2021 Canyon Aeroad coddles you with speed, stiffness, and comfort

by James Huang


Canyon has today officially unveiled its third-generation Aeroad aero road racing machine. As expected, it’s more efficiently aerodynamically than its forebear, with modern features such as fully hidden cabling, a disc-only format, and a proprietary integrated cockpit. However, it’s also stiffer than the previous version while retaining that model’s admirable comfort levels.

Canyon has even managed to infuse a level of convenience and liveability rarely seen in this category, all with the same enviable value prospects that the German direct-to-consumer brand is known for.


Story Highlights

  • What it is: The latest version of Canyon’s aero road racing bike.
  • Frame features: Three levels of carbon fiber construction, truncated airfoil tube shaping, SwissSide-developed aerodynamic tuning, integrated cockpit, full or partial internal cable routing, PF86 press-fit bottom bracket.
  • Weight: 915 g (claimed, medium CFR frame only); 425 g (claimed, CFR fork); 7.19 kg (15.85 lb, complete Aeroad CFR Disc 9 Di2, size XS, without pedals)
  • Price: US$9,000 / AU$11,750 / £7,700 / €7,500
  • Highs: Highly competitive aerodynamic efficiency, excellent weight and stiffness, very good ride quality, clever integrated cockpit design, refined handling and aesthetics, strong value.
  • Lows: Finicky headset adjustment, a somewhat modest improvement over what was already an excellent aero road bike.

Squeezing a little more juice from that lemon

No one will be at all surprised to hear that Canyon’s new Aeroad is claimed to slice its way through the air more cleanly than the previous model, which was already independently tested to be one of the fastest in the category. Specifically, Canyon says the latest Aeroad saves 7.4 watts at 45 km/h (28 mph) when looking at the complete bike alone in a wind tunnel, or 4.4 W with a simulated (partial) rider nicknamed “Ferdi”. What about a rider and a pair of bottles? You’re looking at 5.4 W, which might not sound like a ton to many everyday riders, but is far from nothing at this pointy end of an already-mature market.

Those gains aren’t necessarily skewed toward any particular yaw angle, either, but rather a weighted average of common incident wind angles in order to provide a more real-world picture of the improvements. According to Canyon, the new Aeroad is actually even faster in certain crosswind conditions than it is head-on.

When you take a closer look at the bike, it’s not hard to see how Canyon made those gains.

The tubes are deeper and more aerodynamic, but there doesn’t seem to be any penalty in terms of weight or ride quality.

Tube sections on the new frameset still feature a truncated-airfoil design, but they have substantially deeper cross-sections throughout. This is particularly noticeably at the seat tube, seatstays, and down tube, and even the seat post is roughly double the section depth as it was before. As is seemingly a requirement these days, cabling is also now fully hidden up front, courtesy of a new internal routing setup and a clever proprietary carbon fiber integrated cockpit (more on that in a bit). Carrying over from the previous Aeroad profile is the scalloped cutout on the seat tube to help shield the rear wheel, although the once-level top tube now sports a slight slope.

Canyon isn’t at all shy about the fact that it collaborated on the Aeroad development with SwissSide, a third-party aerodynamic consulting outfit that has partnered with a number of prominent brands in recent years. According to Canyon, SwissSide was particularly instrumental in conducting exhaustive computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulations on various frame and tube shapes.

Truncated-airfoil profiles are still used throughout.

CFD simulations are nothing new at this point, of course, but what’s interesting about this arrangement is how heavily involved SwissSide supposedly was from the outset of the project. As aerodynamic gains become increasingly challenging to extract from products that are already quite mature, expect to see more companies tap the expertise of outside parties in the years ahead.

Aero isn’t everything

As impressive as those aero improvements might seem on paper, Canyon is quick to point out that its engineers left more on the table, with at least one simulated frame design offering another 4 W of savings. However, as fast as the second-generation Aeroad was in terms of aerodynamic efficiency, one of its best attributes was also its relatively cushy ride quality, which Canyon didn’t want to sacrifice in the name of speed, watts or no watts.

Given the dramatically deeper profile of the seatpost and seat tube, though, it’s fair to wonder how Canyon could have possibly pulled that off. As is often the case, what lies on the surface doesn’t tell the whole story.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that the Aeroad would deliver a punishing ride quality based on how it looks.

