The American bike brand Cannondale completes its gravel portfolio with the Topstone Carbon and introduces an innovative comfort system four years in development. Read on to find out what’s behind the KingPin system and how the Topstone Carbon fares in our first ride review.

Cannondale Topstone Carbon Force eTap AXS | 8.85 kg in size XL | € 5,499

Cannondale presented the Topstone gravel platform with the introduction of a versatile aluminium bike in August 2018. In addition to the Cannondale Synapse and Slate models, the Topstone range has since become another option for the gravel and all-road fans among us. With the all-new Topstone Carbon, Cannondale also lifts the lid on a project that the team claims to have been working on over the past four years. The objective was as clear as it was ambitious: to build the most comfortable bike on the road and the most versatile bike off the beaten track. The aim was to make the Topstone a true all-rounder for those looking for a balanced mix of gravel and all-road bike, with an emphasis on comfort. For all newcomers to the sport, you can find a detailed guide to the gravel universe here.

Cannondale Topstone Carbon in detail

A central feature of the bike is the suspension system called KingPin, offering up to 30 mm “travel” to achieve the desired level of comfort. According to Cannondale, the combination of the seat tube-mounted pivot and integrated flex zones in the seat stays, seat tube and rear section of the top tube provide active shock absorption at the saddle and rear axle. This system should simultaneously provide adequate stiffness for acceleration and thus perform well when pedalling in the saddle or out of it. According to the designers, other advantages of KingPin are its low weight, its simple structure which doesn’t require any setup from the rider and its low-maintenance. In order to make the compliance of the frame proportional to the size of the rider, both the carbon layup and the tube dimension were adapted specifically for each frame size.

Integrated flex zones in the seat stays, seat tube and in the back area of the top tube
K I N G P I N

For the geometry of the Topstone Carbon, Cannondale’s engineers took their inspiration from the Synapse. As a result, the geometry numbers for Stack and Reach are exactly the same, giving you a sitting position that is upright enough to have fun off-road and aggressive enough to be able to maintain high speeds on flat stretches of road. Customers can choose from five frame sizes, ranging from XS (~ 48 cm) to XL (~ 61 cm).

The Topstone is littered with numerous additional features to make life as easy as possible for the rider. Such as Cannondale’s Direct Line cable management system – changing the brake or shifter cables should be hassle-free, thanks to the “tube-in-tube” design. The frame of the Topstone Carbon is factory ready for 27.2 mm dropper seat posts, and the clearance of the frame will accept tires up 700x40C or 650bx48. In addition to the bosses for front and rear fenders, the frame also offers mounting options for up to three bottle cages. Two threaded bosses in the top tube allow the rider to mount a small feed-bag or similar.

Cannondale Topstone Carbon Force eTap AXS – Our test bike

Cannondale Topstone Carbon Force eTap AXS | 8.85 kg in size XL | € 5,499

Groupset SRAM Force eTap AXS HRD, 2 × 12
Brakes SRAM Force eTap AXS HRD 160/160 mm
Wheels HollowGram HG22 Carbon
Tires WTB Riddler TCS Fast Rolling Light 700x37C
Seat post Cannondale SAVE Carbon, 27.2 x 350mm (XS-L), 400mm (XL)
Handlebar HollowGram SAVE Carbon, 400mm (S), 420mm (M-L)
Stem HollowGram SAVE, alloy, -6°
Weight 8.85 kg in size XL
Price € 5,499
Sizes XS (48), S (51), M (55), L (58), XL (61), test size XL
Colour Acid Red (ARD)
Extras Speed sensor in the front wheel
Availability now available at official retailers

Cannondale Topstone Carbon Ultegra RX

Cannondale Topstone Carbon Ultegra RX | € 3,799

Groupset Shimano ULTEGRA RX, 2 × 11, 46/33 Hollowgram SpideRing
Brakes Shimano ULTEGRA Hydro 160/160 mm
Wheels HollowGram HG22 Carbon, 25 mm wide
Tires WTB Riddler TCS Fast Rolling Light 700x37C
Seat post Cannondale SAVE Carbon, 27.2 x 350mm (XS-L), 400mm (XL)
Handlebar Cannondale 3, butted 6061 alloy, 16 deg flare drop
Stem Cannondale 2, 6061 alloy, 31.8, 6°
Price € 3,799
Sizes XS (48), S (51), M (55), L (58), XL (61)
Colour Midnight (MDN)
Extras Speed sensor in the front wheel
Availability now available at official retailers

Cannondale Topstone Carbon Ultegra RX 2

Cannondale Topstone Carbon Ultegra RX 2 | € 2,999

Groupset Shimano ULTEGRA RX, 2 × 11
Brakes Shimano ULTEGRA Hydro 160/160 mm
Wheels WTB i23
Tires WTB Riddler TCS Fast Rolling Light 700x37C
Seat post Cannondale 2, carbon, 27.2 x 350mm
Handlebar Cannondale 3, butted 6061 alloy, 16 deg flare drop
Stem Cannondale 2, 6061 alloy, 31.8, 6°
Price € 2,999
Sizes XS (48), S (51), M (55), L (58), XL (61)
Colour Agave (AGV)
Extras Speed sensor in the front wheel
Availability now available at official retailers

