Aluminium or carbon? It’s a question we’re sure many of you have wrestled with in recent years. To shine light on this contentious battle of materials, we’ve pitted the Canyon Endurace AL Disc 8.0 head-to-head against the Canyon Endurace CF SL 8.0. The carbon model comes with an €800-elevated price tag, so is it simply a toss-up between economy or efficiency or is there more to this debate?

Canyon Endurace CF SL Disc 8.0 | Canyon Endurace AL SL Disc 8.0

Carbon is considered the miracle material of the bike industry, and everyone’s clambering to get their own piece of this black gold. But is it really all it’s cracked up to be? Instead of simply heading into the testing lab with both frame materials, we decided to carry out some real-world testing in and around Girona with the Canyon Endurace AL Disc 8.0, riding alongside its carbon-made sibling the Canyon Endurace CF SL 8.0 to see which delivers the better total package. Canyon’s naming system is intuitive to follow once you’re acquainted with their acronyms: AL for aluminium, CF denotes carbon fibre, SL is super light and SLX represents their top-flight super light extra line. To level the playing field, our CF and AL feature identical components and the only differentiating factors are the material and price (the CF is €2,599, whereas the aluminium is € 1,799).

The bikes in detail

The Canyon Endurace CF SL Disc 8.0

Canyon Endurace CF SL Disc 8.0 | 7.6 kg | € 2,599
Hydraulic braking and mechanical shifting from the new Shimano Ultegra R8020
An organically shaped press-fit bottom bracket area
Sleek finish for the Canyon CF SL 8.0’s carbon frame – and the price is still only € 2,599
A clean-looking Endurace CF SL with a cleverly positioned, out-of-sight seat clamp
Carbon and setback: the Canyon S15 VCLS seatpost elevates your riding comfort.
Aluminium bars and stem provide flexibility, but alas, no integration. Tuning tip: Canyon H11 cockpit.

The Canyon Endurace AL Disc 8.0 weighs in at 8.4kg, while the €800 more expensive Canyon Endurace CF SL 8.0 weighs just 7.6kg. The extra dollar is visible in the frame details too, with the carbon lending a natural smoothness to the tube joints. With internal cable routing and an integrated seat clamp, it’s fair to say that the CF has a tidier, more high-end look. Further highlights are the comfort-elevating carbon Canyon S15 seatpost, semi-compact cranks and the Fi’zi:k Alicante R4 saddle. The aluminium model makes do with the brand’s own S23 aluminium seatpost, compact cranks and a Selle Italia X3 saddle. Overall it has a more down-to-earth aesthetic, with visible welds, less flowing tube profiles, and a standard, visible seatpost clamp. There are marginal differences in the bikes’ geometry, but both the AL and CF come in seven sizes from XXS to XXL. You can check out and compare their full specifications here.

The Canyon Endurace AL SL Disc 8.0

Canyon Endurace AL SL Disc 8.0 | 8.40 kg | € 1,799
Just like on the Endurace CF SL, this bike makes the most of the new Shimano Ultegra R8020
The Endurace AL has external BSA bearing cups rather than a press-fit BB
The AL also threads its cables internally through the frame
Little off-set. No carbon. Standard seat clamp. The AL takes a more direct approach to comfort and doesn’t offer any frills.
Same front as the CF: full carbon fork with a thru-axle. Compliance and torsional rigidity present.
The Endurace AL carves out its own strictly-aluminium identity with honest-looking welds

The geometry

Bike Canyon Endurace CF SL 8.0 Canyon Endurace AL Disc 8.0
Frame size M M
Riders’s height 178–184 cm 178–184 cm
Seat tube 520 mm 532 mm
Top tube 553 mm 556 mm
Head tube 158 mm 167 mm
Head angle 73° 73°
Seat angle 73.5° 73.5°
Chainstays 415 mm 415 mm
Wheelbase 990 mm 994 mm
Stack 578 mm 587 mm
Reach 382 mm 383 mm

Both models have kept nice and trim chainstays at 415 mm. The Endurace AL demonstrates a slightly longer head tube and top tube, which results in a marginally more upright and comfortable riding position. The 12 mm-shorter seat tube on the Endurance CF SL means the seat post is extended further, which lends itself to more comfort. No bad thing, right?