The clamping point for the seatpost is nestled 10 cm below the top of the seat tube, which the company says effectively lengthens the amount of exposed shaft available to flex under load. Specialized employed such a strategy with the previous-generation Roubaix with good results, but unlike that bike, the Aeroad doesn’t have any open space built into the frame behind the seatpost to accommodate that movement. Instead, that room to breathe is built directly into the seatpost itself.

From the outside, the Aeroad’s new seatpost looks like a typical deep-section, single-wall extension. But inside, it’s more akin to the shallow D-shaped seatpost of the previous Aeroad, but with a paper-thin carbon fiber cap essentially tacked on to the trailing edge. Down inside the frame, though, that cap is completely cut away above the clamp area. As a result, the new post is not only more aerodynamic than the old one, but it’s also lighter while still retaining the flexibility of a shallower cross-section — very clever.

The seatpost looks very deep, but only the front half of it is structural. The rear half is basically just a carbon fiber skin that’s so thin that you can easily squish it with your fingers.

Tire width has also gone up a size to provide more cushioning between the rider and the road. It’s a staggered setup like it was on the previous-generation Aeroad, but the stock spec is now a 25 mm-wide casing up front and a 28 mm one out back, with a 3 mm-wider rear rim that exaggerates the difference by an additional millimeter. Because of how the rear wheel is shielded by the seat tube (as well as how the rear wheel always sits in “dirtier” air to begin with), Canyon says there’s no sacrifice in aero efficiency as a result, and the frame geometry is even adjusted to compensate for how the rear axle sits a few millimeters higher off the ground.

There’s room to go bigger yet if you want an even cushier ride. Maximum official allowable tire size is 30 mm, but with 44 mm of measured space in between the fork blades, seatstays, and chainstays, that figure seems more than a bit conservative.

While the internal width of the front wheel is a modest 17 mm, the rear is more generous at 20 mm to go along with the wider tire.

Another hint to Canyon’s dedication to maintaining rider comfort is found in the new handlebar-and-stem assembly. Hyper-aggressive handlebar cross-sections are commonly used on aero bikes as an easy way to save a few watts. However, that sort of shaping isn’t exactly the most comfortable to hold, especially when the trailing edge is very sharp.

On the Aeroad’s new CP0018 integrated cockpit, the tops are only mildly flattened, and there are no sharp edges to dig into your thumbs. Canyon uses a variable profile on the drops, too, which are narrower up near the levers to reduce frontal area, but wider below to spread out the load on your palms. As a nice bonus, Canyon says the new setup is 37 grams lighter than the old one.

Cabling is now fully internal on the latest Canyon Aeroad, which will be a surprise to exactly no one.

Speaking of weight — surprise, surprise — the new Aeroad CFR flagship is lighter than the old Aeroad CF SLX, to the tune of 168 g (about 6 oz) for the top-end Aeroad CFR chassis (frame, fork, seatpost, cockpit, and ancillary hardware). Newer carbon fiber materials and a more advanced lay-up design shed 95 g from the frame itself and 20 g from the fork. Claimed weight for a medium CFR frame is just 915 g, and the matching fork is 425 g.

Those more aerodynamic frame tubes aren’t just deeper; they’re also wider in several areas (especially the down tube), making them inherently more resistant to bending. So on top of all of the other improvements, Canyon says the frame is also 14% stiffer on average, which specifically translates to a 16% boost at the bottom bracket, another 15% increase at the head tube, and 12% in lateral fork rigidity. When you combine that with the weight loss, the overall stiffness-to-weight ratio has gone up dramatically.

Playing with the numbers

Aeroad has always been the most racing-oriented bike in Canyon’s drop-bar lineup, and with that focus came the company’s longest-and-lowest rider position. However, Canyon has decided with this generation of Aeroad that the old numbers may have been a tad too aggressive. Aeroad buyers will still want to make sure they’re keeping up with their yoga classes as it remains the raciest fit in the Canyon catalog, but it’s now a bit closer to what’s offered on the Ultimate range.

Stack on a medium frame has gone up 9 mm, for example, while reach has decreased by 5 mm. Complete bikes also come stock with 15 mm of headset spacers. In addition, whereas the integrated cockpit on Aeroad models once featured a distinctly classic, non-anatomic bend with a long reach and deep drop, that shape has now morphed into a more accommodating semi-anatomic shape that’s better in keeping with modern preferences.

