The Cannondale Topstone Carbon 1 Lefty is probably one of the most prominent gravel bikes on the market. Widely known, popular, and crammed with proprietary features, like a suspended rear end and wild Lefty fork, it should destroy the competition in our big adventure gravel bike group test. But is it actually a good adventure bike?

This bike was tested as part of our 2023 adventure gravel bike group test – you can find an overview of the group test and the test field here:

Cannondale Topstone Carbon 1 Lefty | 30 mm (f) | 9.40 kg in size LG | Manufacturer’s website

Cannondale and Topstone go hand in hand almost as much as the big S and the fast road bike. But what the simple road bike lacks, Cannondale have brought to their feature-rich gravel bike. A one-legged fork called the Lefty Oliver, KingPin rear suspension, SmartSense, and what else? At least as far as the marketing is concerned, Cannondale go all out. But less is often more, especially with adventure gravel bikes, and reliability is more important than having the latest tech. How does this relate to the gravel monster that is the Cannondale Topstone Carbon 1 Lefty?

Back to the future – The features on the Cannondale Topstone Carbon 1 Lefty

The Cannondale Topstone isn’t a new bike, and it’s been on the market for a few years, but it still claims to be at the forefront. The latest iteration from 2021 is a little slicker than its predecessor, but was definitely an evolution rather than a major overhaul. The biggest innovation is the integration of the SmartSense system. This consists of a battery on the down tube, powering integrated lights and a Garmin radar – perfect for night owls and early risers. Otherwise, the bike looks quite stylish, well designed, and well thought out, though the staunch front end isn’t the sexiest. Nevertheless, the design provides a clear indication of the bike’s intended use – going off-road.
By far the most striking feature is the 30 mm travel Lefty Oliver suspension fork with its asymmetrical, one-legged design. Unfortunately, this also means that you need a special hub for the front wheel. Visually, however, the fork looks better than the competition from RockShox or FOX, and makes a high-quality and exclusive impression.

Nice fork?
The asymmetrical Lefty Oliver fork looks really good and suits the Cannondale Topstone Lefty 1 perfectly.
For the really tall…
… the Cannondale Topstone Carbon Lefty 1 comes with a lot of setback on the seatpost and thus provides added compliance at the rear.

At the rear, you’ve got the cleanly integrated KingPin suspension, which connects the seat stays to the seat tube via a rotating axle, thereby allowing the seat tube and chain stays to flex more freely. The suspension is complemented by gravel-specific components, with the 460 mm Cannondale 2 handlebar and 100 mm Cannondale 1 stem (yes, they’re actually called that) ensuring maximum control on any terrain. Together with the Cannondale Hollowgram wheels and 44 mm Vittoria Mezcal tires, you get an off-road capable and feature-rich setup like few others. The SRAM Force XPLR eTap AXS groupset offers a sufficiently wide gear range for most routes with its 40 t chainring, though some may struggle on very steep climbs.

Wide and old school
The wide and round handlebar is reminiscent of times gone by, and the external cable routing could also be neatened up a bit.
Good combo!
Even though the Vittoria Mezcal tire doesn’t sit perfectly on the Cannondale Hollowgram rim here, they’re a great match, and provide ample traction and efficiency.

Tuning tip: handlebar with flatter, more comfortable tops

Our jungle expert Martin isn’t a fan of the Cannondale speed sensor on the front wheel – who needs that on an adventure? But you don’t have to use it, so it’s no big deal. That said, Martin loves the number of mounting points on the Topstone frame – it’s just the fork that has to make do without any.

Cannondale Topstone Carbon 1 Lefty

€ 8,999


Fork Lefty Oliver Carbon 30 mm
Seatpost SAVE Carbon
Brakes SRAM Force 160/160 mm
Drivetrain SRAM Force eTap AXS XPLR 1x12
Stem Cannondale 1 100 mm
Handlebar Cannondale 2 460 mm
Wheelset Cannondale Hollowgram
Tires Vittoria Mezcal 28"

Technical Data

Weight 9,4 kg

Specific Features

One-legged Lefty suspension fork
KingPin suspension in the rear
SmartSense lighting and radar system
Cannondale speed sensor

