Canyon Ultimate CF SL 9.0 Ultegra (Review)



⭐⭐⭐⭐ (Excellent)

+ Great all-rounder
+ Flawless groupset and great wheels
+ Surprisingly good finishing kit

– Quite generic in the looks department
– White hubs!
– Poor tyres
– Inability to test-ride before buying

Canyon Ultimate CF SL 9.0 Ultegra (£2000)

It’s been rather a long time since my holiday so apologies for the delay in getting this review up for the Canyon Ultimate CF SL 9.0 Ultegra road bike that I rented for just over a week.

Canyon’s Ultimate  is a race proven road bike that has been wildly popular and is its race bike in its road bike line-up with the Aeroad being its aero offering as the name would suggest and the Endurace for the endurance / comfort category. It’s a great all-rounder that is suitably light (unfortunately I didn’t have scales to hand but Canyon have this listed at 7.1kg but I would estimate it to be in the mid-to-high 7’s as it didn’t feel quite as light as my Trek Emonda) for a Large frame. The model that I rented was the CF SL which is its second-rung frame with the SLX being its lighter frame made of a higher-grade carbon fibre and having a one-piece handlebar/stem combo. It is specced with a Shimano Ultegra 6800 mechanical groupset and Mavic Ksyrium Pro Exalith wheelset with finishing kit being provided by Canyon and a Fi’zi:k Antares saddle.

I was extremely impressed by this bike – it is suitably light, very comfortable and feels quite fast when out on the roads – it does have some aerodynamic features in its seat tube towards the bottom bracket shell which is a little truncated. There’s nothing screaming out in terms of interesting tube shapes here – it’s just a great all-rounder that is a good climber but equally fast when on the flats. The bike felt very planted on the road and I was never uncomfortable on it. It’s even capable on gravel – there were a few times where I found myself on gravel tracks and the bike managed to handle it ok.

The Shimano Ultegra mechanical groupset was as expected, flawless and the 52/36 paired with an 11/28 cassette was adequate for the Sardinian hills which were long but never too steep – I normally ride a compact. The wheels supplied by Mavic are the Ksyrium Pro Exalith and I was extremely impressed by the Exalith braking surface which gave me plenty of confidence when descending down twisty roads. Just a shame that the hubs are white which get dirty very quickly and detract from the bike’s stealth black colour scheme. The tyres supplied by Mavic not so much though, I would upgrade them once they’ve worn but at least they were 25c so they were fairly comfortable however I understand Canyon’s need to spec this as the tyres will have came with the wheels from their stock.

The bike is finished with a Canyon-branded stem, handlebar and carbon seatpost which were all surprisingly sublime – the handlebars had a really nice shape to the, the stem felt plenty stiff and the carbon seatpost helped improve comfort. The Fi’zi:k Antares saddle was decent as well but for me, a little long in the nose –  I personally prefer an Aliante.

For the money (£2000), this bike is extremely well-specced and to have wheels of this calibre at this price point is testament to Canyon’s unique online selling model and I suppose that is the real downside to this bike, you can’t really test-ride before buying it (unless you travel to their German headquarters).

The bike is also a little Germanic in look and doesn’t really offer much in the way of an exciting paint job – it’s plain black with its logo’s in white. I suppose if you are after the stealth look, the bike’s a winner but I am a little bored with the bike industry and particularly the Germans sticking to black.

Other than a few cosmetic quibbles, with an upgrade in tyres the Canyon Ultimate CF SL 9.0 Ultegra is a versatile all-rounder that can be used for anything. It is a great blend of comfort, speed and aerodynamics and if you wanted to adapt the bike for either these needs, you could do. If you wanted an endurance rig, stick some wider tyres on it and perhaps some thicker bar tape likewise if you wanted to make the bike more race-orientated, stick some deep-section wheels on and slam that stem! I was really impressed with this bike and I didn’t want to give it back!

⭐⭐⭐⭐ (Excellent)


Cycling In Sardinia


Despite cycling for three and a half years now, this Summer was the first time I ventured abroad and had the opportunity to ride on foreign roads. Earlier on this month, I went to Sardinia for 2 weeks and managed to rent a Canyon Ultimate CF SL 9.0 (I’ll review it soon) in the middle of the 2 weeks for a week. Now Sardinia may not be as famous for its cycling as say, France or Spain are but looking online beforehand, many cyclists were shouting praise for the cycling on this island for its smooth tarmac and variety of climbs. I have been to Sardinia before about 10 years ago but that was just on a holiday so knew that the country had some beautiful views but was unaware of what the cycling scene was like there.