Cannondale Topstone Carbon Women’s Ultegra RX

Cannondale Topstone Carbon Women’s Ultegra RX | € 2,999

Groupset Shimano ULTEGRA RX, 2 × 11
Brakes Shimano ULTEGRA Hydro 160/160 mm
Wheels WTB i23
Tires WTB Riddler TCS Fast Rolling Light 700x37C
Seat post Cannondale 2, carbon, 27.2 x 350mm
Handlebar Cannondale 3, butted 6061 alloy, 16 deg flare drop
Stem Cannondale 2, 6061 alloy, 31.8, 6°
Price € 2,999
Sizes XS (48), S (51), M (55)
Colour Black Pearl (BPL)
Extras Speed sensor in the front wheel
Availability now available at official retailers

Cannondale Topstone Carbon 105

Cannondale Topstone Carbon 105 | € 2,499

Schaltgruppe Shimano 105, 2 × 11
Groupset Shimano 105, 2 × 12
Brakes Shimano 105 Hydro 160/160 mm
Wheels WTB i23
Tires WTB Riddler TCS Fast Rolling Light 700x37C
Seat post Cannondale 3, carbon, 27.2 x 350mm
Handlebar Cannondale 3, butted 6061 alloy, 16 deg flare drop
Stem Cannondale 3, 6061 alloy, 31.8, 6°
Price € 2,499
Sizes XS (48), S (51), M (55), L (58), XL (61)
Colour Black Pearl (BPL)
Extras Speed sensor in the front wheel
Availability now available at official retailers

Cannondale Topstone Carbon geometry

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°
Chaistays 451 mm 451 mm 451 mm 451 mm 451 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

Cannondale Topstone Carbon Force eTap AXS first ride review

The look of the brand new Cannondale Topstone Carbon is refreshingly different compared to many of its competitors. The oversized seat tube and raised front triangle make it stand out from the crowd. At first glance, the look of the design doesn’t suggest that this gravel bike offers up to 30 mm “travel” at the rear end – the KingPin system is seamlessly integrated. All mounting points on the fork have threads on the inside and outside, giving the rider maximum flexibility for mounting mudguards and racks. You can mount fenders at the rear, but you will have to make do without a rack because of the flex in the KingPin system. The finish and workmanship on the bike are good overall.

The total weight of 8.85 kg in size XL is perfectly acceptable for a bike of this category. As a result, the Topstone accelerates willingly from a standstill and out of corners. The suspension system has no noticeable effect on the stiffness around the bottom bracket. Once you’ve got going, the bike efficiently carries speed. It reveals its true strengths especially on fine-grained gravel surfaces, compact forest soils and broken roads, with the frame’s compliance allowing the rider to keep a smooth pedal stroke. As the terrain gets rougher and more demanding, the bike is no longer able to carry its speed so well. The reason for this is the relatively low volume of the tires and the decreased rollover capabilities because of that. You can see how strongly a brand’s country of origin influences its bikes: the sheer vastness of the US and the gravel roads of events such as the Dirty Kanza are the ideal terrain for this bike. In Europe, where gravel riding occasionally happens on mountain bike trails, models with more tire clearance and an even more upright riding position often have the upper hand.

In terms of handling, the Topstone is very composed. Extensive high-speed jaunts on straight forest highways are its speciality. On straights and in long, open corners on gravel roads, the bike feels stable and predictable. In tight corners and in technical terrain, the front end feels wobbly, which in conjunction with the agile rear end leads to nervous handling

Helmet CHPT3 x POC Devesa Ventral SPIN | Glasses 100% S3 | T-Shirt GRAN FONDO Crew Shirt | Shorts Rapha Cotton Shorts | Socks Rapha Pro Team Socks | Shoes Specialized S-Works Recon

The comfort of the Topstone performs well on compact surfaces for all-road and gravel applications. Although our XL test bike was too big for us, which means it was a stiffer suspension setup in view of the increasing stiffness of the tube sets in proportion to the frame size, the increase in comfort was still noticeable. While smaller bumps are primarily absorbed by the tires and the compliance in the seat post, the KingPin system is able to dampen larger hits. Further testing on a suitable frame size will bring more clarity here.

Conclusion

The Cannondale Topstone Carbon convinced us with its high-speed composure on compact gravel and broken roads. If you’re looking for a bike to ride long stretches on mixed terrain, the Topstone Carbon is a well-thought-out product offering a good deal of comfort. In technical terrain and on gravel trails, it quickly reaches its limits. We’re looking forward to having the Topstone Carbon go up against the competition in our big 2019 gravel bike group test. We’ll have further details this autumn in our digital app-magazine and on the website!

For more information on the bike, visit: cannondale.com

Words: Benjamin Topf Photos: Robin Schmitt, Cannondale