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Overview of Cannondale Topstone Series

Jeff Balton

Cannondale Topstone series

Cannondale Topstone is a lineup of ground-breaking gravel bikes available with aluminum and carbon frames. Equipped with Kingpin suspension, high volume tires, and top-quality components, they win against the competition on any surface.

Cannondale began their journey into the gravel grinding world with the revolutionary Slate model. However, gravel standards have changed a lot since then, so in comes the Topstone.

This is Cannondale’s all-new series of capable aluminum and carbon gravel bikes, with carbon forks on all models, and a price range that suits beginners and pros. Models with Cannondale’s recognizable Lefty forks are part of the selection as well.

It’s a versatile bike that rips both on and off the beaten path and excels in numerous areas such as geometry, shifting, braking, and suspension.

Can it be your favorite do-it-all machine? Let’s find out.

 

What Is the Cannondale Topstone Series?

Why gravel bikes are hot

As you know, gravel is the hottest trend in the cycling world at the moment, so bike brands are racing to produce gravel bicycles that will meet the demands of their customers and solve their biggest problems.

Topstone is Cannondale’s newest attempt to do that. So far it seems to be a successful one. It’s a versatile gravel bike with stable geometry, pseudo-rear suspension system, gnarly tires, and reliable SRAM and Shimano components with massive gear ranges.

Cannondale Topstone can make its owner happy both on rough gravel roads and on the smooth tarmac, but the former is where it really excels.

Of course, nobody is perfect, so Topstone does come with some quirks that might bug you more or less, depending on your priorities. The Kingpin suspension has some room for improvement, the aggressive tires are not ideal for smooth roads, and sizing runs on the large size. Also, note that the Kingpin system is available on carbon models only.

But none of these are deal-breakers if you are the right type of rider for the Topstone.

 

Who Is the Topstone For?

Cannondale Topstone Ideally, Cannondale Topstone should end up in the hands of riders who spend most of their time off-road, on gravel roads and smooth, hard-packed singletracks.

If you like spending equal amounts of time on-road and off-road, Topstone might not be the best choice out there. It could be, though, if you swap the tires for a less-aggressive pair.

Moreover, if you love exploring new gravel routes with rough surfaces, roots, and rocks, you might find the stock 37mm tires to be lacking in performance. Though the Lefty models come with 650b x 47mm tires!

If you live in an area with well-kempt gravel roads and you love speed, agility, and long rides, you’ll fall in love with Cannondale Topstone in a heartbeat.

Otherwise, check out some of the other best gravel bikes we wrote about to find your perfect match.

 

Cannondale Topstone Key Features

The gravel bikes market is booming at the moment, but Topstone has some pretty unique features that set it apart from the competition.how to choose

Buyers can choose from a total of 15 models on offer at the moment (10 carbon and 5 aluminum), with prices that start at around $1,250 for Topstone Sora and top at around $7,500 for the Lefty 1 build.

 

  • Kingpin Suspension System

Kingpin is Cannondale’s revolutionary and unique rear suspension system that consists of a thru-axle pivot that links the seat stays with the seat tube. It allows the entire rear end of the frame to flex up to 30mm, absorbing vibrations and bumps, while adding almost no additional weight.

  • Lefty Oliver Forks

If there’s one feature that makes Cannondale bikes recognizable, it’s the Lefty Oliver forks. They’re available on three Topstone carbon models, offering up to 30mm of precise travel, while bringing the weight down. Combined with the rear Kingpin suspension system, it delivers a smooth and controllable ride on any type of surface.

  • Plenty of Mounts

Both aluminum and carbon Topstone models let you carry all the gear you need and don’t need. If you plan to use this bike for bikepacking adventures, you’ll love the rich combination of fork and frame mounts. There’s a multi-position mount on the downtube, as well as more mounts on the seat tube, top tube, under the downtube, and on the forks (except on Lefties). Plenty of room for gear and water.

