First Look: Canyon Exceed CF SL 7.9 Di2

by
August 4, 2017

Sometimes there just ain’t no better tool for the job than a screamingly fast XC hardtail.

Arriving at Singletrack Towers this week to sate our carbon fibre appetite is this uber-stealth Canyon Exceed. Or to be specific, the ‘Canyon Exceed CF SL 7.9 Di2’. With a paint job that may very well have been harvested from the centre of a black hole, this sub-10kg, carbon fibre, high tech hardtail is equipped with an electronic Shimano Deore XT Di2 drivetrain, Fox 32 Step Cast forks, and a lightweight DT Swiss wheelset.

I’ve had the pleasure of testing the Canyon Exceed previously, and some of you may have already read my review of the Exceed CF SLX 9.9. However, this bike here is a little different.

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The Exceed is Canyon’s lightweight 29in carbon hardtail.

The Exceed embodies the next level of carbon hardtail racing performance. When lining up for a race start or setting a new PB on your local climb, lightness is crucial, but it’s nothing without the highest levels of stiffness, compliance and durability to back it up. Thanks to cutting-edge carbon construction methods and an advanced geometry for superior control, the Exceed delivers the goods across the board. It goes Beyond Limits” From Canyon.

canyon exceed carbon hardtail di2 step cast sc
Race-ready out of the box with Fox 32 SC forks and a Shimano Di2 drivetrain.

Canyon Exceed CF SL Features

  • Full carbon fibre frame
  • 29in wheels (27.5in wheels on XS frame size)
  • 100mm travel fork
  • 69.5° head angle
  • 74° seat angle
  • PF92 bottom bracket
  • 427mm chain stay length
  • 142x12mm quick release rear dropouts
  • Impact Protection Unit to prevent bar over-rotation
  • Di2 ready with integrated battery storage inside downtube
  • Shimano direct mount rear derailleur hanger
  • High direct mount front derailleur
  • 30.9mm diameter seatpost
  • Stealth dropper post ready
  • Available sizes: X-Small, Small, Medium, Large, X-Large
canyon exceed hardtail di2
Same shape and look as the Exceed CF SLX, but different carbon is used on the Exceed CF SL frame to bring the price down.

Ok, so how is this different to the Exceed CF SLX? Well, the clue is in the name. For Canyon’s carbon road and mountain bike frames, there are typically two different grades of carbon; the high-end SLX, and regular SL. The difference between the two isn’t instantly noticeable, as the physical carbon moulds are exactly the same, so the shape and geometry of the frames are identical.

It’s the layup where the two frames differ, with the Exceed CF SLX frame lobbing 150 grams off the weight of the Exceed CF SL frame by way of higher modulus carbon fibre. Canyon states the ride quality between the two frames is meant to be the same, and they’re both just as strong as each other. And to be honest, the 1050g claimed weight for the Exceed CF SL frame is still very, very competitive amongst other carbon hardtails on the market. However, it does bring the cost down – a complete Exceed CF SL starts at £1799, whereas the Exceed CL SLX range kicks off at £3499.

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Engineering details are everything for German-based Canyon.

The model we have on test is the top-spec option with the cheaper Exceed CF SL carbon frame. It shares the same geometry as the Exceed CF SLX 9.9 I tested last year, with a steady 69.5° head angle and a purposeful 74° seat tube angle. Chainstays remain at a snug 427mm long, which is quite short for a race hardtail, and the bottom bracket shell stretches down 63mm below the hub axle line. All good ingredients that point the Exceed’s ride quality away from “nervous twitch-athon”, and more towards the “chilled-out fun times”.

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Pencil-thin seat stays offer vertical compliance by way of physical flexion, helping to dissipate vibrations and impacts from the rear wheel.
canyon exceed carbon hardtail di2 step cast sc
Gram-counters will love the little details, like the hollowed-out seat clamp.
canyon exceed carbon hardtail di2 step cast sc
Integrated Protection Unit stops the bars from over-rotating.

The Exceed hardtail range features 29in wheels on all but the smallest X-Small frame size, which elects for 27.5in wheels due to toe-overlap issues with running big hoops on such a small frame size. Most XC riders will typically run a pretty low cockpit height, which is exacerbated on a 29er hardtail with a taller fork. The result is often a dropped cockpit height that puts the shifters dangerously close to the top tube if the handlebars have the opportunity to spin over 90° around.

To eliminate the chance of tears in such an instance, Canyon has engineered a rather clever but simple bump-stop for the headset. A rubber block is bolted to the top tube, and two little ‘horns’ on the upper headset cap are designed to catch on the rubber block before the shifters can get anywhere near the carbon top tube. It’s a simple idea, but well executed. And if you crash hard enough, the two bolts that hold the rubber block to the frame are actually hollow, so they’re designed to break away if there’s sufficient force applied.

canyon exceed carbon hardtail di2 step cast sc
The latest 32 Step Cast fork from Fox Racing Shox is a lightweight 100mm travel XC fork.

