GET ON GRAVEL WITH THE TOPSTONE CARBON
The Cannondale Topstone gravel bike blurs the line between a pure gravel and an endurance bike. With its revolutionary Kingpin suspension it offers a smoother, more comfortable ride that inspires full-day adventure riding, gravel racing, and anything in between.
The Kingpin system is designed similar to a leaf spring. Flex is engineered into the frame using Cannondale’s Proportional Response carbon layup and an integrated pivot bearing at the seat stay/seat tube joint. The result is a frame that can “pivot” up to 30mm of travel without a rear shock, pedal bob, or other unwanted feedback.
Other component highlights include a 12 speed E Tap Force AXS drivetrain, frame mounts for anything, and beautiful carbon Hollogram wheels with clearance for up to 40mm tires (on 700c wheels, wider 650 tires are compatible, too).
A note on sizing. This is one aspect that needs some attention. Cannondale offers the Topstone in 5 sizes – XS through XL. Take extra time in selecting your size and demo one if possible. We found the sizing to be just a touch on the big side – meaning some riders may be better fitted to size down if they’re looking for a more aggressive fit.
We rolled into O’Neil Regional Park’s network of fire roads and single tracks to put the Topstone on local dirt and connected it all with a few miles of pavement for good measure.
Any “new bike feels” were forgotten by the time we entered the hills of Coto de Caza that back up against Casper’s Regional Park. Speeds are fast and the trail flows up, down, and around some of Orange County’s most scenic gravel before dropping out of the trails and onto paved road for the climb up Oso Parkway to re-enter the Tijeras Creek trail system.
The first word that comes to mind: Creamy. The bike and its Kingpin suspension has a certain smoothness to it that really does take the edge off. Make no mistake; you still feel bumps. It’s not like it has a rear air shock with linkage that creates the feeling of bottomless travel. Rather, that sharp edge that causes fatigue is rounded, smoothed out, and buffed off. It’s fast. I found myself in the drops, carving through corners and feeling very little wheel chatter or drift.
Kingpin’s ride quality is more noticeable when seated as opposed to standing. Out of the saddle climbs lost a bit of their snap, but the comfort of in-saddle climbing made up for that.
It’s worth mentioning that the bar shape is extremely comfortable – great for riders that like to settle in and rest their hands on the top of the bar.
The geometry opens the bike up to all sorts of options. The taller head tube positions the rider ‘in’ the bike nicely for comfort and the fork rake provided plenty of control even on some of the area’s mountain bike trails (Waterworks, for example). That handling may take some getting use to for riders expecting the responsive steering of a ‘cross bike. It’s just a bit slower reacting, a little lazy feeling at first. Lowering the bars might help bring a bit of aggressive position for those riders that like that slammed stem fit.
It’s certainly suitable for endurance road riding (I’d opt for a tire change if it were all paved), but the option to veer off onto a fire road or even a single track segment is just too inviting. For me, the Topstone would remain a dedicated mixed surface bike with gravel tires.
The bike is a blast. A 4 hour ride flew by, and while at first the bar positioned seemed a little high, the ride ended without any aching shoulders or back. Strava PR’s were set. Fun was had. That’s a good day.