When The Kings Men's 'The Hairy Eagle' contacted me and asked if I was coming on this years's Ride Different I was excited... when I found out we were heading to Tasmania for 2 days and 320km of back roads, weather, dirt, gravel, climbing and descending, I knew there was a bike that would be just as close to perfect as you could get... enter Canyon's Endurace CF SLX 9.0 SL.
The Endurace CF SLX 9.0 SL is the flagship endurance model in Canyon's range and comes equipped with Shimano's Dura-Ace Di2 groupset (52-36 and 11-28), Mavic Ksyrium Pro Carbon SL disc wheels and some very nice looking Canyon proprietary parts including integrated bars and stem and two piece, leaf spring seat post... we'll get to those soon.
This bike in isolation looks pretty similar to the Canyon Ultimate, but of course adds disc brakes. But put the two next to each other and the difference in geometry is instantly noticeable. The Endurace's 'sport' set up results in a much more upright riding position, with a higher front end and shorter reach. The chain stays also are longer than those on the Ultimate, with the promise of extra stability at speed.
This is all great news for those of you out there that want something slightly less aggressive, or are planning on spending some serious hours on the bike and want to be able to do it over and over again in relative comfort.
On the subject of comfort, the Endurace does just about everything it can to keep your body happy. I was close to shocked to see just how much flex has been engineered into Canyon's leaf spring 2 piece seat post. the smallest amount of force is needed to flex the saddle and post back and forward, all with the promise of making things as smooth as possible over the rough bits.
Canyon's integrated bars and stem look serious. The 'Canyon H31 Ergocockpit' gives plenty of positions and still is designed to deliver comfort. There's a distinct swept back look from the centre of the stem, combined with wide flat bars and an overall shorter reach and drop to help you get there a bit more easily and offering up plenty of hand positioning options.
Mavic's Ksyrium Pro Carbon SL disc wheels are held in place by 12mm-thru axles, and slowed by Shimano's excellent hydraulic BR-RS805 flat mount brakes on 160mm rotors.
Canyon position the Endurace as a road bike, but to be honest I'd say you could take this bike just about anywhere you wanted to. Good tyre clearance and 28mm rubber and capable of managing up to 33mm wide, again add to the comfort as they allow lower pressure but also give go anywhere capability. Comfortable geometry, compliance, and disc stopping power are a great recipe for the growing hoards of riders looking for new adventures, that often results in plenty of time spent on the dirt and less and less on the road.
All up it's a pretty tasty build, but the proof is what it all feels like when you get out on the road...
Hours after picking up the Endurace I was pulling it to pieces to get into my bike bag for the trip to Tassie. Overall, getting it into the bag was a simple exercise, despite the size 'Large' frame. There's a neat quick release style allen key that you can leave on the bike or detach to get the thru-axels in and out in quick time without a search for a multi tool every time. The integrated stem and bars and seat post are out in seconds. and the bike was in the bag and ready to endure the baggage handlers.
Our ride was over two days and basically involved heading from Hobart to Port Arthur return, 205km day one with 2,600m vert and day 2 with 115km with 650m climbing. To spice things up the weather gods threw in a pile of wind and rain.
The guys as Corporate Cycling put together a brilliant route. It had everything, steep climbs, undulations, fast descents, technical descents, dirt road, mud, smooth roads, coarse roads... and with some limited flat sections. Day one gave us a couple of hours of tail wind followed by many hours of head winds.... and day two, torrential rain and cross winds.
So the Endurace was put through its paces. This bike is about comfort so let's start there. Was it comfortable... YES.
After my initial apprehension about the amount of flex in the seat post, and the slightly strange feeling of it flexing under me I soon forgot it was there. It was only when finishing day one and talking to the other riders that it became apparent that many of them were suffering from vibration where you don't want it... and I was just fine. So is the seat post comfortable, yes.
The more upright position with shorter reach is instantly noticeable. If you're after an aggressive racing machine, this bike is not for you, stick with the Ultimate or Aeroad. But big days in the saddle, or less flexibility than you used to have, or if you just appreciate the comfort, the Endurace is king. After a 10 hour plus day I actually felt fine. I was tired but not sore. My neck felt good and my shoulders were happy.
Performance wise, I did find the relaxed tube angles took out some of the ability to get the power down, and on long climbs, while seated, I could feel the leaf spring seat post doing its thing as I rocked back and forward. It's hard to say but I'm not 100% convinced this constant movement helps you keep a nice smooth pedal stroke.
When the weather got very nasty and the roads went from tarmac to gravel to mud and rock the Endurace shone. It managed the transition between each with absolute ease. In the gravel and dirt it was the most sure footed I've felt on any bike I have ridden. Very nice.
Then, when the pretty much torrential rain had taken hold, the Endurace delivered again with its disc brakes and stability. As I came down a seriously steep decent in the wet, with almost 300km in my legs and freezing wet hands I was able to control my speed as easy as anything, nice modulation, no chance of locking up... then as I was enjoying the control ... all I heard was "I can't stop' as one of the other riders came sliding past me with panic in his eyes as he realised he'd run out of brakes on his carbon wheels (he survived).
The Canyon integrated bars got the job done, they take some of the road noise out, but keep things connected at the same time. There's plenty of positions available on the bars and comfort was never a problem.
My one issue with this cockpit is the same that I have for any other aero / integrated set up. Getting lights, computers etc. on and off them is a real struggle. Canyon provided me with a proprietary Garmin mount that attached seamlessly to the bike, but when it came to adding a front light, the three I tried could not hold on.
Shimano's Dura-Ace Di2 was exceptional, I'm a 100% convert to electronic and I'm yet to be let down by it, and this time was no exception. What I would like to see on this bike is a compact crankset, a 52-36 is just not quite in line with what this bike is truly about. I really think a 50-34 is where it is at for these enduro style bikes, this gives that valuable extra range when you are really feeling it and trying to get over that last long climb.
Finally and my biggest difficulty with this bike was the handling in the cross winds that I was subjected to on day 2. Now, it's not all the fault of the bike as there was some seriously tough winds along the open east cost of Tassie, but I just found that the Mavic Ksyrium Pro Carbon SL wheels were catching the wind more that I had experienced on some really deep section wheels. On the other side of this, and helping offset it were the longer chain stays and geometry that really added stability at speed. In nice conditions on big flowing mountain descents this bike would have you loving life.
The Endurace CF SLX 9.0 SL is a lot of bike. It looks great in the kerosene Red it really stood out against the grey days and groups of black bikes...(it's also available in stealth asphalt grey if that's your thing).
Pricing comes in at $9,199 (AUD) plus $199 shipping to Australia. While that's a lot of cash, it's below the market price for many of the bikes at this level and from that perspective is good value. The build was good quality, and after being subjected to some horror gravel, dirt and rain, the bike looked brand new after a five minute wash.
If you want a high spec'd bike to take on big days out that has got a clean and race-like look, while delivering disc brakes, solid and reliable performance and more comfort than strapping your couch to the bike, it's a pretty hard package to go past and certainly delivers on what Canyon claims.
A big thank you to Canyon Australia and New Zealand for providing us with this bike for the review and ride! We were not paid for this review... we also paid our way in full for our trip to Tassie. A big thanks to Nathan Lorkin from Corporate Cycling and The King's Men for putting on a great weekend.