Cycling in Sardinia is stunning. The main roads are generally much smoother than in the UK but when you go off the beaten path, some of the roads can turn into gravel rather quickly which luckily the Canyon was more than up for! There are plenty of long climbs with an awe-inspiring view at the top but nothing that’s ever too steep – the UK’s hills are a lot shorter but the gradient is much bigger. One particularly impressive climb was the SP3 / 50 out of Siniscola, a town between Olbia and Nuoro which had an elevation of 600 metres followed by the best descent I have ever done into Torpé.

My favourite place to ride in the area that I was staying was a small town called Posada between Siniscola and Olbia which had some great roads circling the old town which was on a hill – I went through here on all of my rides bar one. There is a great café in the main square which is always moderately busy but keenly priced and has a great atmosphere. The old town is also nice but on a bike, all the roads are cobbled which is interesting for an experience but is sketchy when descending back down into the main town.

Italian drivers are notorious for being rather erratic but I actually found them to be nicer to cyclists than they are to cars and they give you plenty of room when overtaking. In terms of other cyclists, I didn’t see that many but most people who passed me would always greet me so the impression I got was that the cyclists are quite friendly. Of course, Italy wouldn’t be Italy without the café’s and the coffee on offer was stunning. My two joint favourite café’s was the one in the main square in Posada and the other one was in Bodoni about 5 miles north of Posada which not only served a range of coffee’s but also ‘cream di café’ which the best way to describe it would be a coffee-flavoured Mr Whippy that was amazing.

I was very downhearted when I had to give the bike back as cycling here is just so wonderful and the atmosphere is great too. I suppose the only negative for cycling here was that I did get chased by two dogs in the space of 6 rides but you can’t have everything! I would definitely recommend cycling here if you can as the views are spectacular and there is a bit of everything for everyone – mountains, coastal views and roads off the beaten tracks thrown in with excellent café’s. I suppose the only negative for cycling here was that I did get chased by two dogs!

Continental Grand Prix 4 Seasons (Review)


Image from

So now that I’ve pretty much put my Winter bike away and bring out the Summer steed, the Continental Grand Prix 4 Season tyres that I have used all Winter also go away and I have to say that I have generally been pretty impressed. Previously on my Winter bike, I have used the stock tyres that came with it, Hutchison Equinox which proved quite a sketchy ride and Vredestein Fortezza TriComp tyres that were fantastic but unfortunately not available in a 25c format. So the 4 Seasons were quite a big upgrade but after having them constantly recommended to me and also as my Vredestein’s had completely worn out, I thought I’d give these a go. I went for the 25c version to see what all the fuss was about with wider tyres bringing more comfort and now that I have used 25’s, I will never be reverting back to 23’s.

The 4 Season’s roll extremely well and are very reliable tyres. You do lose some speed as they are more heavy duty than the Vredestein’s but for the puncture protection, it’s a drawback I’m willing to accept. However, my rear tyre was completely ruined after about 3,000 km which is a bit of a shame considering the fact that they were quite expensive but there is a lot of flint in the Chilterns and I do ride on some pretty bad road surfaces so I think this is more down to pot luck than the quality of the tyre. However, the front one is still fine so come next Winter, I’ll just replace the rear one. The tyres are pretty easy to fit but I do have fairly wide rims on my wheels and the 25c size is perfect – there is a noticeable increase in comfort from the 23’s but I don’t think I’d go up to 28’s as they would probably be a little sluggish.

A lot of people that I know or ride with also swear by Continental Gatorskins and the GatorHardshell’s which are even more durable and offer better puncture protection. I might try these in the future but my initial thoughts are that I did feel a decrease in speed on the 4 Season’s so I would hope that the decrease in either of those tyres wouldn’t be too dramatic.

Overall, I’ve been very impressed with the 4 Season’s – apart from me ruining the rear tyre, they have been pretty much puncture resistant (1 puncture before multiple ones when the rear tyre was worn) but they do lose a star for the price of them – only buy these when they are on offer. £49.95 is an absolute rip-off and if you’re lucky, you can find these for slightly under £30 if you know where too look. They are brilliant for using in the Winter and you won’t regret making the change.

⭐⭐⭐⭐ (Excellent)

New Releases for Campagnolo


Campagnolo have certainly had quite a good day today releasing 3 new products to the cycling world. They have announced a new groupset to rival Shimano Ultegra, an update to its Shamal wheelset and have finally announced prototypes for their entry into the disc brake world. I won’t go into too much detail as that is all online but here I’m just going to explain the most important aspects to these systems and offer my views on them.


