The world’s governing body for cycle sport—the Switzerland-based Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI)—rules that road bicycles raced competitively must weigh above 6.8kg or 14.99lbs. The regulation was established in 2000 with the ratification of the UCI’s so-called Lugano Charter of 1996.
The minimum weight restriction was imposed to ensure that teams compete on relatively similar machines to avoid disadvantaging cyclists from poorer nations.
“The real meaning of cycle sport,” argued the UCI in 1996, “is to bring riders together to compete on an equal footing and thereby decide which of them is physically the best.”
The UCI also believed the restriction would prevent manufacturers from dangerously downgrading the structural integrity of bicycle frames.
However, advances in technology mean the stipulation is long past its sell-by date—manufacturers can now easily build carbon-composite-framed bicycles that are well under the weight limit. Those team bikes that flout the rules have to be made heavier for use in competition through the use of weights attached to the frame, a ludicrous situation.
On August 11, Canyon, the world’s largest direct-to-consumer bicycle supplier, released a CFR (Canyon Factory Racing) version of its Ultimate road bike with a complete bike weighing just 13lb 11oz (6.2kg).
The German manufacturer admitted in a press release that it was producing a “UCI-illegal” bicycle.
While the Ultimate CFR can’t be raced in competitions sanctioned by the UCI, it may help to force the organization to shift on its 24-year-old rule.
“If we forget that the technology used is subordinate to the project itself, and not the reverse,” argued the Lugano Charter in 1996, “we cross the line beyond which technology takes hold of the system and seeks to impose its own logic.”
High-end bicycle manufacturers have long argued that the UCI’s stance prevents them from introducing technological improvements, which has hindered cycle sport. Innovations from cycle sport often filter down to consumer machines.
“Prototypes can be developed [that do not] have to take into account constraints such as safety,” argued the UCI’s Lugano Charter, fearing “radical innovations prepared in secret.”
“The Ultimate CFR is all about delivering unparalleled stiffness-to-weight for absolute efficiency,” says Canyon.
“Lightness is essential to these builds, but so is durability, which is why all 675g frames and 285g forks exceed our rigorous testing standards.”
The company statement adds: “This incredible weight is achieved by applying quality ultra-high modulus pitch-based carbon fibers rarely seen in the industry. The material is so special, we initially had to be granted exclusive permission by the Japanese Ministry of Defence just to gain access to it.”
Canyon started using these Japanese fibers in 2017 via the Chinese frame-maker Quest Composites. The exclusivity has since lapsed, and Quest Composites now also produces high-end frames for Trek USA using the same fibers.
There’s another connection with Trek: Canyon was spun out from what was once the largest Trek dealership in Germany.
Canyon Bicycles GmbH was formed in 2001 by the current CEO, 58-year-old Roman Arnold, and was the new company name for Rad-Sport Arnold, a large bike shop in Koblenz founded in 1985 as RTI Sports, a distributor of Italian road-bike parts. (RTI Sports was co-founded by Roman’s brother Franc, who later founded Ergon, the grips-to-saddles brand, also based out of Koblenz.)
Rad-Sport Arnold sold an own-label bike line called Radical, the name of which was changed to Canyon in 1996. The company started designing its own Asia-made bikes in 1998.
The brand has a clinically-clean, high-tech, new-build factory outside the city limits of Koblenz.
The Ultimate CFR is available online from today in two builds. The Ultimate CFR Disc Di2 (£7,149) is fitted with a Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 groupset and 50mm deep DT Swiss ARC 1100 DICUT wheels. The Ultimate CFR Disc EPS (£8,499) sports a Campagnolo Super Record EPS groupset and DT Swiss PRC 1100 25Y Anniversary wheels.