Electric Bike Action Bike Test: Cannondale Topstone Carbon Lefty Gravel Bike…

Cannondale Topstone Carbon Lefty Gravel Bike

An e-gravel bike?! Could any bike be more divisive or cause more of an uproar among the traditionalists than to test a bike that would represent such an affront to their dedication to all things rigid, skinny-tired and non-motorized?! Probably not. But, on the other hand, we also figured the bike might speak to a generation of riders not held back by historical norms and ready to embrace the latest in drop-bar bike technology.

SO, WHAT’S NEW?

While the Lefty fork has been a proprietary mainstay on Cannondale’s mountain bikes for decades, along with their equally proprietary HeadShok fork, it wasn’t until just a few years ago that they began testing the shorter-travel version on a cyclocross bike. Soon thereafter, this crazy thing called the gravel market blew sky high, and suddenly Cannondale saw new potential for the fork as a value-added component for the drop-bar crowd.

This newest version of the old Lefty is called the Oliver, and it’s been slimmed down and had its travel cut (from a mountain bike-friendly 100mm of travel) to a more gravel-practical 30mm. Cannondale has a claimed weight of 1610 grams for the fork, which also features a manual lockout.

THE FRAME

It very well could be safe to say that Cannondale’s Lefty Neo is the world’s first full-suspension gravel e-bike. Wait, did we say “full suspension”?

Yes, Cannondale’s new Topstone is a full-suspension bike, which, at first glance, might make you scratch your head. Obviously, the one-sided Oliver fork stands out, but the rear suspension is a little less apparent. Cannondale is using the same minimal-travel Kingpin suspension in the rear as is found on the non-assist Topstone, and when we say minimal, we mean minimal.

Since there is no pivot at the chainstay/bottom bracket juncture, the rear suspension relies on the flex of both the chainstays and seatstays aided and abetted by the rotation afforded by a pivot at the middle of the seat tube. In terms of travel, Cannondale gave us a number of 30mm, but that actually refers to whole system, which includes the compliance of the seatpost as well. Overall, the added flex/compliance (not quite any “travel”) in the rear does provide a smoother ride with some increased traction; the value of either shouldn’t be minimized.

THE PARTS

All three bikes in the Topstone Neo family utilize the new Bosch Gen 4 Performance Line CX Speed motor, which provides assist up to a road-relevant 28 mph. The 500-Wh battery is integrated into the frame. The Shimano GRX drivetrain uses a 44t chainring in the front and a 11-42 11-speed cassette. To optimize traction, Cannondale threw on a pair of tubeless-ready, WTB Resolute 650b x 42mm tires.

Cannondale outfitted the Topstone with Shimano’s gravel-oriented GRX drivetrain and hydraulic disc brakes with tubeless-ready rims and 160mm brake rotors. The brakes really held up great when trying to slow down on fast descents. The weight of the bike seemed to actually benefit from the traction when braking, so slowing down was no problem at all.

The frame has two water-bottle mounts and fender mounts for the wetter rides of the world. A Bosch battery and drive unit are a positive point to this bike, as Bosch has a great reputation for quality, as well as a fantastic warranty and reliable customer service.

THE MOTOR

The Gen 4 motor has 75 N/m of torque with upgraded speed, torque and cadence processing, which is especially apparent if you’ve ridden the previous version. To best put it in words so a rider new to e-bikes can relate to, the power is delivered rapidly and smoothly, and the faster you go, the more assist you will get.

The predecessor to this Bosch motor was really dependent on a high cadence in order to get the most power. Now, they’ve really balanced the cadence with torque and speed to not only get the most out of the motor, but also maximize battery efficiency. The power delivery is so perceptive to foot pressure, it really knows how much you’re giving it. When you start to let off the foot pressure, the power doesn’t just “cut out,” but it does rapidly and smoothly shut down exceptionally well.

THE RIDE

As we always like to see how a bike rides with the power shut off, we first rode the Cannondale for about 20 miles with 2000 feet of elevation without turning the power on. The pedaling felt really smooth, even though Bosch does not claim a complete decoupling of the motor when turned off. A handful of teeth added to the climbing gears would be more ideal for all-day riding.

