Gravel bikes have been experiencing a renaissance over the previous a number of years.
It wasn’t that way back that the majority severe riders would scoff at throwing chunky tires on a gravel body to get extra versatility, as hardtail mountain bike may probably do the identical factor, solely higher.
Naturally, a full-suspension gravel bike could appear to be a stretch for some. However as gravel driving matures, so too have the rigs out there for the bizarre in-between areas.
Cannondale’s newest full-suspension Topstone Carbon Lefty gravel line marks a big step into that kind of specialization, concurrently striving to be a motorbike that’s as environment friendly on the highway as it’s compliant within the tough.
The Cannondale Topstone has been the model’s key gravel rig for years. However the newest model includes a sharp carbon body and trail-smoothing entrance and rear suspension, making the Topstone among the many most snug gravel bikes.
After spending 2 days on the Topstone Carbon 2 Lefty within the Colorado mountains, I really feel like Cannondale has give you one thing that isn’t exaggerating when it says “nothing is impassable.”
Topstone Carbon 2 Lefty
Cannondale’s Topstone Carbon 2 Lefty isn’t the most costly choice within the Topstone lineup, however it’s in regards to the closest factor to a mountain bike as you’ll discover in a drop-bar gravel bike. Nonetheless, that is decidedly not a mountain bike or a highway bike for that matter.
It’s a particular sort of platform that felt prefer it reached as much as fill gaps between highway and grime, reasonably than making compromises. It by no means actually strayed too far towards the texture of a highway or mountain bike to make it something aside from a devoted gravel rig.
I spent 2 days placing greater than 70 miles on the Carbon 2 Lefty on a mixture of highway, gravel, and singletrack in Aspen, Colorado. I made positive to punish my physique to the very best of my capability to see how the bike held up.
These 70 miles got here with almost 3,000 ft of elevation every day on assorted terrain. I obtained really feel for the way the bike features in all kinds of circumstances. For a rider based mostly in Austin, Texas, that sort of elevation is one thing I at all times should journey for, and it’s at all times punishing on my physique.
The Topstone proved to be the companion I wanted to scale back among the fatigue that will normally lower my time within the saddle quick at larger elevations.
Descending, the bike was quick, enjoyable, and snappy. Cannondale’s Kingpin rear suspension helped the bike hook as much as grime and rocks to forestall sliding out. Likewise, the Lefty Oliver Fork made large impacts really feel much less extreme.
The suspension setup created extra dealing with compliance whereas lowering the fatigue many gravel riders really feel constructing of their arms, arms, and backs throughout large rides.
I regularly discovered myself looking for out kickers to spring myself off of. I felt snug within the data that my wrists wouldn’t buckle from a front-heavy touchdown because of the Lefty. The rear wheel felt glued to the bottom, so coming into corners sizzling wasn’t as problematic as on inflexible bikes.
The rear suspension offers 30 mm of journey on the saddle. You get a further 10 mm or so of rear axle journey as a consequence of rear triangle body flex.
The Lefty fork delivers 30 mm of journey. It isn’t a lot, but it surely created simply sufficient flex to really feel responsive and playful whereas retaining effectivity on climbs and sprints when circumstances referred to as for it.
The Carbon 2 Lefty additionally includes a dropper put up, which is a kind of options that appears to scream “off-road” on the high of its lungs. It gave the bike an excellent larger feeling of functionality, particularly whereas pointed downhill.
The bike nonetheless felt like a snug climber. It didn’t bob below power, and the identical flex that helped it monitor properly in livid descents stored me from getting bumped out of the saddle whereas creeping over roots and rocks on steep-graded singletrack.
Taken alone, the Kingpin, dropper, or Lefty Oliver fork would all be welcome additions to my inflexible gravel bike. Taken collectively, they’re extra of a revelation. Regardless of my lungs and legs burning, I used to be remarkably snug over each kind of terrain.
The Topstone Carbon line is on the market in inflexible and suspension fork choices, however all characteristic Cannondale’s Kingpin suspension system.
With the Kingpin setup, the again of the Topstone body flexes round a through-axle pivot positioned on the seat tube to create an built-in rear suspension that doesn’t require a shock. As a result of it features via flexing, it doesn’t have a real bottom-out mark and doesn’t require servicing like different suspension techniques.
It’s a bit counterintuitive. Carbon normally is lauded for its stiffness, which supplies riders extra effectivity via the switch of energy via the body. Cannondale has as a substitute used carbon as a pliable materials to extend consolation and compliance, not rigidity.
Whereas driving behind a Topstone Carbon, I noticed the flex of the bike, but it surely’s not one thing I felt whereas driving in the identical approach as a conventional air or coil shock. The flex was sufficiently subtle that I forgot about it till I noticed that the terrain ought to have felt more durable, or I took a sufficiently big hit to acknowledge it.
