Cannondale have equipped their Topstone gravel platform with a suspension fork for the new Topstone Carbon Lefty 1. Can this scintillating bike convince us on the trails and do small 650B wheels fit the overall concept? You can find all the details and our first ride review here.
“The gravel bike to beat all other gravel bikes.” There’s no doubt that Cannondale’s self-assured statement leads to high expectations for our first test. Having ridden the new Cannondale Topstone Carbon Neo 1 Lefty E-gravel bike, we were excited to see whether the suspension fork equipped Topstone could also shine without additional motor support.
One thing isn’t in question: the finish of the Topstone shines. Combined with the Lefty fork, the oil-slick effect of the paint makes the Topstone a head turner amongst the predominantly monotone range of dark and dull bikes that you’ll come across in the forest. The Lefty Oliver is claimed to be the perfect fork for the gravel sector with 30 mm travel and good stiffness for high speed and comfortable riding. That is complemented by the KingPin suspension system at the rear. The seat stays attach to the seat tube via a pivot, which, combined with built-in flex in the carbon frame, offers up to 30 mm of suspension travel.
The Topstone is also equipped with numerous mounting points on the seat tube, top tube and down tube. If you want even more options for attaching luggage and mudguards, you should take a closer look at the non-Lefty Topstone Carbon, which uses a conventional fork with additional mounting points for luggage or bottles. Dedicated bikepacking fans will no doubt be a little disappointed by the lack of mounts on the Lefty fork, but there’s a whole host of other features to discover on the Topstone Carbon Lefty. Alongside the one-sided fork, almost all of the tubeset is designed asymmetrically. As we’ve come to expect from Cannondale, the finish of the frame is very high quality, making the cable ports which have been left open all the more annoying and avoidable. The high position of the GPS mount integrated in the cockpit doesn’t look all that appealing, but offers more than enough space for a large bar bag for your bikepacking adventures.
Components and details of the Cannondale Topstone Carbon Lefty
The Topstone Carbon Lefty is available in two different builds. Our test bike, the Lefty 1, is equipped with a combined SRAM Force eTap AXS 1×12 and Eagle AXS X01 drivetrain, HollowGram carbon rims and HollowGram SAVE SystemBar cockpit. The Lefty 3 is fitted with a GRX 600 1×11 groupset and cheaper WTB aluminium rims.
Build of our test bike
Drivetrain SRAM Force eTap AXS with X01 Eagle AXS, 1 x 12, 40 t
Cassette SRAM XG-1295 Eagle, 10–50 t
Brakes SRAM Force AXS, 160/160 mm
Wheelset HollowGram 23 rims, Formula hubs
Tires WTB Venture up front, WTB Byway at the rear, 650 x 47B
Seatpost HollowGram SAVE, 15 mm offset
Bars HollowGram SAVE SystemBar, 420 mm
Stem HollowGram SAVE, 100 mm
Weight 9.90 kg in size M
Price € 7,499
Geometry of the Cannondale Topstone Carbon Lefty 1
|Seat tube||410 mm||458 mm||505 mm||553 mm||600 mm|
|Top tube||525 mm||544 mm||561 mm||579 mm||596 mm|
|Head tube||97 mm||131 mm||165 mm||198 mm||232 mm|
|Chainstays||415 mm||415 mm||415 mm||415 mm||415 mm|
|BB Drop||69 mm||64 mm||61 mm||61 mm||59 mm|
|Wheelbase||999 mm||1,010 mm||1,030 mm||1,049 mm||1,068 mm|
|Reach||368 mm||377 mm||385 mm||394 mm||401 mm|
|Stack||518 mm||550 mm||579 mm||610 mm||641 mm|
Cannondale Topstone Carbon Lefty 1 first ride review
The Topstone Carbon Lefty makes a good impression from the first few metres, accelerating readily and quickly getting up to speed. It responds directly, efficiently converting your input into forward propulsion. In comparison to its rigid 700C sibling, it’s not an all-out rocket, but for a ‘fully’ it’s more than acceptable. The KingPin system doesn’t suck up your energy and when locked out, the Lefty fork is stiff enough to attack on the sprints during your gravel rides.
After the first few off-road metres you’ll quickly notice that this is where the Topstone feels at home! Roads are only a means to an end to get out into nature as quickly as possible. On off-road terrain, the Topstone shines with playful and agile handling and stays sprightly and light-footed along winding trails. The small 650B wheels steer quickly and directly, and combined with the short 415 mm chainstays, no corner is too tight to get around. However, there’s a flip side to that coin: on straight or monotonous terrain, this gravel bike isn’t the right partner. The Topstone Carbon Lefty needs action and excitement as it otherwise feels bored. In comparison to the conventional Topstone Carbon with 700C wheels, this bike is missing some stability, favouring a playful character instead.
Vibration damping at the rear is good and the KingPin system works well, allowing for comfortable hours spent in the saddle. To top it off, the HollowGram SAVE seatpost offers additional flex and comfort. The Lefty Oliver fork only uses up all of its 30 mm travel on bigger hits – you’ll notice cobbles but braking bumps on the trail or kerbs are well damped. The lockout on the fork works reliably and will even open in an emergency if you’ve forgotten about it.
The wide tires, a WTB Byway at the rear and a WTB Venture up front (both 650 x 47B), make for an interesting combination. The rear semi-slick tire, which carries more of the overall load, has been chosen for its quick rolling nature, while the increased grip of the front tire is supposed to avoid any spills. We would have wished for a more pronounced tread on the rear for improved braking on the trail as the Byway quickly loses traction. However, as long as the ground is compact and dry, things are relatively easy to keep in hand.
Cannondale Topstone Carbon Lefty 1 conclusion
The new Topstone Carbon Left 1 delivers a fun overall concept which makes you want to head out and ride every trail. The playful character delivers a lot of fun for riders that already have gravel experience, but less experienced riders could find the ride a little too playful. This bike fills the gap left by the rigid Topstone Carbon and expands Cannondale’s portfolio, with a bike and application that wasn’t yet covered. However, you’ll be looking for a true gravel all-rounder in vain here. The Topstone Carbon Lefty 1 is missing the necessary stability and performance on the roads to fill that role.
- great finish that's sure to turn heads
- high-quality finishing
- playful handling
- agile ride
- good vibration damping
- limited stability
- integration of the GPS mount
You can find more information about the Cannondale Topstone Carbon Lefty 1 at cannondale.com
Did you enjoy this article? If so, we would be stoked if you decide to support us with a monthly contribution. By becoming a supporter of GRAN FONDO, you will help secure a sustainable future for high-quality cycling journalism. Click here to learn more.
Words: Philipp Schwab Photos: Max Schmitt, Benjamin Topf, Philipp Schwab