Cyclocross

Review: Canyon Inflite CF SLX 9.0 Cyclocross Race Bike – Cyclocross Magazine

The German company Canyon made a splash on the cycling scene a few years ago with a major pro tour team sponsorship and innovative direct-to-consumer sales model.

The company’s flagship cyclocross bike, the Inflite, drew some attention thanks to the can’t-miss kinked top tube design the company claims is for shouldering comfort.

However, with Mathieu van der Poel winning a World Championship and Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado a European Championship on the bike, the Inflite is now a common sight on cyclocross courses across the world.

The Canyon Inflite is World-Champ certified. Elite Men, 2019 Cyclocross World Championships, Bogense, Denmark. © B. Hazen / Cyclocross Magazine

We previously took a first look at the Canyon Inflite, and after a season of racing on the bike, we now have our full impressions of the frameset, the build and yes, the top tube design.

The $3,300 carbon Canyon Inflite CF SLX 9.0 Cyclocross Bike. © C. Lee / Cyclocross Magazine

The Frame

To start, let’s for a moment ignore the uncommon design features of the Inflite CF. None of the geometry parameters stray far from established cyclocross race bikes. The 72.5-degree headtube is just a hair steeper than common, the bottom bracket drop is an old school Euro 6.2mm—which is now considered “high”—but otherwise everything else is similar to other ‘cross race bikes from the last decade.

CF in the name stands for carbon fiber, which makes up the The Canyon Inflite is built for cyclocross racing and responds accordingly. Canyon Inflite CF SLX 9.0 Cyclocross Bike. © C. Lee / Cyclocross Magazine SLX frame in a monocoque construction. A medium frame has a claimed weight of 940g.

The frame geometry is fairly standard for a cyclocross race machine. Our medium size test bike has a 55cm seat tube combined with a 56.2cm toptube. The 146mm head tube sits at an angle of 72.5 degrees from the ground combined with a 73.5-degree seat tube angle. The chainstays are 42.5cm and the wheelbase is 101.8cm.

Those measurements give a stack height of 57.2cm and a reach of 39.3cm. The least common measure compared to cyclocross bikes of recent manufacture is the bottom bracket drop which is 6.2cm, which is high by comparison.

The Canyon Inflite has some unique design features, a couple which are probably obvious to the casual observer. First is the odd top tube-seat tube junction. Canyon representatives told us that this is to maximize the main triangle space for reaching to shoulder the bike and offer the maximum amount of exposed seatpost for a bit of flexure to aid comfort and control when in the saddle.

Canyon is not the first company to use a unique top tube / seatstay junction, as Wout van Aert’s old Colnago Prestige also had an unorthodox design.

The junction of the seat tube and top tube is very clean, with a bolt in the place of a seat clamp. Canyon Inflite CF SLX 9.0 Cyclocross Bike. © C. Lee / Cyclocross Magazine

A seatpost set screw accessible from the front of the seat tube substitutes for the seatpost clamp. This helps stay away from rear wheel spray and provide a clean look. The frame accepts a 27.2mm diameter seatpost, and with the amount of post exposure, the design allows for some flex at that diameter seatpost.

Another unique aspect of the Inflite is Canyon’s custom handlebar/stem combination. The post mount disc brake full carbon fork has a 1 ¼” straight carbon steerer rather than the more typical steerer that tapers from 1 ⅛” to 1 ¼” from the top to the fork crown.

Canyon’s Inflite bikes use a combination handlebar / stem called the H31 Ergocockpit. Canyon Inflite CF SLX 9.0 Cyclocross Bike. © C. Lee / Cyclocross Magazine

As a result, Canyon designed the H31 Ergocockpit CF with a combination carbon bar and stem with a flat top section that has an ergonomic bend back toward the rider. The handlebar/stem combination tightens to the steerer via two set screws that push against a plate.

Canyon delivers the H31 Ergocockpit CF in set combinations of stem lengths and widths matched to the frame size. Our medium review bike has a 42cm wide bar (center-to-center) and a 90mm stem length. The compact curve is flat on top and at the drops which is what you would want. If you like the levers higher, just move them up. Canyon claims a 42cm handlebar and 10cm stem weighs 335g.