One thing that maybe isn’t part of normal riding, but we found very tempting, was the challenge of some steep technical hills. The substantial power of this new motor made us look at things and say, “I wonder if we could make it up that?” With a bottom bracket height of 27.5cm, it made for pedal strikes when climbing a challenging section that had some off-kilter angles. Again, that was on extreme sections, but a slightly higher bottom bracket would be beneficial, as the non-assist version is about 1.25cm higher than the E-Topstone.

The front Oliver fork really is an added benefit for riding gravel. Downhills were substantially more forgiving and hitting bumps was not as brutal as a non-suspended e-bike. Even riding down some singletrack was more inspiring with the bigger knobs on the tires and 30mm of travel.

The weight of the bike was definitely felt when we were climbing out of the saddle rocking back and forth. It didn’t take long to make a few mental adjustments, and before long, we didn’t really think too much about it. The Bosch Purion display is off the center of the handlebar, which is right where you want to put your hands at times. Not a huge problem, but it could be annoying from time to time.

THE VERDICT

The Neo 3 is the base model in the line that includes the Neo 2 for 6500, and the top-of-the-line Neo 1 for a hefty 9000. The Topstone Neo is a quality machine capable of long days of road and/or dirt adventures. Cannondale claims 70 miles of assisted range, which, of course, actually depends on riding conditions, rider weight and power mode used.

No different than the non-assist gravel bike concept in general, the Neo Topstone adds new purpose for riding that will positively expand anyone’s sense of two-wheeled experience. Throw some slicks on and you have a capable e-road bike, knobbies for dirt use, and either with or without the power assist. So many choices; ain’t life grand?!

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Electric gravel bike Cannondale Topstone Neo Carbon 4

The Cannondale Topstone Neo Carbon contains unlimited sportiness, you can fly through the gravel thanks to its carbon frame with sporty geometry and also, thanks to the full power of its fourth generation Bosch Performance CX engine, you will make any climb that comes your way flat. A machine to make the most of your skills!

Description

TRANSMISIÓN Chain KMC X10EL, 10-speed Crank FSA Bosch E-Bike, 48/32T Front Derailleur Shimano GRX 400, braze-on Rear Cogs Shimano HG500, 11-34, 10-speed Rear Derailleur Shimano GRX 400, Shadow RD Shifters Shimano GRX 400, 2×10 CUADRO Fork BallisTec Carbon, 1-1/8 to 1.5 steerer, 55mm OutFront offset, flat mount disc, internal routing, 12×110 thru axle Frame BallisTec Carbon Frame, removable downtube battery, Kingpin suspension system, 12×148 thru-axle, dropper post compatible Headset Integrated, 1.5 lower to 1-1/8 upper, 25mm Alloy top cap LLANTAS Buje delantero Formula cartridge bearing, Centerlock, 12x110mm thru-axle Buje trasero Shimano MT400, Centerlock, 12x148mm thru-axle Rims WTB ST TCS i23 28h, tubeless ready Spokes Stainless Steel, 14g Medida de la cubierta 37 Cubiertas WTB Riddler Comp, 700 x 37c Medida de rueda 700c BRAKES Brake Levers Shimano GRX hydraulic disc Brakes Shimano GRX hydraulic disc, 160/160mm RT54 rotors COMPONENTES Grips Cannondale Bar Tape, 3.5mm Handlebar Cannondale 3, butted 6061 alloy, 16 deg flare drop Saddle Fabric Scoop Shallow Sport, steel rails Seatpost Promax SP-2032, Alloy, 27.2 Stem Cannondale 2, 6061 Alloy, 31.8, 7° SISTEMA ELÉCTRICO Batería Bosch PowerTube 500Wh Cargador Bosch 4A Monitor Bosch Purion EXTRA Extra 1 Removable fender bridge

Reviews

Shimano HG500, 11-34, 10-speed

Shimano GRX 400, Shadow RD

BallisTec Carbon, 1-1/8 to 1.5 steerer, 55mm OutFront offset, flat mount disc, internal routing, 12×110 thru axle

BallisTec Carbon Frame, removable downtube battery, Kingpin suspension system, 12×148 thru-axle, dropper post compatible