At the other end of the bike, the chainstays have shortened 5 mm and are back to the 410 mm of the first-generation Aeroad for a generally more responsive feel. Front-end steering geometry is unchanged.

Canyon will offer the top-end Aeroad CFR and middle-child Aeroad CF SLX models in a generous selection of seven sizes to accommodate riders less than 1.66 m (5 ft 5 in) all the way up to more than 1.94 m (6 ft 4 in) in height, with an additional 3XS size in the entry-level Aeroad SL version for riders small in stature but big in aero ambitions. The smallest sizes also switch to 650b wheels to maintain better proportions and handling.

An eye on convenience

Ok, it’s time to talk more about that fancy handlebar setup here. Yes, it’s lighter. Yes, it’s got a fancy shape that’s both aerodynamic and comfortable to hold. But it also has wings.

Allow me to explain.

Integrated handlebar-and-stem setups often come with heady performance claims to go with their sleek appearances, but they’re often also riddled with issues. They usually only come in a limited number of sizes, there’s almost never any adjustability, they’re a pain to swap if you need a different length or width, and trying to cram a modern aero road bike equipped with one of those things into a travel case is often an exercise in anger management.

The clever three-piece design allows for easy handlebar width adjustment, up to 40 mm in total.

The new CP0018 integrated cockpit on this latest Aeroad looks like a one-piece unit with those same downsides, but it’s actually three separate parts. There’s the hammerhead-like central portion that includes the stem extension, steerer clamp assembly, and central section of the tops, but then also two separate drop sections (that Canyon refers to as “wings”). Each of those slides dovetail-style into the end of the main body and secures with two bolts.

One immediate advantage of this arrangement is that it allows for up to 40 mm of total width adjustment so you’re far more likely than usual to find a combination that suits you. For example, I often prefer a 110 mm or 120 mm stem with a 400 mm-wide bar, but rarely is such a combination available in one-piece molded designs. But Canyon’s 120 mm-long CP0018 goes up to 450 mm in width and all the way down to 410 mm, which is close enough for my needs. For sponsored pros, Canyon plans to add teams-only stem options with a more dramatic downward angle.

The three-piece arrangement not only allows the Aeroad to be more accommodating in terms of fit, but also allows Canyon to offer more sizes with fewer molds.

The way the cockpit attaches to the steerer is pretty neat, too. It doesn’t just clamp on to the top of the steerer tube as is usually the case. Instead, there’s a slotted tube integrated into the bottom of the CP0018 that slides over the steerer, and a single-bolt wedge that locks everything together. When all is said and done, the finished product is far lower-profile and tidier-looking than many other modern aero road bikes, and there are no chintzy plastic cosmetic covers required, either.

The brilliance of this design reveals itself even further if you need to pack your Aeroad in a travel case. Those handlebar ends can quickly be removed completely, leaving behind a 23 cm-wide hammerhead that should fit into many cases and boxes. This not only dramatically speeds up breakdown and reassembly, but also means you don’t ever have to readjust a headset or mess with a stem that you know is perfectly straight.

For traveling, each drop section can be removed completely. Just don’t lose the bolts.

That doesn’t mean the CP0018 is just as easy to live with as a conventional two-piece handlebar and stem, though. There’s no tilt adjustment on the drops, for example, nor are there any alternatives (yet) if the stock bend isn’t to your liking. And remember that the lines are still routed internally, so in the event you need to change your stem length (or a headset bearing), you’d be wise to set aside a few hours. On that subject, keep in mind that while Canyon doesn’t make this obvious on its online portal, it apparently is possible to request a specific stem length during the ordering process.

Choose carefully.

Models and availability

Canyon is offering the new Aeroad in three performance levels, all of which should be available to order immediately.

Sitting at the flagship level is a new Aeroad CFR (Canyon Factory Racing), built with the company’s lightest carbon materials, the most advanced lay-up design, and the most enticing weight and stiffness figures. All of these bikes are designed exclusively for electronic drivetrains.

Canyon will offer the Aeroad CFR in Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 and SRAM Red eTap AXS builds with crank-based power meters and DT Swiss ARC 1100 DiCut 62 aero carbon wheels. There’s also a Campagnolo Super Record EPS option with Campagnolo Bora One 50 wheels, but without a power meter. Bare framesets are available for DIYers.