Top tube 532 mm 543 mm 556 mm 571 mm 586 mm
Seat tube 410 mm 458 mm 505 mm 553 mm 590 mm
Head tube 105 mm 123 mm 150 mm 177 mm 205 mm
Head angle 64° 69.3° 70.3° 70.5° 70.5°
Seat angle 72.4° 72.4° 72.4° 72.4° 72.4°
Chainstay 420 mm 420 mm 420 mm 420 mm 420 mm
BB Drop 69 mm 64 mm 61 mm 61 mm 59 mm
Wheelbase 1,012 mm 1,016 mm 1,030 mm 1,046 mm 1,062 mm
Reach 631 mm 367 mm 373 mm 379 mm 386 mm
Stack 539 mm 555 mm 579 mm 605 mm 629 mm

Off-road monster or tame gravel bike? – The Cannondale Topstone Carbon 1 Lefty in review

So far so good, but how does the cutting-edge Topstone fare in the real world? First off: the Lefty Oliver suspension fork doesn’t just look good: it has the performance to boot. It feels more responsive than the Rudy from suspension giants RockShox. On rough surfaces, the front almost glides over all the bumps, and the Oliver can be easily locked out, trimming the Topstone to maximum efficiency on smooth and fast terrain.

Is there another bike that’s crammed with more innovations than this?

The KingPin suspension at the rear, on the other hand, only works to a limited extent. Although the flex is able to compensate for small vibrations, it quickly gets overwhelmed by bigger hits and passes them on to the rider largely unmitigated. On a more positive note, it doesn’t bounce like the seat post on the Canyon, though the seat post is a lot more comfortable.

In line with the suspension, the handling of the Topstone Carbon Lefty 1 tends to be on the more restrained, almost sluggish side. It feels somewhat reluctant through the corners and doesn’t excel at quick direction changes, but its performance at high speed is all the more convincing. This is matched by the efficient tires and effective vibration damping. Long distances and fast, straight-line descents also suit the bike really well, putting a grin on every rider’s face. The gearing is clearly designed for speed over distance, though it works well on most climbs as long as you’re not loaded with luggage. Overall, the Topstone Carbon 1 Lefty is well thought out and balanced, delivering an impressive gravel performance.

The Perfect Cannondale Topstone Carbon 1 Lefty Adventure

The Cannondale Topstone Carbon 1 Lefty is all about bikepacking and long-distance riding, and that suits the bike very well. Thanks to the integrated damping and in-house Lefty Oliver suspension fork, the bike does an excellent job of absorbing vibrations, and it’s known for its straight line stability. But the Topstone can actually do everything really well, apart from extreme gravel races or rough descents, so it’s not just the bike of choice for gravelers, but also a good option for daily use.

Helmet POC Omne Ultra MIPS | Glasses Evil Eyes Traileye NG | Jacket POC M’s Signal AllWeather Jacket | Jersey POC Reform Enduro Jersey | Bib POC ROVE CARGO VPDS BIB SHORTS | Shoes GIRO Sector | Socks Stance Casual

Our conclusion on the Cannondale Topstone Carbon 1 Lefty

The Cannondale Topstone Carbon 1 Lefty is well thought-out down to the finest detail. While the bike lacks the capability for the ultimate off-road performance, it’s the master of everyday adventures, and it’s definitely amongst the most innovative bikes with its KingPin suspension, Lefty Oliver fork, and SmartSense system. And the handling underlines this – stable, confidence inspiring, and comfortable, making it a true everyday hero.


  • Lefty and KingPin suspension are cool in-house solutions for a little more compliance
  • cleverly integrated light and radar thanks to SmartSense
  • very balanced and composed handling


  • seems restrained overall, despite its versatility

For more information visit

The testfield

This bike was tested as part of our 2023 adventure gravel bike group test – you can find an overview of the group test and the test field here:

All bikes on review:Argon 18 Dark Matter | BMC URS 01 ONE | Cannondale Topstone Carbon 1 Lefty | Canyon Grizl CF SLX 8 Force AXS Trail | Falkenjagd ARISTOS TRAIL GRAVEL | Focus Atlas 8.8 | Ghost Asket Advanced | Giant Revolt X | Merida Silex 10k | Mondraker Dusty XR | Orbea Terra M21e Team Custom M | Ridley Kanzo Adventure | Rose Backroad AL Plus | Santa Cruz Stigmata | Scott Solace Gravel eRIDE 10 | Specialized Diverge STR Pro | Trek Checkpoint SL 7 AXS | Wilier Adlar | YT Industries Szepter Core 4

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Words: Calvin Zajac Photos: Mike Hunger