  • Integrated Wheel Sensor

Another very recognizable feature you get with Cannondale’s bikes is the integrated wheel sensor. It’s part of the Topstone Kit as well. It provides you with extremely accurate speed, distance, and route info, it helps you register your bike, and reminds you of upcoming services. It’s inconspicuously integrated on the front wheel.

  • Balanced Riding Position

What makes Topstone so versatile and appealing to different groups of cyclists is its balanced riding position. It is sufficiently relaxed to feel comfortable on long gravel rides and aggressive enough to allow you to break speed records. It delivers control and stability on rugged gravel roads and singletrack shortcuts while maintaining comfort on all-day bikepacking excursions.

 


Cannondale Topstone Series Full Review


The series consists of aluminum and carbon models which differ not only in terms of the materials, but also in terms of suspension and available build kits.

The aluminum models are generally recommended for entry-level and mid-range riders, with the Apex 1 build being the most expensive and most capable one.

On the other hand, the carbon lineup offers mid-range and high-end models with more capable groupsets, better brakes, and more impressive wheels.

Ultimately, your budget and overall requirements should help you make the right pick.

Bellow, we’ll show you all the builds available for the North American market, but the lineup on Cannondale’s website might differ for you, depending on where you live.

 

Topstone Aluminum


 

  • Topstone Sora

Cannondale Topstone Sora

MSRP $1,250

Cannondale Topstone Sora is the cheapest build you can get. It’s ideal for beginners and first-timers on the gravel. This bike is built around a lightweight SmartForm C2 aluminum frame coupled with a full carbon fork.

It’s fitted with a full 2×9 Shimano Sora groupset which is cheap but extremely capable and durable. The subcompact crank offers a 46/30T combo whereas the cassette provides an 11-34T range.

This bike brakes with Promax Decoder R mechanical disc brakes and rolls on WTB Riddler Comp, 700 x 37c tires which make for a fun ride on gravel roads.

The total weight is around 22.8 lbs, which is pretty impressive for a gravel bike with such a low price tag. The frame is dropper post ready and comes jam-packed with eyelets.

 

  • Topstone Apex 1

Cannondale Topstone Apex 1 Build

 

MSRP $2,100

If you want a 1x drivetrain and a higher-quality groupset, the Topstone Apex 1 is the way to go. The Apex 1 build offers 11 speeds with a 40T crankset and an 11-42T cassette, so it has a pretty wide range.

This model received a major upgrade when it comes to the brakes as well, considering it sports a pair of SRAM Apex 1 hydraulic discs. They’re significantly better than the mechanical Promax Decored R.

The bike is built around the same aluminum frame and tapered full-carbon fork, featuring internal cable routing, thru-axles, and flat mount discs. A nice surprise is a dropper seatpost with 50mm of travel and internal cable routing.

On this build, the tires are WTB Nano TCS (40 mm) and the rims are WTB ST i23 Light TCS, which is a standard on gravel bikes in this price range.

All in all, Topstone Apex 1 surprises in many areas with a small price increase, which makes it a good buy.

 

  • Topstone 105

Men's Topstone 105

MSRP $1,750

Shimano 105 is where serious performance begins. The aluminum Cannondale Topstone 105 will put 22 gears at your disposal with an FSA Omega ME (46/30T) crankset and a Shimano 105 (11-34T) cassette.

All Topstone models are very stable on rough gravel roads thanks to Cannondale’s handlebars with a 16-degree flare drop. It improves handling and confidence.

This build stops on a dime thanks to Shimano 105 hydraulic disc brakes with 160mm rotors front and back. They’re considered to be one of the best around considering the price to value ratio.

The rims and tires are the same as seen on the Tiagra model, but thanks to lighter components, the Topstone 105 build weighs just 21.9 lbs.

Get it if you want to race, train, commute, and travel.

 

  • Topstone Women’s 105

Women's Cannondale Topstone 105

MSRP $1,750

Cannondale offers the mid-range Topstone 105 model as a women’s bike as well. As expected, there aren’t any big differences between the two models.

