Capable cross country hardtail that exceeds expectations
The Canyon Exceed CF SL 7.0 Pro Race is one of those bikes that is helping to redefine a complete genre of mountain biking.
For a long time super light cross country hardtails held minimal appeal for most riders. Nervous handling, uncomfortable and fragile were all traits that put many of us off them and kept their use to almost solely in-between the race tapes. But as with many aspects of riding, cross country has changed, and so too has the bikes.
The 7.0 Pro Race stands slightly apart from the remaining nine bikes that make up the Exceed range. Sitting fifth in the range it has a few key component changes that should make it a little more appealing to the average rider.
Canyon Exceed CF SL 7.0 Pro Race
Frame wise, the 7.0 is at the top of the CF SL frame category. This is the slightly heavier version of the Exceed carbon frame (the higher end CF SLX is claimed to weigh just 870 grams) but it still shares the same look and features as the top end version. Boost spacing, generous clearances and full internal cable routing are all there. Like many of Canyon’s carbon framed bikes it also features a neat steering lock to prevent the handlebars from hitting the frame in a crash.
The Exceed’s geometry is still focussed on XC speed but there has been a slackening of the head angle to the right side of seventy degrees and reach is on par with the competition. The steep seventy five degree seat angle ensures sure-footed climbing.
RockShox’s SID is probably the benchmark suspension fork for XC and light trail duties. There are lighter forks such as Fox’s excellent 32 Step Cast but the SID is stiffer and less inclined to be pinged off line when the going gets tough. The 7.0 Pro Race gets the RL version with handlebar mounted lockout. It provides 100mm of progressive travel that although not as buttery smooth as that found on the higher end SIDs with the latest Charger 2 damper, is still very supple and refined.
Componentry is an area where hardtails always best full suspension and the Exceed is no different. A complete SRAM X01 Eagle drivetrain is present including carbon X1 cranks. Canyon has taken the unusual step to spec the Gripshift version. Although this style of shifting has many detractors I actually think it works well for XC racing and long distance riding. Due mainly to the fact that it reduces hand fatigue as shifting doesn’t require large hand movements or a change in hand position. It has remained reliable and precise throughout the eight months of testing.
As referred to in the intro the 7.0 Pro Race has a couple of important components choices. Most obvious is the inclusion of a Kind Shock Lev Si dropper post, providing 100mm of drop to boost descending confidence and increase the Exceed’s capabilities. Less obvious is the speccing of mismatched wheels. The rim of the DT Swiss XR1501 front wheel is wider than that of the rear (25mm compared to 22.5mm).This is to create a better platform for the new breed of larger volume XC tyres such as the Maxxis Ardent Race 3C 29×2.2″ fitted. Or you could fit wider, more aggressive tyres if you so wish.
The Canyon Exceed CF is a bike that begins to blur the lines between XC speed and trail capability. I’m not saying that this is machine to take off the biggest drops or send to the moon on kickers, just that it continually surprises as to what it will cope with.
As expected it’s more than a touch rapid under power. The oversized bottom bracket junction and chunky chainstays effectively transfer pedal power to skip the Exceed up climbs like a mountain goat. Those chainstays, although not the shortest in the category, come into play again to give the Exceed lively handling and able to deftly handle tight singletrack with ease.
Despite being so efficient this isn’t a frame that snaps your spine or rearranges your insides within the first hour of riding. I would actually go as far as to say this is one of the most comfortable carbon hardtail frames I have ever ridden. It absorbs small bump vibrations incredibly well and has none of the front end harshness that can come when brands overbuild carbon frames.
Descending still requires a deft hand at picking smoother line choices, just like most hardtails. But the addition of the KS dropper and the absorbent nature of the frame allows it to become a more engaging and fun experience, rather than the usual ‘cling on for dear life’ approach.
We like the Canyon Exceed CF SL 7.0 Pro Race as it's trying to push cross country hardtails into a more usable arena. The addition of the dropper, stiffer SID suspension fork and wider front rim make it a relatively fun trail bike with a wicked turn of speed that any rider will enjoy. Swap out the long stem and put some more aggressive tyres on it and it would be a great all-rounder. As it is it's as much at home on the trails as it is between the tapes.