Hmmm, Shimano pedals with a Campagnolo groupset…???          Image by Matt Wilkstrom, CyclingTips. Article –

New Groupset

Campagnolo have announced a new groupset that sits above Veloce and Athena but below Chorus, Record and Super-Record. It is called ‘Potenza’ and as you would expect is 11-speed. It’s mostly made of aluminium and now has the option to be used with an 11-32 cassette, something which Shimano and SRAM have offered for a while. The complete weight of the entire groupset is 2,303g which is pretty competitive. However as a groupset that is designed to rival Shimano Ultegra or SRAM Force, it costs £200 more. In terms of performance, I doubt this being able to beat its competitors in this respect and both groupsets perform fantastically. I like how Campagnolo are sticking with the four-arm spider used in Chorus, Record and Super-Record to give it more exclusivity into the upper regions of their groupsets and of course, looks are very aesthetically pleasing. However, if I were to build a bike up I would definitely opt for Chorus over Potenza simply because you get a lot more (namely carbon exotica!) and its performance is similar to Shimano Dura-Ace.


New Wheels

First developed more than 20 years, Campagnolo Shamal’s have been a popular wheelset and the upgrade to this latest iteration is the increase in rim width to 17mm to better accommodate 25c tyres to increase comfort when riding, similar to what Mavic have done with their wheels recently.


Image from Campagnolo copy

Disc Brakes

Campagnolo have finally unveiled prototypes for their disc brakes which they are going to be trialling. Unfortunately for all you Campag lovers, you won’t be able to get your hands on this just yet but it’s reassuring to know that it will be released in the not-too distant future. Of course, it’s hydraulic (would you ever expect Campagnolo to release a mechanical disc brake?!) and Campagnolo have been able to preserve the ergonomics of their existing shift levers although they are slightly taller like Shimano and SRAM to house the hydraulic fluid reservoir. Whilst I am happy that Campagnolo have finally entered the disc brake market, I was expecting the shift levers to look a little nicer aesthetically. Although it’s only a prototype at the moment, it looks a little bit like a MicroShift shifter (pictured below) and that’s not a compliment!


Mechanical Doping

Although mechanical doping has been hinted at for many years, now there is finally a case. Belgian Cyclocross rider, Femke Van den Driessche has been caught using a motor at the World Championships although at the moment, she denies having used the affected bike in the race. The motor was found in the bottom bracket region of the bike. Ironically, she abandoned the race due to a mechanical fault. Whilst we will see if she is telling the truth and if she ever will be allowed to race again, this is very serious for cycling as a sport.

I don’t understand why people feel the need to cheat. Cycling is a sport, and sport is something that can be done recreationally or competitively but cheating makes the sport look like a business and isn’t a testament of natural talent. Undoubtedly, the UCI will be cracking down on checking bikes and will hopefully catch anyone else cheating. But the notion of motorised cheating has been something that for years has been dismissed now is very much a reality.

Rapha Festive 500 – DONE!


So, it’s all over and done with – 500km between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve and boy was it hard! The ‘Rapha Festive 500’ challenge has tested cyclists since 2010 and after being caught up at work last year, I thought I would give it a go this year. I knew it was going to be hard but the last couple of rides really did put pay to my legs. It works out at 40 miles a day which in itself is manageable.

As I knew I would have problems to ride 40 miles on Christmas Day and Boxing Day respectively, I decided to make up the mileage and rode 80 miles on Christmas Eve which wasn’t too challenging. I was planning on a short ride on Christmas Day but the weather looked less than appealing and ended up putting it off and rode 25 miles on Boxing Day – already behind! Luckily, I managed to make up the mileage on Sunday with a 55 mile ride in what was originally meant to be another 80 miler, but I just didn’t have it in the legs.

At this point, I was at the half-way mark (250km) but plan-wise, behind due to not riding the 80 miles on Boxing Day. This was going to be tough! From this point onwards, my legs ached on each and every ride and the average speed of each ride plummeted – this was really tough! On Monday, I rode another 25 miler as I didn’t want to push it after putting in a big ride on Sunday. This was followed by a 65 miler on Tuesday which completely wrecked me. At this point, I had 95km left and was a little stumped how to finish this challenge. As my legs were finished, I contemplated finishing in two rides splitting the distance or just doing it in one ride with Wednesday as a recovery day. This was what I ultimately ended up doing although I did plan on riding on Wednesday but the weather was especially foul. So a final 60 miler on New Year’s Eve and challenge completed and boy, do my legs now ache!

