When we poll Slowtwitchers, Canyon is the brand of tri bike that generates the most intrigue. Today I’m writing about the Speedmax CF 7.0 as part of our series on Entry Level Plus tri bikes. These are tri bikes aboard which you could win the Hawaiian Ironman with a little sprucing. The bikes in this category are among the most efficient values (not the least expensive, but the sweet spot in tech versus price).
I’ve done a lot of business with the founder and owner of Canyon, Roman Arnold. He and I have known each other for going on 30 years. He’s one of the true gentlemen in the business, and it’s been my pleasure to know both Roman and his brother Franc, who is the founder of Ergon (this brand's grips are on the Speedmax). Talented family! I don’t see them often enough.
Now, to this bike. There are benefits. There are hurdles. I’ll tell you what they are.
Price and Value
Canyon is the first direct seller (manufacturer to the consumer) of high quality bikes to successfully navigate the entire bike making process from design, testing, building proprietary molds and products, all the way to the consumer. The Speedmax CF 7.0 is an example of this.
This bike sells for $2,499 complete. I’ll reference back to the other bikes I’ve reviewed in this class, the Quintana Roo PRthree ($2,599), Cervelo P2 ($2,800) and the Felt IA16 ($2,999). These are all Shimano 105 bikes and so is the Speedmax CF.
You would assume you get more for your money because Canyon cuts out the middleman (your LBS). And sure enough, the Speedmax CF shows off its value in price (you can see how it compares above) and that it, alone among the bikes so-far reviewed, actually specs a 105 crankset as part of the 105 kit. It also specs 105 direct mount brake calipers.
This bike has Mavic Cosmic Elite wheels, and this again is a mild upgrade over the Shimano RS010 wheels that come on the Cervelo and the QR. Felt makes its own wheels, and Felt does a nice job on these. None of these wheels are going to cause you trouble.
If you’ve been reading Slowtwitch with any regularity you’ll see that I view Profile Design’s products as kind of BC and AD. There was what came before (J2 brackets, F19 armrests) and what came after (J4 and F35). In my opinion, this is the biggest meaningful change in aerobar tech in many years. The J4 bracket and the F35 armrest is on the Speedmax CF. Bravo! But this does create a fit limitation, which I’ll get to.
This bike specs a fi'zi:k Mistica saddle, and that may be a great saddle for you. According to our polling, tho, probably not. So, try it! But if it doesn’t work, the ISM PR2.0 is what comes stock on QR’s bike in this class, and so it goes. Spec’ing a saddle OE is a crap shoot.
Let’s finish up by talking a little about the decisions made on teeth count, lengths, and such. The bike is geared just like the QR, with a 52x36 chain ring set and an 11-28 cogset. I hope you see a pattern here. Only a couple of years ago tri bikes were frequently spec’d 53x39 and 11-25. That gearing’s fine if you live in Minnesota and you never travel outside of it. These tri bikes are finally getting spec’d in a way that actually matches how the typical owner rides.
This bike comes with cranks that range in length from 170mm to 175mm depending on the size (from XS to XL). That may be the one downside to spec’ing Shimano: It might be hard to reliably get shorter cranks. I don’t know. Or, maybe Canyon just isn’t in sync with my own thinking, that these crank lengths are, throughout the size run, 5mm longer than I would’ve chosen. Still, not a deal breaker by any means!
Fit & Adjustability
Let’s get right to the fit issue because this is a fair differentiator between these bikes. Then we’ll talk about aerodynamics, ease of use, and so forth. Deal?
The seat post has the capacity to accept a wide range of virtual seat angles. No issue there.
This bike is a mortal bike that seems like a superbike. Just like the Felt IA16. I say this because it’s got a proprietary stem that mates with headset bearings (can you see that bevel in the underside of the stem in the image above?) and the top tube storage (see those flange looking things on the topside of the stem, in the image below?), it looks very superbikey. But you can actually change out that stem, for another length of the same model stem or, of you want, some other brand of stem. It comes in three lengths: 70mm, 80mm, and 90mm. You get a longer stem when you order a bigger bike (the bike comes in 5 sizes, XS to XL). The stems are –17° in pitch (parallel to the ground).
