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With the slew of new aero road bikes introduced over the past couple of months, Canyon's now venerable Aeroad soldiers on. With rumors of a replacement coming in 2019, we take a look at Canyon's Aeroad Disc.

In my opinion, it's just one of the best made even better.

As an owner of a rim brake equipped second generation Aeroad, that statement perfectly sums up how it feels moving to disc brakes. The Aeroad is still pretty much close to perfect, factoring everything from design, equipment levels and pricing. And to improve on that is no mere feat.

If you're of the "disc brakes have no place on a road bike" crowd, I'm sincerely happy everything's working out for you.

But if you're here to find out why and how the Aeroad Disc is better, then read on.  Note that we will not exclusively tackle disc brakes as a standalone topic, but we'll touch on it in the context of the bike as a whole.   

Braking new ground.

Straight to the meat of the upgrade: the Disc Brakes.  To be honest, I was one of those who thought that I never needed discs. And even today I would survive with rim brakes. Ignorance is bliss I guess. However, some things fell into place and I decided to take the plunge and go for the Aeroad CF SLX Disc 9.0 LTD.

Based on a couple of thousand kilometers' saddle time, I can safely say that I'm sticking with discs.

Disc Brakes, quite simply, offer much a vastly superior braking experience and consistent performance across all conditions. Whether you're just feathering to keep that optimal draft distance, or braking to save your life in a downpour, discs are the way to go.

Design wise, separating braking components from the wheels  just makes sense. These are two wholly separate components with different design objectives. Brake engineers focus their efforts designing an optimal braking experience while wheel designers can take braking requirements off their list and concentrate on weight and aerodynamics. No compromise has to be made to merge the somewhat conflicting design parameters of light weight, robustness and friction and temperature tolerance.

A welcome bonus of discs is that there are no expensive carbon wheelsets to replace as the rims are no longer a wear-and-tear item. No more worn out brake tracks mean you $$$$ Zipps can basically last forever.

Yes discs are heavier and more complicated, but the improvement in modulation and power is definitely worth the effort. Initial set up can be a pain, but once you set it up, you can ride to your heart's content till your pads wear out. There is the matter of routine maintenance and bleeding the brake system and replacing brake fluid but that's still half a year off and shouldn't be a problem for competent mechanics.

On the Aeroad, braking duties are handled by one-piece SRAM Centerline rotors in size 160mm. These come in 6-bolt form instead of the increasingly popular centerlock format. 6-bolt or centerlock is really a a non-issue as parts and adaptors are plenty and available for both, but still something worth mentioning.

Along with the shift to discs came with the migration from skewers to thru axles. Something completely alien to most roadies, more than a few are up in arms with how inconvenient and slow they are to mount and remove compared to quick releases.

Let me make it clear: Yes they are. But not my much.

When releasing a wheel, you have to unscrew the thru axle then totally remove it to remove the wheel. With Quick Releases, you just have to loosen to a certain point and off goes the wheel. Indeed slower and inconvenient but not by even 10 seconds. My point is, it's not an issue.

Weight? Yeah its about 60% heavier than our current Carbon-Ti skewers (a spindly 39g), but we're talking 66 grams here... 27 grams.

The positives however outweigh the negatives, in my mind. Having your wheel's axle actually go through your fork (versus tightened under it), gives the fork structure more rigidity and a more solid feel. This in turn grants the rider confidence to go faster. The thru-axles are also less prone to tightening torque accuracy as it only requires 1nm to secure.

The Canyon uses DT Swiss specced Thru Axles with a splindly 1mm thread pitch. Good thing is that the end levers can be removed for a cleaner look. On a side note, the bike came with only one handle which I find unusual given that there are two axles.

Making The Leap

The change I actually most dreaded (maybe too strong a word) was the groupset change from Shimano to SRAM.

Having ridden on Shimano all my adult cycling life, the leap to SRAM was a situation that was rather compelled to accept. The upgrade to discs boiled down to the different equipment combinations which the Aeroad came in. Bottom line: I could have SRAM Red with Zipp 404s or Shimano Dura Ace Di2 with Mavic Cometes. I chose the former as I really preferred the 404s over Comete who's livery I found too loud for the overall aesthetic. Switching wheels post purchase is something I'd rather avoid as it's surely gonna cost more than a pretty penny. So read up on eTap HRD reviews and while keeping my fingers crossed that they were accurate.... pulled the trigger.

Besides, I thought to myself, who wouldn't mind trying out the world's first and so far, only wireless groupset.

