Canyon Speedmax CFR Disc eTap tri bike review

Canyon have overhauled the Kona-conquering Speedmax to bring it bang up-to-date. But how do you improve on the five-time Ironman world champion bike of Frodeno and Lange? Jack Sexty finds out by testing its speed claims to the max…

Our rating 
4.7 out of 5 star rating 4.7
£12,949
Canyon Speedmax CFR Disc eTap tri bike

Every athlete knows that if you stand still, you fall behind,” say Canyon in reference to the development of their overhauled Speedmax triathlon bike. Much like the continually improving pro triathletes they sponsor (see recent Ironman world champions Jan Frodeno and Patrick Lange), Canyon decided it was time to get ahead of the game and set themselves the ‘toughest challenge in triathlon’, namely to make a bike that has had the men’s Ironman world champion sat atop of it for five years in a row even better and even faster.

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As well as their in-house team, Canyon called upon 11 other brands and experts to perfect the new Speedmax, provisionally with a UK RRP of £12,949. These included aerodynamics specialists Swiss Side, with Canyon claiming that the Speedmax project was “the most comprehensive aerodynamic development process of any bike ever at Swiss Side’s facilities”. In the wind tunnel, Canyon put a bespoke set of carbon-fibre spinning dummy legs on the bike to provide the most accurate readings.

Testing at speeds of 45km/hr, Canyon say the new top-of-the-range Speedmax CFR (Canyon Factory Racing) model that we have on test saves eight watts over the outgoing Speedmax CF SLX. Testing with the bike alone it increased to 8.9 watts and, with pro athletes on board, they say it was as much as10 watts. This is a significant amount at the pointy end of racing, worth up to 2:30mins over 180km according to Canyon’s engineers.

Canyon also claim the new entry-level Speedmax CF is pretty much just as aero as the previous top-end Speedmax CF SLX as used by Jan Frodeno and co. So, even if your budget is less than a third of the whopping £13k that the top-end CFR model costs, Canyon claim you’re still getting aerodynamics that were good enough for a quintet of Kona victories.

TECH AND SPECS

Canyon Speedmax CFR Disc eTap

The Speedmax is now disc brake-only through the CFR, CF SLX and CF SL ranges. All CFR and CF SLX bikes come with power meters, with Sram’s Red AXS power crankset and 12-speed Sram Red eTap AXS shifting on our model. The frameset is striking and UCI-illegal, with chunky, angular tube shapes dominating throughout. Massive fork legs provide a fairing over the disc brake caliper and, at the rear, the dropped seatstays are in line with the fork for cleaner airflow.

Canyon say weight, comfort and performance in crosswinds were all considered through every stage of the R&D process. It meant features such as the new integrated hydration system and toolbox also serve to balance out the weight distribution of the bike, and the integrated top-tube bento box (which is actually carved out inside the top tube) reduces the surface area of the cockpit and forks. To further improve comfort, all Speedmax bikes come with a 28mm rear tyre and 25mm on the front, and on our top-end bike they’re fitted to the distinctive Zipp 858NSW deep-dish wheels.

Canyon’s new cockpit, with an unusual ‘mono extension’ that they say looks tidier than two individual extensions and allows for more adjustment, further reduces the frontal area. Interestingly, the grips can be adjusted independently of the extension for perfect wrist position. The aerobars move up, down, back and forth, allowing you to alter stack by using the supplied fitting kit, and the mono extension adjusts between 35mm and 52mm to dial in your reach. If this Speedmax still isn’t expensive enough, you can upgrade to full-length Ergon armrests as used by Jan Frodeno for another €299.

Unless you’ve gone for a frame two sizes too big or small, geometry almost starts to become a moot point on a bike this adjustable because it allows you to make considerable changes to your position.
On our medium frame, a 51.9cm top tube and 8.3cm head tube with seat and head angles of 80.5° and 73°, respectively, adds up to a fairly low and aggressive ride. Yet the sliding aero seatpost and hugely adjustable cockpit means that your reach, seat angle and arm position can be all be altered significantly if you want to be more upright, super low or anything in between.

While we were confident the new Speedmax was never going to disappoint, we were expecting something special to justify that huge price tag. Testing during the winter months of a pandemic meant we couldn’t try the bike out in a race situation, but we did put in plenty of miles, test out all the tri-specific trickery and attempted to replicate how we would use it in a race. 