All of this I like. I’m a big fan of flat stems and no spacers (getting height through armrest pedestals), and of stems about 3cm shorter than what I’d ride on my road bike. Canyon basically read my mind and did everything I would do if I still made bikes.
There is one hitch in the getalong. Direct sellers – and I deal with a number of them, notably Canyon and Diamondback (whose pro bikes are vastly underappreciated) – do not like to crack the case. You would think that direct sellers would be the kings of mass-custom (Trek Project One like processes). Not even. Accordingly, Canyon will sell you this bike, and the lid on the box in which this bike is enclosed, assembly in the Orient, is not going to be opened until you open it. That means the stem that comes on this bike is the stem you’re getting, unless you spend $99.95 to Canyon to buy, aftermarket, that same stem in another size.
So, while I’m not as much a fan of armrests clamped to extensions which are in turn clamped to brackets that are clamped to pursuit bars, that style (which you see on QR and Felt bikes) offers you more fit range than the bike here. This bike, the CF, has as its Pad X fore/aft range simply the ability move the pads to a forward or rearward hole. That’s it. unless you buy a shorter or longer stem.
But look, let’s say that’s what you do. You buy a different length stem from Canyon. That means you’re into this bike $2,599, which is still a great bargain! And you have that second stem. If you find you need it.
I think Canyon is figuring out the practical hindrances to selling bikes consumer direct in the United States. If you really find you need help, and you live in Munich, you fire up your V8 Audi, throw the bike in the trunk, and you’re in Koblenz in four and a half hours. But, what if you’re in Des Moines? Canyon is working on that. (I'll talk about Velofix and other options below.)
It’s my opinion that we’ll see a convergence of sales channels and models. Trek will end up looking more like Canyon and Canyon like Trek. Canyon has already started to reach out to your LBS, and mobile repair franchisees, and bike fitters. Perhaps the other stem lengths will find their ways onto the shelves of some of these establishments. Were I Canyon, I think that would be the smart play. Would you be more likely to buy this bike if the stems in all the sizes were available at your local bike fitter?
If you simply look at the frame geometrics, stack and reach, this is a rather tall bike versus its length (geometry chart is above). But it doesn’t fit that way, largely because the integrated stem (as with Felt’s IA16) sits on the frame with no headset dust cover or top cap. And, the stem is flat to the horizon. So this mitigates, or normalizes for, the otherwise taller frame stack. When I plunk my numbers into Felt’s IAx frame prescriber, I get almost exactly the same kind of fit prescription that I get with this bike: the lowest config available in a Canyon Speedmax CF is also about the lowest I can get on an IAx. This throughout the size run. In other words, the Speedmax CF is a consensus bike, fitwise; it’s not an outlier.
That said, all the bikes in this category are adjustable tall more than they’re adjustable low. Me, I don’t ride that low in front anymore, because at 61 years old I have some spinal impingement that keeps me from looking up (down the road). So I ride with my Pad Y (Pad Stack) of about 640mm. The Speedmax CF only goes down to 627mm. I couldn’t have ridden this bike in my prime without some tinkering with the stock parts. So, this is not a long and low bike, exactly.
That colorful thingy above, that is a Cartesian representation of the pink shaded area in the geometry chart above that. Sometimes graphing this makes it easier to see how bikes will fit. See that red circle? That's me. That's a Pad XY, to pad-center, of 640mm (pad rise, from the bottom bracket) x 505mm (pad run). See how I'm in the yellow shaded rectangle? Because my circle is right in the middle of it (horizontally), that means the length of the bike fits me perfectly, as is, bolts in the center of the armrest's 3 holesets, with the stem that comes on the bike. No $99 purchase needed for me! But if i was 10mm or 15mm off one way or the other, then I decide whether to pull the pads back or forward, or buy another stem. See? Now, that 640mm of pad height, that's 13mm above the floor of the bike's adjustability (with that aerobar). So, I'd add maybe 15mm of pedestals under the armrests and, presto, I'm pretty much bang on. I could ride this bike very easily.
