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Canyon spins Unicorn Hair into their lightest hardtail ever with new Exceed XC Race bike

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Downcountry might be the current trend, but for those of you looking for a pure XC race hardtail, the Canyon Exceed fits the bill. Already proven to be a winning formula after taking a World Championship, the course record at Leadville, and a number of World Cup victories, Canyon asked themselves – how can we improve on that? The answer? Make it lighter of course.

Unicorn Hair?

Canyon Exceed 2021 unicorn hair

To give this hardtail mountain bike frame a weight that would make many roadies jealous, Canyon looked to a new option in carbon fiber. Playfully named “unicorn hair,” the carbon is actually Toray’s M40X fiber used in combination with Toray’s NanoAlloy resin system in pre-preg sheets. While many carbon fibers struggle to be both strong and stiff, the magical unicorn hair is just that, which allows Canyon to use less of it in combination with the other carbon materials used for the frame construction. That helps to reduce the weight while allowing the high end CFR frame to reach their stiffness to weight targets.

According to Canyon, there are only three manufacturers in the world who have access to M40X, and only one of those builds bike frames for a small group of premium brands that includes Canyon. It’s super rare and very expensive, but for their top end models, Canyon sees it as a way to push them to the next level.

Canyon Exceed 2021 frame weight Canyon Exceed 2021 frame weight chart

Because of that, unicorn hair is only found on the top CFR frame which is what helps it get to such a ridiculously low weight. Canyon points out that many companies give claimed weights for their frames in many different ways. Some include the hardware, some are unpainted, etc. To make it clear, the total weight of a medium frame is claimed at 835g – which is actually rounded up from 827g to account for frame variance from the carbon construction. But the raw frame itself without finish or additional parts is just 740g.

As mentioned, only the top end CFR frame is included in the chart above, but that doesn’t mean the other two models are heavy. Claimed weight with all the same parts as above for the Exceed SLX medium frame is 1,015g, and the Exceed CF is 1,312g.

What Else is New?

Canyon Exceed 2021 handle bar stem Canyon Exceed 2021 headset

There’s a lot going on at the front of the bike with essentially a completely new front end. Both CFR and SLX models will include a new one piece carbon bar/stem combo that is light weight and very racy. Underneath that, you’ll notice that the cables now enter the frame through the headset instead of through cable ports on the side of the frame. Canyon says that this routing has no effect on shifting performance or binding feeling for steering, but allowed them to make a lighter and stiffer headtube.

Canyon Exceed 2021 ipu

It does require a proprietary headset, but that was already a given considering the frame includes their newest Impact Protection Unit (IPU). Previously, the IPU used an external stop just behind the headset with wings on the headset that bumped into it to prevent your handlebars/shifter/brakes from banging into your top tub in a crash (remember these bikes have very low handlebar positions for pro racers). The new IPU streamlines everything and hides it all under the headset top cap for a clean look, that also doesn’t have the risk of pinching anything important.

Canyon Exceed 2021 seat post clamp

Out back, the seat tube gets cleaned up with a new integrated post clamp that’s hidden under the top tube.

Canyon Exceed 2021 dropper post

Designed to be compatible with rigid seat posts, Canyon also worked with DT Swiss on their ultra light dropper posts with 60mm of travel. The carbon version on the CFR LTD bike weighs in at 390g, while the new aluminum dropper (which also launches today) weighs in at 420g. Not everyone is going to want a dropper with this bike, but for those that do, the DT Swiss posts are interesting.

Canyon Exceed 2021 UDH

Yesterday, we posted about the Merida Big.Trail that used the new SRAM Universal Derailleur Hanger (UDH), and now here is Canyon using it as well. Under impacts, it’s designed to pivot backwards to help protect the derailleur, and it’s potentially truly universal which all seem like very good things.

Canyon Exceed 2021 bottle cages

No XC race bike would be complete without room for at least two water bottles, but the interesting thing here is that every Exceed can fit two bottles inside the frame – even the XS size which still rolls on 29″ wheels and a 100mm travel suspension fork.

Canyon Exceed 2021 frame Canyon Exceed 2021 quixle

Other frame details include a press-fit bottom bracket, a tool-free Quixle rear axle, frame tubes shaped to repel mud, and tire clearance for up to 29 x 2.4″ tires on 30mm internal width rims.


Canyon Exceed 2021 geometry chart

This is no downcountry bike, but the geometry numbers did evolve slightly. You’ll find that reach grew by 10mm while stems shortened to 80mm on all sizes, and the head angle got slacker at 69° and the chainstays got shorter by 2mm. But all of those changes were driven from feedback from their World Cup riders with winning races in mind, though handling on technical XC race sections was certainly part of the equation. Note the new XS size which is said to fit riders down to 5’2″ with 29″ wheels.

What Models will be offered in the U.S.?

Canyon Exceed 2021 CF 7 Canyon Exceed 2021 CF 8 Canyon Exceed 2021 SLX 9 Canyon Exceed 2021 CFR

Canyon Exceed 2021 US build optionsGlobally, Canyon will offer seven different unisex models of the Exceed and two WMN’s specific models. In the U.S. though, we’ll be limited to just four bikes – the Exceed CF 7, CF 8, CF SLX 9, and one top end CFR model. Pricing starts at a reasonable $1,999 for the CF 7, and tops out at $6,999.


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3 years ago

I’m not a big fan of hardtails, but I think the design looks great. But, unless you are a pro racer, I would hate to take this out on any type of technical trails for fear a rock would shatter the super thin carbon.

3 years ago

It was 2016 when James Huang said, “Thankfully, the industry has mostly moved past the full-blown weight-weenie wars, and on to other metrics…” Going backwards?

Also, why did the CS lengthen on the L and XL? 425mm CS and 1186mm WB would be quite modern. 435mm CS and 1186mm WB is quite old school.

Tony Pepperoni
Tony Pepperoni
3 years ago
Reply to  Varaxis

But who cares that much about 10mm chain stay length, ya know?

3 years ago
Reply to  Varaxis

I think the chain stay length is about front-center / rear-center ratio to keep similar riding characteristics across different frame sizes. Also, Canyon has usually been quite conservative with geometry.

I also don’t like the gram shaving focus, but I guess we will keep seeing that as long as mountain bikes are heavier than 6,8 kg.

3 years ago

Disappointed that the SLX version doesn’t come with a Fox factory fork.

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