Canyon Endurace CF SLX 8.0 review

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Over the last couple of years, Canyon has been refreshing and updating its road bike line and now the German brand has overhauled its Endurace. The new generation Endurace CF SLX borrows heavily from the Ultimate CF SLX to give buyers a lightweight carbon frameset that has a forgiving fit and provides extra comfort.

Australian tech editor Matt Wikstrom recently spent a few weeks riding the Endurace CF SLX 8.0 and put together the following review.


Canyon has been direct selling its own bikes since 2001, but its history in the bicycle industry goes back to the early ‘80s when Roman Arnold’s father started selling parts out of a trailer at local races in Germany. It was a simple business model: source desirable parts at a good price and sell them at an apparent discount.

Roman Arnold continued with this strategy as he took over the business, which lead him to Taiwan, and he’s been making use of Asian manufacturing ever since. He hasn’t ventured away from direct selling either, first making use of mail order and then the internet to grow his business into what is now known as Canyon.

While the company has enjoyed enormous success, there have been hiccups along the way, such as the first carbon MTB that broke while under review by a magazine, or the more recent factory meltdown brought on by new operations software. Nevertheless, the company appears to have succeeded in entering the Australian and New Zealand market and is planning to tackle the USA in 2017.

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Canyon’s road catalogue currently comprises three distinct bikes, the Ultimate, Aeroad and Endurace. The last is the most recent addition, launched in 2014 to bring much of the performance of the Ultimate to a new audience — endurance/gran fondo riders who desire more comfort and a less aggressive fit.

Interestingly, Canyon has been quick to revisit the design, updating it barely two years after its original launch. The new generation Endurace inherits many of the innovations and refinements developed for the fourth generation Ultimate along with disc brakes, which seem to be growing in popularity amongst endurance riders.

For this review, I spent a few weeks riding the Endurace CF SLX 8.0 courtesy of Canyon Bicycles Australia.

Before the Ride

If it weren’t for the disc brakes and thru-axles, the Endurace CF SLX would be very easy to mistake for the Ultimate CF SLX. The new generation Endurace adopts all of the Ultimate’s styling, including the integrated stem and handlebar, hidden seatpost clamp and the semi-aerodynamic shape.

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There are some marked departures though, such as the VCLS 2.0 seatpost that is essentially a leaf spring for the saddle, the aforementioned disc brakes and thru-axles, and extra tyre clearance front and rear that can accommodate tyres up to 33mm wide.

Even the stem/handlebar, which Canyon has dubbed the H31 Aerocockpit, is quite distinct from the H36 Aerocockpit that is supplied with the Ultimate CF SLX. The H31 is more compliant and provides some backsweep (6°) for the tops and the drops flare a little (3°) too. This integrated bar also has less reach and the stem makes use of a wedge rather than a clamp to attach to the steerer of the forks.

The basic specifications of the Endurace CF SLX mirror those for the Ultimate CF SLX so the diameter of the fork steerer is 1.25inch, the seatpost diameter is 27.2mm, there is a BB86 bottom bracket and internal routing for the rear brake and gear cables (or wires). There are also two versions of the frame, one to suit mechanical groupsets, and one to suit electronic groupsets.

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Keeping the weight of the frameset low has long been one of Canyon’s design priorities and they continue to honour this goal with the Endurace CF SLX. According to the company, a size M frame weighs 820g and 325g for the fork, which compares well with a size M Ultimate CF SLX that weighs 780g and 295g, respectively.

A leaf spring seatpost has been part of Canyon’s catalogue for several years. The VCLS 2.0 post actually comprises two halves that are connected by a dual-pivot hinge at the top. The saddle attaches to this hinge and is held in place by two plates. There is a bolt at the bottom of the post that holds the two halves together. When that bolt is loosened, the angle of the saddle can be adjusted by sliding the two halves against one another.