Chainstays are typically the limiter for tire width, but the Infinite CF SLX has comfortable clearance for a 38mm tire and can manage a 42mm tire like the WTB Resolute on 21mm internal width rims with a tight squeeze.

The larger Inflite CF SLX models will not fit a 650b road plus wheel if you are looking to use such a wheel size for gravel. The two smallest sizes, the 3XS and 2XS, come with smaller 650b wheels the maintain the same geometry, but they too will not fit the pumped-up road plus tires.

The chainstays have plenty of clearance for the 33mm Schwalbe X-One tubeless tires and can fit tires as wide as 42mm. Canyon Inflite CF SLX 9.0 Cyclocross Bike. © C. Lee / Cyclocross Magazine

Both the seatstays and chainstays use a bridgeless design that provides a good aesthetic while maximizing tire and mud clearance. The down tube has a bend at the top that arguably provides clearance for the same, but can also serve to provide steering clearance for a suspension fork.

There is a pressed-on cover at the bottom of the PF86 BB that accesses the internally run derailleur cables for the front and rear. The brake control line also runs internally to a flat mount on the left chainstay.

The Inflite CF SLX has two water bottle cage mounts in the expected places, but that is all. There are no provisions for fenders or racks. This is a bike intended for racing.

Cables are internally routed through both the frame and front fork. Canyon Inflite CF SLX 9.0 Cyclocross Bike. © C. Lee / Cyclocross Magazine

The Build

Canyon has pared down its offerings since we received our review bike last year. The company now offers three builds—a high-end carbon build with SRAM Force eTap AXS, a middle carbon build with a mechanical SRAM Force 1 groupset and an entry-level alloy build with SRAM Rival 1.

Our review Inflite CF SLX 9.0 review bike came with a 2x Shimano Ultegra build. It had Shimano Ultegra 8000 derailleurs paired with ST-RS685 hydraulic brake / mechanical shift levers. The flat mount calipers were BR-RS785 models. The new Shimano Ultegra 8000 levers and calipers were not ready to ship when the bike was introduced, which explains the older models on our bike.

Canyon paired the derailleurs with a Rotor 3D crankset with 46/36t round chain rings. The Shimano Ultegra 11-speed cassette is an 11-28t, giving a racing gear spread.

The wheelset is DT Swiss CR 1600 Spline, a 1,700g (claimed) set with 23mm deep aluminum rims laced with straight-pull bladed spokes and aluminum nipples to DT Swiss Ratchet System hubs that look curiously similar to the Bontrager Aeolus 3 Pro hubs. The rims have a 21mm internal width and came mounted with Schwalbe X-One tubeless-ready 33mm tires.

The Inflite CF SLX 9.0 comes stock with DT Swiss wheels mounted with 33mm Schwalbe X-One tires. Canyon Inflite CF SLX 9.0 Cyclocross Bike. © C. Lee / Cyclocross Magazine

The 27.2mm diameter Canyon branded carbon seatpost has 25mm of setback.  A Selle Italia SLR light saddle completes the package.

The Ride

The Canyon Inflite is light, weighing in at 17.8 pounds complete without pedals. The saddle sits high thanks to the high BB and the SLR light saddle is hard.

This feels like a race bike. The first pedal stroke reinforces that feeling. The Inflite CF takes off from under you with each pedal stroke giving you the notion that there is no wasted effort.  The bike steers intuitively and everything you love about a great road bike applies here to this ’cross bike—it goes where you want it, delivering on whatever input you give it.

Think you can ride up it?  It’ll take you there. Sand? Lean back and apply the power and the bike takes you through. Tight chicane? It will apply your body english to get you through. You get the picture.

The Inflite has traditional cyclocross race geometry in the European style. That means steep angles with a high bottom bracket so you can pedal over a crest or through a trough. Its frame has the efficiencies needed for the maximum output in a short, fast race that is cyclocross.

Consequently, it is a stiff, spirited ride. You put your foot to the pedal and the bike jumps forward. Over rough surfaces and washboards, hold on for the ride, but on smoother track, this bike flies. Lean it over and the Inflite CF SLX carves around the corner exactly where you’re looking. I prefer a lower bottom bracket for fast courses, but the Infilte did not have any problem and arguably you can pedal through the turn more. The high bottom bracket lets you pedal through technical terrain, off cambers, over steep crests, and as you sink into thick mud!

