Canyon might be slightly behind the curve getting on the disc brake bandwagon, but is it forging ahead in terms of performance?
Aren’t we a greedy bunch? ‘Dear manufacturer, if it’s not too much trouble, we’d like a bike that’s super stiff, mega light, crazy fast, über comfy and surefooted enough to never jangle our nerves, please. Oh, and it would be nice if we could take it on the occasional off-road jaunt. With love, cyclists everywhere. P.S. If there are any moons on sticks lying about that you could throw in we’d appreciate that too.’ As little as five years ago engineers would have laughed themselves off their chairs at the mere suggestion of such far-fetched notions. Not any more. Now they’re more likely to respond by pushing forward a pile of sketches and saying, ‘Well, funny you should mention that…’
Truthfully, we have never been closer to the prospect of a bike that will perform well in every way. In my review of the Trek Domane (inside Cyclist #23), I spoke in just those terms, and the release of the latest Specialized Roubaix also makes some seriously bold promises. But enough about other brands – what has Canyon been busy with? Ladies and gentleman, I present the Endurace CF SLX.
The Endurace range is a completely redesigned platform for Canyon’s endurance line-up, and most noticeably it’s the German brand’s first foray into disc brakes on the road. It’s clear from the name that Canyon is aiming this bike at riders looking to take on longer distances than, say, a crit race, but for whom performance and speed are still high on the agenda.
To achieve this it has looked to build on tried-and-tested ideas taken from its current bikes, adding in some completely new features to deliver the total package. And it doesn’t disappoint.
First off, the Endurace is based around a less aggressive riding position. A taller front end creates roughly 10mm more stack height and 8mm less reach than an equivalent-sized Canyon Ultimate CF SLX.
It’s not immediately obvious from the geometry chart where exactly this has come from. That’s because Canyon has rather neatly built in a bit of the additional front end height in a taller fork design. There are a few extra millimetres on the head tube too, but not to the extent of creating an unsightly gate-like front end. This taller, shorter position hasn’t dampened the Endurace’s spirited handling either – Canyon has achieved a remarkable equilibrium between stability at speed and agility once you tip the bike into a tight apex. The Endurace felt capable of clinging to chosen lines with limpet adherence, even if the Mavic Yksion Pro tyres were at times less than dependable.
Staying with the front end, the full carbon one-piece H31 Ergocockpit is clearly a departure from what we’ve seen in the past in the endurance category. It certainly adds to the overall racy aesthetic, but more importantly it partners with some selective tube re-profiling to ensure the Endurace cuts a slick silhouette. Canyon doesn’t see aero gains as purely the preserve of time-trial riders, and I agree. I’ve slogged my way around enough Alpine sportives to know that energy saved is speed gained.
That said, one-piece cockpits do inhibit adjustment or fine-tuning of your body position, so the shape has to work for you.
It looks as if Canyon has simply lifted the cockpit from its top end Aeroad models, but the H31 is specific to the Endurace range with a different carbon lay-up, which Canyon suggests offers 10% more vertical compliance and a more compact shape with a slight (6°) backsweep.
It’s a lot more forgiving than I expected, given the sizable hunk of carbon your fingers are wrapped around. In fact the increased surface area created by the aero-style bars actually spreads the load on your palms, and road shocks felt better dissipated as a result. Happily, despite this added compliance there was no sign of unwanted flex when grabbing a fistful of drops in a sprint. No doubt the H31’s overall shape helps, but most likely the carbon lay-up is the biggest factor.
Front to back
Which end of the bike influences the rider’s sensation of comfort more? The answer depends on who you talk to. I’m of the opinion you need both to work in harmony, or a bike can feel unbalanced, and it seems Canyon agrees.
Helping smooth things out at the rear of the Endurace is an innovation that Canyon pioneered several years ago, namely the VCLS split seatpost. The 2.0 version here builds on the original, offering increased layback to further optimise its ability to flex under load. And to truly maximise the potential of this carbon leaf spring design, Canyon has used another neat trick – instead of clamping the post in the traditional location where it exits the frame, the Endurace clamps it around 110mm lower down, inside the seat tube.
Above this point the seatpost sits in a rubber sleeve to seal it off from dirt and water ingress and prevent it from rattling, while crucially giving the post room to bend rearwards. It’s a win-win – you get a longer lever to actuate flex, plus more post available to deliver it.
The success of this design became apparent when I encountered a speed bump just metres into my first ride. The post duly flexed, taking the sting out of the impact and ultimately cossetting my derriere. This happens across a range of different situations, from low-level road buzz to rough surfaces to potholes, and is thus extremely welcome. Importantly, though, the seat does not move so far as to adversely influence pedalling or riding position.
Praise upon praise
Overall the Endurace impressed with the level of comfort it offered without compromising performance. There’s still a bias in that the rear offers more ‘give’ than the front end, but otherwise the Endurace is a well balanced machine and no aerodynamic slouch – I managed some of my fastest averages around routes I’ve been thrashing for years. Plus I spent a good chunk of time riding this bike in Exmoor, where it seems there’s a 25% incline around every corner. Those corners were typically accompanied by 100% chance of rain too, which tested both man and machine to the full. At least one of the two delivered.
This 56cm bike weighed in at 7.4kg, which is definitely at the sharp end for a disc bike with 28mm tyres. While we’re on the subject of tyres, 28s are by no means the maximum the Endurace will accept. I didn’t get a chance to try it with a 30mm or even 32mm tyre, but I daresay it would fine-tune the ride feel even more, especially if you did fancy being a little more adventurous with terrain, which I think with a different tyre choice you could be.
Grip, rolling resistance and cushioning are to an extent entirely within your control, adding yet more versatility to an already superb bike.
Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 9070
Shimano R785 shifters, RS805 disc brake callipers
Mavic Ksyrium Pro Carbon SL Disc WTS
Canyon H31 Ergocockpit, Canyon VCLS 2.0 CF seatpost, Fizik Aliante R5 saddle
$9,199 (plus $199 shipping to Australia)