BELFORT, France — The most technologically advanced bike at the Tour de France, the world’s biggest cycling race, is Alexander Kristoff’s Canyon Aeroad CF SLX with disc brakes, SRAM eTap, and ZIPP 454 NSW wheels.
Canyon is a German consumer-direct brand that manufactures a variety of bicycles and is well known in the sport for its high-end road bikes. It sells online directly to customers and is coming to the US later this year, according to the trade publication Bicycle Retailer.
Several industry insiders Business Insider spoke with at the Tour said they expected Canyon to make a considerable impact on the high-end road-bike market in the US and give the big veterans Trek, Specialized, and Giant a run for their money.
Canyon has good exposure in the sport as it sponsors one of the most successful teams, Movistar, led by Colombian star Nairo Quintana. Trek owns a WorldTour team outright, and Specialized sponsors two teams in the Tour, those of sprint ace Marcel Kittel and double world champion Peter Sagan. Meanwhile at the Tour, Trek rolled out its new lightweight Émonda SLR 9 and Specialized its newly redesigned Tarmac.
“The demand for Canyon bikes in the U.S. is already very high. But we also want to deliver an exceptional Canyon customer experience, on par with the quality of our products,” Roman Arnold, founder and CEO of Canyon, said last year, according to Bicycle Retailer. It also reported that Canyon had seen revenue grow 30% year-over-year for the past six years. Canyon said it had generated revenues of 160 million euros in 2015.
Trek is already a $1 billion company while Specialized is one of the leading race brands.
Canyon says US customers who order online can expect delivery of a nearly fully assembled bike to their home in two to six weeks. Customers who buy a Trek online must pick up their bikes at an authorized Trek retailer, which handles final assembly. Specialized does not sell bikes online at all; customers have to buy bikes in a shop.
Business Insider got a close-up look at Kristoff’s machine during the Tour’s first week. See the photos below, and check back for a test-ride review of the Canyon Aeroad CF SLX.
SRAM Red eTap HRD is one of three standout features on Kristoff’s bike. The electronic-shifting system is different from rivals Shimano Di2 and Campagnolo EPS in that it has no wires. Instead, the shifters wirelessly transmit a signal to the derailleurs. Tapping the right lever, seen here, makes it harder to pedal (upshifting), and tapping the left lever makes it easier (downshifting). Tapping both levers shifts the front derailleur.
Another standout feature are the disc brakes. Discs on high-end road bikes are becoming more popular, and we saw a handful of bikes at the Tour equipped with them. They allow for shorter stopping distances and perform better in wet conditions than rim brakes. The downside: They add up to a pound to a bike.
Another high-tech spec is the ZIPP 454 NSW wheelset, which Team Katusha is riding at the Tour. SRAM says the unique rim shapes, which resemble fins, reduce aero drag as well as side forces. (Kristoff opts for Continental Competition Pro Ltd ALX tires.)