Review: Canyon Speedmax SLX and Speedmax CF
Mar 1, 2019
article & images by Nick Salazar
Speedmax SLX: top of the line
Usually, I cover the bike from tip to tail. This time, I'm going to try a slightly different approach. I'm going to do a long list of pros and cons, which just seemed to make sense to me as I moved around the bike. The length of each list shouldn't be considered an indication of the weight of the overall benefits or drawbacks of the bike. Rather, I am simply trying to be thorough in my exploration and review. And again, although TriRig has an inherent bias given that we make competing products, we try to be as objective as possible in our reviews. The reader is encouraged to make their own decisions based on the information provided. Ok, with that out of the way, there's a lot to get to here, so I'll just get right to it.
The Best Bits
Aero Design - the Speedmax SLX is an undeniably clean bike. It has smooth lines everywhere, no weird gimmicks, super clean cable routing, and great transitions from one part to the next. If I'm going to nitpick, I'd say that the airfoils do have some strange semi-hard edges about midway through their shape. I'm not talking about their truncated backs, but rather something of a "kink" halfway back. This seems to be a bit of a design legacy from the previous Concept Speedmax frame, and more of an aesthetic choice than an aerodynamic one. I could be wrong, but I've never seen data suggesting that this kind of shape is faster than smoother versions of optimized airfoils. Still, I doubt it's huge aerodynamic penalty, if at all.
Integration - the form-fitting purpose-built parts all around the bike generally work really well. The two-piece hydration/storage unit at the front of the bike is excellent. Much of this was designed and manufactured in collaboration with Profile Design, who has done similar work for other bikes, most notably the Scott Plasma 5. On the Scott bike, I really didn't like how the water bottle worked. There were way too many pieces, and the presence of the bottle prevents the lower-stack setups on the bars. Here however, the design is MUCH better. The bottle pops on and off very easily, and doesn't limit the range of stack adjustment of the bars. The straw is well-managed, and the antisplash refill setup works very well. My one nitpick here is that I'd like to see the bottom surface of the bottle follow the surface of the wheel in a nice curve, but that's likely more an aesthethic thing.
Price - As a direct-to-consumer brand, Canyon doesn't need to build in as much margin as the traditional distributor-dealer model. So the bikes are very competitively priced for what you get with each setup. The SLX we reviewed here is their priciest model at a cool $10,000 USD, but competes with builds from other brands often costing at least $1000-$2000 more. At the lower end of the price scale, they are even more competitive.
User Manual - Canyon makes a really great, fully-illustrated manual. It's just tough to find! There are no direct links on the product pages. So, to save you the trouble, here's the direct link to the Speedmax manual.
I can't strictly call this list "cons," as most of the items here are part good and part bad. Even where the Speedmax has faults, it generally does a decent job. In the interest of thoroughness, I'm trying to be clear about what I see here. But don't consider the length of this list to mean there is a long list of true "cons," because really there aren't.
Electronic Only - due to the way Canyon designed the bars and stem, this bike is designed for use with electronic groups only. There's no way to route mechanical shifters into the frame. Simply put, you're limited to Di2, EPS, or eTap groups only. If you have the spare cash, and the willingness to deal with having to regularly charge a battery or two (or three), it's no problem. But if you have any prediliction towards mechanical shifting, this bike is off-limits to you.
Aerobar adjustment - this is my biggest gripe with the bike. The aerobars, while very clean, and while ostensibly with a very large range of adjustment, are a little tricky to work with. Want to tilt your bars? Well, you have to dig for one specific part, disassemble the entire bar, and reassemble. And you only get a single tilt setting. Either flat or +9 degrees. Nothing else. The total part count for the extension spacers and arm cups is also a bit higher than I'd like, requiring you to add or remove parts depending on your pad position. Want the base bar higher or lower? You need to buy a completely new base bar and recable everything, since the stem can't be raised on the fork. The bars definitely allow you to hit a wide range of positions, but if you are the kind of rider who likes to tweak a bit over time (and that's virtually all of us), these bars don't make it particularly easy. Of course, we have some conflict in this space, so weigh our opinion against that. There's now an updated front end that very beautifully integrates the bottle and the spacer stack together, but otherwise suffers the same complaints as the one in this review.
Brakes - The integrated brakes here are generally really good. Although they don't have all the nice adjustment features of brakes found on the Trek Speed Concept or some other bikes, they still work pretty darn well. Ultimately, they will stop your bike. But they're much harder to work on than I'd like. And they require some careful wrenching just to access or adjust. There is no independent stance width adjustment. Obviously, I have a bit of bias, as we make our own aero brake, the Omega X. So the reader is invited to draw their own conclusion.
Seatpost - Canyon's seatpost is mostly great. Canyon takes advantage of the rear surface to add bottle bosses, and they have a really nice BTA cage mount purpose-built for the bike. It secures with a nice hidden wedge clamp design. My nitpick is at the top. Generally, I think there's no better topper (the saddle clamp itself) than the Ritchey SideBinder. It uses a single bolt to accomplish what the Canyon setup accomplishes with six. Lots of bikes use the Ritchey topper, and it's easy to see why. I haven't found a saddle clamp before or since that works better.
BB86 - I'm just not a huge fan of the BB86 bottom bracket standard. It works fine, but isn't friendly with 30mm-spindle cranks, which can generally be stiffer and lighter than the older 24mm-standard. If you don't care about that, it's perfectly friendly plug-and-play solution. My preference is for PF30 or BB386EVO, which can take almost any crank on the market and still use easy pressfit cups. All of these drawbacks (except bottom bracket standards) are actually remedied in the lower-tier Speedmax, which doesn't use an integrated bar or brakes.
The Speedmax SLX is an undeniably clean bike. It has smooth lines everywhere, no weird gimmicks, super clean cable routing, and great transitions from one part to the next. Its highly-integrated setup does pose some problems, especially at the aerobar, but it is an overall excellent ride. The newest versions of the bike have an updated front end which we reviewed in Kona last year. It's a bit of an aesthetic (and probably aerodynamic) upgrade, but still doesn't really address our concerns about fit.
The lower-end Speedmax is much like its bigger brother, but foregoes the integrated front-end and integrated brakes, keeping virtually everything else. It's a very high-value proposition. Unfortunately Canyon doesn't sell a bare frameset, but on the plus side the lowest-price build is just $2500, and easy to upgrade. Our final build is a fair bit MORE desirable than the SLX, at a much lower price point.
Mavic Comete Clinchers
Along with the HED Jet series, this might be the best set of rims on the market. A textured aluminum track provides braking power and modulation superior to ANY carbon rim, while offering aerodynamic performance equal or better to virtually anything else on the market.