Cannondale Topstone Carbon full-suspension gravel bike goes bigger, adds Smart Sense
The Cannondale Topstone Carbon gravel bike is ready for more adventure with a new lighter no-shock Kingpin rear suspension design, bigger tire clearances, improved geometry, and a new gravel Lefty suspension fork option for bigger 700c wheel setups. Plus, you can choose integrated SmartSense radar lighting for added safety on all sorts of roads. And as always, Cannondale has tons of different build options so you can get the perfect setup for your style of gravel riding…
22 Cannondale Topstone Carbon gravel bike evolved
Cannondale’s Topstone Carbon gravel bike debuted three years ago with its unique shock-free Kingpin rear suspension and a rigid carbon fork, only adding a 650b Lefty Oliver suspension fork option a year later. Now, the Topstone Carbon gets a complete overhaul with improved suspension, geometry, and tons more tech options.
A lighter, more durable Kingpin 2.0 rear end starts it all off, shedding 100g in a move to simpler low-friction bushings (vs. gen1 bearings) that better handle the low-rotation needs of the Topstone Carbon’s ~30mm of rear wheel travel via flex in the carbon stays. Plus, that means Cannondale could slim down the Kingpin setup a bit too. At the same time, the reworked rear end now has room for bigger tires – up to 700c x 45mm or 27.5 x 2.1″. That’s at least 5mm more for big wheels and 7mm more for smaller wheels. And it’s going to be easier than ever to swap from one size to the next, as the Topstone Carbon ditches the Ai asymmetric rear wheel layout in favor of standard symmetrical-dish rear wheel which means any 12x142mm rear wheel will fit, as will standard offset chainrings. Cannondale’s SmartSense heads off the tarmac now too. Debuted on their endurance road Synapse a couple of months back, Smart Sense integrates rear-facing radar and front rear lighting for improved visibility and safety on the road. Cannondale knows most gravel bikes spend a lot of time on the road, and there’s even some high-speed traffic on gravel roads, so adding Smart Sense build options (and the possibility for future integrated upgrades) can only help improve the gravel riders’ safety on the bike. All Topstone Carbons are SmartSense-ready, while some come with the full RLE setup, some only with the L light package, and the remainder without. Lastly, the Topstone Carbon’s Lefty Oliver goes big, now updated to provide 30mm of smooth bump-eating front suspension to riders with 700c wheels. It’s not that Cannondale had to completely re-engineer the fork for bigger wheels (there was always an air piston kit upgrade that increased axle-crown for bigger wheels), just now the complete bikes with a Lefty are all spec’d with 700c wheels, and room for 45mm tires.
Updated Adventure Gravel Geometry
The new Topstone Carbon also refines its gravel bike geometry for dialed-in improvements to handling off-road, especially over rougher adventure riding terrain – while essentially keeping its core angles unchanged in five stock sizes (XS-XL). The new bike adds 5mm to bring its chainstays up to 420mm and gets an incremental 5mm lower bottom bracket height on the rigid fork models (the longer 700c Lefty means BB drop is the same as the original 650b Lefty Topstones) for improved stability. The Topstone Carbon’s proportional frame Stack Reach figures get refined across the board, with the smallest bikes getting noticeably taller a bit longer, medium bikes a tiny bit lower shorter, and the biggest bikes noticeably lower a tad shorter. Plus, they all get an extra 13-30mm of improved standover to help with managing the bike over technical terrain or when loaded down with bikepacking gear. Subtle refinements that should add up to better fit confident handling for all.
In to the details, there are even more new updates beyond the symmetric rear wheel spacing. The new Topstone Carbon swaps to a threaded bottom bracket which should make gravelers happy. No one likes a creaky BB, nothing makes BBs creak like wet riding gravel dust, and a threaded BSA bottom bracket is hard to argue with. For those not opting for Smart Sense, that same integrated mount for the central battery pack can be filled with Cannondale’s new StrapRack to secure a spare tube tools low in the frame. That’ll also fit those new Synapses that opt out of integrated light radar, as well. The new Topstone Carbon features conventional semi-internal cable routing, compatible with 1x 2x drivetrains and stealth 27.2mm dropper post routing.
The carbon fork has Anything Cage mounts on each leg and the frame also gets a 3-pack Anything cage mounting on the downtube above the SmartSense mount, plus standard pairs of bosses on the seattube, toptube underside of the downtube. The bike uses a 1.5″ tapered headset, flat mount discs (now on the seatstay), 12mm thru-axles, and also includes full-coverage fender mounts via a removable seatstay bridge.
