Canyon Speedmax CF SLX 9.0 – Review

In the shop of Singer Porsche, they have a phrase on the back wall. “Everything is important,” it reads, scrawled in black spray paint. We have wondered if they might have cribbed it from Canyon Bicycles, and on the surface, it makes sense. The mindset is of an almost obsessive desire to produce products where perfection is the minimum acceptable grade. For 2016, Canyon took their Speedmax triathlon bike, already an exceptional piece of hardware, and turned it into the Speedmax SLX: a UCI-legal triathlon machine that comes from the factory with the feature set triathletes spend years honing their equipment choices to achieve.

The SLX is what Canyon describes as “System Complete.”  Every trim level of the SLX comes with their Hydration Source bottle, Energy Source bento box, and Gear Box storage system. Additional options include the seat post-mounted single-or-double bottle carrier and Garmin front mount addition to the Hydration Source. More on each item in a bit, but even if you don’t choose either additional accessory, you get 24 oz of liquid from the Hydration Storage, a bento that can hold an absolutely enormous number of gels, and a full flat kit that stores inside the bike frame. There might be a kitchen sink in there somewhere, too, but we’ll have to check again.

Hydration Source

The stem of the integrated H11 cockpit has a track that fits into a locking guide on the Hydration Source, Canyon’s answer to BTAs. It holds 24 oz of liquid, and this is the impressive part, without spilling or leaking. The body of the system is a smoked plastic that lets you easily monitor how much liquid you have left, and the top is a silicone affair with the flexible straw exiting the front of the top. Midway back is a clip for the straw which causes it to lay flat against the body of the Hydration Source to hide it from the wind while you’re not drinking. We tended to leave it up, because the position of the straw is perfect when you’re in the aero position, just drop your head and there’s the straw. If you’re trying to shave every second, it’s absolutely possible to maneuver it one-handed without looking but we simply preferred to have slightly better access to our nutrition over the couple of seconds the straw would save us.

Where the Hydration Source really shines, however, is in how effectively it eliminates spilling from the top of the unit. The silicone top has a double-flap design, meaning that the top flaps and bottom flaps create a sort of chamber between your liquid and the exterior of the bike. What this does in practice is to eliminate splashing from reaching the top flap, and therefore it doesn’t spit or surge like many of its competitors. The bottle was developed by Profile Design specifically for Canyon, and we wouldn’t be surprised if something very much like this design did not start appearing on their own product line. But even integrating the top into an existing product line would take away some of the magic of the Hydration Source, namely how well it meshes with the integrated bento box just behind it.

Energy Source

The Energy Source bento box shares the same smoked plastic body and silicone top as the front-mount hydration, and continues the trend of “why didn’t I think of that?” The rear of the bento is angled down and away towards the rear of the frame, and makes accessing the contents incredibly easy. Where other bentos force you to deal with zippered pouches or access from some tiny opening, the Energy Source’s full contents are easily accessible no matter how buried in it they are. Being able to see into it while on the bike is also a huge plus, as you don’t have to fish about blindly for those blocks or the last gel you’ve been saving for when you wanted to quit. You can see it, grab it, and go. Like we said, “everything is important.”

Gear Box

Every bike nowadays has some way to integrate a bento box. A lot of manufacturers are even finally integrating hydration, too. The Gear Box, however, was a first on the triathlon superbike scene (Diamond Back’s Andean now features an integrated gear box, and so Cervelo’s P5X). It contains a pair of tire levers, two CO2 cartridges, a spare tube, and has space for an Allen key or two if needed. All of this is inside a neoprene roll that threads the CO2 cartridges into the top tube for storage while the rest sits in the cutout ahead of the seat post clamp. Canyon eliminated the need to even have the discussion about what to do with the flat kit. It isn’t an accessory you have to buy. It isn’t something you need to add on to the bike. Heck, it even comes with everything we listed earlier. For the SLX, the flat kit is a solved problem.

Accessories

There are two optional accessories for the SLX: the rear bottle carrier and the front mount Garmin adapter. If you’re asking our opinion, buy both when you purchase the bike. The rear bottle carrier attaches to the bolts on the rear of the seatpost, just under the saddle clamp hardware. It can take a single bottle cage directly on the carrier mount or has an adapter that allows for two bottles to be carried side by side. What we think is important is that you don’t have to fuss about with it to adapt it for short- or long-course racing. Swapping from the single to the double setup is a matter of two Allen bolts and perhaps a minute, start to finish. What you get in return is a system that doesn’t require finesse or finagling, and doesn’t depend on how far forward your saddle is to determine compatibility. You install it and you’re done. We can get behind that.

The Garmin mount might be less objectively desirable than the rear carrier, if only because there are a wealth of mounting adapters that will serve the same purpose as the Canyon-supplied option. But the third-party mounts just won’t blend as well as this one does with the aesthetics of the SLX, and that might be reason enough to buy it. The mount attaches to the front of the Hydration Source, where there is a small join underneath the top lip to attach it. Your bars stay free of clutter and the display is pointed in such a way as to be visible from a quick glance down, even though it is below our arms. If any mount will do the trick, we’d opt for this one.

The last item we want to touch on is one we never really expected to talk about, but just had to be mentioned. We have never had the arm pads for a bike come in their own display box before, but after riding them for several hundred miles, we can absolutely see why you’d want to showcase them like that. They are marvelously comfortable. Made by Ergon, the same folks who made the grips for the pursuits and extensions on the bike, the arm pads are a little less than a centimeter thick and very slightly tacky out of the box. When you’re getting ready to spend 112 miles in constant physical contact with them, you’ll be exceptionally glad that Ergon made them to have an almost suspension-like quality that noticeably reduced our fatigue on long days. Someone at Canyon made sure that literally every detail of their new flagship was fully thought-through, and the Ergon partnership is proof of that for the SLX.

