With the Topstone Carbon Neo Lefty 1, Cannondale present their first motorised gravel bike. Alongside the Bosch Performance Line CX motor, the suspension fork, 650B wheels and 1×12 drivetrain are anything but common fare. Does the concept work or are mountain bike features irrelevant on a gravel bike?
The new Topstone Carbon Neo Lefty has been launched at the same time as the new Cannondale Topstone Carbon, which we’ve also tested here. This machine isn’t your run-of-the-mill gravel bike. Cannondale brings multiple mountain bike features to play (in the form of 650B wheels, suspension and a 1×12 drivetrain with a 10–50 t cassette) all combined with the Bosch Performance Line CX motor equipped, drop bar gravel frame. Together, that promises maximum gravel fun! The Lefty Oliver fork, combined with its generous tire clearances and the Bosch motor are supposed to create a high-performance, stable and comfortable fun machine. The Cannondale Topstone also cuts a good figure for bikepacking. You want to know everything about bikepacking and bikes, gear, route planning and accommodation? Click here for our detailed Bikepacking 101.
Having tested both Cannondale E-road bikes, the Cannondale Synapse NEO SE (read our review here) and the Cannondale SuperSix EVO NEO (read our review here), we’ve managed to swing our leg over the third motorised ebike from the US bike manufacturer. With 30 mm travel up front (Lefty Oliver) and back (KingPin system), it shouts out to be ridden off the beaten track. The KingPin suspension system sees seat stays attached to the seat tube via a pivot. The carbon seat and chainstays are designed to flex, resulting in up to 30 mm suspension travel. The new Lefty fork (1,340 g for the carbon version/1,610 g for the aluminium version) with an updated damping tune should allow riders to glide over the trails in even more comfort and can be further adjusted with volume spacers. The generous tire clearances (700 x 45C or 650 x 48B) mean you can fit the widest gravel tires on the market, at least up front. At the rear, you’re officially limited to 700 x 40C or 650 x 48B.
Cannondale promise the same level of comfort and same handling for each frame size, with the suspension as well as layup and tubeset of the carbon frame tuned across the different sizes. The gravel bike is compatible with dropper posts (27.2 mm) thanks to the internal cable routing and mudguards can be fitted too. To maintain neat aesthetics, the seat stay bridge can be removed when not in use. Our size M test bike also has space for two bottles in the mainframe.
The Topstone is painted a fetching black/emerald green and the neat cable routing and internal saddle clamp, together with the integrated 500 Wh battery result in a tidy looking bike. The cable for the rear light runs invisibly under the saddle into the seat post, and only the external spoke magnet disturbs the bike’s otherwise sleek look. Exposed spoke magnets just shouldn’t be a thing on a 2021 bike, especially one that costs € 9,000. The Bosch Kiox display shines with its great legibility and can log your rides and send them to your phone via Bluetooth. However, it doesn’t have any navigation features and can’t fully replace the GPS computer that you would usually have mounted in its position. However, the power meter that is part of the Bosch system is put to good use, informing you of the power you’re putting out while riding. Unfortunately, the position of the Kiox display means you’ll have to mount your GPS on the stem or next to it. If you also want a front light – unlike the fitted Supernova rear light, it doesn’t come with the bike – you’ll start to run into problems when it comes to cockpit space. The motor and display are both controlled with a remote mounted on the left side of the bars and while it can only be used from the tops, the ergonomics are very good.
What versions of the Cannondale Topstone Neo are available?
Four different models of the new Topstone Neo E-gravel bike are available. All are built up with the KingPin carbon frame. Our test bike, the Carbon 1 Lefty, as well as the Carbon 3 Lefty are focussed on off-road use and come equipped with the Lefty suspension fork, wide 650 x 42B tires and 1x drivetrains. The Carbon 2 and Carbon 4 models come with a carbon fork and 2x drivetrains. Unusually for a gravel bike, the wheels use a 12 x 110 mm Boost hub up front (or Lefty 50 hub) and a 12 x 148 mm Boost hub at the rear.