Cannondale Topstone Carbon – Pricing, Spec Availability
It looks like 8 different builds are possible – depending on which market you are in. Most of the new Cannondale Topstone Carbon bikes now come standard with 700c wheels for faster rolling improved rollover now that the bigger tire clearance is there. But there are still 650b options, too. The 2800 / 2950€ Topstone Carbon 4 is going to be the lowest cost of entry globally, with a Shimano GRX 600/400 10sp mix and 45mm Riddler Comp tires on 700c WTB i23 TCS wheels. A North America-only Topstone Carbon Rival 3200 gets a mechancial SRAM 1×11 groupset. The 3400€ Topstone Carbon 3 gets a Shimano GRX 800/600 11sp mix with alloy WTB wheels the option for 700x45mm or 650x47mm tires. The 3300 Topstone Carbon 3 L gets the same groupset either wheelsize option, plus integrated SmartSense lighting (but no radar). Stepping up to the 4200 / 5200€ level buyers can pick either the Topstone Carbon 2 L or Topstone Carbon 2 Lefty, both with a GRX 800 group lighter WTB wheels. The L-only model sticks with the rigid carbon fork and includes integrated SmartSense lighting, plus a carbon SAVE seatpost. The Lefty model unsurprisingly gets the suspension fork, and adds in a Cannondale DownLow dropper seatpost (60-100mm drop depending on frame size).
At the top tier, 7800 / 9000€ buys either the Topstone Carbon 1 Lefty or the Topstone Carbon 1 RLE. Both feature a SRAM Force eTap AXS drivetrain and HollowGram 22 carbon wheels – 25mm internal, 22mm deep, 1500g. The Lefty gets the suspension fork and a carbon SAVE seatpost. The RLE model gets full SmartSense radar lights, plus an aero gravel FSA K-Wing AGX carbon handlebar. All are available from your local Cannondale dealer starting today. Cannondale.com
Does Cannondale’s Eye-Popping New Gravel Bike Ride as Great as It Looks?
The Topstone Carbon 2 Lefty integrates two types of innovative suspension technology, resulting in incredible handling and adventure capabilities.
Cannondale bikes are known for their funky dimensions, single-sided forks and stand-out-of-the-crowd sort of designs. Their engineers joke that, despite the commentary, they don’t sit around and pick weird designs just for fun; instead, they are committed to challenging the capabilities of bikes (as well as riders’ expectations) of where they can go.
One rip on the new Topstone Carbon 2 Lefty proves the Cannondale team is onto something. This bike integrates up to 30mm of suspension in the front and the rear of the bike, absolutely changing the game when it comes to innovating gravel comfort and capability.
What makes the Topstone Carbon 2 Lefty different than other bikes?
Gravel riders know that feeling comfortable and grounded on slippery gravel is a tough task. Between loose switchbacks, singletrack or standing up over the top of the hill, it makes a huge difference when you can feel confident in your bike’s traction. The suspension systems on the Topstone add as much traction as a tire that’s 9mm wider with lower pressure, giving riders the opportunity to run faster rolling, smaller tires while benefiting from the traction they truly could only dream of before this bike.
In front, the Lefty Oliver fork is nearly imperceptible until you need it; on the road, Oliver feels stiff and snappy. As soon as the front end hits a rough patch, Oliver engages, notably softening the ride. One minor downside of the Lefty is the need for Cannondale’s Lefty specific hub and the learning curve associated with figuring out how to properly remove the front wheel. At the end of the day though, it’s a pretty minor downside for some extra squish and comfort.
In the rear, Cannondale created a system called Kingpin: a single pivot-point where the seat stay and seat tube connect. The frame around the Kingpin pivot capitalizes on the flexible nature of the carbon, providing up to 30mm of rear suspension as the carbon flexes, using the frame itself as the spring. The result is a bike that seriously dampens chatter and maintains impressive traction while still providing a quick snappiness. Washboards and gravel are smoother, pedaling is easier and slippery corners are a place to pick up speed instead of slam on the brakes.
In addition, the Topstone uses a Proportional Response construction which changes the layup and stiffness of the carbon based on the size of the bike, meaning any size bike and any rider will feel the benefits of the design. The result of this innovation is a ridiculously fun bike that sticks where you want it. The Topstone is built for riders who are on the lookout for ‘Pavement Ends’ signs, riders who can’t help but take the singletrack home and riders who want all the offroad fun, plus the ability to fly on the pavement.
Cannondale’s Topstone comes with premium components
The Topstone Carbon 2 comes with the Shimano GRX 11 speed gravel groupset, the DownLow dropper post, and WTB wheels rounding out a series of strategic choices which keep the price tag relatively low and the adventure factor high. At 4,250 — still a pretty penny, but less than half of other gravel bikes — the Topstone comes in swinging, ready to hang with anyone in the field.
The Topstone flaunts 44mm tires with clearance for 700x45mm or 27.5×2.1” and 6mm of mud-shedding clearance on each side. New to the Topstone Carbon 2, Cannondale uses a standard dish rear wheel for added versatility.
The Topstone prioritizes safety
For a significant bump in road safety, Cannondale offers an impressive add-on called SmartSense. This system utilizes a removable, single source battery pack which connects to mounted lights and a rear-facing Garmin radar, built to intelligently alert cars of oncoming riders, and vice versa. SmartSense eliminates any fiddling with lights or surprise dead batteries, making it easier to leave worries behind and enjoy the ride.