It’s evident that the looks are different since the women’s model is painted in an agave green color that looks pretty cool. We’re sure female riders will love it.

The drivetrain and the brakes are completely the same, which can also be said for the wheels and tires.

The main difference is the saddle, which in this case is a Fabric Scoop Women’s Sport, 155mm wide, with steel rails. It supports the women’s anatomy better than the stock men’s saddle on the other models.

As you can see, the price tag is completely the same, and the bikes are almost identical, so don’t be afraid to get the men’s Topstone 105 if you like the color better or the women’s build is not available.

 

Carbon Series


 

  • Topstone Lefty 1

Topstone Carbon Lefty 1

MSRP $7,500

If you want to get the best Cannondale has to offer in the Topstone series, then you don’t have to look past the Lefty 1 model. As you can see, this build comes with the recognizable Lefty Oliver fork that offers 30 mm of travel. Combined with the 30 mm of Kingpin rear suspension, it provides unprecedented comfort on gravel.

This bike costs A LOT, but it comes with a SRAM Force / X01 Eagle eTap AXS HRD 12-speed group to justify the price.

You’ll be rolling on HollowGram 23 carbon wheels which are extremely light, nimble, and capable on rough gravel roads. They easily make Lefty 1 race-ready.

The tires are 650b x 47mm WTB Venture TCS Light, which makes this bike suitable for loose gravel and unmaintained gravel roads.

Finally, the brakes are SRAM Centerline combined with SRAM Force AXS levers, which is a match that will give you uncompromising braking power.

Get it if you want the best gravel racing performance!

 

  • Topstone Lefty 3

Carbon Topstone Lefty 3

MSRP $3,750

If you don’t have deep enough pockets to get the Lefty 1 build, but you still want the unique Oliver fork, Lefty 3 is the model for you. It costs half as much as Lefty 1 but still offers very high performance when the going gets tough.

This model is characterized by a 1×11 Shimano GRX 800 groupset, which is Shimano’s gravel-specific groupset. It gives you the same gearing range as you’d get on Lefty 1.

Lefty 3 brakes with a pair of Shimano GRX 400 hydraulic discs, which are known to be powerful, precise, and dialed to meet the braking preferences of gravel riders.

The 650b x 47 mm wide WTB Venture / Byway tires are sufficiently wide to give you all the traction and grip you need when you decide to go fast in the corners.

All in all, if you need a bike for rough and loose gravel roads that’s ready to race and complete centuries, Lefty 3 is a safe choice.

 

  • Topstone Carbon 105

Carbon 105 topstone model

MSRP $2,750

Topstone Carbon 105 is the mid-range model in this lineup. This is the most affordable build of the bunch, but that doesn’t mean it lacks significantly in any area.

The Shimano 105 groupset gives you 22 gears with a wide range 11-34T cassette and a 46/30T crankset, which is excellent gearing for very steep hills.

The brakes are also supplied from the 105 groupset, so you’ll easily stop on a dime when you need to do so.

The good thing about the Topstone carbon frame is that it’s jam-packed with mounting points on the frame and the fork. Therefore, you can equip this bike with bags and water bottle cages and go on long adventures.

The Carbon 105 model does not surprise when it comes to the wheels and tires, so you’ll be rolling on WTB ST i23 rims and WTB Riddler 700x37mm tires. 

At 20.9 lbs, Topstone Carbon 105 is pretty light for a gravel bike considering the price.

Get From REI

 

  • Topstone Ultegra RX

Topstone Ultegra RX build

MSRP $4,200

This is one of the most capable models of the Carbon series, sporting a race-ready Shimano Ultegra RX groupset, better rims, and more powerful brakes than the 105 model.

The Shimano Ultegra RX groupset will outfit you with 22 gears ideal for long climbs and fast flats. You can abuse it on explosive gravel race events or go on a long and steady bikepacking adventure.

