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Canyon enters aero road market for 2011

German online-direct bicycle company Canyon has earned an enviable reputation for crafting lightweight – yet amazingly stiff – road machines such as its Ultimate CF, with later developments such as the Ultimate CF SLX adding good levels of rider comfort as well. For 2011, Canyon will now add an aero road bike to its repertoire with the introduction of the all-new Aeroad CF platform.

Canyon intends the Aeroad CF as more of a 'breakaway bike' or even a triathlon machine where riders are less likely to be shielded from the wind by a peloton. Rather than incorporate airfoil profiles throughout the frame, though, Canyon designers instead focused mainly on reducing the bike's frontal area and smoothing frame surface transitions – using especially deep cross-sections only at the head tube, down tube and seat stays – while still maintaining or even improving upon the comfort of the SLX.

The hourglass-shaped head tube houses a downsized (for Canyon, that is) 1 1/8"-to-1 1/4" tapered steerer tube and the seat tube is notably slender and symmetrical, unlike the company's very broad and highly asymmetrical Maximus design. Chain stays are similarly bulbous as compared to the CF and SLX but the extra-wide bottom bracket now utilizes press-fit bearing cups (for which Campagnolo is apparently now offering fitments).

Cables have also been moved inside the frame to maintain undisturbed tube surfaces and a special Shimano Dura-Ace Di2-equipped Aeroad CF will feature its own internal wiring configuration and a dedicated battery mount beneath the non-driveside chain stay. Di2 buyers should be very confident in their selection, however, as the cable routing hardware is specific for electronic or cable-actuated drivetrains and the routing hardware isn't interchangeable.

Relative to Canyon's burly Ultimate CF and Ultimate CF SLX, Canyon says the Aeroad CF's more svelte shape ends up presenting a substantial 20 percent less frontal area.

That should intuitively reduce aerodynamic drag and Canyon engineer Vincenz Thoma says computer simulations have demonstrated that to be the case. But interestingly, Canyon doesn't offer specific data in terms of either grams of drag or time or power savings, nor has it conducted any wind tunnel testing citing discrepancies with various companies' testing methods, variables with different rider positions, and even differences in frame sizes that can lead to incomparable information – comparing apples to oranges, if you will.

Instead, Thoma says Canyon has planned to conduct real-world testing on a track with its sponsored Omega Pharma-Lotto riders using directly measured power outputs and recorded times, a method that other companies and teams have already put in place and shown to be useful.

Comfort, handling and fit also high priorities

Rather than use exclusively carbon fiber in the construction, Canyon adds in more flexible basalt fibers into the Aeroblade SL fork blades and seatpost to provide more flex over rough roads. In addition, the seatpost setback is easily adjustable from 15-35mm (yielding effective 70.6-73.5-degree seat tube angles) and a clever interchangeable chip system in the fork tips allows users to choose between 39 or 44mm of rake, with the latter yielding comparably quick handling to the Ultimate CF or CF SLX and the former producing a more stable feel conducive to the Aeroad CF's intended higher speeds.

Canyon will offer the Aeroad CF in six sizes. It's a contrast to its usual eight, but a change to X-Y stack and reach-based geometry should provide the same overall range as before. Moreover, effective changes between sizes will be similarly fine but in more regular and linear increments and without the extraneous overlaps of the current scheme, plus consumers should find the simplified geometry chart easier to understand, too.

Size-specific tubing should maintain the intended ride feel across the range, and head tube lengths have dropped about 10mm across the board as a result of feedback from Omega Pharma-Lotto riders. Canyon says it also has a special integrated stem in development that will allow for extra-low handlebar positions.

Target frame weights for the Aeroad CF are 980-1,130g, depending on size – an increase of about 70-100g over a comparably sized Ultimate CF SLX. Thoma also admits that the Aeroad CF's slimmer tube shapes produce lower stiffness test numbers than the ultra-efficient CF or CF SLX but stresses that its better aerodynamics will still make it a faster – and more comfortable – bike in certain situations.

Wine country

We couldn't feel the slightly increased weight during our relatively short test rides around Il Borghetto di Andrea Tafi in Tuscany (the former Paris-Roubaix winner's idyllic bed and breakfast just outside of Lamporecchio), nor was any apparent speed increase readily apparent. But the subtly heightened comfort was definitely noticeable relative to our current Ultimate CF SLX test bike, especially up front where the softer front end was better able to suck up unexpected potholes and roughly finished asphalt patches.

The Aeroad CF also displayed excellent handling manners with the shorter-rake fork setting lending a subtly more stable feel than the CF or CF SLX at speed while still aptly carving through tight downhill switchbacks and flicking around last-second road hazards without ever feeling too twitchy (unfortunately, we didn't have a chance to sample the other setting during the launch).

However, that front end was also notably softer in torsion, too, which manifested in a springier but slightly less direct feel when hammering out of the saddle for sprints or steep climbs. Bottom-end stiffness remains very good for efficient power transfer while motoring on the flats but the Aeroad CF just doesn't exude quite the same edginess as its stablemates.

That being said, those riders who either don't need or want the CF or CF SLX's ultra-high stiffness but are looking for a fast, comfortable, and reasonably light machine for quickly gobbling up long stretches of pavement will find much to like when the Aeroad becomes available this fall. Canyon will offer five complete build kits, including Campagnolo Chorus, Record or Super Record or Shimano Dura-Ace or Dura-Ace Di2 component groups, all with Mavic aero wheels, Continental tires, and cockpits from Ritchey and Selle Italia.

Prices start at around €3,000 for the complete bikes but unfortunately, distribution is still mostly limited to continental Europe, at least for now. Canyon suggests that UK distribution is coming "very soon" – perhaps by year's end – but a US network still doesn't have a set timetable.

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