Review: Canyon Speedmax SLX and Speedmax CF
article & images by Nick Salazar
Mar 1, 2019
Speedmax CF: Incredible Value
The lower-end Speedmax is much like its bigger brother, so there isn't a ton to say here that we didn't cover on the previous page. However, this little-brother bike foregoes the integrated front-end and integrated brakes, keeping virtually everything else. It's a high-value proposition. Unfortunately Canyon doesn't sell a bare frameset, but on the plus side the lowest-price build is just $2500, which is an excellent value for what you get. The build we started with was the $4000 Ultegra mechanical setup, complete with a really fantastic set of Mavic hybrid clincher wheels (more on these later).
Virtually all of the "mixed results" complaints I highlighted on the previous page are actually remedied in this lower-tier bike, which uses standard interfaces so you can swap out your own parts. You do lose the very sleek integration that the complete SLX product offers right out of the box, but you gain the ability to swap out for parts of your choosing. And with a little careful planning, you can build something very slick indeed. Naturally, we bolted on our Omega X brakes and our Alpha One aerobars, as well as our upcoming Universal Cover which hides the brakes and Monopost, to show off what our preferred build of this bike would look like.
If I may be so bold, the result is stunning. The bike is as clean as they come, and still super easy to work on, adjust, service, and pack for travel. The only (mild) drawback is that in order to make things really clean with Canyon's included bento box, you need to have a fair number of spacers under your stem (30mm with Alpha One). If we slam the stem any further, we need to switch to a different bento box. Not to worry, there's a really great solution already on the market - the TorHans BentoX. Once we swap to that box, and trim the fork, we've got a solution that is pretty epic. And that's what we've photographed here. A single 10mm spacer sits below the Alpha One stem, making it a perfect match with the TorHans BentoX, and still providing a huge range of adjustment with the Monopost. Even with the fork trimmed, we have a greater range of adjustment here than with the SLX bar.
From front to back, the bike is highly functional and still very slick. The top tube storage and seat-mounted hydration work very well, and everything works together as a nice cohesive unit. Ultimately, I think you can make an even nicer and more usable rig out of this bike than the SLX, although it will take a little more work to get there. My one gripe is that the fork is built ONLY for direct-mount brakes, with no center thru-hole for standard brakes. This isn't a huge problem in our case, since Omega X can bolt to pretty much anything. But it would be nice to have a wider range of options, which you would get if the fork just had that thru-hole. It's the same complaint I levied against the second-gen Cannondale Slice when it was launched back in 2014. But other than that little nag, the bike is otherwise really great. It ticks all the boxes that the Cervelo P-series bikes do. That's high praise, as Cervelo's bikes (particularly the P2 and P3) are generally the yardstick by which all other bikes (whether they claim to be "super" or not) are measured. Pressed between the Canyon or a P3, I'd probably pick the latter just due to its impeccable pedigree and general wind tunnel dominance. But you wouldn't be losing much (if anything) with the Speedmax. And of course, I'd trick out either bike with appropriate TriRig bits :-)
Side note: Mavic Comete
Another shining star of this bike is its Mavic Comete clinchers with the alloy Exalith braking surface. Similar to the Hed Jet Black wheels, the alloy is textured, providing superlative braking in dry and wet. The textured rim is pretty harsh on brake pads, so we need something pretty robust. KoolStop Black is a good choice (the Salmon pads will get chewed up a bit quickly), and Mavic makes some nice Exalith pads specifically for these wheels, although they are a bit pricey.
With all the buzz about disc brakes recently, it seems like a good time to take a moment to consider what, exactly, the fuss is about. This topic deserves a fuller article, but in general it's fair to say that a setup like this - a robust, textured alloy rim with good pads, gives up nothing to an equivalent disc setup, except for weight (the rim brake + wheel combinations tend to be lighter than identical disc brake setups, even in the case of the alloy rim here). Now, disc brakes have a clear advantage once you get to the gravel/MTB markets, where tire sizes get large enough that aero rim brakes are impractical, and where you may encounter enough mud/debris on the trail that you'd prefer not to be flinging clumps of mud up into your rim brake. In those applications, disc brakes shine, making it easier to keep a clean bike (aerodynamically and hygienically) while maintaining good braking performance.
Of course TriRig is biased on this topic, but as a mechanic, I can say definitively that rim brakes are worlds easier to work on than their disc counterparts, and mechanical braking easier than hydraulic. On any aero or skinny-tire bike, I'll stick with mechanical rim brakes every time. And newer innovations like Mavic's Exalith brake tracks (and Hed's similar Turbine brake tracks) make the choice even more compelling.
I'll certainly have more to say about this as time goes on, and I'm sure I'll be accused of gaslighting, shilling, or something else. As always, the reader is encouraged to draw their own conclusions. And speaking of conclusions, let's hit the jump and read some final thoughts on these bikes.
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.