Integrated, 1.5 lower to 1-1/8 upper, 25mm Alloy top cap

Formula cartridge bearing, Centerlock, 12x110mm thru-axle

Shimano MT400, Centerlock, 12x148mm thru-axle

WTB ST TCS i23 28h, tubeless ready

WTB Riddler Comp, 700 x 37c

Shimano GRX hydraulic disc

Shimano GRX hydraulic disc, 160/160mm RT54 rotors

Cannondale 3, butted 6061 alloy, 16 deg flare drop

Fabric Scoop Shallow Sport, steel rails

Cannondale 2, 6061 Alloy, 31.8, 7°

Motor type: Central. Bosch Performance CX (MY20)

Voted the best electric bikes of 2022 by Bicycling, Wired and more – you’ve got to check out these rides.

Electric bicycles are one of the hottest categories in the cycling world right now, and the experts agree: Cannondale is building some of the best electric bikes of 2022. From city e-bikes to electric gravel, road and mountain bikes, our electric bikes are some of the most recognized and awarded in the industry.

Find out which one is right for you and the riding you want to do.

“Best Commuter E-Bike” –– Cannondale Treadwell Neo 2 Remixte

For commuters looking to get around on a light weight, great looking electric bike, the editors of Bicycling magazine found the Treadwell Neo 2 Remixte to be just what they were looking for. Good enough in fact, that they picked it as “Best Commuter E-Bike” in a recent article.

The editors called out the “clean looks and upright rider position”, and commended Cannondale for the Treadwell Neo 2’s blend of simplicity and light weight.

“The Treadwell Neo 2 eschews some of the bulkier features – suspension fork, rack and fenders – found on many other bikes in the category. This makes for a lighter and zippier riding bike at a lower price.” –– Bicycling magazine

Available in both traditional frame styles and step-through ‘Remixte’ frame styles, the Treadwell Neo 2 is designed to be an agile, comfortable, and easy to ride electric bike. Though it doesn’t look like an e-bike, the powerful, light weight rear-hub drive system offers dynamic pedaling assistance up to a 20-mph top speed. And a wide-range yet simple to operate 7-speed drivetrain flattens steep hills. Powerful mechanical disc brakes make it easy to slow your roll without losing control.

Check out the entire Treadwell Neo family of electric fitness bikes.

“Best electric bike for outright fun off road” –– Cannondale Topstone Carbon Neo Lefty 3

In her recent article highlighting the best electric bikes for every type of rider, Cycling Weekly editor, Hannah Bussey, likened the Cannondale Topstone Neo Carbon Lefty 3 to a “pedal-assisted monster truck”. And while we like to think it’s a little more easily approachable than the typical monster truck, we understand what she’s saying. It’s a dirt road slayer!

electric, bike, action, test

“This bike is unrivaled in its class in terms of motor performance and the grin-inducing ride. The suspension adds another layer of capability to the package and blurs the gravel/MTB divide even further.” –– Bussey

With its innovative full suspension and powerful Bosch motor providing motorized assistance up to 28 mph, the Topstone Neo Carbon Lefty 3 raises the bar for comfort, handling and performance on dirt and gravel roads. Our exclusive Kingpin suspension and Lefty Oliver fork provide up to 30mm of travel at both wheels to minimize the impact of bumps and vibrations, so you stay fresher and can keep the fun going longer. And with assisted range of up to 78 miles (125km), the Topstone Carbon Neo Lefty 3 is up for virtually any adventure.

Check out the entire Topstone Neo line of electric gravel bikes.

“Best for Most People” –– Cannondale Adventure Neo 3 EQ

With its built-in lights, rack, and fenders, as well as a powerful, reliable Bosch mid-drive motor the Cannondale Adventure Neo 3 EQ is fully equipped and ready for any urban adventure. That’s why Wired editor, Adrienne So, named the model the “Best for Most People” in her recent story highlighting the best electric bikes of 2022 for every kind of rider.

