Canyon's latest XC race hardtail has one foot in the past and one in the present, but a laser-sharp focus on the podium
With a single-minded focus on success, Canyon’s new Exceed hardtail is aimed at vanquishing long-distance stage races, such as the Cape Epic, and blitzing short-course XC sprints.
Need to know
- New 29er hardtail from Canyon boasts an impressive 835g frame weight
- All five frame sizes roll on 29in wheels and accommodate two water bottles.
- Chainstay lengths increase on L and XL sizes for better weight distribution across the size range
- Fatter tyres and wider rims increase comfort and control
- Custom 60mm dropper posts on CF SLX models and Exceed CFR LTD
- Range starts with the Exceed CF5 at £1,599
When the new Canyon Exceed arrived we had some recalibrating to do. Even on the scales we thought we were using the wrong units, as it’s rare for us to weigh a bike and get a single-digit reading. Just how light is the Exceed CFR Team? It’s 9.01kg for the size L bike, and that’s with two bottle cages fitted and both tyres converted to tubeless.
So it’s light, but it’s not your typical, modern 29er XC race bike. Developed and tested in marathon style races like the Cape Epic, where riders huddle in packs to protect themselves from the wind blowing across the plains, the attitude of the new Exceed is actually quite traditional. The head angle is a smidge under 69º, the seat angle a safe 74º, and with a BB height of 312mm you won’t have any issues keeping the crank spinning at all times.
There is no concession for increased standover clearance either; the relatively flat top tube needed to accommodate two full-size water bottles even on the smaller frame sizes – which are now all on 29in wheels. It’s why the Exceed has Canyon’s Impact Protection Unit built in. It’s basically a steering block headset to prevent the handlebar and controls smashing through the top tube in a crash. It’s a nice touch and well executed, but best of all it offers a turning circle that would impress a London cabbie.
The real tech here though, is around the seatpost interface. At first glance we thought it was some sort of isolating design, like Trek’s ISO Speed. On closer inspection however, it’s actually the split seatpost design that helps reduce saddle buzz. Adjusting the tilt of the saddle is achieved by sliding both halves of the seat post past each other. Slide the rear portion of the post up to lower the nose of the saddle and vice versa, there’s even a small scale marked on the post to let you know where you’re at. Inspired by Canyon’s world championship winning Cyclo-Cross bike, the frame has a collarless seatpost clamp that looks super clean, and thanks to the rubber seal it should stay that way too. Also we had no issues securing the seatpost without it slipping, creaking or twisting in the frame, so that’s a bonus. Canyon also designed a custom dropper in conjunction with DT Swiss for the Exceed. It comes stock on CF SLX models and the Exceed CFR LTD, it weighs 390g in carbon and 420g in alloy, and has 60mm drop.
Canyon has really worked hard on the carbon lay-up for this frame to minimize weight without compromising strength. The two Canyon Factory Racing (CFR) models get the less common Toray M40X fibres to reduce weight. At 835g, Canyon is claiming it’s the lightest production MTB frame on earth (Specialized also makes this claim for the 790g Epic S-Works HT). Not all of the new Exceeds are created equally though, as there’s a three-tier range: the CFR models at the top, followed by CF SLX then CF. How much difference this makes to ride quality is hard to say, but on the scales the CF SLX frame weighs 1,015g and the CF frame is 1,312g. And while all three frames are not cut from the same cloth, they come from the exact same mould, so the entry-level Exceed CF5 at £1,599 will share geometry and sizing with the top-end Ltd version at £6,149.
With 76 per cent of riders running SRAM Eagle drivetrains in the 2019 Cape Epic, it should come as no surprise that this new frame is a dedicated 1x design. As such, tyre clearance on the rear is ample, the distinct absence of seat or chainstay bridges making for a seriously clean design, and one that’s much less likely to clog with mud. On the CFR Team you get the latest Shimano 1×12 drivetrain with the range boosting 10-51t cassette combined with a Race Face carbon chain set for a custom drivetrain combo.
How it rides
We weren’t sure what to expect from Canyon’s latest XC bike, but we were pleasantly surprised by the relatively smooth, silent ride. Yes, we struggle to see past the peak on our helmet, even with the stem at max height, so there’s a good reason to ditch it…the peak, not the stem. In fact, Canyon’s weight saving one-piece bar and stem has a great profile, where the flattened mid-section makes it easy to get into a tuck for maximum aerodynamic gains. All frame sizes come standard with the zero rise 80mm stem, and it works well with the 454mm reach on the size L frame. There’s also 70mm and 90mm options to tweak the fit, and negative rise versions for a really slammed riding position. Not that we think many riders will need the negative rise as Canyon has done a good job of keeping the headtube height in check.
Stomp on your SPDs and the new Exceed responds with direct power delivery, no doubt a consequence of the 1x frame design and excellent carbon engineering. But with no dropper post on the Exceed CFR Team we found ourselves riding past some of the most fun sections of trail, favouring descents that we could manage with the seat at full height. And while 60mm of drop doesn’t sound like much, it would easily be enough for us to rally the Exceed that much harder, without getting tangled up in the saddle. We’d also like to have matching tyre sizes front and rear, simply because you spend so much time in the saddle on a bike like this, it would be great to have that extra cushioning and traction. The frame will easily accommodate at 2.4in tyre so that’s an easy upgrade.
Exceed CF5 £1,599 (WMN option)
Exceed CF6 £2,099
Exceed CF7 £2,499 (WMN option)
Exceed CF SLX 8 £3,499
Exceed CF SLX 9 £4,449
Exceed CFR Team £5,349
Exceed CFR LT £6,149
But who is the new Exceed really for? Canyon says it’s for anyone who wants to chase every second on their next marathon, evening group ride or weekend KOM hunt. So while it’s not designed specifically to tackle the more challenging terrain found on your typical World Cup XC race, and it’s certainly not serving double duty as a lightweight trail bike, the new Exceed is perfect for getting your head down and covering ground at a blistering pace. And you’ll be amazed at how many hipster gravel riders you’ll blow straight past on this bike.