|Model||Carbon Neo Lefty 1||Carbon Neo Lefty 3||Carbon Neo 2||Carbon Neo 4|
|Price||€ 8,999||€ 5,799||€ 6,299||€ 4,499|
|Motor||Bosch Performance Line CX||Bosch Performance Line CX||Bosch Performance Line CX||Bosch Performance Line CX|
|Battery||Bosch PowerTube 500 Wh||Bosch PowerTube 500 Wh||Bosch PowerTube 500 Wh||Bosch PowerTube 500 Wh|
|Display||Bosch Kiox||Bosch Purion||Bosch Kiox||Bosch Purion|
|Fork||Lefty Oliver||Lefty Oliver||Carbon fork||Carbon fork|
|Tires||WTB Resolute 650 x 42B||WTB Resolute 650 x 42B||WTB Riddler 700 x 37C||WTB Riddler 700 x 37C|
|Groupset||Force eTap AXS HRD 1 x 12||GRX 600 1 x 11||GRX 800 2 x 11||GRX 400 2 x 10|
|Chainrings||44 t||44 t||46/30 t||46/30 t|
|Cassette||10–50 t||11–42 t||11–34 t||11–34 t|
Build of our test bike
Drivetrain SRAM Force eTap AXS with X01 Eagle AXS, 1 x 12, 42 t*
Cassette SRAM XG-1275 Eagle, 10–50 t
Motor Bosch Performance Line CX, 75 Nm
Battery Bosch PowerTube, 500 Wh
Display Bosch Kiox
Assistance modes ECO (40 Nm), TOUR (50 Nm), SPORT (75 Nm), TURBO (75 Nm)
Brakes SRAM Force AXS, 180/160 mm
Wheelset WTB ST i25 TCS rims, Formula hubs
Tires WTB Resolute 650 x 42B
Seatpost Promax SP-9032, 20 mm offset
Bars Cannondale 3, 400 mm
Stem Cannondale, 90 mm
Weight 17.28 kg in size M
Price € 8,999
Geometry of the Cannondale Topstone Carbon Neo Lefty 1
|Seat tube||410 mm||440 mm||500 mm||550 mm|
|Top tube||534 mm||552 mm||569 mm||586 mm|
|Head tube||127 mm||158 mm||195 mm||229 mm|
|Chainstays||420 mm||420 mm||420 mm||420 mm|
|BB Drop||64 mm||61 mm||61 mm||59 mm|
|Wheelbase||1,018 mm||1,038 mm||1,057 mm||1,076 mm|
|Reach||377 mm||387 mm||394 mm||402 mm|
|Stack||549 mm||575 mm||610 mm||640 mm|
Cannondale Topstone Carbon Neo Lefty 1 first ride review
The Topstone Carbon Neo wants to be gravel incarnate. Of course, that can mean a range of different things for different riders. While sporty riders on the hunt for personal bests and Strava KOMs likely won’t find what they’re looking for here, for less fit or less ambitious riders, this could potentially be the bike that represents maximum gravel! The distance you can ride will suddenly be doubled or tripled, you’ll be able to ride to the office despite steep climbs along the way without being drenched in sweat, and you’ll keep up with your fitter buddies with a mutually satisfying ride for all of you.
The Bosch Performance Line CX motor at the heart of the bike delivers a lot of power and is a good choice for a gravel bike. The assistance modes are well-judged, and particularly ECO mode could be the optimal setting if you want to travel quickly without working too hard. TURBO mode is almost too powerful for gravelling. However, if you’ve overdone it and your legs are cooked, then it will let you get home with minimal effort. We had hoped to find eMTB mode as standard, but any dealer will be able to install this for you. This mode provides progressive assistance, with support modulated depending on your input. For steep and slippery gravel climbs where the rear wheel threatens to spin out, this is worth its weight in gold, as it adapts to the power you put in at the pedals, allowing you to modulate the motor rather than just steamrollering everything. We know that there’s a lot of discussion around what range you can expect from an ebike However, there’s no definitive answer to this question as it is affected by many diverse factors including riding style, rider weight and how much time you spend above the 25 km/h assistance limit. You can read more in an article by our sister magazine E-MOUNTAINBIKE, which looks at the truth about lab tests.
The acceleration of the Topstone Carbon Neo doesn’t disappoint and you’ll reach the 25 km/h assistance limit within seconds. At this point, the motor reduces it’s support, before ramping down completely between 27 and 27.3 km/h. The transition to non-assisted riding is well managed by the Bosch Performance Line CX motor and avoids you feeling the sudden braking of the motor throttling down. The motor also re-engages smoothly, apart from the most powerful TURBO mode, which exhibits an inevitable surge.
You may be a little unaccustomed to the sound of the motor to begin with and its steady hum echoes noticeably in the Topstone Carbon Neo’s voluminous carbon frame. Take a little time to get used to the typical ebike noises and it quickly becomes just as normal as the buzz of your freehub when coasting. If you spend a lot of time riding on flats, you’ll be thankful for the fact that the bike rolls quickly at higher speeds even without motor assistance and maintains its momentum well. This is no doubt also thanks to the 650 x 42B WTB Resolute tires, that previously scored highly in our gravel tire group test with their low rolling resistance. The Bosch motor is also a joy to ride and the latest model has almost no internal resistance when pedalling.
Turn the Topstone Carbon Neo onto unpaved roads and the fun really begins. It’s especially at high speeds that the Cannondale sits securely and calmly on the trail, especially in comparison to lighter weight, non motorised gravel bikes. The ride is smoothed out thanks to the well-matched pairing of KingPin and Lefty suspension and even root carpets suddenly seem manageable. The Lefty fork can be tuned to the rider weight and is supportive enough not to rob you of energy when left in open mode. While riding out of the pedals, you should lock it out though, which is easy to do with the large lever on the left side of the fork crown. Despite its 17 kg weight, the bike is surprisingly agile and can be playfully manhandled through corners.
However, we did notice that we clipped our pedals several times. On our usual test loop, we encountered pedal strike where we’ve otherwise never had problems. However it’s also worth mentioning that aboard an ebike, you also pedal where you otherwise wouldn’t. In addition, while accelerating out of corners with the extra push of the motor is a lot of fun, often, you’ll still have too much angulation to be able to get your pedals all the way down on the inside of the turn.
Cannondale Topstone Carbon Neo Lefty 1 conclusion
The Topstone Carbon Neo is a powerful fun machine and shows that it’s universally capable whether it’s on the roads or on the trail. Of course, for sporty riders who blast along gravel tracks at an average speed of 30 km/h it makes little sense. However, if you want your gravel a little less sporty and just want to increase how far you can ride or keep up with your riding buddies, the Topstone Carbon Neo Lefty 1 is a great choice!
- powerful Bosch motor
- sensible assistance modes
- lots of comfort front and rear
- secure at high speeds
- outdated spoke magnet
- Kiox display takes up the space where a GPS would go
- remote can only be used from the tops
You can find more information about the Cannondale Topstone Neo Carbon Lefty 1 at cannondale.com
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Words: Photos: Max Schmitt, Benjamin Topf, Philipp Schwab