INTEGRAL STORAGE

The integrated storage is integral to what the Speedmax has to offer, and we spent more time than we’d care to admit tinkering with the features before hitting the road. Other than the supplied rear cage and two bottle mounts inside the main triangle, your nutrition, 700ml of fluid and flat kit are all housed inside the chassis. To demonstrate just how far tri bikes have progressed in five years, we attempted to load up our own 2015 Ridley Chronus with the equivalent amount of hydration, tools and gels. With two bottles, a large top-tube bag and saddlebag needed to house everything that fits inside the new Speedmax, it looked like a bike-packing set-up in comparison.

The toolbox above the bottom-bracket area comes with a CO2 adapter and tyre levers, with additional room for two CO2 canisters and an inner tube, and the cover slides on and off with ease for speedy race-day puncture repairs. The bento box comfortably fits in five 45g energy gels, and is probably the cleanest example of top-tube storage we’ve ever seen on a tri bike. The top opens from right to the centre and, while this could be just us, on the road we found ourselves forgetting which way it opened a couple of times, so we taped on a small arrow to remind us… after all, when you’ve spent nearly £13 grand on a bike to propel you to victory, every millisecond counts.

Opening up the bento box also allows you to perform your next party trick, as it’s here you’ll find a button to remove the 700ml hydration bladder. The unique system sees the bladder actually pack away into the downtube, connecting to a drinking straw and mouthpiece that attach magnetically to the mono extension when not in use. Removing the bladder allows it to be cleaned, and to fill it on the fly you simply push your bottle top down on the opening. A capacity of 700ml isn’t a huge amount and is nowhere near the 1.5 litres Specialized’s rear-mounted ‘Fuelcell’ can hold – but it’s close to a standard 750ml bottle’s worth, which is all you’ll want to slow down for at an Ironman aid station.

At times, the magnet that clamps the straw to the mono extension appeared to be too weak; and after adding Canyon’s bespoke computer mount to the extension, bending the straw around and getting it to stay in place was pretty much impossible. Canyon told us a stronger magnet will be used going forward, so hopefully a flapping straw won’t cost Speedmax customers watts in future.

COMFORT WINS

To ride the Speedmax is an absolute blast. It’s exhilarating on the flat, yet surprisingly stable and easy to handle in crosswinds, even with deep wheels. Canyon say integration is partly to thank for the stability, as the hiding of the bento box and hydration system reduces the surface area of the bars and fork, leading to a sailing effect in tough wind conditions. The low bottom-bracket area and chunky tubes also give the Speedmax a luxurious ride feel that dampens υ vibrations through rough roads, reminiscent of the hugely comfortable Quintana Roo PRSix.

The only slight discomfort was in our hands, as although the cockpit does allow for lots of adjustment, there’s not much you can do about the width of the grips. Canyon supply two 0.5cm inserts to widen them, which we installed straight away, but still our thumbs were touching when riding in the aero position. Although it makes for a tucked-in position that’s undoubtedly very aero, we found it was a little too narrow for us. This set-up also took a lot of getting used to before we were fully confident staying on the bars for extended periods on rough British roads.

Things were a different story at the base bars, as we found them very comfortable and ergonomic to grab onto for extended periods while climbing and descending. We’ve found that a lot of tri bikes sacrifice base-bar comfort, perhaps because ideally you won’t be using them much, but over 180km comfort wins are always appreciated.

Going uphill, the 9.1kg weight of the Speedmax doesn’t feel too hefty at all. Considering how much storage is included already for the weight, numerous lighter tri bikes probably end up heavier once you’ve added accessories. It’s impressively stiff, and we didn’t experience any creaking unpleasantness from the Sram DUB PressFit bottom bracket throughout the test period.

This top-end Speedmax is dripping with luxury and it’s all super bike-level stuff. The full 12-speed Sram Red eTap groupset is fast and flawless, with customisable shift buttons on the extensions and base bars, and the power meter provided accurate measurements throughout the test period. Fizik’s Mistica saddle is one of our favourites for tri, with a stubby nose for comfort in the aero position, and the finest Zipp wheels are the icing on the cake when you want to go blisteringly fast.

SERIOUS ADVANTAGE

While other top-end tri bikes launched in the last couple of years have had individual elements of what we want in a racing machine, the Speedmax comes the closest yet to ticking every box. The integration is clever and practical, the ride superb and it’s all fairly easy to live with, featuring proprietary components that can be assembled and disassembled in a flash.

The only place we’d want more adjustability is with the super narrow extensions, but that pro armpad upgrade is available if you’re fussy. Our other gripe was with the weak magnet to hold down the hydration system straw, but Canyon insist that a stronger one will be affixed to customers’ bikes going forward.

While current events have prevented Canyon-sponsored athletes from racing it at the highest level, based on our testing we’ve no doubt the Speedmax could offer them, and anyone else who invests in one, a serious competitive advantage

Canyon Speedmax CFR Disc eTap tri bike review
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