The German direct-to-consumer brand's first women-specific rigs target the pains of smaller riders, with a redesigned frame and 650B wheel options. Our writer spent a weekend testing them and came away very impressed.
Canyon Bikes are a rare sight stateside, but perhaps not for long. The German bike maker, which outfits leading World Tour teams such as Movistar, Katusha, and Canyon-SRAM, is opening up direct-to-consumer sales in the U.S. later this summer. Along with that, the brand is launching another exciting milestone: its first women’s specific road bikes—the Canyon Ultimate WMN and Endurace WMN—which I recently spent a weekend test riding.
With a goal to democratize performance, Canyon studied men’s and women’s physiology to see if there really was anything different needed in a women-specific bike. It found that, compared to men, female riders are typically shorter and lighter (that one’s a duh), have shorter arms compared to torso length (by about two centimeters), narrower shoulders, and greater pelvic flexibility. Canyon also observed that current road bike frame sizes and geometries don’t necessarily suit smaller women seeking a high performance ride. Instead, they force women to sit in a more upright, less aerodynamic, less aggressive position. Canyon used this data, along with direct input from racers on the Canyon-SRAM pro women’s team, to develop a road bike with agile handling specifically with small women in mind.
The result are the Canyon Ultimate WMN CF SLX Disc and the Endurace WMN CF SL Disc. Compared to its unisex models, the WMN’s bikes have a shorter reach, taller headtube, and (in some cases) smaller wheels with the idea being that women of any size can ride in the same low, aero position that men are accustomed to. Both bikes are expertly crafted, with stunning attention to detail, and have nimble yet predictable handling.
Before I get into the features, I want to mention the price: while exact pricing is TBD, we can guesstimate based on the European list prices that the Ultimate could start around $3,361, while the Endurace would start at $2,240. That's a tremendous bargain—as is the sub-$7,000 price tag for the fully tricked out models I tested. Additionally, there’s an aluminum version of the Endurace (not tested) that starts at $1,680. Canyon’s WMN bikes will be available for U.S. buyers in August.
The Ultimate is Canyon’s more aggressive race rig, while the Endurace is built for all day comfort. Don’t mistake “comfort” for “casual,” though. My position on an XS Endurace WMN CF SL Disc 9.0 was only marginally more relaxed than on an XS Canyon Ultimate WMN CF SLX Disc 9.0, especially in the drops. The Endurace’s comfort primarily comes from a slight kink near the base of the seat tube designed to absorb shock during long days in the saddle. (In a direct comparison against the Ultimate, it definitely smoothed out one particularly bumpy road.) It also has slightly larger tire clearance—up to 33-millimeter tires—for adventuring off-road.
Both carbon fiber rigs are exceedingly light. Due to a slimmer, angular toptube and downtube, the Ultimate’s frame, weighing in at 765 grams (or about 1.7 pounds) for the XS, is 6.5 percent lighter than its unisex counterpart, while maintaining the same stiffness to weight ratio. The complete bike weighs 15.4 pounds. Between its narrower tube shapes and its ergonomic cockpit (a unified bar and stem combination optimized for women’s smaller hands), these WMN bikes are also more aerodynamic than Canyon’s unisex models.
These features harmonize once you start pedaling. At a county line dash, the Ultimate felt solid and responsive as I sprinted out of the saddle. And as I navigated a pitchy climb, there was no feeling of having to lug it uphill. On descents, Canyon’s bikes sliced through switchbacks with gusto. While it lends itself towards agile handling, that ergo cockpit put more weight on the bike’s front end than I was accustomed to. However, by day two I was ripping through turns with a huge grin on my face, the Reynolds Assault wheels of my Endurace WMN carving a tight line, tires firmly gripping the pavement underneath. When a squirrel made a kamikaze dash across the road, its powerful hydraulic disc brakes quickly dashed my hopes of a downhill PR, but more importantly, kept the road free of skin—or fur. Electronic SRAM Red eTap shifters ensured I snapped back into a comfortable climbing gear once the road turned uphill again.
Canyon’s WMN bikes are easily some of the best women's specific whips I’ve ridden. The Endurace, while similar in function to a Specialized Roubaix, feels sportier and more modern. And the Ultimate certainly rivals other top-of-the-line race bikes, such as the Liv Envie Advanced Pro or a Specialized Amira Expert, in terms of handling, responsiveness, and aerodynamics.
Canyon centered its women’s sizing around an XS, so its frame sizes range from 3XS at the small end to medium at the largest. The smallest two sizes—the 2XS and 3XS—are unique in today’s landscape in that they’re built around 650B wheelsets, which have a 584-millimeter diameter compared to the 622-millimeter diameter of a 700C wheel. This means that women 5’5 and under, such as Canyon-SRAM’s Trixi Worrack, can be lower and more aggressive on the bike. Canyon made a couple other customizations so that these smaller bikes look and feel the same as their larger counterparts, including smaller disc rotors, sub-compact 52/36 chainrings (instead of a compact on sizes XS+), and smaller-sized cockpits.
A smaller wheel size does come with a tradeoff though: limited wheel options. KT Swiss and SRAM plan to offer 650B wheels, Canyon representatives said, while Schwalbe is currently the only tire maker for this size on the road.