Kingpin made a very spectacular distinction when descending in broadly various circumstances or whereas peddling over chunky gravel or single monitor. The motion of the body’s rear helped the bike’s tires monitor the bottom constantly. That feeling contributed to much less time spent chattering into corners or drifting.
The Carbon 2 Lefty’s dropper put up made the bike really feel like an ultra-stable platform whereas descending, even at speeds of 40 mph or extra. The low middle of gravity the bike afforded me was confidence-inspiring regardless of the terrain.
Utilizing the dropper put up barely inhibited the bike’s quantity of journey, because the Kingpin is supposed to flex all the best way as much as the rider via the seat put up. However the movement makes a giant distinction with both setup.
The bike has sufficient area for 700c x 45mm tires or 650b tires as much as 2.1 inches. However the further assist from the entrance and rear suspension offers comparable ranges of compliance with smaller, quicker, and lighter tires. Most inflexible bikes may solely discover that with larger choices.
The Lefty Oliver gravel fork introduced 30 mm of journey to the entrance of the bike, turning mild gravel into butter. And it considerably smoothed out extra technical terrain, together with tough gravel roads and singletrack trails peppered with rocks and roots.
Even giant potholes on the highway that will ship riders over the bars in a heartbeat felt like small bumps. The Lefty Oliver’s progressive tuning solely kicked in when the bike took a sufficiently big hit to generate a response. Usually, particularly whereas climbing, I wasn’t conscious that the shock was doing something in any respect.
I didn’t really feel giant, springy actions or dramatic flexes that appeared like energy dumps until I put my physique’s full weight into the bars. For these instances once I absolutely loaded the entrance, the fork includes a full lockout choice that stiffened issues up.
Whereas driving the Topstone Carbon 2 Lefty, I used to be surrounded by others driving the rigid-fork sibling, the Topstone Carbon 1 RLE. The numerous variations between these two bikes are the Carbon 1 RLE’s inflexible fork and its included SmartSense system.
Cannondale says it doesn’t embody SmartSense within the Topstone Carbon Lefty fashions to maintain the value down, which is comprehensible. It’s already giving riders a full-suspension, carbon gravel bike with a fork that prices greater than an MSRP of $1,500. Throwing SmartSense on may worth out a big contingent of patrons.
Nonetheless, the Carbon 2 Lefty is constructed to just accept the system, ought to riders decide to spring for the extra money, as are all Topstone Carbon fashions.
SmartSense is a totally built-in radar and light-weight system that features the Garmin Varia Radar, Lezyne entrance and back lights, and a Cannondale wheel sensor. A single battery that mounts to the body powers the entire system. It begins mechanically when the bike strikes and makes use of mild and sound alerts to make sure that riders are conscious of approaching site visitors and vice versa.
Riders can customise and management the system via Cannondale’s app. Solely the higher-end fashions of the rigid-fork Topstone Carbon come outfitted with SmartSense. With out the system put in, the battery mount within the body features as a spare tube or software storage space.
Who Is the Cannondale Carbon 2 Lefty For?
The Topstone Carbon Lefty is a motorbike that begged for chunky, aggressive gravel driving. The Lefty Oliver offered consolation to the arms and higher physique, considerably lowering fatigue after hours of rattling over difficult terrain.
The inflexible fork Topstone Carbon lineup is extra environment friendly and consists of SmartSense expertise to make time on the highway safer. It additionally has extra mount factors for gear for bikepackers and people who have to haul extra tools.
Each are cozy and succesful bikes that make gravel driving extra enjoyable and accessible.
Cannondale Topstone Builds and Pricing
In a phrase, Cannondale’s Topstone Carbon lineup is all about versatility, each in options and worth factors.
The Topstone Carbon Lefty fashions are available in 4 varieties. The Topstone Carbon Lefty 1 and Carbon 1 Lefty, go for MSRP of $8,500 and $7,850, respectively. The Carbon Lefty 1 is pricier and options the SRAM Pressure X01 Eagle eTap AXS mountain bike groupset. The Carbon 1 Lefty trades that out for the SRAM Pressure eTap digital 12-speed highway groupset.
The Topstone Carbon 2 Lefty and Carbon 3 Lefty price an MSRP of $4,250. The Carbon 2 Lefty comes with a Shimano GRX800 11-speed groupset. The Carbon 3 Lefty options the Shimano GRX 11-speed groupset.
The one bike within the bunch that comes with a dropper put up is the Carbon 2 Lefty.
Topstone Carbon Fashions with out the Lefty fork vary from an MSRP of $7,850 for the Topstone Carbon 1 RLE to $2,625 for the Carbon 6.
The Carbon 1 RLE options all the bells and whistles of the platform. It consists of the built-in SmartSense system and the SRAM Pressure eTap digital 12-speed groupset. The Carbon 6 drops SmartSense and consists of the Shimano GRX 400 10-speed groupset. A number of builds exist for riders to seek out the best setup to fulfill their efficiency and worth level.
Both approach, the Cannondale Topstone Carbon lineup will make your gravel grinds a lot much less of a grind.