The HollowGram 22 rims are light and strong, and the same can be said for the WTB Riddler TCS (37mm) tires. They have brown sidewalls which create a beautiful contrast with the retro-green paint job.

The brakes on this build are Ultegra hydro with 160/160mm rotors, which offer strong and precise braking performance.

If you want the best of the mid-range Topstone Carbon lineup, the Ultegra RX model is the way to go.

 

  • Topstone Ultegra RX 2

Topstone Ultegra RX 2 groupset

MSRP $3,300

The Topstone Carbon Ultegra RX 2 is the more affordable and slimmed-down version of the original Ultegra RX build.

First of all, it sports the same Ultegra RX front and rear derailleurs with 22 gears and a pretty wide gear range. If you live in an area with lots of hills and gnarly gravel roads, you’ll like the capabilities.

The WTB KOM Light i23 wheelset is combined with the WTB Riddler tires, which is where the cost savings have been made.

This build weighs just 19.8 lbs, so you’ll climb easily and carry the bike without any problems if you need to do so.

We are big fans of this build because it is reasonably priced considering the components and offers high-end performance.

Get From REI

 

  • Topstone Women’s Ultegra RX 2

Cannondale Topstone Women's Ultegra RX 2

MSRP $3,300

Are you a lady looking for a highly-capable gravel bike for racing, commuting, or bikepacking? Topstone Carbon Women’s Ultegra RX 2 should check all of your boxes.

This build is almost completely the same as the one above in terms of components and parts. However, the geometry is slightly different and the saddle is women-specific. 

As a result, women will feel more comfortable with it in the long run. But, if this women-specific model is not available, don’t hesitate to get the men’s model — the differences are minimal. 

In terms of components, this bike touts the Ultegra RX groupset, Ultegra brakes, full carbon frame and fork, and WTB rims and tires.

Women’s Topstone Carbon Ultegra RX weighs 20.2 lbs, which is very good for a women’s gravel carbon bike.

Get The Women’s Version From REI

 

  • Topstone Force eTap AXS

Cannondale Topstone electric-shifting Force eTap AXS

MSRP $6,750

Last but not least is the creme de la creme of the Topstone Carbon lineup. We’re looking at the Force eTap AXS build that costs $6,750. It’s the most expensive carbon model without the Lefty Oliver fork.

If you’re sick and tired of cables in your life and you’re ready to simplify everything with a wireless setup, you’ll love this Topstone.

The wireless SRAM Force eTap AXS groupset is as good as shifting gets at the moment. It’s easy to set up and changes gears smoothly and in a fraction of a second. Plus, the drivetrain features 24 wide-range gears!

The rims are lightweight HollowGram 22 Carbon, paired up with WTB Riddler tires seen on most other models in this series. The brakes are also Force eTap AXS — only the best of the best.

Don’t hesitate to get this Topstone Carbon build if you have the money to spare and you need the highest possible performance to get an edge in racing.

 

NEO (Electric)


  • Topstone Neo Carbon 3 Lefty

Cannondale Topstone Neo Carbon 3 lefty

MSRP $5,800

Cannondale Topstone Neo Carbon 3 Lefty is a gravel, carbon, full-suspension, electric bike. That’s quite a mouthful of titles! But, this bike is objectively all you could ask for if you want to get some pedaling assistance on your gravel adventures.

This is a Class 3 e-bike which means that its 250W Bosch Performance Line Speed motor can assist you up to 28 mph, which sounds like serious fun. The battery has a 500 Wh capacity, which should give you a range of up to 76 miles. 

Of course, the frame is made from lightweight and stiff carbon with the 30 mm Kingpin rear suspension and the 30 mm Lefty Oliver fork on the front. Technically, that makes it a full-suspension carbon gravel grinder.