Early results are in. With around 1,000 kms under my belt, I can honestly say that it's not any better or worse than the dura ace, it's just different. Depending on how you you examine the gruppos, you may arrive at a different conclusion on which is better.

Having experience with three generations of Dura Ace, two of which are Di2, I can definitely say that it shifts smoother and quicker. Front and rear gear changes so smooth most of the time it's almost silent. It reacts to your inputs faster. Upon clicking the shift buttons, the Dura Ace responds almost instantaneously. For pure drivetrain performance it's definitely a win for Shimano. Worth mentioning is the shadow type rear derailleur. It effectively reduces the width of your bike making certain ingress/egress situations easier.

The SRAM's Red eTap takes maybe a half second to react to shifter input. If I were not used to Dura Ace, this is something I probably won't even notice. The clicks on the eTap HRD shifter feel firm and tactile. The button area is massive compared to Di2 as it occupies the whole lever space. You won't ever click the wrong button. Though a matter of personal preference, I actually prefer gripping the SRAM's hoods which are bigger than the Shimano's. Bigger but still small enough to wrap a hand around.

Perhaps the biggest change is the way you input your shift commands. I was apprehensive moving to the way of the eTap. I mean the Left-Easier, Right-Harder shift experience. I kept the rules in mind as I went on my first ride. I was surprised that everything came naturally as I never had an adjustment period. I was using the eTaps as though I had been using them forever....I never had a wrong nor missed shift. I'm not sure if others had the same experience but that's how it went. Shifting between chainrings, while perhaps the biggest change, was executed to perfection. I'm sure there will be awkward scenarios like trying to shift the chainring while braking but I believe these situations could be avoided with a little preparation.

A welcome bonus with the eTap  system is that it can beam gear data to a compatible computer via ANT+. Our Garmin Edge 1000 was able to display the gear information in much the same way as our Di2's D-Fly add on (purchased separately from the gruppo). On the downside, the SRAM group does not have the ability to control the Garmin screens or issue commands as it doesn't have the Di2's hidden top buttons.

I personally miss this feature. Where before I was scrolling to my heart's content thru six screens on my Edge, I've since reduced these screens to just three essential ones with the eTap. I found scrolling thru multiple screens via the computer's touch display can be quite bothersome.

Charging the batteries is a breeze, but considering there are two of them, with only one charging dock supplied, you will have to mind the charging time per battery and have them take turns on the dock. I got another dock and problem solved.

I'm pleased overall with the sidegrade to eTap as well as the overall decision to go with this model Aeroad.

Saddle up!

I replaced my erstwhile favorite SMP Dynamic with a Fizik Antares VS Evo. Why? Simply because the SMP started to creak under power. I traced it to the area where the rails attach to the front of the saddle. I find these noises annoying. While not really a safety issue or anything serious, I had to have these replaced. Yes, it's just me.

The Aeroad Disc originally came with an Arione R5 Kium. I got the carbon-specific clamps from the old bike in went the Antares VS Evo.

The SMP is still king when it comes to comfort, however it is possible to be comfortable with the Antares with a lot of patience and experimentation with fore-aft and nose angle adjustments. For some reason, riding on a trainer on the Antares starts to get uncomfortable beyond the 2 hour mark, but is totally fine for real world rides three hours long or more.

Form over function bonus: the Antares VS Evo scores big in the looks department, and looks more in place with a top end aero bike. The construction is also very minimalist, with fewer parts to... ahem.... squeak.

Zipp it!

Coming from 404 Firestrikes, the Aeroad's 404 Firecrests were a bit of a downgrade. Specifically, the Firestrike hubs which are equipped with Ceramicspeed Ceramic bearings. Yeah, I know... this is nitpicking and I apologize.

Functionally they perform equally well. While I can't comment on the improved dimpling on the Firestrikes, having a pair of limited edition wheels (from 404 2nd edition sets produced) gives the bike a bit more swag from regular zipps.

But. They are still Zipp 404s. and that's nothing to scoff about. Not having them wear out because of braking means that these will be with me for a long long time. And I'm happy with that.

Doing tire duty are a pair of staggered Continental Grand Prix TT's in 23mm for the front and 25mm for the rear. Coming from it's tried and tested stablemate, the Conti Grand Prix 2000 SII, I was pleased at how supple the ride is on the TT compared to the 2000 SII. More surprisingly, I didn't notice the return to the 23mm front tires in terms of ride comfort or compliance.

Overall, both 404s feel the same despite me trying to find a difference in terms of ride feel. Perhaps when I change back to Grand Prix 2000 SII's there will be something to report, but right now they feel and function equally well.

If you can't ride up grades, Upgrade! 