But, what if I needed to be 13mm lower than the floor of that bike's adjustability, rather than 13mm higher? Let me return briefly to the "direct seller conundrum." You could make this bike lower by replacing this Profile Design aerobar with the upcoming Profile Design Subsonic. Were this bike sold at your LBS, let the horse trading begin! Will he take back your OE bar and replace with another, low profile bar, the way you could if this was a Cervelo P2 you bought from your local shop? Good question. Just sayin'.
And, look, just to put a coda on this, I’m fine with direct selling! And this bike wouldn’t be the value it is were it not sold this way. Just, before you go on our Reader Forum and complain about a direct sale purchase that didn’t go the way you want, bikes that pop out of the box very often require alterations before the bike is really yours in every ergonomic sense. Just, you know, have a plan for that, whether it’s a local bike shop, mobile bike service, local bike fitter, or your own wrenching skills.
Canyon has a fit system, called PPS for Perfect Positioning System and it’s not going to help you for this bike. My counsel is, if you want this bike go on our Reader Forum, let’s start the Canyon Speedmax owners thread (every popular tri bike has one), post your particulars and a few of us will help you sort out what to order.
One more thing. That Cartesian plot above, David Bowden from Velogicfit (cyclenutnz on our Reader Forum) helped me with the plot points on that chart. But if you look at the image of the handlebar area below, you see that spacer between the frame and the stem? I will probably circle back and write another article only about a bike prescriber for this and other Canyons, talking about how and when to use that spacer. They need a better prescriber. I'll just probably build it myself. Expect that sometime this spring, when I get a moment.
I’ve never ridden this bike. It’s not quite the bike I’d have built but that's okay. It’s got a 420mm chain stay, which is long. But I don’t mind that chain stay. I designed my own gravel bike and it’s got a 430mm chain stay. But, that’s not what I have on my tri bike. I’m more of a 395mm guy. The P2 has a chain stay of 405mm. The QR has a 395mm.
The wheelbase of the PRthree, in “my” size, is 101.7cm. The wheelbase of the Speedmax in size L is 103.7cm. That extra 2cm may not seem like a lot, but you can feel 2cm. Just, I’d rather have that extra 2cm in the back rather than reflected in the bike’s front-center (bottom bracket to front wheel axle). Extra F:C really changes the steering, because there's a pivoting joint between the BB and the front wheel axle (the steering axis). That you can feel. Extra chain stay reflects more in weight displacement.
You never know how a bike’s going to handle just by looking at a geometry chart. (And, this geometry chart is missing stuff, like front center, trail, head angle, fork offset; if you're going to be a direct seller, by gosh, give customer more not less; as there is no reseller to fill in the gap!) Based on the geometry you can make guesses, but you just won’t know. Obviously the folks who’ve been recently winning the Hawaiian Ironman have not had any difficulty with the handling of their Speedmaxes! Bottom line, I have seen the entire geometry chart, I have no problems with how this bike was designed, I expect it handles very nicely.
Do you mummify your top tube with gels and a half a roll of black tape? Does your bike, when Ironman ready, look like the Beverly Hillbillies’ truck? This bike solves it for you. The Speedmax CF may have the cleanest looking (and roomiest) top tube storage unit of all sub-$3000 tri bikes. In fact, very few bikes below $3000 have any top tube storage device (QR’s PRthree being one of the few).
That cool compartment accessed at the back of the top tube on the fully integrated Speedmaxes is missing here. I think a customer's reasonable expectation for cutting edge bikes of today, in this price category, is pre-planned, already-tested, hydration and storage systems (for both food and tools, spares, inflators and so forth – everything you need). Canyon is halfway to the goal with this bike. Felt likewise, but it’s got the other half covered (with its rear storage). QR has both storage units; Cervelo neither. You can buy these items aftermarket. But, you know...
The bike looks pretty darned fast! I wish I could say more. I just couldn’t find much comparative aero data, either on this or any Speedmax. Tour Magazine did some comparative testing that included some Felts, BMCs, and Cervelos, but I don’t know much about the testing, such as, were all the bikes tested on the same day or if not were they normalized for temp and humidity, and so forth? If you blind yourself to all such questions it appears the Speedmax SLX and 9.0SL tested quite favorably, in general.