I’m glad I’ve completed this challenge as I’ve proved to myself that I’m capable of doing the distance but in all honesty, it took up a lot of my Christmas as I had to dedicate lots of time to it and I don’t think I’d be willing to do it again. But as a challenge in itself, I’m proud that I  completed it.

The lengths us cyclists put ourselves through just for a roundel!

ABLOC Bottles – First Look!


‘ABLOC’ are an American company based in San Francisco that have recently brought out the  ‘Arrive S’ water bottle which reportedly has antimicrobial technology embedded in the body which means it is resistant to mold, bacteria and odours. A bottle may be a trivial thing but the amount that I have gone through where they have got dirty after 5 or 6 rides or so – I am hoping the ‘Arrive S’ is able to buck this trend.

The ‘Arrive S’ is a 550ml water bottle which isn’t the biggest when it comes to cycling but is certainly manageable. It weighs approximately 65g.  ABLOC are reportedly intending on releasing a larger model in Spring 2016. It come in various colours but I have chosen red to match my bike. It will set you back $12 (just over £8) however ABLOC are keen on marketing this, so look out for special offers!

I will be using this over the next couple of weeks and will review it afterwards.

There is more information on the ABLOC website.

Winter-Proof Your Steed

Winter really will take a toll on your bike, so it’s a good idea to either have your bike ready or get it ready now as the weather takes a turn for the worst. Here are my tips on how to winter-proof your beloved steed:


Image from Dolan Bicycles

Winter Bike

If finances allow, invest in a Winter bike. This will prove economical in the long run and there’s no better feeling than jumping on the nicer bike in the Spring and having a morale boost. Opt for aluminium in a winter bike rather than carbon and go for a lower down groupset such as Shimano Tiagra / 105, Campagnolo Veloce or SRAM Apex / Rival. Put the carbon Cosmic’s away and have some reliable, steady Winter wheels such as Mavic Aksium’s or Fulcrum Racing 5’s. Websites such as Ribble ( or Dolan ( offer Winter builds with full-length mudguards fitted as standard. A cyclocross bike would do the job well too.



This will keep not only your bike cleaner, but also yourself and fellow riders. Full-length mudguards work best but are a pain to fit, but even a set of clip-ons will suffice.


Image from


Stick some wider, more puncture resistant tyres during Winter for added comfort and less likelihood of having to fix punctures. Opt for a 700x25c or 700x28c tyre for more comfort. Unlike a winter bike where you go for a cheaper build, winter tyres are an aspect where you should get them right. I really like the Continental Grand Prix 4 Seasons as they have the perfect balance between speed / puncture resistance and comfort. If you look around, you’ll quite often pay much less than the full RRP.


Image from Exposure


The days are shorter in Winter, so have a good pair of lights permanently mounted onto the bike just in case you get caught out. I like to have 2 on the front, 1 flashing and 1 static so I am better seen.


It’s a good idea to free up some space in your jersey pockets for other Winter essentials so stick your tools in a saddlebag. Winter’s not a weight contest, so the extra weight here is worth it. Never use a frame bag!


Image from TheHub

Bar Tape 

Not an essential but it’s a good idea to wrap some thicker bar tape to reduce vibrations from the road and improve comfort. I really like the Lizard Skins DSP 3.2mmm Bar Tape

Image from Park Tool


It’s a good idea to either service your bike or get a bike shop to service your bike before the Winter season and after to ensure your bike is in the best condition it can be. There’s nothing worse than having a mechanical during the pouring rain and freezing temperatures. Also, make sure you clean your bike regularly (I clean mine every ride in the Winter) to get rid of road spray and grit on the icy roads. This will also prolong the life of your drivetrain components, particularly your chain and cassette.

Your bike now should be ready for Winter!

Buyers Guide To Winter Clothing

Bike blog : A young woman rides a bicycle under heavy snowfall

There’s been quite a few guides published recently on bike websites such as Bike Radar, and Cycling Weekly to name a few. This guide will detail my experiences of what to wear for Winter. Whilst it will undoubtedly draw parallels to other website’s guides, I hope you can take something away from my guide.

The key thing to recognise is that if you are a novice to road cycling and it is your first Winter, Winter clothing is an expensive outlay but remember, it should last you for years and that outlay will pay dividends in the long run. From experience of working in a bike shop, many customers skimp on winter clothing. Remember – buy cheap, buy twice! The saying couldn’t be more true here.