I wanted to write about the Aeroad Disc in its factory state however, there are already dozens of articles about that so I went ahead with a few upgrades.

Not wanting to leave well enough alone, the first order of business was to source two-piece SRAM rotors. Luckily, my new favorite LBS had them in stock. Events went by in a blur and unfortunately, I was not able to get 'as tested' weights. Comparing both rotors using palm scales, the 2 piece Centerline X was noticeably lighter.

Oddly enough, SRAM's website lists the Centerline X 2-piece rotors as weighing 120grams for the 160mm version.... 8 grams HEAVIER than the regular 160mm Centerline @ 112 grams. Other sites report the 160mm Centerline X at 102g, with the regular Centerline rotors at 129g.... a more believable 22 gram savings per rotor. All is good.

Weight aside, 2 piece rotors are better at shedding heat owing to the aluminum inner layer. Aluminum is three times better at absorbing and releasing heat compared to steel, which comprises the rotor brake surface.

Great job by Canyon to spec 160mm rotors instead of the roadbike defacto of 140mm. I personally think that the 140mm units were mounted on the first batch of road discs to ease the transition of traditional cyclists who are apprehensive of the added weight and rotor size of the disc system. I predict that eventually every bike will come with 160mm rotors over the next few months. Larger rotors present a larger contact area which allows it to generate more friction/braking as well as to absorb and release more heat.

Next up was the gearing. The Aeroad came equipped with a mid-compact (52-36) crank and an 11-28 cassette. A very good all rounder combination and pretty much standard these days. However, I wanted something more comfortable uphill so I swapped these with a compact chainring and an 11-30 cassette.

Net effect of this change is an 11-15.5%. You effectively go that amount farther for exactly the same effort you put in the cranks. Conversely, it takes that less power for the same effective ouput.

Nerding on Gears
Initially, I went ahead and installed the climbing cranks and cassete without installing the recommended WiFli mid cage derailleur.

It worked.

It was functional but it was not ideal. My theoretical 22 possible speeds were reduced to around 19 as some combinations simply did not work or had shifting trouble.  I succumbed to the upgrade and had the WiFli derailleur installed as well. Things were working perfectly and I had full access to all ratios available. Yeah, I know all about crosschaining but it may surprise you that SRAM actually encourages people to crosschain!

In an interview in 2017, SRAM's JP McCarthy (Road Product Manager) said

At SRAM we love big-big. ..... we called big-big the 'pro gear’, because professionals would ride it all the time, no matter what their mechanics told them. The same applies to pro road racers. They'll stay on the big ring as long as possible.
There are very good reasons to stay on the big chainring, even as far as the big sprocket:
• Chain management on rough terrain.
• Access to tallest gears without have to shift in front.
• Front shifts are slower than rear and much harder on the chain.
So we would encourage your readers to ride big-big if they like, as long as they don’t experience chain rasp on the front derailleur cage. SRAM 2x11 drivetrains, specifically the Yaw front derailleurs, are designed to accommodate this. 
Very little efficiency is lost when cross-chaining. And in the case of big-big, minuscule efficiencies lost to cross-chaining are offset by efficiency gained because of larger bend radii for the chain. Better chain management and easier access to tall gears certainly outweigh any efficiency loss.

So there. Victory for the crosschainers...at least those on SRAM!

On The Road

Everything which makes the Aeroad great is brought back and amplified in this iteration. The front fork is noticeable stiffer than before, perhaps owing to structural improvements to accommodate the disc brakes. Steering input, especially at speed is handled with more immediacy than before.... that notwithstanding the rim brake Aeroad's already outstanding handling.

On comfort, the front tends to transmit bumps more directly, but the tires take away much of the sting. As a system, the Grand Prix TT's work well with the 404s in absorbing road unevenness.

While not designed as climber-specific, the Aeroad climbs very well. Armed with the climbing gears and a stiff BB area make for a rewarding climb.

That being said, I'll have to update how the bike performs on  long climbs as my current route only has has broken climbs of around 20 minutes.

 Moving to discs adds around maybe 500 grams of weight to the overall setup. This may or may not be an issue to you but my personal experience shows this as a non issue. Aerodynamics? Canyon says discs add 1W of wind resistance.... in short it's negligible.

But the braking....

Hydraulic disc brakes are better in every way except the aforementioned maintenance and installation. The amount of modulation available simply does not exist in rim brakes. The amount of power is much more substantial as well... and available sooner and in more increments.

This is the primary reason for the upgrade and it is all worth it.


One of the best just got better. No sacrifices versus the rim brake version, save for the wallet.

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