encourages you to call in advance of hitting the final ‘confirm’ button. However, it’s that element of personal interaction you lose out on. It’s definitely a bike worthy of the price tag, but at the cost of cutting out your LBS.

Full Specification

Supplier:
www.canyon.com
Wheels:
Mavic Ksyrium Elite Black

Weight:
7.38kg
Stem:
Ritchey WCS

Size Range:
XS-3XL
Size Tested:
XS

Seat Post:
Canyon VCLA 2.0
Group Set:
Shimano Ultegra 6700

Saddle:
Selle Italia Lady Flow
Frame:
7005 aluminium

Bars:
Ritchey WCS Evo Curve
Alterations:
Specialized Toupe saddle, Michelin Pro4 Service Course tyres

  • josef

    i have canyon speedmax cf, they have the worst customer service i have ever experienced !!!!!! only i need it is a DERAILLEUR HANGER which i need urgently, i ordered it online after with about 4 phone calls and alot of e-mail s sent, never got a reply when they are going to send it, whitout it i can’t use the bike which i am going for an ironman race and i have to rent a bike or borrow someone else bike from a friend….

  • BA

    Fantastic bike and first rate customer service .After a lot of deliberation eventually took a gamble and placed an order for an Ulitmate AL 9.0 as i wanted something different , light and with higher quality components and finishing kit than your usual suspects as mentioned in the earlier comments from Chris R .Through my own cack handedness , and being over 6’3″ tall I had managed to order the wrong size .Canyon sent me an e-mail requesting i contact them to query the order following the details I had given .They were first rate and talked me through the sizing , in the end requiring a larger frame .A new order had to be placed but when i received comfirmation of the new order there was no mention of the pedals , bottle and cage , computer etc… I had also orderd with the bike .One e-mail later and again sorted straight away .In ordering the accessories with the bike , they are at a reduced price , you therfore save on the postal charges .Bike arrived , i took one test ride and only had a minor adjustment to a cleat , it fitted like a glove .My next ride was the Graham Obree Sportive which was completed at a breeze .As far as I can offer bike is without fault , comfortable, fast , responsive and a few other riders have passed comments on the bike when attending other Sportives .Nice finishing touches as well such as rubber cable covers to protect the frame .All in all well exceeded my expectations .Dare to be different and don’t follow the herd !

  • Jim Gray

    Ok, this thread seems to have gone from bike to a company review.
    I have a Canyon Yellowstone 29er (mtb) for all the roadies out their :). I had a problem with the Hydraulic forks popping out- Rockshox, Canyon UK picked the bike up (courier) sent the forks for servicing replaced them, then a dent appeared in the frame. A new frame was sent from Germany, and rebuilt by the LBS, it was a annoying and sometimes frustrating process. BUT Ladies and Gentlemen THEY SORTED IT, Canyon UK and Germany good after sales-but it does take a little time.
    BTW I’m looking for a suicidally fast road bike, for racing next year.

  • Norman Saunders

    Dear Canyon UK.
    I greatly appreciate your response to my comment and an email is currently winging it’s way to you, giving more information.

    Dear John Bowman
    The bike was purchased in Kobenz and well under one year old. As I was about to make the trip home to the UK, from my base in the Czech Rep; Koblenz was only minor detour (plus it’s a beautiful city, anyway). Mavic have no facility in the Czech Rep, to the best of my knowledge.
    I hoped Canyon would have dealt with this as a warranty issue.

  • Charlie

    They might be great bikes, but the aftersales service is rubbish.

    I changed the stem length and bar width on a bike after ordering it but before they’d sent it out – they created a new order but didn’t cancel the original. My credit card was debited twice, for some reason with two different amounts, but they sent me two invoices with the same amount. Both bikes turned up. One was sent back. They refunded the smaller amount, leaving me with an invoice that doesn’t match the amount debited on the card. Rather than refund the overcharge, they have given me a Canyon voucher that I won’t ever spend with them. On top of all this, they say it’s all my fault for creating two orders on the website, which I didn’t do!

    They’re cheap for a reason and the bike will have to prove itself very special for me to touch them again.

  • Canyon UK

    Rich – as we’ve explained to you plenty of times your frame was not a warranty case (and it certainly was not in anything close to A1 condition after 2 years heavy use), we went out of our way to offer you a crash replacement at a significantly reduced price.

    The list crash replacement price was over double what you ended up paying. We also sent your bike to Canyon in Koblenz (at no charge) to have it scanned in a CT scanner by our engineering team, who confirmed it was not a warranty replacement.

    I hardly think that’s bad customer service….

  • Rich

    I’d agree with Norman on Canyon after sales – my opinion of Canyon has changed a lot after my experience of dealing with the UK office.