The VCLS 2.0 seatpost provides the bulk of the compliance for the rear end of the Endurace CF SLX. The amount of “travel” largely depends upon how much of the post is exposed along with the weight of the rider. By lowering the clamping point for the post, the integrated seatpost clamp adds up to 110mm to the exposed length of the post to maximise shock absorption at the saddle.

At the same time, the pivot points at the top of the seatpost ensure that the angle of the saddle remains essentially unchanged as the leaf spring flexes. As a result, Canyon promises that the rider will “enjoy the shock-absorbing benefits while barely noticing the seatpost doing its work.”

By contrast, the front end of the Endurace is devoid of any obvious shock-absorbing mechanisms. However, Canyon has reduced the stiffness at the head tube of the bike (compared to the Ultimate), adding to the extra compliance of the H31 Aerocockpit to reduce vibrations travelling to the hands.

Canyon has not dithered over specifications for the disc brakes, opting for Shimano’s flat-mount disc brake calipers and the security of thru-axles front (12x100mm) and rear (12x142mm) with 160mm rotors on all frame sizes except for smallest, which makes use of 140mm rotors.

The Endurace CF SLX is available in seven sizes, as set out in the table below:

endurace_geo

A closer look at a detailed geometry chart for the Endurace reveals that, in addition to a uniform seat tube angle, all frame sizes make use of the same chainstay length (415mm) and fork rake (41.5mm).

Compared to the Ultimate CF SLX, the length of the top tube is just 2-4mm shorter and the head tube is only 2-4mm taller, but when combined with a taller fork (i.e. with a longer axle-to-crown measurement), the stack for the Endurace grows 10-13mm while the reach shrinks 8-11mm.

As a result, the Endurace CF SLX is suited to riders that prefer a more upright position on the bike. Stem length and handlebar width is quite conservative (starting at 80mm and 380mm, respectively, for size 2XS) with 27.5mm of adjustment for stem height. Frame geometry is unchanged for the women’s (WMN) version of the Endurace CF SLX but smaller stem lengths and handlebar widths are used to modify the fit of the bike.

Two screws situated at the rear of the stem work with an internal wedge to lock onto the steerer of the fork.
Two screws situated at the rear of the stem work with an internal wedge to lock onto the steerer of the fork.

According to Canyon’s wind tunnel testing, disc brakes only add a little extra to the aerodynamic drag of the Ultimate CF SLX (an average of 3.3W at 45km/h), while the taller profile of the Endurace CF SLX adds another 1.4W, making for a total handicap of less than 5W. While the Endurace will not challenge the Aeroad (and many other aero road bikes) in this regard, Canyon has endeavoured to minimise aerodynamic drag for the new bike where possible.

All of that work in the wind tunnel — along with Canyon’s ongoing devotion to product design — makes for a very clean-looking bike that appears to be on the cutting-edge of contemporary design. There is a choice of two colours for all models in the Endurace range, however Canyon keeps things simple with a minimum of decoration and branding for the bike.

At present, Australian customers have a choice of six different models for the Endurace CF SLX starting at AUD$5,499 for the Endurace CF SLX 8.0 and topping out at AUD$9,199 for the Endurace CF SLX 9.0 SL. Buyers in other markets (except the USA) can check on pricing by visiting Canyon’s website.

The hydraulic brake hoses are threaded through the frame and fork.
The hydraulic brake hoses are threaded through the frame and fork.

The Endurace CF SLX 8.0 sent for review was built with a mechanical 11-speed Ultegra groupset comprising 52/36T cranks, 11-32T cassette and a long-cage rear derailleur. The hydraulic disc brake system consisted of Shimano’s RS685 levers, RS805 calipers, and RT99 Ice Tech rotors, while Fizik supplied its Aliante saddle and DT Swiss supplied its RR21 Dicut wheelset shod with 28mm GP4000 S II tyres from Continental. Total weight for the size M bike was 7.63kg with a pair of Canyon bidon cages but no pedals.

