Cannondale has come in hard with a radical revamp of the existing Topstone gravel/all-road range. Hailing it as the ‘next big jump in the evolution of the road bike’, the Cannondale Topstone Carbon has gone hi-tech thanks to a super light suspension system. Aimed at being the most capable off-road and the most comfortable on the tarmac; this is the bike Cannondale think most of us should be riding.
Riders with a long memory, especially ones with knowledge of mountain bike evolution, will be aware that Cannondale has a long and rich history in bringing to life some pretty wild suspension concepts. Whilst some might not have been the best of ideas, much of the technologies have become commonplace in the off-road world.
Recently Cannondale began pushing this advancement over into the road world with it’s Slate range. Featuring a single legged ‘Lefty’ suspension fork at the front, it soon developed a big fan base amongst riders wanting to push the boundaries of where a road bike can go. This latest Topstone Carbon furthers Cannondale’s suspension palmarés by showcasing Kingpin, it’s lightest active suspension system to date.
Kingpin centres around a thru-axle and sealed bearing pivot located part-way up the Topstone’s carbon seat tube. Unlike most active suspension systems that rely on multiple pivot points and a shock damper unit, this Kingpin design utilises an engineered leaf spring style suspension design. To this end the Topstone’s chainstays, seat tube and top tube have ‘flex zones’ designed to deflect more impacts than in a traditional fixed stay frame setup.
This flex equates to around 30mm of movement at the saddle, with around 25mm of that movement coming from around the bottom bracket area and a further 5mm centred around the rear axle path. Cannondale describe it as being the equivalent of running a 9mm wider tyre but without the performance losses.
From an efficiency perspective this movement only kicks in when the saddle is weighted, i.e. the rider is seated. Stand up and push hard on the pedals and it behaves just like a ‘standard’ carbon frame with no additional flex.
In total, the additional hardware and frame engineering adds around 150 grams to the frame weight but that’s far less than a complete suspension system of shocks and pivots. Cannondale are also keen to point out that this is a far less complex and a more user friendly system; maintenance is at a complete minimum and it does away with the need to setup the suspension (and bringing in user error).
Size specific design
Something we’ve seen brands including Cannondale bring in before is a complete size-specific approach to the frame design.
In the case of the Topstone Carbon, Cannondale has not only had to think about matching the geometry and handling feel for each frame size but also the suspension feel. To this end the Topstone’s custom tuning is based around differing carbon layups and tubing shapes to keep an XS frame’s ride the same as an XL. In response to rider size and requirements, frame stiffness is scaled to further keep the ride feel and ‘rider experience’ the same.
To keep Cannondale’s emphasis that the Topstone should be more than ‘just’ a gravel bike it shares a lot of geometry DNA with the Cannondale Synapse, Cannondale’s superlative sportive machine.
The stack and reach measurements are identical and it also shares a more upright front end to keep comfort and off-road confidence as high as possible. Five sizes will be available, XS/48cm, S/51cm, M/55cm, L/58cm, XL/61cm – all following the Synapse frame sizing.
Further to the development of the Kingpin suspension system, the Topstone Carbon incorporates all of the features you would expect from a bike of this type.
There are mounts for three water bottles, two in the frame and one under the down tube to provide long distance hydration. Gear mounts abound including fork mounts for a front rack, mudguard eyelets and top tube mounts for a Bento box style bag. Tyre clearances allow for the use of a 40mm tyre with 700c wheels. It will, of course, take a wider (up to 48mm) tyre if running 650b wheels.
Disc brakes and thru-axles are standard with the axles using the Speed Release system for quicker removal. The other important feature is a move to a 27.2mm seatpost diameter to enable the use of a dropper seatpost if you so wish. The post still utilises the SAVE design to add even more comfort to the bike.
As well as the brand new frame, Cannondale also has a series of new components and accessories to bolster the new Topstone.
Top models will benefit from a new SAVE handlebar and stem combo similar to the one found on the SystemSix range. This mimics the integration of a one piece cockpit but allows for pitch adjustments to fine tune the fit. Compared to the SystemSix version, the Topstone’s Save cockpit features a less aero, more rounded profile for additional climbing comfort.
There’s also a new Hollowgram HG22 carbon clincher wheelset for the top two models. Featuring a shallow and wide profile tubeless ready rim, it adds strength for off-road use without carrying additional weight.
A new 46/30 Hollowgram SpideRing chainset is also available, giving riders the necessary wide spread of gears for off-road and laden riding without compromising on-road capabilities.
All models will now feature a smart new wheel sensor designed in collaboration with Garmin. Measuring speed, distance and time it is capable of storing up to 900 hours of ride data which can then be uploaded and shared through Cannondale’s new smartphone App. It pairs to any cycle computer running Bluetooth LE or ANT+ and also stores registration and service data for your bike. First featured on Cannondale’s Treadwell urban bike, the app and sensor is looking to be rolled out over many more upcoming Cannondale models.
First ride impressions
Riding the Topstone Carbon over the rough and cracked tarmac and plentiful gravel roads around Stowe in Vermont at the launch event last week gave us a good scope as to the Topstone’s capabilities.
While many superlatives came and swirled around our heads during the ride, the most obvious one rang out clear and loud; this bike is sublimely smooth. Now this can often be attributed to tyre and wheel setup but in this case it was obvious that something good was going on with the frame. In all honesty I don’t think I’ve ridden a frame that felt quite as comfortable without there being a blatantly obvious disadvantage.
Okay, it does suffer from a little weight penalty thanks to the Kingpin suspension and it lacks the razor fast handling and acceleration response of a race bike such as the Supersix Evo but when you’re barreling along a road as fast as you can spin and then turn onto a rough unmade road and still are able to maintain that pace, those issues are long forgotten.
As a whole the Topstone is looking to be a juicy prospect for any rider looking for the one-bike-to-do-it-all quiver killer. The fact that all models share the same frame is also a complete bonus. To some extent Cannondale might have made the Topstone a little too good on the road as it now looks like it could give those riders who might ordinarily opt for a Synapse another, almost better all-round option.
There will be five models of Topstone available in the range. All of which should be ready to ship from today.
Topstone Carbon Force eTap, £4799.99
Topstone Carbon Ultegra RX, £3499.99
Topstone Carbon Ultegra RX 2, £2699.99
Topstone Carbon Ultegra RX 2 Women, £2699.99
Topstone Carbon 105, £2099.99