The Canyon Inflite is built for cyclocross racing and responds accordingly. Canyon Inflite CF SLX 9.0 Cyclocross Bike. © C. Lee / Cyclocross Magazine

Our review sample has aluminum tubeless wheels with ’cross tires.  The DT Swiss Spline DB is a 1,728-gram wheelset, yet the bike with mechanical shifting across a double chainset with disc brakes still comes in under 18 pounds. Put on the race tubulars and you have a sub-17 pound race bike.

There is abundant clearance with 33mm tires in place for the type of mud that clings to your tires. In dry conditions, a 38mm gravel tire will fit comfortably. That wider tire with low pressure may smooth the ride a bit, but keep in mind the designed purpose of this bike—it is not really made for the long haul. Despite tire smoothing characteristics, you still feel the road surface through the frame and it seems to have a cumulative effect, at least psychologically.

Canyon offers a dedicated gravel bike in the Grail, which is a bike with its own unique design.

Canyon designed the Inflite with a level top tube like a traditional bike but wanted more seatpost exposed to take advantage of seatpost flex to add some compliance. Combining those elements gives the bike an odd look, but there is definitely more room to reach in to shoulder the Inflite without lifting it so high.

I’m less convinced about the seatpost flex, at least with the included post, though perhaps the ride would be harder with less post showing. I was also skeptical about the compression seat post clamp, but the post never slipped during our test period.

The Inflite’s H31 Ergocockpit CF is a good setup, I like the slight back sweep of the bars and the flat top. There is minimal adjustability with the H31 since it’s a one-piece handlebar and stem. Canyon does not sell the H31 Ergocockpit separately, so the size match to the frame size is what you get. Additionally, the Inflite’s 1 ¼” steerer is not standard so finding an alternative is not realistic.

We had the bike set up at its highest, with all the spacers below the stem and there was still a 5cm drop from the saddle to the bar top.  That may be a lower position than some people like.

Our medium bike came with a H31 Ergocockpit that has a 42cm handlebar and 9cm stem. Canyon Inflite CF SLX 9.0 Cyclocross Bike. © C. Lee / Cyclocross Magazine

The Verdict

The Canyon Inflite CF SLX is a cyclocross racing bike on par with the pedigreed rides such as the Colnago Prestige or Stevens Super Prestige. The light frameset, snappy steering and responsive ride certainly make it a bike built to fit the needs of superstars such as Mathieu van der Poel and Ceylin Alvarado.

One major drawback of the Inflite we would like to see addressed is the limited adjustability of the one-piece H31 Ergocockpit CF to allow for an easier switch to handlebars of different widths or stems of different lengths.

The Canyon Inflite is built for short hours of power, so it is not a silky-smooth ride, but a spirited one with distinct feedback of the surface below you. It is not harsh or sharp, but it is tight. If you are looking for a responsive race bike, the Inflite will do its part in bringing out the racer in you. The dedication and talent of a world champ are, of course, sold separately.

Canyon Inflite CF SLX 9.0 Specifications

MSRP: $3,299 as tested
Frame: Canyon Carbon Fiber, 940g claimed weight
Fork: Canyon Carbon Fiber with 114 carbon steerer: 1 ¼” straight steerer
Weight: 17.8 pounds, no pedals; 10.5 lbs without wheels or pedals
Shifters: Shimano ST-RS685
Crankset: Rotor 3D, 46/36t chain rings
Brakes: Shimano RS785, Shimano RT-99 rotors 160mm front, 140mm rear
Cockpit: Canyon H31 carbon bar/stem combination
Seatpost: Canyon carbon fiber 25mm setback, 27.2mm diameter
Saddle: Selle Italia SLR light
Wheels: DT Swiss CR 1600 aluminum tubeless clincher
Tires: Schwalbe X-One tubeless easy, 700c x 33mm
Warranty: 6 years, frame and fork (original owner)
Country of origin: Germany
More Info: canyon.com

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Photo Gallery: Canyon Inflite CF SLX 9.0 Cyclocross Bike

The $3,300 carbon Canyon Inflite CF SLX 9.0 Cyclocross Bike. © C. Lee / Cyclocross Magazine