The only way prospective buyers can test ride the Endurace CF SLX is to travel to Canyon’s showroom in Koblenz, Germany. However, the company offers all of its customers a 30-day right of return, which has to be counted as a much more attractive proposition than a brief test ride at a local retailer. I’m told that the company is always willing to work with the customer during this time to address any issues with the fit of the bike.

All customer orders are dispatched from Canyon’s headquarters in Germany, which adds another AUD$199 to the cost of the bike, bringing the total cost for the Endurace CF SLX 8.0 to AUD$5,698. This price includes tax and duty so buyers won’t have to contend with additional charges once the bike lands in Australia for delivery.

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I’ve previously taken a close look at Canyon’s Bikeguard box that is used for shipping. The purpose-built box keeps packing materials to a minimum while offering plenty of protection for the bike, plus it is re-usable. Once delivered, owners should be able to take the bike for its first ride in around 15 minutes provided they have a bit of experience with tools and bike assembly.

As with all of Canyon’s road bikes, the Endurace CF SLX is covered by a six-year warranty for the frame and forks. All after-sales service is provided by phone, email and online chat with local representatives. For more information, visit Canyon.

After the Ride

The Endurace CF SLX 8.0 had me fooled from the moment I unboxed it. After taking in the disk brakes, generous tyre clearance, sprung seatpost, and rotund tyres that measured 31mm wide, I was convinced the bike was a sporty take on a gravel bike. However, Canyon’s pitch for the bike is clear — the Endurace CF SLX is most definitely a road bike.

I couldn’t help myself though, and spent my first week punishing the bike with a variety of unpaved roads. Road bike it may be, but it refused to be defeated and I was able to traverse each and every track in relative comfort. At one point, I was certain a rocky track would trouble the bike, yet I emerged unscathed, unpunctured, and unbelieving at what I’d just managed to ride over with a “road” bike.

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I’ve already mentioned that the geometry of the Endurace is designed for riders that prefer a more upright position on the bike. I, on the other hand, prefer a lower and more stretched-out position, so long rides on the bike left me feeling cramped. Nevertheless, having the bars closer to me meant I was able to ride with my hands on the hoods in some demanding terrain without the bike feeling front-heavy.

What was truly stunning was the way the Endurace transitioned from paved to unpaved roads in an almost seamless manner. The key was finding a suitable tyre pressure: for me, ~50psi worked equally well on paved and unpaved roads. Needless to say, Continental’s GP4000 S II tyres couldn’t provide the kind of grip that a dirt-oriented tyre would, so I wasn’t able to ride through slippery patches of sand and gravel, but I was able to keep the bike upright (skiing, anyone?) until traction returned.

On paved surfaces, the Endurace was better than average, but with a compromised position, it was hard to judge how much effort was lost to inefficiencies of the fit compared to the bike. Compared to my own bike, I found it a little harder to get the Endurace up to high speeds and to keep it going, but it was never a chore to traverse a long stretch of bitumen as I went in search of another unpaved road.

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At this point, it’s worth noting that I had abandoned Canyon’s sprung seatpost after my first ride with it. The amount of flex was incredible, and thoroughly inappropriate for my needs. The saddle sagged with every pedal stroke, sabotaging not only my leverage, but also my position on the bike. After a couple of hours, my shoulders were left tight and sore from the effort of trying to steady myself on the bike. There was also some chafing in between my legs.

I don’t expect the VCLS 2.0 seatpost will handicap all riders though. Indeed, CyclingTips’ US tech editor James Huang is a fan of the post and enjoys the comfort it provides. After comparing our respective positions, it appears that the amount of saddle setback is important (I use 8cm compared to 5cm for James) along with saddle height and rider weight.

While there is room to suggest a post with different spring weights, I found a standard aluminium seatpost rectified my issues entirely. Canyon’s seat tube design still provided a perceptible amount flex that consistently had me wondering if the rear tyre was soft at the beginning of each ride. That feeling subsided quickly however the saddle always felt more comfortable, as if I was wearing shorts with much plusher padding.

