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by Dave Rome
August 18, 2020
If the growing viewership figures weren’t already enough evidence, then the recent wave of new bikes is proof that cross country (XC) racing is alive and well. Canyon is the latest company to announce a new race-focused XC machine with a revamped version of the already light Exceed carbon hardtail.
Designed for the likes of world champion Pauline Ferrand-Prevot and Mathieu van der Poel, this new hardtail earns updated geometry, a number of clever features, and an impressively light construction in the top-tier offering.
Across all five available frame sizes, Canyon’s new Exceed hardtail features a carbon frame construction, 100 mm front fork, 29er wheels and room within the main triangle for two bottles. And while none of that is noteworthy for a modern racing hardtail, it impressively applies to the new extra-small frame size intended to suit riders down to 158 cm (5’ 2”).
The new Exceed features a slightly slacker head tube angle (69º) and a reach that’s 10 mm longer to match the 80 mm stems fitted on all sizes. The chainstay length is a whisker shorter than before, now sitting at 425 mm for the three smaller sizes, and extending on the two largest.
All-in-all, the new Exceed doesn’t see huge geometry changes from the old. According to Canyon, the previous Exceed was already competitively modern for what’s a dedicated cross country race machine.
There are three levels of the new Exceed frame: CFR, SLX and CF. These all share the same mould but use different carbon composite layups which result in different frame weights and vastly different prices. Still, the features are consistent throughout.
Cables are now guided in through the headset top cap (and through the inner race of the top headset bearing).
The front end of the bike is noticeably cleaner, and that’s not just due to Canyon’s own one-piece carbon handlebar (748 mm wide) and stem fitted to the CFR and SLX models. The cable routing takes cues from just about every road bike released in the past year and now feeds those plastic sheaths through the headset top cap. Of course, the cables are external from the brake levers, shifter and dropper post lever, but then they quickly tuck into the front of the bike and through the headset bearing. Yes, that does make replacing a headset bearing a pain.
At the opposite end of the top tube sits a new seatpost binder wedge, something that aims to offer a clean aesthetic and a lack of space for mud to sit. This holds a 30.9 mm seat post, for which Canyon has partnered with DT Swiss to create a unique dropper that offers 60 mm of travel via an upside-down design that’s said to be one of the lightest options on the market.
The Exceed SLX features an alloy version of the dropper post that’s said to weigh 420 g with remote, while the Exceed CFR is offered with the carbon version at a claimed 390 g. And Canyon is making use of its flexible VCLS 2.0 carbon post, but that is sadly only found on the Exceed CFR Team.
Said to be unique to the Exceed, the DT Swiss dropper features a reversed design.
Regardless of price, the Exceed is designed to fit a 2.35/2.4″ tyre when mounted to a modern 30 mm internal width rim. While that might sound ludicrously wide, it’s worth noting that Nino Schurter spent last season on exactly that width.
Further details of note include a revised and neater-looking “Impact Protection Unit” which prevents the handlebars and top tube from getting into a fight. The derailleur hanger is now the new Universal Derailleur Hanger, recently introduced by SRAM (it works with Shimano, too). The thru-axles are Canyon’s stealthy Quixle-type with a fold-out lever for tool-free wheel removal. The bottom bracket shell is the Shimano-type BB92 press fit.
And of course, it’s light.
As noted, Canyon offers the new Exceed in three levels (CFR, SLX and CF) of carbon fibre layup. Ride quality, stiffness, and frame features are said to remain the same between all three, while the more you spend, the less the frame will weigh. So what’s the lightest (and most expensive) option? Let me introduce you to Canyon’s CFR.
Much like S-Works is to Specialized, SLR is to Trek, or Hi-Mod is to Cannondale, CFR (Canyon Factory Racing) is Canyon’s name for its top-spec frames and complete bikes. These new frames feature an expensive high-stiffness and high-strength carbon fibre layup (Toray M40X) that provides impressively low frame weights. The consumer-direct company announced its new CFR lineup just last week with the introduction of a new downhill mountain bike and the 641 g Ultimate CFR Disc frame. And of course, there’s a CFR version of the new Exceed, too.
Pretty, pretty light.
The Exceed CFR is claimed to weight just 835 g for a medium frame (includes paint and hardware), which is insanely light, but amazingly not the lightest on the market. The rare Unno Aora, at 730 g, remains the lightest offering in the hardtail mountain bike sphere while Specialized’s S-Works Epic HT isn’t all that far off at 790 g. And while I can’t yet say who it’s from, there’s another hardtail due to hit the market this week with a frame weight of sub-780 g.
Comparing claimed frame weights can be a little tricky as you’re never really sure which parts are and aren’t included. In Canyon’s case, strip away the paint, the chainstay protector, the rear derailleur hanger and that integrated seat clamp, and the Exceed CFR frame is said to weight just 748 g butt-naked. The end result sees the flagship CFR LTD bike weigh a claimed 8.9 kg, and that’s with a dropper post (but without pedals).
Whether it’s the lightest or not, it’s an impressive figure for a frame that’ll allow a powerhouse like Van der Poel to style it up for the fans. Meanwhile, the more affordable SLX and CF versions of the Exceed are claimed to weigh 1,015 g and 1,312 g respectively (paint and hardware included).
Canyon’s biggest claim to fame is its ability to offer world-class bikes at typically lower prices, and the Exceed continues that trend. There are nine complete bike models to choose from, two of which are women’s specific (WMN), and none are framesets.
All Exceed CF models feature RaceFace Ride aluminium stems, bars and seat posts. Jumping up to the Exceed CF SLX or above gets you that fancy DT Swiss dropper post and Canyon’s XC cockpit. Full component details can be found at Canyon.com.
Exceed CF 5: US$NA / €1,699 / £1,599 / AU$2,649
Exceed CF 5 WMN: US$NA / €1,699 / £1,599 / AU$2,649
Exceed CF 6: US$NA / €2,199 / £2,099 / AU$3,499
Exceed CF 7: US$1,999 / €2,699 / £2,499 / AU$4,249
Exceed CF 7 WMN: US$NA / €2,699 / £2,499 / AU$4,249
Exceed CF 8: US$3,499 / €na / £na / AU$NA (US-only model)
Exceed CF SLX 8: US$NA / €3,699 / £3,499 / AU$5,799
Exceed CF SLX 9: US$4,499 / €4,699 / £4,449 / AU$7,349
Exceed CFR Team: US$NA / €5,699 / £5,349 / AU$8,899
Exceed CFR Ltd: US$6,999 / €6,499 / £6,149 / AU$10,199
We’ll be getting our cleats into an Exceed CF SLX 9.0 soon. Stay tuned for an in-depth review.
Sitting at the top of the range is the Exceed CFR Ltd.
One below is the Canyon Exceed CFR Team. It’s effectively what Mathieu van der Poel will ride.