Sitting next in line is the Aeroad CF SLX family, built with the same mold as the CFR, but a less advanced carbon fiber blend that brings the claimed frame weight up to 995 g. Canyon will offer that with either a Shimano Ultegra Di2 or SRAM Force eTap AXS groupset, both with DT Swiss ARC 1400 DiCut 62 wheels.

Finally, there’s the Aeroad CF SL range, built with the same overall construction as the SLX (and thus, the same claimed frame weight), but with partially external routing and a more conventional cockpit up front for use with mechanical drivetrains in either Shimano 105 or Shimano Ultegra flavors, both with Reynolds AR 58/62 DB carbon aero wheels.

Complete prices are as follows:

Aeroad CFR Disc 9 Di2: US$9,000 / AU$11,750 / £7,700 / €7,500
Aeroad CFR Disc 9 eTap: US$9,000 / AU$12,550 / £8,200 / €8,000
Aeroad CFR Disc 9 EPS: US$NA / AU$14,100 / £9,300 / 9,000
Aeroad CF SLX Disc 8 Di2: US$6,000 / AU$7,850 / £5,200 / €5,000
Aeroad CF SLX Disc 8 eTap: US$6,000 / AU$8,300 / £5,500 / €5,300
Aeroad CF SL Disc 8: US$4,400 / AU$5,800 / £3,800 / €3,700
Aeroad CF SL Disc 8 WMN: US$NA / AU$5,800 / £3,800 / €3,700
Aeroad CF SL Disc 7: US$4,000 / AU$5,150 / £3,400 / €3,300

The Canyon Aeroadcast

Want even more? We sat down with the engineers behind the Aeroad for an hour-long deep-dive into the whys and hows of the bike’s design.

Hitting the road with the Aeroad

Canyon provided to me one of its flagship Aeroad CFR models for the purpose of this test, outfitted with a Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 groupset, Shimano Dura-Ace power meter crankset, and DT Swiss ARC 1100 DiCut 62 tubeless-ready carbon clinchers. Actual weight for my XS-sized loaner (Canyons run big; I’m really not that short!) was 7.19 kg (15.85 lb) without pedals. Adding a set of Time Xpresso 15 pedals, a pair of Canyon composite bottle cages, and one of Canyon’s own bolt-on computer mounts brought the total up to 7.41 kg (16.34 lb) — not exactly flirting with the UCI limit, but hardly heavy, and very much competitive for the segment.

Canyon’s latest Aeroad looks like it’ll confidently maintain its status as one of the top aero road bikes on the market.

I’ve ridden a fair number of aero road bikes over the past several years, and will freely admit that the previous-generation Aeroad was one of my favorites. It was aerodynamically efficient, yes, but also just felt good. It was pretty responsive under power, unexpectedly comfortable, reasonably versatile in terms of the tire sizes it would accept, it handled intuitively, and I’d argue that it was even one of the better-looking options in the category while still offering the exceptional value that Canyon is known for.

I’ve only been riding this latest version for the past couple of weeks, but it’s nevertheless an extremely impressive machine and a tangible improvement over its predecessor.

The back end responds to power just as appearances would suggest.

Though it was still a big improvement over the first-generation Aeroad, one of my criticisms of the previous-generation disc-equipped model was how its chassis stiffness was a step behind Canyon’s superb Ultimate family. The 14% claimed gain in frame rigidity from the prior model to this one doesn’t sound like much on paper (it certainly didn’t to me), but the effect on the road is surprisingly noticeable. The steering column is just as rock-solid as it’s always been, but the rest of the bike now feels more connected to the front end, particularly when sprinting or pushing the bike through hard corners. Despite the handlebars being three sections bolted together, there’s not a hint of movement or noise, either.

Overall, the updated frameset just comes across as snappier and more responsive, and feels more similar now to the Ultimate.

The tops aren’t especially aggressive in terms of aero shaping, and are still very comfortable to hold as a result – yet another example of watts left on the table for a good reason.

Comfort-wise, what’s notable is that those more aggressive tube shapes really haven’t ruined the ride quality of the second-generation Aeroad— just as Canyon claims. It’s no ultra-plush all-road bike, of course, but the ride quality is notably calm and composed regardless, even on roughly paved corners where I often find some other aero road bikes to be a bit nervous and chattery.

All is not quite how it appears, though. Upon further questioning, Canyon road brand manager Matt Leake admits that the Aeroad frameset itself is actually a little less compliant than the previous one, with the return to parity credited more to the wider tires. If you were to install those same higher-volume tires on the older Aeroad, it’s that bike that would come out ahead.