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In the absence of true suspension, the Endurace CF SLX failed to soak up sharp hits associated with deep ruts and potholes. Otherwise, the bike did a great job of smoothing out the road surface, paved or unpaved, which left me wondering whether if it was due to the tyres or Canyon’s engineering.

Switching from 28mm to 23mm tyres transformed the Endurace, making for a firmer, friskier, and yes, seemingly faster bike. I was immediately reminded of the Ultimate CF SLX because all of the traits I appreciated about that bike were in evidence, including its hallmark zippy responsiveness.

Going back to the 28mm tyres gave me an appreciation for just how much extra comfort they afforded. And while I couldn’t find any evidence that I was actually going any slower (for more discussion on this point, listen to James Huang’s recent podcast with Jan Heine and Josh Poertner), the attitude of the bike had changed. Now it was sitting a little higher, the wheels had a little extra inertia, and overall, the bike wasn’t quite as agile (for example, it was a little more difficult to flick the bike from side-to-side or to change direction when swerving through tightly spaced obstacles).

While it appears that the rear thru-axle lacks a lever, DT has updated its RWS design with a detachable lever that can be swapped from one one axle to the other. Otherwise, a standard 6mm hex key can be used.
While it appears that the rear thru-axle lacks a lever, DT has updated its RWS design with a detachable lever that can be swapped from one one axle to the other. Otherwise, a standard 6mm hex key can be used.

Be that as it may, I expect most riders will be happy to trade a little extra urgency in the feel of the bike for the pillowy comfort of the wider tyres. And for those that would rather a racier attitude, the option is there for them to enjoy, all for the cost of another pair of tyres.

The steering of the Endurace tended towards quick however the handling was generally sure and stable. On paved roads, I never had any trouble with the bike; on unpaved roads, a little extra vigilance was required, especially when skiing through sand and soft gravel. Under those conditions, I had to be quick to catch the bars whenever the front wheel started skidding off line.

At over AUD$5,500 including delivery, the Endurace CF SLX 8.0 is an expensive bike, however the specifications live up to expectations. DT’s RR21 Dicut wheelset is tubeless ready, and while tubeless valves and tyres aren’t included in the package, the rims are taped ready for use. The rims are a generous width, helping the 28mm GP4000 S II to balloon out to 31mm, and the asymmetric rear rim promises to increase the durability of the wheel. The alloy spoke nipples may become a problem in the long-term if the bike sees a lot of wet weather.

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Shimano’s hydraulic disc brakes have improved since my first introduction. The RS685 levers were largely indistinguishable from mechanical Ultegra levers, both in terms of ergonomics and shifting performance, and the braking action was very light. More importantly, there was rarely any squeal (once wet, though, the brakes will inevitably squeal), and never any slip.

When coupled with the ease of servicing and the reliability of Shimano’s mineral oil, I doubt anybody buying the Endurace CF SLX 8.0 will ever feel any regret in leaving rim brakes behind.

Final Thoughts and Summary

The Endurace CF SLX is a bike for any rider that has been longing for an Ultimate CF SLX but was worried that the fit was too aggressive. The frame is taller and shorter, there are 28mm tyres and a sprung seatpost for extra comfort, yet the bike looks very much like the Ultimate, which is to say a rather sleek racing machine.

Road disc brakes remain a controversial topic, at least for the racing set, but the benefits of the system are now defining a new era of road bike design. Yes, discs improve the quality of braking, but they are also provide road riders the freedom to use wider tyres as well as modest knobbies. James Huang has been championing for this kind of versatility for a few years and I agree with him — the rise of road disc bikes provides much more scope for tuning the bike to suit the owner’s needs.

There is, of course, a limit to the versatility of the Endurace. For example, there isn’t enough tyre clearance for the bike to compete with a purpose-built CX bike, and there aren’t any fittings for racks, so it’s not going to rival a touring bike. Nevertheless, for those riders that have a taste for adventure as well as a quick bunch ride, the Endurace may be exactly what they’ve been hoping for.

 

 

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