Out Of The Box

Canyon has long been known for their obsessiveness in packing bikes, going so far as to design their very own shipping box to ensure that your bike gets to you as safely, and as completely put-together, as possible. The latest Bike Box is a marked improvement over their previous iteration, and even for a Large-sized bike, the footprint is fairly small but very well-padded. We tried to find some way in which the bike could shift and damage itself or some component in shipping, and if there is one we certainly didn’t find it. Even the wheels were secure in their shipping mount, with the front wheel covered in foam padding to protect both it and the frame from any accidental rubbing that could occur, and the accessories securely stowed below the frame in their own compartments of the bike box. Since Canyon is direct-to-consumer, this sort of thing matters. You can’t lose items and rely on the local bike shop to have a spare or two lying around; quality control is much more important when you don’t have an intermediary between you and your purchaser. Canyon even provides spares in a nylon bag, along with all the tools you need to complete the build, torque wrench included. Most of the time you have to hassle a bike shop for them to give you all the extra bits; Canyon just puts them in a nice bag for you, along with a manual that’s larger than most law textbooks.

Set It Up

Putting the SLX together was one of the easiest bike assemblies we have ever done. Virtually the entire bike comes pre-assembled, add seatpost and front wheel, adjust extensions to taste, and off you go. Everything else came pre-adjusted and properly set. We did have to pedestal the extensions up to our preferred height, but Canyon’s interlocking risers are pretty straightforward for that. We do have a bit of advice for those who have more than one riser worth of stack, though. The risers themselves use an internal shim to lock together and then a flat shim for where they meet the arm cup, and it is much easier to put all of this together on a coffee table and then transfer it to the bike than it is to try and play “find the shim” when you drop one on the floor. The rest of the assembly is so easy, you might be tempted to try doing this the hard way, but trust us: it isn’t worth it.

On The Road Again

After all of that, what is Canyon’s new flagship like to ride? Smooth. Where the original Speedmax felt drama-free, the SLX feels refined in a way that is hard to describe. Everything you touch on the bike feels high-end. We can put some of this down to the custom Ergon pads and grips, but there’s more to it than that. The SLX is incredibly well engineered, and that attention to detail is evident from the first time you ride it. The cockpit does an excellent job of communicating where the front end is and what is going on at the tire without needing to be harsh about it. The pedal uptake is firm without being jarring, and the bike feels like there is more vertical compliance in it than one might expect from a bike that just won Kona. Twice.

It’s that level of comfort in the ride while maintaining an eager character that sets the SLX apart in the rarified company of other superbikes. It doesn’t just feel like another bike, it has a personality that shines through as you push it way past your threshold. The SLX wants to ride the long course, especially with the rake adjuster in the “Stable” setting. Change it to “Able” by flipping around the metal insert in the front fork and it becomes a technical course masterpiece, with quicker reflexes and a sharper initial turn in when you put your shoulder into a pursuit. There’s a competence throughout the bike that comes through when you ride it; it just feels like Canyon thought through every centimeter of the SLX and made sure that what they delivered was far more than the sum of its parts. Couple that with the integration of every item a triathlete could possibly wish for and you have one heck of a potent combination.

All of that is what you come to reflect on during those long training miles. The pursuits don’t induce hand fatigue if you have to sit up for a while. The arm pads don’t get slick when you start to sweat. Reaching back for a bottle in the carrier places it exactly where you’d expect, and putting it back doesn’t make you wonder if dropping it would be easier. Getting gels from the bento is easy, and putting the wrappers back in doesn’t result in whatever was left in the packet getting all over your bike. Everything just works right the first time, without you having to put a lot of thought into setting it up to do that. Canyon took care of that for you, and did a better job than any aftermarket item could have. Taken as a whole, the Speedmax SLX is a masterclass in triathlon bikes done right.

If the era of the integrated superbike is coming to a close, then the Speedmax SLX is the undisputed mic-drop challenge for those that come after to meet. It is everything you can ask for in a fully complete triathlon package, delivered to your door ready to ride. It is offered for 2017 at two price points, €6,499 with Ultegra Di2 and Reynolds wheels, and €1,000 less with DT Swiss aluminum clinchers. New for 2017 they have also created a non-integrated version which includes the Energy Source bento box, but a standard front fork and stem setup. If you’re looking for a new triathlon bike, you owe it to yourself to consider the Speedmax SLX.

6 responses to “Canyon Speedmax CF SLX 9.0 – Review

    • Unfortunately we dont have any data yet from either Canyon or objective data from another source. Rest assured as soon as we find some we will share it!

  1. Informed AG (Mike) March 24th about a series of problems while buying a Speedmax, including notable bike damage by inapropriate packeging. Reading your apraisal on Canyon I wonder, how serious AG is taking readers experiences and how independent from gear manufacturers you are..

  2. Great review as usual. I guess I may need to upgrade my bike soon. I may have missed it, but how do you refill the BTA oncourse?

    • There is a refill port at the back of the bottle. It uses a double flap design. Unfortunately we didn’t get any good photos before sending it back to Canyon.

  3. Its a great bike, but its not without its downsides, which is how I think it comes in at a price point below the competition. I may have got a bad one, or AG didn’t observe the same, but some parts of the build quality don’t put it near the superbike category.

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