“If you’re hunting for a commuter bike with all the bells and whistles that you don’t have to assemble yourself, the Cannondale Adventure Neo 3 EQ is a great pick. Cannondale is a big manufacturer, so its bikes are backed by a large support network of affiliated retailers and shops.” –– So

Like each of the models in our Adventure line, the Adventure Neo 3 EQ is built to take on city streets, pathways, and open roads with confidence. The lightweight aluminum step-thru frame and standard dropper/suspension seatpost make it easy to mount and dismount. And the 9-speed Shimano shifting works with the Bosch Active Line motor to provide assisted range of up to 65 miles, with an assisted top speed of 20 mph. Adventure Neo 3 EQ is designed for comfort, equipped for life, and built for fun.

Check out the entire Adventure Neo family of electric urban bikes.

“Best Budget e-MTB” –– Cannondale Moterra Neo 5

Every day, more and more mountain bikers discover how electric mountain bikes empower them to have as much fun on the uphills as the downhills. That’s what Bike Perfect editor, Guy Kesteven, found when he tested the Cannondale Moterra Neo 5. In fact, that’s why he named it as one of the best budget e-MTBs you can buy in 2022 in his recent story. He called the bike “a trail rider at heart that thrives in the mountains.”

“In terms of handling, the Moterra 5 Neo is precise and agile, with a low center of gravity combined with short chainstays, which put the rider in a central upright position. This is ideal if you plan to make use of that full 100km range, as it’s a position that you can comfortably hold for a full day in the saddle.” –– Kesteven

Despite being the entry-level model in our Moterra Neo electric mountain bike line, the Moterra Neo 5 delivers performance that’s anything but entry-level. With 150mm of front and rear suspension, large, fast-rolling 29-inch tires and a powerful Shimano STEPS E7000 drive unit, the Moterra Neo 5 is the perfect way to get into the backcountry. And with a big 504Wh removable battery hidden in the downtube of the frame, you’ll have the range to get you back out with power to spare. When you’re ready to step up your singletrack game, Moterra Neo 5 is the perfect enabler.

Check out the entire Moterra Neo family of electric mountain bikes.

“Best Electric Road Bike” –– Cannondale SuperSix EVO Neo 2

With its lightweight carbon frame and powerful rear-hub motor, the Cannondale SuperSix EVO Neo 2 is barely distinguishable as an electric road bike. In his recent story highlighting the best electric bikes of 2022, Bike Radar editor, Paul Norman, summed it up when he wrote “the Mahle Ebikemotion motor-equipped Neo 2 blends a racer’s looks and crispness with fantastic range.” He noted that, in their testing, the SuperSix EVO Neo 2 actually exceeded its claimed range of up to 62 miles (100km).

“In its non-assisted form, the SuperSix EVO has been one of our go-to bikes throughout its illustrious history. It’s been the benchmark for race-bike ride quality and impeccable handling. So, it’s good news that all of the Neos share the same frameset (based on our current Road Bike of the Year, the SuperSix EVO), which makes for a racy-assisted machine.” –– Bike Radar tester, Warren Rossiter

The SuperSix EVO Neo 2 is not available in the U.S. (Bike Radar is a UK-based media outlet), however both the SuperSix EVO Neo 1 and Neo 3 use the same frame as the reviewed bike.

Every SuperSix EVO Neo model is designed to flatten hills, vanquish headwinds and give you more speed on every road. The light, powerful rear-hub drive system works with the aerodynamic, lightweight BallisTec carbon frameset to deliver speed, efficiency and handling you wouldn’t expect from an electric bike. It’s everything you love about road riding – amplified.

Check out the entire SuperSix Evo Neo family of electric road bikes.

Like what you see?

Learn more about the bikes featured in the story above.

Electric bikes for adults by Cannondale are excellent for commuting and exercising. Check out our guide on the best ebikes for adults.

When it comes to fun ways to get fit, nothing tops an electric bicycle. Every day, a growing number of adults find out how easy it is to get out, be active and have an unbeatable time in nature on their electric bikes.

Whether you’re looking to replace a car for your daily commute, adventure farther on gravel roads, or conquer mountains both up and down, Cannondale has an electric bike that will get you there and back with unmistakable style and unbeatable performance. Whichever road you choose, there’s a Cannondale electric bike for you.