SmartSense tech helps to mitigate the dangers associated with fiddling with lights while riding, offering a more seamless (and safe) experience.
Choosing to opt out of SmartSense still has its perks. Cannondale added in a clever StrapRack tool-holder which offers a compartment for snacks or tools in the place of a SmartSense battery. The Topstone Carbon 2 Lefty comes stock with StrapRack while the Carbon 1 RLE comes stock with SmartSense.
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.
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 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.
) Emigration Canyon Killyon Canyon
The purpose of this ride was (i) to test the Topstone on my core road ride (Emigration Canyon) and (ii) then detour to a good dirt road up Killyon Canyon.
I really wanted to see how the Topstone performed on the 7.5 mile paved Emigration Canyon road. It’s a very popular Salt Lake City road ride. I’ve ridden it 11 times in 2019, and below are my times to the summit:
1) 44 minutes 34 seconds 2) 43 minutes 55 seconds 3) 41 minutes 52 seconds 4) 41 minutes 35 seconds 5) 42 minutes 24 seconds 6) 41 minutes 16 seconds 7) 44 minutes 30 seconds 8) 38 minutes 19 seconds 9) 44 minutes 31 seconds 10) 43 minutes 09 seconds 11) 47 minutes 56 seconds
So, my average 2019 Emigration Canyon time is.
42 minutes 52 seconds
Taking into account that each ride is affected by fatigue level, wattage differences, and wind, this is a pseudo-scientific way of gauging how much the Topstone would slow me down on a legit road ride. The result?
My time up Emigration Canyon today was
42 minutes 53 seconds.
LITERALLY ONE SECOND SLOWER than my average.
Conclusion : The Topstone is virtually as fast on the road as my road bike. Very interesting.
And now for the fun part. I took the Topstone up an ancillary dirt road called Killyon Canyon. And that’s the beauty of this bike. When the road turns from pavement to dirt (see below) you don’t have to stop:
) Park City to Wanship to Coalville to Park City
This is a dandy of a gravel ride. Not too much elevation gain or lost, so it gave me a good chance to just pedal the Topstone on 50 miles of nice gravel. The ride follows the Rail Trail out of Park City, through Wanship, and then on to Coalville.
After an odd encounter with a bobcat that wouldn’t move off the road (long story), I settled in and had a lovely 50 miles. What impressed me most (again!) was the Topstone’s ability to descend. In short, from Park City to Wanship, the road is a slight dirt descent for 10 miles. When you put the Topstone in the big ring, and hold on to those wide drops, the bike FLIES. I can’t get over how well it descends. Tons of fun!
And then to ensure that I hadn’t misread the experience, a few days later I rode it in reverse, from Coalville, to Wanship, to Park City (where I had a bagel and a beverage). And the Topstone didn’t deceive me. it was just as much fun as the previous day.
Conclusion: I am still waiting to discover the bike’s deficiencies.
) Cedar City Gravel Fondo
I traveled from Salt Lake City, down the spine of Utah, to Cedar City to race the UTCX’s one-and-only gravel grinder race. But, this report is going to be brief. As I was descending a gravel road full of washboards, I got a sidewall puncture and my day was done. So, maybe the stock WTB Riddler TCS Light tires are too light? Or maybe I just was riding too aggressively? Or maybe a little of both?
And yes, I was running them tubeless. But the sidewall puncture was significant enough that the sealant would not seal it. By the time I found a plug, I was 30 minutes behind the race. Day Done!
) UTCX Cyclocross Series
You rode cyclocross races on the Cannondale Topstone GRAVEL bike?
That’s right. This fall, I’ve lined up for EIGHT (count em. 8) cyclocross races in the UTCX series in Utah. Each week has been different. At the end of the summer, we were racing hot dusty dirt tracks. In the heart of autumn, we were racing super fun grass courses. And by the time Thanksgiving rolled around, we were onto snow and mud (pictured above).
Now, at the start lines, I did get a few funny glances. And a handful of people did ask what is that bike? But not that many. This bike fits in relatively well at a cross race. But how did it ride?
Other than the odd super-technical singletrack descent full of roots and rocks (which are rare in cross races anyway), this bike was GREAT in the mud, sand, and grass. The only times I felt outmatched on the bike were times when other racers also felt under-gunned on a cross bike.
So kudos to Cannondale for creating a Gravel bike that feels at home on a cyclocross race course. What a blast!
If you’ve got 30 minutes, check out Lachlan Morton on his new carbon Cannondale Topstone in the GBDuro 2019. He claims that this race makes him more nervous than the Giro D’Italia AND the Vuelta a Espana. The race is a self-supported pedal on a meandering course of road, gravel, rivers, trails, towns, mud from the bottom of the UK to the top of the UK. all on the new Topstone.