First Look: Canyon Tips the Scales With New Exceed Hardtail MTB

We’ve seen a few high-profile XC hardtails released in the past month. BMC twisted out the Twostroke, a modern yet measured approach to a category that is still relevant, but takes a back seat to full-suspension. On the other hand, Orbea dropped the Alma, a purist’s race machine that takes a spare-no-expense approach to making the best (read: lightest) hardtail on the market. The new Canyon Exceed is in the latter school, and because it’s within five grams of the Alma, we’ll call that part a tie. But there’s a lot more to it, so let’s dig in.

canyon bikesPhoto: Courtesy of Canyon Bikes/BIKE Magazine

The Exceed doesn’t see many of the updates we usually talk about in the trail bike category. The geometry didn’t change much at all. The reach increased by about 10 millimeters across all sizes, and the size-specific chainstay lengths decreased by two millimeters. Apart from a move to 80-millimeter stems across all frame sizes, and the addition of an XS option (which still fits two in-triangle water bottles) not a whole lot changed in the fit of the Exceed. The finish, on the other hand, is another story.

The buzzword you’ll see most frequently in the Exceed news is “unicorn hair,” which refers to the Toray M40X special blend of carbon fiber material. Since we couldn’t find the phrase associated with anything but the new Exceed and a hip brand of hair dye aimed at millennials, it seems that unicorn hair is Canyon’s term, not Toray’s, but it is definitely fitting. Unicorn hair is rare and expensive but boasts an uncommon combination of stiffness and strength, while most carbon is, to some degree, either one or the other. It is how Canyon achieved the size-medium Exceed CFR’s 835-gram frame weight. There are also two other new frames in the Exceed lineup, the entry-level CF and the confusingly named SLX, weighing 1,312 and 1,015 grams respectively.

canyon bikesPhoto: Courtesy of Canyon Bikes/BIKE Magazine

But there are plenty of other headline-grabbing updates to the Exceed. Canyon developed a unique headset design that passes the cables through the headset itself. Part of the benefit is its tidy looks, but Canyon also claims that the new routing makes for less inhibition on steering forces, while also not inhibiting shifting performance. It does introduce another variable to cable replacement, and prevents the rider from taking advantage of the in-out simplicity of tube-in-tube routing, but anyone opting for a hardtail race frame is about results, not convenience. Atop that routing is a new integrated carbon bar and stem combo that’s specced on the CFR and SLX models.

canyon bikesPhoto: Courtesy of Canyon Bikes/BIKE Magazine

On the other end of the touchpoints, the Exceed has a clever new hidden seat clamp, which integrates beneath the top tube. It’s probably lighter, it may allow the seatpost to start its comfort-aiding flex an inch or two lower. But really, it’s probably just about looking cool. Atop the clamp is a 60-millimeter dropper post, designed for Canyon by DT Swiss.

canyon bikesPhoto: Courtesy of Canyon Bikes/BIKE Magazine

It’s 60 millimeters for a few reasons. One, it’s lighter. There’s a carbon-bodied version that’s 390 grams and an aluminum one that’s 420 grams. But also, 60 millimeters is the most efficient amount of drop for XC racing. It takes less effort to squat down and compress than a full-length dropper, and still allows for semi-efficient seated pedaling when down.

canyon bikesPhoto: Courtesy of Canyon Bikes/BIKE Magazine

The frame has a few other practical features like limited headset rotation to protect the frame, and aluminum chain-drop plates to do the same. And the Exceed is another bike to adopt the SRAM universal derailleur hanger, and is sticking with traditional post-mount brake calipers.

Complete Exceed models start at $2,000 with the entry-level CF frame, $4,500 with the mid-range SLX frame and $7,000 with the top-end CFR frame.

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This article originally appeared on and was republished with permission.

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