This article originally appeared on BikeRadar
There's no doubt that the biggest recent news in women’s racing is the development of the Canyon//SRAM pro cycling team for 2016. Launching with what’s likely the nicest livery in the game, the new women’s team builds on what the former Velocio-SRAM team started.
A bike worthy of its name
Updated for 2016, the Ultimate CF SLX is a rare breed of race bike. With this, it’s claimed to be super light, super stiff, aero and yet comfortable. Rarely can brands claim so many key attributes, but our experience shows that in this case it isn't mere marketing nonsense.
The German-engineered Ultimate CF SLX lays claim to an impressive stiffness to weight ratio with a medium frame said to weigh just 780g (meaning Tiffany Cromwell’s XXS frame is probably significantly lighter).
While Canyon has kept the stiffness-to-weight ratio figures rather similar to the bike’s previous generation, there’s a newfound focus on aerodynamics and comfort.
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The aero claims come predominately from Canyon’s own integrated handlebar and stem, an item that’s borrowed from the brand’s Aeroad models. The front part of the frame also features Kamm-tail aero profiling. Interestingly, the down tube has effectively been flipped from the previous generation to best deal with the wind.
Ride comfort comes predominately from Canyon’s new seatpost and clamping mechanism. Here, a new integrated clamp sits low in the seat tube and offers far greater material flex through the specially designed seatpost. Interestingly, Canyon talks about compliance as an off-axis measure; stating that vertical (straight up and down) compliance is not how a bike behaves on the road and that too many brands have it wrong.
Speaking with Cromwell about her new bike, she’s extremely positive about the new setup. "We have incredible support from Canyon, SRAM and Rapha. We have so much choice. Canyon does make the Aeroad aero frame, but the Ultimate will be our main bike. We have the Speedmax TT bike too," says the 27-year old Australian, before teasing of what’s to come. "We’ll be trying disc brakes during the season, for example," she adds.
No gear cables to see here, move along please
Looking to the components, SRAM’s new eTap wireless gearing jumps out first. We’ve covered the new group in detail, but simply put, it works by giving the front and rear derailleurs their own rechargeable batteries. The derailleurs are synced with the shifters.
Shifting is a little different, with the single left shifter button moving the chain up the rear cassette, and the single right shifter button dropping the chain back down the cassette. Pushing both left and right buttons simultaneously triggers shifting at the front.
Beyond these components, the rest of the groupset carries over from mechanical SRAM Red 22, albeit with new and matching graphics.
With SRAM as a title sponsor, company-owned brands of Zipp and Quarq feature too. Just like Cromwell’s Cervelo from last year, her new Canyon is equipped with a Quarq ‘eTap’ power meter, synced up to a Garmin Edge 510.
We catch up with Cromwell just before the fourth and final stage of the Santos women’s tour in Adelaide, Australia. With this stage on a flat and open track, she's using Zipp’s 58mm deep 404 Firecrest wheels shod with 25c Continental tubulars. With a shallower set of wheels, you can bet this bike would be very close to the UCI’s 6.8kg weight limit.
And have no doubt, the team gets plenty of license to chop and change its wheel choices, Cromwell confirming that "Zipp has provided its whole range, from the 202 through to the 808 and the disc wheels".
Those time-trial disc wheels Cromwell mentioned bring up another exciting development, with Zipp recently teasing photos on social media of its Super-9 Discs with new ‘Impress’ printed designs for sponsored teams.
Where last year we saw Cromwell on Zipp components in the handlebar and stem, it’s now integrated components from Canyon. Here, the German company’s H36 Aerocockpit features, and Cromwell is making use of the cleverly integrated Garmin mount out front. Such a setup doesn’t allow for much adjustability, but Cromwell tells us that she’s extremely comfortable with the position.
Cromwell adds that she’s had no issues in the transition to a new bike brand. "The [Selle Italia] saddle is the same, but the frame is completely different to last year. It’s been an easy transition [though]; the fit is really really good," she says.
"The mechanics are the same – they know us and know our size and the Canyon has adapted well to my former setup. I like to run a smaller frame [XXS] for a good reach and an aggressive position."
And lastly, there’s the Rapha kit the team will be wearing. "Rapha gear is awesome. When the new team got launched, it was a very cool launch and it was a different and unique approach," Cromwell concludes.
"I’ve known people in Rapha for a long time, but it’s a great opportunity to finally work with them. They’ve developed so much with Team Sky, and we’re benefiting from that. We’re getting all that stuff – including even faster skinsuits. The team trial is the baby of this team, and they’ll be helping us there."