First Ride: Cannondale Topstone Carbon

A smoother, faster gravel-ready machine

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A NEW LOOK

Following the success of their aluminum rookie effort, Cannondale focused on a carbon gravel ride. The design crew at Cannondale could have gotten away with a basic diamond frame design like the countless others from the past few years, but thanks to their relatively late entry into the scene the brand was able to capitalize on the mistakes already made and release a purpose built-gravel bike with a geometry similar to the brand’s Synapse.

The Topstone Carbon is the most endurance oriented frame in Cannondale’s line, it follows in the footsteps of its aluminum counterpart’s geometry with an identical stack and reach progression across all sizes but that’s about the only similarity. Wide tubing and a slack front end present a new look for the Cannondale’s drop bar category. The new Topstone offers clearance for a 700x40mm or a 650x48mm tire. It’s available in five sizes from XS to XL with four build kits starting at $2700 and features a slew of frame bolts, it’s the only current Cannondale road bike to feature front rack mounts.

The radical rear end’s dropped seat stays and suspension bearings are a new look from Cannondale.

Most striking is the innovative KingPin suspension system in the rear end. Presented by lead engineer Darius Shekari, the KingPin is designed to work in tandem with the shapely seat tube to add a claimed average of 30mm of compliance at the saddle while under load. The lowered seat stays attach to the seat tube with the help of a thru-axle pivot and sealed cartridge bearings. Without linkages and shocks, the system maintains a low weight and requires minimal maintenance. Each size has custom tuned compliance for the expected rider weight, the larger the size the greater the rebound from the frame.  

FIRST RIDE

For our first outing Cannondale had a few locals Laura and Ted King as well as six-time national cyclocross champion Tim Johnson to lead the way. For our first ride in the green hills of Vermont, we set out from the King’s barn on the Topstone and were met with some of the best quality rolling gravel roads we have ridden in a while.

We rode the SRAM Force eTap AXS model, the wide gear range and quick shifting is a favorite of ours. The bike also features Cannondale’s new two-piece SAVE cockpit, the overbuilt flat bars and stem effectively disperse vibrations throughout and are a valuable upgrade from Cannondale. 

Laura King was our tour guide for the ride.

On the road the effect of the KingPin suspension system comes into play over any section of rough road but it can be difficult to tell since the 27.2  SAVE seat post seems to do most of the work. The seat post flexes with the bumps instead of jarring you out of the saddle but the movement in the seat tube is minimal. While there is a sluggish feeling on the smoothest pavement, the benefit of the wheels being planted while rolling over rocks and roots adds an extra layer of confidence most gravel bikes miss.

When in need of a few more watts on a climb or while getting up to speed the effect of the KingPin system can be somewhat offset by pedaling out of the saddle. Instead of sending power through the frame and KingPin, you can accelerate a bit quicker by getting up for a more efficient effort.

STATS

Weight: 19.42 pounds size medium

Price:

  • 700 M Topstone Crb Force eTap AXS $ 6,500.00
  • 700 M Topstone Crb Ult RX $ 4,000.00
  • 700 F Topstone Crb Ult RX 2 $ 3,250.00
  • 700 M Topstone Crb Ult RX 2 $ 3,250.00
  • 700 M Topstone Crb 105 $ 2,700.00

www.cannondale.com

Press release:

Cannondale, announced the next big jump in the evolution of road bikes, the Topstone Carbon. Featuring an unprecedented, ultralight suspension system, the new Topstone Carbon offers riders more comfort on-road, and more capability off-road than any road bike that’s come before. It’s designed to deliver maximum fun in places beyond the abilities of most gravel bikes, and unbelievably composed comfort on more everyday road-bike terrain.

At the heart of the all-new Topstone Carbon is the Kingpin suspension system—a revolutionary, super-light suspension design that lets riders charge harder on dirt and more smoothly on pavement with better control, traction and comfort. Kingpin utilizes a thru-axle pivot in the seat tube that allows engineered flex zones in the rear stays, the seat tube, and even the rear portion of the top tube to deflect more than they ever could with a fixed-stay design. This offers riders smooth, progressive compliance without the weight and complexity of a shock,pivots and linkages.

The suspension and overall frame-feel are custom-tuned, by size, via Cannondale’s Proportional Response construction techniques. The carbon layup and tube dimensions are manipulated to deliver just the right amount of suspension flex and frame stiffness for the rider’s size. It requires no set-up and virtually no maintenance; the rider can simply get on and go, enjoying dialed rigidity and all-terrain suspension that works to smooth bumps and enhance control whether they are seated or standing.

Topstone Carbon is the latest bike to offer riders a new way to connect with their bike and the ride experience. Cannondale connected technology seamlessly pairs an integrated wheel sensor with the new Cannondale App to deliver hyper-accurate speed, route and distance info, as well as provide curated information about their bike, send detailed service reminders and more, all through their smart phone.

With tons of gear and bottle mounts (including mounting eyelets both inside and outside the fork legs),internal dropper post compatibility,Speed Release thru-axles and plenty of room for big tires (40mm with ample clearance), the all-new Topstone Carbon is ready to get in deep, wherever the road may lead.

The new Topstone Carbon line-up will feature four models, a Force eTAP AXS, Ultegra RX, Ultegra RX 2, and a 105 version as well as a Women’s Ultegra RX 2. Men’s Topstone Carbons will range in size from XS, S,M, L, XL, and the women’s bike will be available in XS, S, M.

 

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