The only rough comparison you can torture out of the literature is by looking at multiple tests, i.e., the Speedmax tested like this against the P5, and in somebody else's test the P5X tested like this against the P5, ergo the Speedmax is this much faster or slower than the P5X, that sort of thing. Doing that, the Speedmaxes look good. Still, Canyon’s tri bikes are just noticeably absent of data to date.
Why? Because most of the testing occurs in the U.S., and Canyon hasn’t been in the U.S. until very recently.
When you sponsor a Pro Tour team, these teams are very picky about stuff like aerodynamics. It’s hard to imagine Canyon not making a first rate aero bike if it’s going to be used by the top triathletes and the top cyclists riding it.
Ease of adjustment
This is the nice thing about mortal bikes! I’ve built a lot of bikes from the ground up. Some go together easy, some, well, not so much. I’ve not built this bike up, and you don’t have to. One nice thing about consumer direct is that nowadays they tend to come in big boxes, fully built, and you’re aboard and riding in 20 minutes.
Because these are typical, direct mount Shimano brakes, adjustment is a breeze (the more expensive your Speedmax, the more the brakes tend to be hidden, and less easily adjustable; but that’s the case with most superbikes). What I have heard is that the build and adjustments are easy. I know that the PD J4/F35 system makes aerobar adjustment easy, and the bike comes with all the bolts and pedestals to raise the aerobars about 50mm. The bike also comes with PD’s Figure-8 spacer to slide under the armrest. Don’t use the Figure-8. It messes with the spatial relationship PD has in mind between its pads and extensions.
Pathway to purchase
The bike is going to come to you by ground shipment for $89 or thereabouts. If you just can’t wait to get your hands on one it’ll arrive tomorrow for $175. Canyon has a partnership with Velofix, where you can get your bike delivered, built, ready for $95. These are reasonable charges.
Canyon collects sales taxes from the following states: California, Colorado, Utah, Idaho, South Carolina, New York, Hawaii, Pennsylvania, Washington, North Carolina. Not listed as places sales tax gets charged are some big triathlon states, like Texas and Florida.
Canyon has a liberal return policy: If you get it and you don’t like it you can return it for a full refund. If you get it, ride it, don’t find it’s correct, return it for a full store credit. Canyon will provide return shipping Fedex labels. Don’t throw the box away for 30 days! You’ll play heck finding that box! Canyon also confirmed to me they pay the return freight.
When I calculate up all the value here, it seems to me this bike should cost about $3,000 if it sold through your LBS. Perhaps a bit more. I base this on the upcharges you’d pay for wheels, brake calipers, crankset and so forth. You’re getting a nice discount at $2,500. Plus, this is a very nice bike!
Just, realize there are some charges your LBS would absorb, such as, shipping and assembly. A stem swap if you need a different stem. Perhaps, after that stem swap is made, the pedestals are inserted, and so forth, your LBS maybe decable the bike, cut the housing to proper size, cable it back up. So, Velofix’s $95, the $95 in freight, the $99 for the stem swap, you see the point here: The value gets incrementally skinnier the more you need help with your direct purchase.
On the other other hand, when you deal with Canyon you’re dealing with the manufacturer directly, which means if you have an issue and you’re the kind of person who likes that direct relationship, you have it.
So, my guidance to you is not so straightforward with these bikes as it used to be. Before, it was just the bike. Do I like the bike? Is it a value? Now we have to talk about the pathway to your purchase of this bike, and what that might mean. Me? I have all the tools and most of the knowledge. I’m a great candidate for a purchase direct from the manufacturer. Are you? You must answer that.
But as to the bike, the Canyon Speedmax CF 7.0 appears to me to be a terrific bike at a great price. Final thing. Here is what Canyon told me: "The Speedmax CF 8.0 Di2 ($4999) will be back in stock by the end of this month. The other low inventory bike, Speedmax CF 7.0 ($2499), will follow shortly thereafter. The SLX version of the Speedmax is basically on a revolving door: As soon as they come in, they immediately go back out. To help manage demand, we’ve recently introduced a stock notification system (found on each model page under the availability button) that will alert customers when their desired bike is available for order."