A full-suspension gravel bike? The Cannondale Topstone Carbon Lefty 1 promises extra control and comfort thanks to the KingPin system at the rear and the Lefty Oliver suspension fork up front. Read on to find out how the progressive concept fares against the competition.

A quick overview of this group test: The best gravel bike 2021

Cannondale Topstone Carbon Lefty 1 | 9.75 kg (size M) | € 7.499 | Manufacturer’s website

With the Topstone Carbon Lefty 1, Cannondale presented one of the most polarising gravel bike concepts of the 2020 season. The bike is bursting with innovations, including the 30 mm travel Lefty Oliver suspension fork and the KingPin suspension system which offers 30 mm travel at the rear. You also get a factory-fitted Garmin speed sensor with ANT+ connectivity and the proprietary HollowGram SAVE cockpit. Included with the cockpit is a GPS mount but it sits quite high up and doesn’t blend well with the rest of the bike. We would have preferred more flare to the drops of the HollowGram SAVE bars as they hold back the bike on technical descents and when sprinting. However, replacing it would mean having to buy a conventional stem too due to the proprietary design. The carbon frame features a nice looking oil-slick finish and the shape of each tube is elaborately shaped. While the cable ports on the down tube are compatible with all conventional groupsets, they were a bit distracting on our test bike with its wireless SRAM AXS components. A dropper post would suit this bike brilliantly and you have the option of fitting one with stealth cable routing. Cannondale don’t offer one on any of their standard builds but with a seat tube diameter of 27.2 mm, there are numerous aftermarket options available.

With the KingPin system, the seat stays are connected via a pivot on the seat tube, offering up to 30 mm travel thanks to engineered flex in the carbon frame. The system isn’t adjustable, but it should require minimal maintenance.
To remove the wheel, the brake calliper can be dismantled with a flick of the wrist and putting the calliper back is just as quick and easy. The fork performed perfectly during the course of our test! However, due to the small air chamber, you have to be careful with the setup. Other than that, the Lefty Oliver is sure to put a smile on your face. Its lockout function works reliably too.

Cannondale Topstone Carbon Lefty 1

€ 7,499


Seatpost HollowGram SAVE 15 mm
Brakes SRAM Force 160/160 mm
Drivetrain SRAM Force eTap AXS mit Eagle AXS X01-Schaltwerk 40 (10–50)
Stem HollowGram SAVE 100 mm
Handlebar HollowGram SAVE SystemBar 420 mm
Wheelset Lefty 50- und HollowGram-Naben, HollowGram 23-Felgen
Tires WTB Venture TCS Road Plus/WTB ByWay TCS Road Plus 47C

Technical Data

Size XS S M L XL
Weight 9.75 kg
Wheelsize 650B

Specific Features

Cannondale Lefty Oliver suspension fork with 30 mm travel
Mounting points for mudguards rear only
Bolting points at the top of the top tube and at the bottom of the down tube

Cannondale rely on a SRAM Eagle X01 AXS mountain bike derailleur. Due to its construction, it occasionally comes into contact with the rider’s shoe. We had no problems while pedalling but we did on the descents where, otherwise, the bike excels.
A handlebar with more flare would underscore the Cannondale’s off-road capabilities. While the integration of the GPS computer mount is practical, it leaves a lot to be desired visually. To adapt the cockpit, the handlebar and stem would both have to be replaced.
Size XS S M L XL
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
Head angle 70.0° 71.2° 71.2° 71.2° 71.2°
Seat angle 73.1° 73.1° 73.1° 73.1° 73.1°
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

Despite all our criticism of the Cannondale: To ride with the bike offroad and on the trail is really fun!

Helmet POC Omne SPIN | Glasses AO Eyewear Original Pilot | Shirt Cascada Land Wool Shirt
Jacket Rapha Explore Down Jacket | Shorts Specialized Men’s RBX Adventure Over-Shorts
Socks FINGERSCROSSED HELL YEAH | Shoes Specialized S-Works Recon

The groupset is spot on, combining SRAM RED eTap AXS shifters with an Eagle AXS X01 derailleur. However, the mountain bike derailleur came into contact with our shoes (size 45+) in certain situations. If you’ve got the cranks parallel to the ground with your right foot at the back during descents, the derailleur will hit your heel. Fortunately, we never encountered this problem while pedalling. Our € 7,499, size M test bike weighs a considerable 9.75 kg, making it one of the heavyweights of the group test.