Front travel is 100mm, delivered via the skinny Fox 32 Step Cast fork. It’s the Performance Series model, so no Kashima-coated stanchions but rather a slick blacked-out anodized coating for the 32mm diameter alloy upper legs. The fork is air-adjustable, and inside the other leg is a FIT4 damper that offers adjustable rebound and compression damping. On this particular fork, the 3-way compression adjustment is performed via a handlebar remote.

canyon exceed carbon hardtail di2 step cast sc
To drop weight from the previous 32 Float fork, the Step Cast model features stepped lowers that offer clearance for disc rotors, while narrowing the overall stance of the fork chassis.
canyon exceed carbon hardtail di2 step cast sc
Lovely machined alloy hub shells on the DT Swiss Spline One wheelset.
canyon exceed carbon hardtail di2 step cast sc
The Spline One XR1501 wheels feature shallow alloy rims that are designed to provide a little more vertical compliance over a carbon fibre rim.
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Not particularly wide by modern standards, but the 22.5mm internal width on the DT Swiss rims is fine for most XC tyres. Tubeless ready out of the box with tape pre-installed.
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The Continental X-King tyres are not tubeless ready however. They also look a touch ambitious for Calderdale trail riding too…
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The X-King is more of a hardpack race tyre. We’ll be experimenting with other tyre types on the Exceed to match our local conditions.
canyon exceed carbon hardtail di2 step cast sc
142x12mm thru-axle dropouts, because Canyon isn’t sold on the need for Boost 148x12mm for such a lightweight hardtail.
canyon exceed carbon hardtail di2 step cast sc
The rear disc brake tucks into the frame by mounting on the chainstay. Note how the non-drive seatstay bows out around the brake calliper, providing plenty of room for making adjustments.
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Shimano XT brake levers sit at the other end of the hydrualic hoses, and nestle in with the Fox 3-position lockout lever.
canyon exceed carbon hardtail di2 step cast sc
Completing the Shimano XT collection is a Di2 shifter. Two paddles control up and down shifting at the rear derailleur, and you can program the paddles to change the shifting pattern.
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Display unit indicates gear position, battery life and shift mode.
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There’s a left-hand shifter to control the electronic front derailleur, but this shifter can be removed if you want to make use of the ‘Synchro Mode’ that delivers automatic front shifting.
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38/28t chainring combo for the Deore XT crankset.
canyon exceed carbon hardtail di2 step cast sc
The Exceed frame is setup with a high direct mount front derailleur. For those spec options with mechanical shifting, the cable exits the downtube for use with a Side Swing front mech.
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Deore XT Di2 derailleur tucks in neatly with the direct mount hanger. The cassette is downgraded to an 11-40t SLX unit.
canyon exceed carbon hardtail di2 step cast sc
1x may be all the rage, but Shimano is still comfortably rocking 2x. And it has plenty of fans too.
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Slim Ergon grips are ideal for use with hands.
canyon exceed carbon hardtail di2 step cast sc
Like the rest of the Exceed range, the CF SL 7.9 Di2 is setup with an 80mm long stem and 720mm wide flat bars to give a little more leverage over the front end.
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The fancy leaf-spring seatpost is reserved for pricier Exceed models, so you’ll just have to make do with a regular carbon post. With a 30.9mm seatpost diameter however, the Exceed is dropper post ready.
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Shame about the silver rotors and cassette.

And that is a first look at the Exceed CF SL 7.9 Di2 that we currently have in for testing. We’ll be running this lightweight machine through a gamut of different trails and races over the coming few weeks, so stay tuned for the upcoming review to see how it handles the rough ‘n’ tumble of everyday trail riding.

You can get more information about this bike and the rest of the range via the Canyon Bikes website. Otherwise get your peepers on to our video below where we chat everything lightweight and carbon with Jack from Canyon UK.

Can’t see the video? Click here

2017 Canyon Exceed CF SL 7.9 Di2 Specifications

  • Frame // Canyon Exceed CF SL Carbon Fibre
  • Fork // Fox 32 SC Performance Series, 100mm Travel, Remote Lockout
  • Hubs // DT Swiss XR 1501 Spline, 110x15mm Front & 142x12mm Rear
  • Rims // DT Swiss XR 1501 Spline, 22.5mm Internal Width, Tubeless Compatible
  • Tyres // Continental X-King 2.2in RaceSport Front & Rear
  • Chainset // Shimano Deore XT 38/28t Chainring
  • Front Mech // Shimano Deore XT Di2 High Direct Mount
  • Rear Mech // Shimano Deore XT Di2 Shadow Plus 11-Speed
  • Shifters // Shimano Deore XT Di2 11-Speed
  • Cassette // Shimano SLX 11-40t, 11-Speed
  • Brakes // Shimano Deore XT M8000, 180mm Front & 160mm Rear Rotors
  • Stem // Canyon V14 80mm
  • Bars // Canyon H12 Flat Alloy, 720mm Wide, 5mm Rise
  • Grips // Ergon GA30
  • Seatpost // Canyon S29 VCLS Carbon Fibre, 30.9mm Diameter
  • Saddle // Selle Italia SLS
  • Size Tested // Medium
  • Sizes available // X-Small, Small, Medium, Large, X-Large
  • Weight // 9.74kg 21.4

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