Buying Considerations: Electric Bikes for Adults

When shopping for a new electric bike, it’s important to understand that there is not a universal “best” electric bike for every rider and every riding scenario. That’s why it’s important to consider your unique needs and narrow your search based on how the bike meets those needs. If possible, it’s important to test ride or demo the E-bikes you’re considering, as you’ll feel important differences between models that on paper may otherwise look similar.

Let’s take a look at some of the important items you’ll need to consider as you ponder an electric bicycle purchase.

Where Do You Plan to Ride?

This is an important question to ponder, as the answer can help direct you toward the right type of electric bike for you. Since there is an electric equivalent to most every type of traditional bicycle: E-road; E-mountain; E-fitness; and E-Urban/City, you can take an electric bike virtually anywhere you can take an analog bike.

If you’re focused on riding paved roads as fast as possible, an electric road bike is a great choice. However, if you also want to ride gravel roads, you might also want to take a look at an electric gravel bike, which is a relatively new off-shoot of the road bike genre.

Electric gravel bikes have drop bars like a racing bike, but are designed with wider, lower-pressure tires that roll fast with confident handling on gravel and dirt. As a result, an E-gravel bike is a great choice for a rider who prefers drop bars but wants to ride virtually any terrain.

With sky high gas and increasing congestion in urban centers, every day more adults are replacing their car commute with an electric bike. Cannondale’s electric urban bikes make the transition easy, with practical features including standard racks, integrated lighting, fenders, and kickstands. Plus, with both traditional and step-through “Remixte” frames available on most models, there’s an electric urban bike that’s perfect for any rider.

Adults are also finding electric bikes to be a fun, interactive way to get out and get fit without having to learn an entirely new hobby. For these riders, electric fitness bikes are an ideal solution. With an upright, easy to ride stance, E-fitness bikes are an awesome new weapon in the battle of the beltline bulge.

For riders with a love of singletrack shredding, nothing but a full-blown electric mountain bike will do. With fat, knobby tires, powerful disc brakes and long-travel suspension to smooth the ride, electric mountain bikes are revolutionizing how riders experience trails. Now it’s possible to have just as much fun going up the mountain as it is flying down it.

electric, bike, action, test

How Much Are You Looking to Spend?

As with most things in life, with electric bicycles you get what you pay for. And while you can spend 10,000 or more on an electric bike, you don’t necessarily need to spend that much to get a great Ebike for you. On the other hand, while you can spend less than 1,000 on a cheap electric bike, you may quickly come to regret such a purchase.

For most adults, it’s well worth spending a little more up front to get a premium quality electric bike they can trust to meet their needs both today and in the future. Cannondale’s electric bikes start at less than 2,000, so a premium E-bike experience isn’t as much of a stretch as some may think.

Mid-Drive vs. Hub-Drive: Which is Better?

Electric bicycles are powered by two primary motor types, defined by their location on the bike. Mid-drive motor systems locate the electric motor centrally, near the pedals, while hub-drive motor systems locate the motor within either the front or rear hub, at the center of the bicycle wheel.

The low, centralized placement and natural assist feel of mid-drive motors makes them the dominant motor type in premium electric bikes. That mass centralization is especially important for electric mountain bikes operating in rough, steep terrain, but is less important for a fitness rider on urban bike paths and streets. Additionally, mid-drive motors are more efficient than hub-drive motors, so they’re a good choice for riders looking to ride long distances.

Hub-based motor systems have improved considerably in recent years, and today you’ll find quality hub motors on several Cannondale road and fitness electric bike models. Since the motor is enclosed entirely in the hub, the frame of the electric bike can look much the same as its traditional counterpart, just with the benefit of motorized assist.

Regardless of motor type, in the U.S., electric bicycles are limited to 750 watts (one horsepower) of maximum power.

Range Matters: How Far Do You Want to Ride?

