Lionel Sanders' New Canyon Speedmax CFR

Lionel Sanders got a new Canyon Speedmax just in time for the Tri Battle Royale with Jan Frodeno. Here it is, and I was surprised by some of what I found on it. This is of course the Speedmax CFR, and a lot of readers have noticed that there is an industry leading cockpit available on this bike (which Jan Frodeno uses), and which Lionel does not use.

I guess you could say there are 2 industry leading cockpits available on this bike, and Jan uses the long forearm armrests that have sprung up after the debut of the Speedbar, famously used by Victor Campenaerts when breaking the hour record. Jan’s set up on his Canyon Speedmax CFR is a little Canyon (the long armrests) and a little bit some one-off stuff only available to him.

Lionel has chosen not to use that available armrest, and uses instead the more traditional armrest. But the Canyon cockpit set ups used by both these men feature narrow elbows, and you can see this on Lionel’s Canyon.

I suspect this has a lot to do with his preparation for his hour velodrome run last year, where he rode 51.3km last October to smash the Canadian record. But that’s just with regard to narrowness. Lionel’s position on his new Speedmax CFR is a bit of a departure, and you can see the upward tilt in the bars not evident during his hour ride.

Of course, he’s not constrained by UCI rules in triathlon, specifically rules about BB-to-extension length, and about the degrees of aerobar angle.

Another obvious change, at least to me, is the groupset. Like Jan, Lionel is riding a SRAM AXS drivetrain, and is riding it 1x. Gearing is a little different. Jan rides a 52-tooth chain ring and a 10-28 cassette. Lionel is riding a 54-tooth ring and a 10-25 cassette. Perhaps I’m the last to know of this groupset change, but Lionel has been a Shimano rider for years, prior to (from what I now understand) last autumn. I do believe Lionel still rides Shimano road SPD pedals, and this is a departure from Jan, who (last I knew) remains a longtime Speedplay devotee (while Shimano is the dominant pedal among Kona triathletes, Speedplay just outleans Shimano at the tape as the most used pedal among Kona’s pro triathletes).

Another thing that’s changed underneath Lionel is his style of wheel and tire. He’s converted to tubeless and, at the pro level, triathlon is far and away the road-specific cycling activity that has embraced tubeless in a fulsome way. Most top pro Ironman racers in Kona ride tubeless. What tire is this? Lionel isn’t telling. I have my suspicions, however, based on the tread pattern, and what I’ve heard that particular tire companies are working on.

One thing unchanged is the wheel brand he’s on. Lionel’s bike is outfitted with, and he’ll be riding, a HED Vanquish RC8 Pro on the front (otherwise known as the V8), and Vanquish RCD Pro rear disc wheel. The V8 is an 85mm deep front wheel, and the internal rim width is 21.5 for both wheels. Both these wheels are, obviously, set up to be ridden tubeless.

Back to what is new: This is a BiSaddle he’s riding, an SRT1.0. The previous most notable (to me) BiSaddle users were Sika Henry – who continues to rave about her saddle – and James Lawrence, of IronCowboy fame. You could certainly count James as a great endorsement for the saddle, considering how well that saddle must perform for the miles and hours he spends on it.

But Lionel is a horse of a different color. He is by far the most high-performance one-day racer I’ve ever seen use this saddle. When I was in St. George, Utah, visiting the BiSaddle factory, I kind of bemoaned the opportunity I thought was lost by Lionel not meeting with the BiSaddle folks during that IRONMAN 70.3 week in May. But I fretted needlessly, because the two camps found each other anyway. If you read about the special capabilities of this saddle maker (in my factory visit write up), you could imagine why I think this is a nice brand match for Lionel. I hope this relationship bears fruit.

This is what Lionel sees when he rides. For those who have an interest, it’s Proverbs 19:21 and (because of course I had to check) it appears that Lionel’s translation choice is English Standard. As my eyesight is not what it used to be, I would have chosen the more succinct Proverb, 16:9, which conveys a similar ethic but which I could display in a larger font: “A man's mind plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.”

One last word about relationships. Lionel is, to the best of my knowledge, under contract with Canyon and HED. I do not believe he has a deal with SRAM, however he is a current user of both SRAM’s groupsets (at least on this bike) and Quarq’s power meter. He has no deal that I know of with BiSaddle, nor with a tire brand. This isn’t to say a deal of some sort of not forthcoming, just, I like you always add as a data point what an athlete rides when there’s no deal. This is the status for Lionel, on this bike, as of today, to the best of my knowledge.

PHOTOS: Courtesy Talbot Cox