Review: 2018 Canyon Inflite CF SLX
August 22nd, 2017
August 22nd, 2017
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The Inflite CF SLX is the first full-carbon cyclocross bike that Canyon has produced, and it’s radically different to its aluminium Inflite predecessor. Switching to carbon enabled the engineers to take a fresh look at what a racer really needs from a bike, and allowed them to produce one of the lightest disc frames on the market with a claimed weight of 940g for a size Medium.
Well, basically Canyon engineers have taken cues from the mountain bike scene and produced something with a real off-road feel. They have given the old Inflite design a longer reach, shorter stem, and wider bars. New this year is the H31 cyclocross-specific Ergocockpit CF, an integrated stem and handlebar combo that are now standard across Canyon’s CF road range, but adapted for off-road in that the stem are typically 10mm shorter, the bars are wider and there’s a 3 degree flare to the handlebar drops for better control and poise.
The hunchback appearance of the frame is not just for aesthetics; this was a specific design feature offered to aid in hanging the bike on your shoulder (a common racing occurrence for steps and muddy banks) and generally lifting the bike up over planks and cyclocross obstacles. The lower connection to the seat tube also allows an integrated seat clamp to grip the seat post at a lower level, so, with up to 110mm of length before being clamped, the seat post can flex a tiny bit for added comfort without affecting the performance and stiffness of the frame. The minimal clamping system is also lightweight, looks clean, and the fitting on the front keeps bolts away from mud off the back wheel.
As expected, cables are integrated into the frame to keep them out of the mud, and a chain catcher is included for use with 1x11 single chainring use as standard. Tyres have been picked to be UCI legal (maximum of 33c) and have actually been hand measured to check that the tyre and rim combination truly meet these regulations.
This was worthy of a paragraph in itself, not least because Canyon are now offering the widest range of cyclocross sizes on the market, going from a 2XL down to a 3XS. Getting an XL or a XS is pretty hard these days, so to have a range for riders from a tiny height of 153cm upwards is exceptional, and will surely be the go-to brand for taller riders as well as Youths, Juniors, and budding young racers.
Not only has each model had the geometry tweaked to properly fit each rider, but the gears, the crank length and the disc brake rotor sizes have all been hand selected according to the size of model. In fact, the 2XS and 3XS both come with 650b wheels to ensure the bike handles and fits just like the larger models, with no toe-overlap or need to slacken the head angle (which unnecessarily slows down the handling) just to get the larger wheels in the small frame. Canyon had to pester manufacturers to start making 650b cyclocross wheels and tyres, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they start a new, and much needed, trend.
“This new standard transforms the riding experience for smaller riders” says Canyon, “meaning they can enjoy the same snap and agility required when tackling technical ‘cross courses.” It’s no wonder they received a prestigious Red Dot “Best of the Best” Award for their design.
Coming from a predominantly mountain bike background, the new Inflite feels right at home to me. It’s a far cry from the cantilever steads I used to muscle around the country parks at the National CX Trophies a few years back too. It is incredibly light and descends more like a rigid mountain bike than it does a precarious road bike. The handling is snappy and sharp and clearly suited to weaving in and out of tight corners and responding to last minute flicks, turns and requests to bail you out of slippery situations. Everything you dream of from a cyclocross bike.
The hunchback-style top tube does indeed fit comfortably on the shoulder, and it’s placed in a very well balanced position that allows you to pick up the bike at the correct point every time, ensuring that the nose or the back end doesn’t drop and catch the boards as you run and jump over them with the Inflite in hand.
Though the fit, geometry and handling of the bike is lively and cyclocross-oriented, it is confident enough to throw around a more extreme cyclocross marathon course, and even has bottle cage mounts to accommodate hydration for longer rides or training sessions. In fact, after a 20mile loop around the Devil’s Punch Bowl in Surrey (a hilly, sandy, rock-strewn network of bridal ways and single-track), I found it may even be a little too good, as the Reynolds Assault wheels took a real pounding thanks to my overconfidence! Thankfully, these super stiff wheels took some heavy knocks on roots and rocks and still look brand new. The tyres were also set up tubeless and took multiple rim hits with no need to fix any punctures.
This is probably one of the lengthiest reviews I’ve written, but there really is so much to say about it, and yet, if you could ride it, it would do all the talking for me. It really is an awesome machine. The price tag for this top spec Inflite CF SLX 9.0 Pro Race with SRAM Force CX1 is £3,599, which is to be expected of this spec and considering we are enjoying brand new technology from Canyon, and yet it still undercuts the equivalent spec of similar bikes by about £1,700! Plus, the extra costs of redesigning the 2XS and 3XS sizes with 650b wheels has also been absorbed. It is also worth noting that you can get a discount if you have a UCI/British Cycling race licence, and Canyon are offering a discount of up to £650 if you need two identical bikes for the race season.
It’s no wonder the Inflite won a “Best of the Best” Award from Red Dot for the design of this bike. It is well thought out and has been well stewed over for a couple of years, only being released when it was deemed to be on point for weight, performance and value; and Canyon have hit the nail on the head for all three of these key areas.