Your normal helmet is fine, but if you own an aerodynamic helmet, Winter’s a great time to wear it as it will keep your head even warmer due to a lack of ventilation!


Cap / Skullcap

These are two brilliant, cheap investments and will really keep your head warm. You don’t need to spend masses here – just something nice and simple and your head will thank you for it. Wear a skullcap when it gets below 5 degrees.



Another good, cheap investment – this will cover the opening between your jersey and your neck and stops the cold from getting in.  A buff can be substituted in transitional weather (as Autumn changes to Winter) as a bandana for your head and can also be used in the Summer as a replacement for a cap.



I personally do not currently use any eyewear when cycling as I find it distracting, but I can understand the reasons why you should. It stops your eyes from watering up and improves vision, so these are important. Swap your Summer lenses for a clear lens if you can.


Base Layer

A very important component of winter clothing, a good base layer will help wick away moisture. You don’t need to spend masses here, although the more you spend the better the base layer is at wicking away moisture.

TIP – Base Layers from Decathlon (an all sports shop) are fantastic value and cost £2.99 per base layer. I have a mountain of them as they’re so good! (


Jersey / Jacket

Definitely wear a long-sleeved jersey, ideally one made of merino wool to help keep you warmer. When it gets really cold, try experimenting with wearing another base layer or maybe wear your thinner, more breathable Summer jersey underneath your Winter one.

A jacket is not essential, but is a very worthy piece of clothing. For transitional weather, something like an Endura Packajak ( will do the job and you can just pull it out when it starts to chuck it down. You can also buy Winter jackets that could be used as jerseys as well which are extremely good, but you will pay a premium for them. It’s very hard to buy a cheap winter jacket that is windproof, waterproof and breathable – the Castelli Gabba for example ( is designed to do all three at a premium but does the job excellently.



Gloves are an essential piece of clothing as they keep your hands and fingers warm. Gloves are a pain because they take a bit of experimenting to get right (you may find you’ll buy three pairs before you find the right one) but gloves should be used all year round anyway. Perhaps experiment with a thin layer and then a thicker glove over the top in very cold conditions.

Image by Henry Robertshaw, Cycling Weekly article –

Bib Tights

An extremely important piece of clothing – DO NOT skimp here. In conjunction with the correct saddle, a quality pair of bib tights will improve comfort massively. Definitely buy ones that are padded. In transitional weather, you could buy some 3/4 length ones (I don’t) or use arm / leg / knee warmers. Articles such as the Castelli Nanoflex Bib Tights even protect you from rain to a degree as they trap particles in the middle of the garment – but it’s not fully waterproof. It’s a good idea to have a couple of pairs so that you don’t end up washing your kit all the time.


Image from Scott-Sports

Arm / Knee / Leg Warmers 

An alternative to 3/4 length bib tights are knee or leg warmers. These are great for transitional weather and in the height of Winter, you could even use these as an extra layer under bib tights. A very worthwhile purchase.


Image from Moose.Eu


Wear these over your shoes to keep your feet and toes warm. You could even buy a dedicated pair of Winter cycling shoes, but these are probably a more cost-effective option. If possible, buy multiple sets of overshoes for different weathers – I find mountain bike overshoes better as they’re thicker and thus warmer. Some brands, such as Castelli have introduced a “Toe Thingy” which is essentially half an overshoe – a good idea for transitional weather. (

TIP – Try wrapping silver foil around your feet before putting your shoes in. Your feet have the effect of a baked potato and this is a simple, inexpensive way of keeping your feet even warmer from the elements.


Image from


So you should now be on your way to a warm, comfortable Winter period on the bike with the right clothing. Yes, it will cost you if this is your first time but remember, this should all last you a long time.



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Ratings System for Bike Reviews

When bikes are reviewed, they will be given a rating out of 5:

⭐ (Awful)

⭐⭐ (Poor)

⭐⭐⭐ (Good)

⭐⭐⭐⭐ (Excellent)

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (Masterpiece)

A Little Bit About Me 

I got into road cycling in March 2013 through a friend and since then, I have really got the cycling bug. I joined a local club in June 2013 where I attend their club runs and organise an Annual Hill Climb challenge. I have taken part in many Sportives and Time Trials over the past couple of years. At the moment, I don’t aspire to race but I would like to have a go at Cyclocross. My interest in road cycling was further heightened when I secured a job at a bike shop in September 2014 and working at a bike shop has allowed me to get a deeper insight into mechanics, the cycling industry as a whole and learn more about new technological innovations. I’m also fascinated in the culture that cycling has ingrained on the world since its inception.