“Most comfort a rider feels obviously comes through extra volume in the tire,” he said, “although we did obviously focus on increasing compliance as much as possible on the long-chord seatpost.”

Canyon officially approves the new Aeroad for use with tires up to 30 mm-wide, but that seems like an awfully safe figure.

Out of curiosity, I swapped the stock DT Swiss ARC 1100 wheels and Continental GP5000 tubed clinchers for a set of much wider Enve 4.5 AR Disc wheels and 28 mm-wide Schwalbe Pro One tubeless tires (which actually measure 31 mm on those rims). The Enve set not only fit easily, but the ride quality improved just as you’d think it would, and also made the Aeroad a more willing companion on the well-maintained dirt roads that litter my home base in Colorado. I’ll admit this isn’t perhaps the sort of rolling stock that most people would run full-time on an Aeroad, but it’s good to know it’s an option.

Handling is as expected: quick and darty, agile and nimble, but with enough high-speed stability that you don’t feel overly nervous peeling off a jacket when careening downhill. And while five millimeters doesn’t sound like much, that small change in chainstay length helps the back end feel like it’s paying a bit more attention when you make a steering input up front.

The bike’s handling could have been made even better with a bit more crosswind stability, though. While the 62 mm-deep DT Swiss ARC 1100 DiCut wheels seem plenty fast, they’re also much more prone to getting blown around than I’d prefer, even in conditions I wouldn’t consider to be remotely gusty (which is interesting considering that they were also designed in collaboration with SwissSide).

DT Swiss specifically touts the crosswind stability of its latest ARC series of road wheels, but they didn’t seem that stable to me.

I can appreciate that the Aeroad is supposed to be an aerodynamically efficient machine first and foremost, but given Canyon’s supposed desire to balance a range of performance attributes, I personally think switching at least the front wheel to the 50 mm-deep version of this wheel family would have made more sense.

In terms of fit, I dare say Canyon has made the smart call here. I personally lament the loss of the old bike’s deep-drop handlebar shape (if only for the greater variation in hand and body positioning it offered), but the new semi-anatomic shape, combined with the shorter frame reach and taller stack, indeed expands the range of riders that can comfortably ride this thing.

Adjusting the handlebar height is also just as easy as Canyon says it is — well, sort of.

This is how you adjust the headset. It’s silly.

Threadless headset bearings are typically preloaded with a top-access bolt that’s lightly tightened when the stem is loose on the steerer. In concept, the Aeroad works in a similar manner. But in one particularly irksome move, that bolt is now replaced with a proprietary tool that doesn’t permanently live inside the stem. When the tool isn’t in use, the hole is filled in with a cosmetic rubber plug.

The setup isn’t a big deal if you’re tweaking things at home, but potentially very problematic if you attempt even a minor adjustment on the road and don’t have the tool with you.

“We hear the concerns in terms of practicality,” Leake said. “The conventional bolt is a load-bearing part and during our testing, in the lab on a stand replicating extreme conditions, we did witness it fail in isolated cases. This led us to come up with an alternative solution – removing it entirely and providing the preload tool instead which does the same job. Granted, we don’t expect people to have the tool on them when they ride, but when done properly, setting headset bearing preload is pretty much a case of set-and-forget, and then check occasionally pre-ride with the tool to-hand.”

I’m sorry, Canyon, but my Aeroad test sample seems to have somehow gone missing. Weird.

As for the Aeroad’s primary reason for being, though: is it actually faster? I didn’t have a previous-generation Aeroad available to compare it against, but even if Canyon’s claims hold true, we’re still only talking about five watts or so, and that’s at a healthy 45 km/h (28 mph), so the difference would be even smaller at a more realistic cruising pace. Nevertheless, to eke out even a modest improvement over a bike that was already one of the best out there is no small feat.

As compared to other current premium aero road bikes, then, the Canyon certainly makes a compelling case on several fronts. It’s competitively aerodynamic, it’s impressively responsive under power and unusually comfortable, it still looks really good, and continues to offer one of the best value equations around, all with very few quirks and caveats.

If I were in the market for a bike like this, the new Aeroad would most definitely on my shortlist. But if I owned a current Aeroad, I’m not so sure I’d feel overly compelled to upgrade. Is this latest model better? Yes, but the existing one is already really good.

www.canyon.com

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