Today Canyon released the new Exceed race bike which features a chassis that sharpens the appeal of a hardtail race bike.
Compiling feedback from their XCO and marathon professional riders, including the likes of van der Poel, Ferrand Prévot, Fagerhaug and Hynek, Canyon say the new Exceed builds on the strengths of the previous iteration and is designed to help riders push even harder.
So how’d they do that? Well, for starters, they have used some pretty special material and layups on the top end model which takes the frame weight down to a staggering 835grams. Then there is the ultra-light 60mm dropper post, one-piece carbon bar/stem and size-specific chainstays which improve overall handling. In this article, we will take you through the key features of the bike and explain why, on paper at least, they should meet Canyon’s promise of a harder charging hardtail.
HOW MANY MODELS OF EXCEED ARE YOU OFFERING? We will offer the Exceed in 7 unisex and 2 WMNs-specific models.
WILL CANYON OFFER THE EXCEED AS A FRAME-ONLY OPTION? No.
WHO IS THE IDEAL RIDER FOR THE EXCEED? Anyone who wants to chase every second on their next marathon, evening group ride or weekend KOM hunt.
DO ALL OF THE EXCEEDS SHARE THE SAME FRAME? IF NOT, WHAT SETS THE FRAMES APART (AND WHICH MODELS GET WHICH FRAMES)? All models use the same mold, which means that all Exceed models share the same core design features and frame shaping. The three different carbon frame platforms (CF, SLX, and CFR) differ, however, in material content and layup. With the new CFR we went further than ever before on a mountain bike and achieved an incredibly low weight, making it our lightest hardtail frame to date and definitely one of the lightest frames on the market.
WHAT WAS THE GOAL OF THE REDESIGN? With the ongoing development of lightweight, pedaling-efficient full-suspension bikes, the goal was to make the hardtail more specific to the intended use, meaning as light and stiff as possible to ensure that as much of the rider’s effort is transferred into speed as possible. The new Exceed is made for climbing, sprinting, and flat-out winning races. We also set a design goal to create the most streamlined and well-integrated hardtail on the market. You can see the result is the new Exceed’s clean lines, neatly integrated cable routing, straight top tube, and integrated seatpost clamp.
WHY WOULD A RIDER PICK EXCEED OVER, SAY, A LUX? PUT ANOTHER WAY, DO CROSS-COUNTRY HARDTAILS STILL MAKE SENSE—AS A CATEGORY—WHEN THERE ARE SO MANY COMPELLING, ULTRALIGHT, FULL-SUSPENSION XC BIKES ON THE MARKET? A cross-country hardtail absolutely makes sense for a lot of riders, as there are plenty of areas and races in the world that don’t fall into the super-aggressive, technical marathon category. Not every cross-country race, in other words, is the BC-Bike Race. There are still plenty of XC courses that emphasize steep climbs and feature relatively few technical DH sections. And even on courses that do feature significant numbers of technical descents the advantage of a much lighter bike can outweigh than the advantages of rear suspension. Having said all of the above, there’s no denying that downhill performance still matters in the outcome of every race, which is why we combined the new Exceed’s stellar uphill performance with progressive geometry and components (such as the superlight DT Swiss 60mm dropper post) that make the descents easier on a hardtail as well. Finally, another reason for riders to consider hardtails is that you always get more bike (from a component spec perspective) for your ZARs.
WHY SHOULD A RIDER PICK THE NEW EXCEED INSTEAD OF SOME OTHER ULTRALIGHT, CARBON HARDTAIL FROM ANOTHER BRAND? With the newest edition of the Exceed, we improved the geometry while maintaining the core DNA which made the previous Exceed one of the most competitive hardtails on the market. We worked closely with some of the fastest racers in the world and directly translated their premier race experience into this bike. The result is an ultralight and fast racing machine that’s entirely modern yet also extremely well balanced.
HOW MUCH DOES THE NEW EXCEED FRAME WEIGH? Here’s the short answer: 835 grams for a Medium CFR frame. But there’s also a longer answer. This is a good question that begets another question—just how should bike companies report bike frame weights? Raw frames? Frames with artwork? Frames with no parts attached? Frames with all the necessary bits and pieces bolted to them? Bike brands often report frame weights for all of the above without (at times) stating what they included or left out in the weighing process. This makes direct comparisons nearly impossible, so while we are stating that a Medium CFR frame weighs 835 grams (with final artwork and DIN standard components installed), we’ve also listed (below) the weight of both the raw frame and individual components outlined within the DIN standard. The total comes to 827g, but we rounded up to 835 grams to account for the inevitable weight variances in handmade carbon frames.