The Showdown

But enough theory; cycling wasn’t developed for Excel spreadsheets. We’re off. Within a matter of kilometres our first conclusions are drawn: the aluminium model should go by the name enduRACE, while the carbon model is christened ENDUrace. Even with a virtually identical spec and 800 grams more weight, the AL rides with a real pop. With a super rigid frame and aluminium seat post, it adheres to the road with great handling, agility and precision.

  On the climbs and sprints, the pillar-box red Canyon Endurace AL is a super stiff and powerful force to be reckoned with.

Very little divides the two models on the climbs. The CF might be lighter, but the considered stiffness of the AL brings about an efficiency that makes it a mean climber. Naturally, we encourage you go into a lab and collect data that disproves this, but our real-world testing demonstrates that regardless of whether you’re grinding your way up a steep ramp out of the saddle or doing a seated climb with a high cadence, the aluminium model is on a par with its carbon counterpart.

On descents the AL needs a touch more persuasion with its 1cm-higher head tube, but it handles well and goes where pointed. The chunky Continental GP 4000 II tires in 28cc actually measured up at 30 mm, generating good grip, traction and control. The stiffness and efficiency of the frame mean it’s responsive and agile. As both bikes have the same front end set-up, the only tangible difference is the frame material, so both have comparable flex at the front.

Bike change! The Endurace CF SL possess all the right features to feel comfortable. It looks so sleek that you’ll even wonder if someone switched out the price tag. Unlike the AL, the cables thread a longer route through the frame, and the integrated seat post clamp contributes to this CF’s more premium design. Out-of-the-saddle efforts are met with some flex from the bottom bracket. The CF SL accelerates slower out of tight corners (that’s due to the aluminium’s snappier handling), so those weight benefits aren’t fully in your favour.

On the whole there’s more compliance with the CF SL, which lends itself to a more forgiving ride. Just like the AL, you can expect good handling and precision. Because of its carbon nature, there’s a more comfortable ride but you’re sacrificing some degree of handling, as that higher torsional flex at the rear means there’s fleeting hesitation.

  Channel that confidence: deathgrip and carving mode on the CF SL.

On sinuous descents the difference in stiffness to the AL becomes clear: on banked corners expect to correct your line to follow the apex, which limits the predictability of the CF SL. It’s more of a cruiser than a competitive racing whip.

So, which bike for which rider?

The Canyon Endurace AL Disc 8.0 represents a really versatile bike, particularly suited to both entry-level road riders looking for a decently priced bike with potential as well as the requisite performance to head out with the club on weekend rides and take part in a handful of summer sportives. Then there’s its appeal to the more experienced rider looking for an endurance rig to tackle the Festive500 in poor conditions; its more relaxed position and clearance means there’s space for mud guards and wider tires. Did someone say ‘winter bike’?

A demonstration of putting the cycling industry’s high-end material to good use, the Canyon Endurace CF SL 8.0 shows how the Koblenz-based brand have done their homework over the years to create value for money bikes. Not breaking the bank, the SL Carbon model is calling out to speed-hungry, budget-conscious riders who are looking for a sophisticated bike with stylish integration that goes beyond the aluminium model’s more modest aspirations. In short, the carbon has a superior aesthetic. If you’re looking for a super comfortable bike then the Canyon Endurace CF SL 8.0 certainly meets the criteria for long days in the saddle.

Our thoughts

The Canyon Endurace AL Disc 8.0 came in as the underdog but managed to outshine its more expensive carbon fibre sibling. The aluminium model gives major bike for your buck, and all signs point to it being a versatile companion for long days. Long-term fun looks like a guarantee given the durability of aluminium and its lively ride style won’t change. Those in the market for a snappy commuter and weekend warrior bike, this is a great, affordable option. Don’t get bogged down by the extra weight; just remove a bottle cage and the CF and AL will soon see eye to eye. The Endurace CF SL 8.0 is a sophisticated-looking comfort bike, destined to excel at long rides. Pitted head to head, it’s not easy to overlook the extra € 800 and you do question the value. Carbon fans shouldn’t compromise here; if you’re already willing to pay an extra 800, we strongly suggest going up one more tier to the top-of-the-line CF SLX to glean the ultimate mix of comfort and performance. As our recent group test of endurance bikes showed, not all carbon is carbon.

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This article is from GRAN FONDO issue #008

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Words: Photos: Noah Haxel