    I found a small crack on the top tube of my CF SLX just under 2 years after buying it – Canyon would not replace under warranty despite the rest of the frame being in A1 condition and it obviously not involved in any crash. After some weeks of arguing with them and lots of agro I finally got a replacement at cost price (around £550).

    Disappointed with the amount of effort and stress expended on my part just to get a satisfactory (by no means ideal) outcome from them.

    Not impressed by attitude or approach of the staff – need a good deal of customer service training in my opinion!

    That said I still love the bikes themselves – guess people have to consider that trade off as the bikes are good value.

  • Canyon UK

    Hi Norman,

    Sorry you had a poor experience, although not sure why you returned the wheel to Canyon in Koblenz when we do now have a UK office (since January this year) to handle exactly this sort of thing.

    In our experience Mavic do have an excellent warranty program but they do insist that the wheel comes back to Canyon first before being returned to them.

    Feel free to give us a call on 0208 549 6001 or email us at uk@canyon.com and we can help you out with anything else.

    Regards,
    Canyon UK.

  • John Bowman

    Norman just out of interest why didn’t you just return the wheel to Mavic in the first place as it wasn’t a Canyon part that was defective?

  • Chris R

    I bought a Canyon Ultimate AL 9.0 SL (equipped with full SRAM Force groupset) in April and absolutely love it. I completed a 450 mile ride on it in May, and it was both quick and comfortable.

    Yes, it’s aluminium, but the price should raise eyebrows for good reasons – the finishing kit, wheels and groupset are all a step up from other bikes at this price point. Equally, 7.38kg may not be “the lightest” – but you won’t find many lighter for the money.

    Look at carbon bikes at this price point and you’ll find mainly Sora or Tiagra parts, with Mavic Aksium or similar wheels. When I bought mine, to get equivalent spec levels on a Specialized or similar would have set me back £2,500 compared to £1,500 for the Canyon – and the Specialized would still have weighed more.

  • Alex

    On your home page it says this bikes will soon be hitting the shops. Isn’;t the whole point of Canyon that its bikes will not be available in shops?

  • Norman Saunders

    Maybe I should elaborate on my experience with Canyon in Koblenz.
    There is absolutely no doubt my Ultimate CF SLX is an excellent bike and represents suberb value for money, but I ran into problems over the Mavic Carbon rear wheel. It broke a spoke, after only six months and as I was planning to return to the UK for a couple of months this summer, I decided to book the bike in for a service and to resolve the spoke issue, because Koblenz is not much of a detour off my route.
    When I arrived at the factory; I was told I hadn’t been booked in for a service (although my emails stated I wanted one); only to look at the wheel issue – first disappointment.
    Canyon replaced a single spoke; even though Mavic state that the complete set should be replaced when one breaks. Canyon however, said it wasn’t necessary; refused any discussion about replacement under warranty and charged me 30 Euros for the work – second disappointment.
    I must admit I didn’t argue too much at the time, as the work was done quickly and was assured the problem was resolved. I was on my way after just two hours.
    My first ride in Britain resulted in the wheel breaking a spoke again (I have no idea if it was the same one as before), on a flat, level road surface – third disappointment.
    I took the wheel to my local bike shop (the extremely friendly and helpful South Fork, of Braunton, Devon), who suggested sending the wheel to Mavic UK. They did this for me (I only paid postage) and within the week, Mavic had responed by supplying a brand new wheel, under warranty, without question.
    So, I was happily back on the road, but my subsequent correspondence with Canyon was met by stonewalling and a complete denial that they had provided inadequate service.
    So, to sum up, Canyon Koblenz, failed to diagnose a the issue with the wheel; attempted a repair, but ignored manufacturer’s instructions; refused to honour a warranty and declined to acknowledge any error, in light of subsequent events.
    All in all – extremely disappointing service and attitude.

  • Esmmh

    I’ve also had good experience with Canyon.

    I visited Koblenz to test ride their bikes towards the end of last year, and I ordered the new ultimate CF SLX at the beginning of 2013. Due to various reasons it was delayed for quite a few weeks. I was doing the Tour of Wessex in May, and really wanted to ride this bike, but the delay meant I wouldn’t have it in time. The Canyon guys in Kingston were amazing. They actually lent me a top-of-the-line carbon bike for the 3 day event, completely on good faith. I don’t think there’s many that would do that.

    The Ultimate CF SLX eventually arrived. I took it to the Alps and it is totally awesome. I now want to replace my aluminium commute/training bike for a second Canyon.

  • Soph

    I purchased a Canyon Ultimate CF in June this year. I had an issue with the rear mech they supplied (it wasn’t fully compatible with the 32T rear cassette) and Canyon repaid me for the amount I forked out to supply and fit a new 105 rear mech. I think their after-sales service if fab :-)

  • Norman Saunders

    Canyon bikes offer excellent value, but buyer beware if you have problems. In my experience their after sales service is extremely poor.