The Topstone Carbon has been part of Cannondale’s gravel portfolio since summer 2019 and aimed to cause a stir on the gravel scene with its KingPin suspension system. You can find out whether that goal has been successful here.
Click here for an overview of the best gravel bike 2020 group test.
Cannondale claims that its engineers worked for a whole four years on the Topstone Carbon frameset. Amongst other challenges, that was due to the ambitious goal to create the most comfortable gravel bike on the market. With up to 30 mm of “travel”, the KingPin system is supposed to be its key to success. The design of the carbon layup in the top and seat tubes allows the main triangle to deflect and act as a leaf spring which is compressed as a result of the increased vertical compliance of the seat- and chainstays. To allow for the 30 mm travel, a pivot connecting the seat stays to the seat tube provides extra freedom of movement. The tubeset used is proportional to each frame size in order to provide consistent performance of the maintenance-free suspension design for different sized riders. Our bike was built up with a 2x groupset consisting of Shimano ULTEGRA R8000 shifters, Shimano ULTEGRA RX derailleur and Cannondale Hollowgram cranks with 46/30 t chainrings, with Shimano ULTEGRA brakes and 160 mm rotors at both ends providing the stopping power. The new design language of the Cannondale is immediately recognisable despite the minimal branding, with an appealing colour palette that varies depending on the component spec. Our bike was also kitted out with Hollowgram 22 Carbon wheels, 700 x 37C WTB Riddler tires and weighed in at 8.73 kg in size L. In this configuration, the Cannondale Topstone Carbon costs € 3,799 and is available in five sizes from XS to XL.
The Cannondale Topstone Carbon Ultegra RX in detail
Drivetrain Shimano ULTEGRA R8000 with ULTEGRA RX derailleur
Gearing 46/30 t and 11-34 t, 2×11
Brakes Shimano ULTEGRA R8000 hydraulic, 160/160 mm
Handlebar Cannondale 3, 420 mm
Stem Cannondale 2, 100 mm
Seatpost SAVE Carbon, 20 mm offset
Wheels Hollowgram 22 Carbon
Tires WTB Riddler 700 x 37C
|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||1,040 mm||1,060 mm|
|Reach||368 mm||377 mm||385 mm||394 mm||402 mm|
|Stack||518 mm||549 mm||579 mm||610 mm||640 mm|
The Cannondale Topstone Carbon Ultegra RX in review
In comparison to its competitors, our testers found the Topstone Carbon to be an agile accelerator. It shines in terms of efficiency on the flats and uphills. Going downhill and at high speeds on compacted terrain, the settled ride results in a lot of confidence and lets you ride to the limit of you and the bike’s abilities. However, as things get more technical or very rough, the small tire volume and the high centre of gravity become the Cannondale’s worst enemy. With a relatively small bottom bracket drop of 61 mm and the relatively high front-end, the bike tends to topple into slow-speed or tight corners.
On long open gravel tracks, the Cannondale will lull you into a gravel trance
However, that doesn’t happen on wider corners or at high speeds – which is exactly where this bike’s strengths play out. The KingPin system doesn’t affect pedalling efficiency and results in a definite boost in comfort on bigger impacts. Smaller and high-frequency vibrations are effectively damped by the tire-wheelset combination and SAVE carbon seatpost. However you should take note that unlike suspension forks, shocks or comfort systems like the Specialized Future Shock 2.0, Cannondale’s suspension only has an effect when you’re seated. However, for longer tours where you spend a lot of time in the saddle, the KingPin system provides an undeniable boost to your comfort.
With the Cannondale Topstone Carbon Ultegra RX, the American brand has introduced a coherent concept that is happiest at high speeds on open gravel roads! If you’re looking for a comfortable and quick bike that sits between the all-road and gravel categories, the Topstone is a well-considered package with innovative features. However, its slightly limited performance on rough and challenging terrain ultimately impacted negatively on the bike’s final evaluation from our test crew.
- good stability at high speeds
- high level of comfort
- coherent component spec
- unstable at slow speeds and through tight corners
- noisy internal cable routing
- feels out of its depth on challenging terrain
For more info: cannondale.com
Click here for an overview of the best gravel bike 2020 group test.
All bikes in test: Argon 18 Dark Matter | Cannondale Topstone Carbon Ultegra RX | Canyon Grail AL 7.0 | Cervélo Áspero | Giant Revolt Advanced Pro Force | Kona Libre AL | Liteville 4-ONE MK1 | OPEN WI.DE. | Pivot Vault Team Force | ROSE BACKROAD GRX RX810 Di2 | Santa Cruz Stigmata CC | Specialized Turbo Creo SL Expert EVO | Standert Pfadfinder | Trek Domane SLR 9 eTap
No, it’s not about perfect race tracks, it’s about efficiency. Fast, fleet-footed and efficient – those who want to speed along high-speed passages need a defined and spritely bike that accelerates with ease and efficiency. Nevertheless, reliable components are important too. We interpret “Smooth tarmac” bikes as follows: Hard efforts at high speeds with a maximum efficient bike on a consistently well-paved road. Effort-joy ratio: 80:30 (not everything has to be 100%!)↩
… also known as bike riding. Broken-up roads in the hinterland, deadlocked gravel roads, loose surfaces – sometimes muddy, sometimes bone-dry. For this, it takes bikes with super all-round, handling and wearing qualities uphill and downhill. Effort-joy ratio: 50:50↩
If you want to use your bike almost every day, you usually do not need an extremely tuned racing machine. Solid components, which are able to cope with the rigours of continuous usage in any kind of weather, are part of the basic equipment. At the same time, the bike should have practicable details: integrated fenders/assembly options, luggage racks/attachment points and a light system or at least the option of installing bike lights. The position on the bike should be rather relaxed, the overall comfort high, so that the Afterwork Ride becomes a cure and not a curse. Effort-joy ratio: 30:70↩
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Words: Photos: GRAN FONDO-Team