The playful and lively character of the Topstone Carbon Lefty 1 is a lot of fun off-road, inviting you to veer off the gravel highway at every opportunity. The FUSTLE’s, a bike with a similar intent, marketing claim of “This is a mountain biker’s gravel bike,” is just as applicable to the Cannondale. If you translate the two bike concepts into the mountain bike world, the FUSTLE would be an enduro and the Cannondale a trail bike.

Although there are more nimble models on test, pedalling as you exit the corners and on short, intense climbs is a lot of fun on the Cannondale. The bike’s lack of light-footedness is most noticeable in mountainous terrain and on the road. In these situations, it prefers taking things easy. However, the bike’s off-road efficiency is excellent since its comfort makes it easier to maintain form on long rides. This is thanks to the large volume 650B tires, the damped Lefty Oliver suspension fork and the compliance of the frameset. In general, the Lefty Oliver fork delivered a convincing performance throughout. The KingPin system also does a great job of swallowing small vibrations but it acts a bit like a catapult on large compressions. The lack of damping at the rear is particularly noticeable when sitting. Get out of the saddle and the imbalance in the damping is less pronounced. Apart from that, it’s only the WTB Byway tire on the rear that occasionally slides out on damp and loose surfaces and thus clouds the rider’s otherwise high level of confidence. The WTB Venture tire on the front offers a lot of grip in every situation.

Tuning-tips: grippier rear tire | standard stem and handlebar with more flare | optional dropper post

Riding Characteristics



  1. cumbersome
  2. playful


  1. nervous
  2. confident


  1. demanding
  2. balanced

Fun factor

  1. boring
  2. lively


  1. firm
  2. comfortable

Value for money

  1. terrible
  2. very good

Technical Data

Topstone Carbon Lefty 1

Size: XS S M L XL
Weight: 9,75 kg
Price: € 7,499

Indended Use

Smooth tarmac 1
Allroad/Gravel 2
Everyday/Commuting 3


The Cannondale Topstone Lefty 1 is guaranteed to put a smile on the face of those who want a drop handlebar combined with that mountain bike feeling on the descents and when riding off-road. With its lively handling, it makes you want to go on quick after-work rides interspersed with a few sprints. The bike lacks efficiency and mounting options for the mudguards or luggage you’d need for longer distances and commuting. The componentry also left us wanting a little more for it to deserve a top spot in the test.


  • lots of fun off-road
  • comfortable on most terrain
  • lively, balanced handling
  • suspension fork performs brilliantly


  • componentry could be better
  • lack of damping at the rear
  • large feet come into contact with the rear derailleur

Not sure which gravel bike you should buy? This guide will help you for sure: gravel bike buyers guide.
You wonder what tires to put on your gravel machine? We recently tested the best gravel tires against each other in our gravel tire group test.

More information here: cannondale.com

The testfield

Get an overview of this group test: The best gravel-bike 2021 – 13 models on review
All bikes on review: 3T Exploro Race EKAR 1X13 (Click for review) | ARC8 Eero (Click for review) | BMC URS 01 ONE (Click for review) | Cannondale Topstone Carbon Lefty 3 | Canyon Grail CF SLX 8 eTap (Click for review) | Fustle Causeway GRX600 (Click for review) | OPEN WI.DE. (Click for review) | Ridley Kanzo Fast (Click for review) | Ritte Satyr (Click for review) | ROSE BACKROAD FORCE ETAP AXS LIMITED (Click for review) | ROSE BACKROAD AL GRX RX600 1X11 (Click for review) | Specialized S-Works Diverge (Click for review) | Trek Checkpoint (Click for review)

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Words: Photos: Valentin Rühl