WHAT IS THE WEIGHT OF THE LIGHTEST EXCEED MODEL IN YOUR LINE UP? Our premier CFR Limited model (with dropper post) weighs 8.9 kilograms. That weight includes tubes and all stock components. The difference in frame weights, for our varying carbon frame platforms, are as follows. These weights are for Medium frames with artwork and all DIN-standard frame fittings included: Exceed CFR Frame: 835 grams, Exceed SLX: 1,015 grams, Exceed CF: 1,312 grams
HOW DID YOU ACHIEVE THE WEIGHT SAVINGS? Meticulous engineering, design, and manufacturing… as well as state-of-the-art materials. The most obvious material addition is a grade of carbon fiber (used in our CFR frames) that we call “unicorn hair” because of both its scarcity and unique properties. Technically speaking, unicorn hair are Torayca M40X fibers (made by Toray) which are combined with Toray’s “NanoAlloy” resin system (#2574) in prepreg sheets. The M40X fibers have the great advantage of being simultaneously strong and stiff. With carbon fiber, you normally have to choose one or the other trait. For example, you can build a very light and stiff frame with a high-modulus fiber, but then the resulting frame is often too brittle to pass necessary impact testing. Unicorn hair combines the best of both worlds—it’s both strong and stiff. Consequently, we can add less reinforcing fiber to the frame and still meet (or exceed) strength and impact testing requirements. The incredibly lightweight Exceed CFR frame is the end result.
YOU SAID THIS “UNICORN HAIR” USED IN THE CFR IS RARE? WHY IS THAT THE CASE? Toray currently restricts the use of M40X fibers to three manufacturers. Of those three manufacturers only one builds bike frames for a small number of premium bike brands, including Canyon. The Exceed marks the first time we’ve used unicorn hair, though we aim to incorporate it in other ultralight models in the future. To be blunt, this unicorn hair is a very expensive material, so while other brands may eventually have access to it, this grade of fiber will likely remain a relatively scarce commodity in the cycling world for some time.
DOES THE EXCEED HAVE A RIDER WEIGHT LIMIT? The rider weight limit is the same as with all our other bikes—120kg, which is quite high for any bike, and especially for a cross-country race model.
WHAT CHANGES DID YOU MAKE TO THE GEOMETRY? We lengthened the reach, moved to 80mm stems on all sizes, slackened the head angle slightly, and shortened the chainstay a bit. In truth, the first Exceed was very much an outlier at its debut—being considerably longer and slacker than most cross-country hardtails at the time. As a result, we didn’t need to perform an over-the-top kind of geometry re-make to an already very modern Exceed. Reach, for example, grew 10 millimeters, while chainstay length was decreased just two millimeters. Our primary goal was to create a bike with a balanced geometry and similar ride feel in all sizes that would lend confidence on the increasingly technical World Cup courses while still proving sharp and precise in tight conditions and through switchbacks. Winning races is ultimately about cutting time from every lap, so the goal here was to make a bike that was fastest across the entirety of a racecourse— not simply on the steepest downhill section. The new geometry helps us achieve that.
WHAT PROMPTED THE GEOMETRY CHANGES AND HOW DOES IT ACTUALLY IMPACT THE BIKE’S RIDE QUALITY? The feedback (on the original Exceed) from our World Cup riders and Canyon customers has been consistently good from the moment it launched. That said, courses continue to evolve and grow more technical, so we saw the opportunity to add a bit more stability to the Exceed without losing its core, nimble handling.
DID YOU HAVE ANY SPECIFIC GOALS RELATED TO IMPROVING FRAME STIFFNESS OR COMPLIANCE? At the CFR Level, the goal was to achieve the best stiffness to weight ratio possible by passing all of our high testing standards in the lab. The results we achieved with the introduction of unicorn hair exceeded our original goals.
WHAT’S THE MAX TIRE SIZE THAT CAN YOU FIT ON THE NEW EXCEED? The maximum tire size we’d recommend would be a 2.35/2.4 tire mounted to a rim with an internal width of 30mm. Tire sizes, of course, vary from one tire manufacturer to another, so we always recommend that riders double-check tire clearance immediately after installing their new rear tire.
WHAT WAS THE MOST CHALLENGING ASPECT OF DESIGNING OR ENGINEERING THE NEW EXCEED? There are the obvious challenges, such as achieving the best possible stiffness to weight ratio, but the most challenging aspects are often the ones that might seem small to anyone outside of the circle of riders who designed the new bike. Examples? Streamlining our already-svelte IPU (Impact Protection Unit) was tricky, as was co-developing the ultralight DT Swiss dropper post. Building an XS version of the Exceed that rolls on 29er wheels and still fits 2 water bottles was also hard but truly satisfying.