Even the most mature adult will feel like a kid again on an electric bike, but everyone has a different definition of fun. While some riders crave 4–5-hour adventure rides, others find their bliss in getting a great 30-minute workout. That’s why it’s important to match the range your electric bike is capable of with the rides you want to do, and also understand that range estimates are just that – estimates – and your choices can impact battery life significantly.

electric, bike, action, test

If you like high speed, maximum assistance, and steep hills, you should expect to get less range than you would if you chose less assistance or a less hilly route. That’s why most Cannondale electric bikes offer an estimate of remaining mileage as a function of the connected controller. The controller monitors usage and battery level to offer a more accurate estimate how far you can go on a charge.

Electric Bicycle Classes: How Fast Do You Want to Go?

Electric bikes in the United States are categorized into one of three classes based on the type of assist and maximum assisted top speed. This is an important consideration if you’re looking to ride your electric bike on urban bike paths, as local e-bike laws differ from state to state. While most cities allow Class 1 electric bikes on paths built for bikes, some cities prohibit Class 2 and Class 3 electric bikes from using cycling infrastructure.

Learn more about electric bike classes and state-specific laws, visit the People For Bikes Policies and Laws Page.

Are Electric Bicycles a Good Workout for Adults?

While the topic of whether electric bikes give adults a good workout has been debated extensively, studies show electric bike riders get a similar workout to cyclists on traditional bikes.

In fact, a 2019 study of the physical activity of electric bicycle users compared to conventional bicycle users and non-cyclists, using insights from health and transport data from an online study in seven European cities. It concluded that e-bikers take longer trips by electric bike and bicycle more often compared to analog cyclists, and that physical activity gains from active travel are similar in e-bikers and cyclists. [1]

Other Considerations for Adults Looking for an Electric Bike

Integrated Lights

Even if you only ride in the daytime, front and rear lights help you more easily be seen by motorists and pedestrians. Many Cannondale electric bikes are equipped with standard integrated front and rear lights. Since they get their power from the same battery as the motor uses, there’s no need to charge separate light batteries. If you’ve got a motor, you’ve got lights.

If the electric bike you’re looking at doesn’t have integrated lights, you can always add aftermarket front and rear lights. Whether it’s to see, or to be seen, lighting is an important part of adult e-biking.

Since electric bicycles are faster and heavier than conventional bikes, it’s extra important that they have good brakes. Every Cannondale electric bike is equipped with disc brakes, which is the same type of brakes cars and motorcycles use. Disc brakes offer the power and controllability you need to ride your electric bike safely in any conditions.

Electric bikes are typically equipped with one of two types of disc brakes –– mechanical or hydraulic –– which refers to the method used to push the brake pads against the disc rotor to stop the bike. Mechanical disc brakes use a mechanical cam system to press the pads against the disc as you pull the lever, while hydraulic disc brakes use fluid pushing against pistons to accomplish the same task. While both disc brake types work well, hydraulic disc brakes are generally more powerful and easy to control, which is why you’ll find them on mid- to high-end electric bikes.

Electric Bicycles for Adults: Recommendations

If you want an electric bike for fast road riding on paved and gravel roads, check out Cannondale’s Topstone Neo models.

If you’re looking for a rugged urban electric bike for commuting and recreation, take a look at the Cannondale Tesoro Neo X models.

If you need an ultra-comfortable and easy to ride electric bike for city and bike path riding, check out the Cannondale Adventure Neo line.

If you feel the call of singletrack trails ringing in your ears, check out Cannondale’s awesome Moterra Neo line of electric mountain bikes.

If you’re just getting into cycling and want a fun, approachable, easy to ride electric bike, the Cannondale Treadwell Neo line is a great place to start.

Like what you see?

Learn more about the bikes featured in the story above.

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[1] Alberto Castro, Mailin Gaupp-Berghausen, Evi Dons, Arnout Standaert, Michelle Laeremans, Anna Clark, Esther Anaya-Boig, Tom Cole-Hunter, Ione Avila-Palencia, David Rojas-Rueda, Mark Nieuwenhuijsen, Regine Gerike, Luc Int Panis, Audrey de Nazelle, Christian Brand, Elisabeth Raser, Sonja Kahlmeier, Thomas Götschi. “Physical activity of electric bicycle users compared to conventional bicycle users and non-cyclists: Insights based on health and transport data from an online survey in seven European cities”. Volume 1. Accessed 8/26/2022.

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