The $5,800 you’ll have to spend on this Topstone will also get you a Shimano GRX 812 11-speed drivetrain, GRX hydraulic brakes, and WTB Resolute, 650b x 42mm tires. However, you can also fit this bike with bigger and slimmer 700c wheels and tires if you want more speed.

At 40 lbs, Topstone Neo Carbon 3 Lefty is also decently light for an e-bike, so don’t hesitate to get it if you want to smash gravel courses and get some assistance while doing it.

Get From REI

 

  • Topstone Neo Carbon 2

Topstone NEO Carbon 2 of 2021

MSRP $6,500

If you liked what we showed you with the Topstone Neo above, you’ll absolutely love what we tell you about the Topstone Neo Carbon 2 bike.

This model is more expensive than the previous one, but it also lighter, faster, and better-equipped.

Neo Carbon 2 does not have the Lefty Oliver fork, which saves a lot of weight. That’s why this e-bike weighs just 36 lbs. However, it still features the Kingpin rear suspension which provides plenty of comfort and off-road performance.

The electric components and completely the same. Bosch 250W motor and a 500 Wh battery. Still, theoretically, you could expect a longer range due to the lower overall weight of the bike.

This electric gravel machine comes with a 2×11 Shimano GRX 810 groupset and GRX hydro brakes, but it rolls on WTB Riddler TCS Light, 700c x 37mm, tubeless-ready tires. That makes it more suitable for fast gravel rides.

Cannondale Topstone Neo Carbon 2 is a fantastic bike for riders who plan to tackle hardpacked gravel and paved roads on a fast and capable Class 3 e-bike.

Get From REI

 


Cannondale Topstone Sizing

The Topstone models follow Cannondale’s standard sizing method. Both carbon and aluminum bikes are available in five sizes that fit riders between 5’0″ and 6’8″ tall.

That’s one of the largest ranges in the industry, which makes it easy for most riders to find the frame size that fits them best.

Check out the table below for detailed sizing recommendations.

XSSMMDLGXL
Inches5’0″ – 5’5″5’4″ – 5’9″5’7″ – 6’1″5’11” – 6’4″6’3″ – 6’8″
Centimeters152 – 165162 – 175170 – 185180 – 193190 – 203

Women’s and men’s models are sized completely the same, so don’t hesitate to get one or the other if you like the appearance and the overall build.

 

Topstone Geometry

Cannondale Topstone is a gravel bike by definition, which becomes evident when you take a closer look at the geometry. It has a relatively relaxed geometry that puts you in a more upright position, which is ideal for long events and century rides.

This is achieved with a 70.0° – 71.2° head tube angle and a 73.1° seat tube angle. The slacker head tube angle gives you more stability on rough terrain, which translates to a confident ride even on gnarly roads.

Compared to a traditional road bike, Cannondale Topstone also has a longer wheelbase, shorter chainstays, and a lower center of gravity. However, Topstone is not too low — it could be even lower which would provide the rider with a more reassuring performance.

Yet, Topstone is not too much of anything, which means it’s a well-rounded machine that can still feel racy on the tarmac if you fit it with narrow tires and go in an aero position.

Related: Cannondale CAAD13 Series Review

Final Verdict: Buy Cannondale Topstone or Not?

There are a lot of things we like about the Cannondale Topstone, as well as a few things we think could be improved upon.suggested

First of all, the pricing is reasonable and the price range will fit the budget of most riders out there, starting at just $1,250 and reaching $7,500.

Both carbon and aluminum frames are extremely light, come with disc brakes, full carbon forks are stock on all models, and the paintwork is amazing.

We are big fans of the relaxed geometry, but this is not the best choice for race-oriented gravel grinders. Therefore, if you don’t mind sacrificing a few seconds or minutes and getting a lot of comfort for long rides in return, you and Topstone are a match made in heaven.

Definitely get it if you want a solid and modern gravel bike equipped with quality SRAM and Shimano components, that comes with Cannondale’s guarantee of quality.

See all Cannondale Topstone Models on REI

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