Quick – if you were to put suspension on your gravel/all-road bike, where would it be? The front? The back? Both? That seems to be a popular question at the moment, and for good reason. The answer will have a profound effect on the way the bike rides. As we made our way to Vermont for the Cannondale launch, we knew that we would be seeing a new gravel bike. But until the presentation, what that bike would look like was anyone’s guess.

First Ride: Cannondale Topstone Carbon gravel bike with Kingpin rear suspension
Photo c. Meg McMahon

By now, you might have seen our first post on the all new Cannondale Topstone Carbon gravel bike. If not, following that link will get you up to speed on the technical details of the new frame. In a nutshell, the Topstone Carbon relies on suspension to provide a smoother ride – but only on the rear. And mostly when seated.

First Ride: Cannondale Topstone Carbon gravel bike with Kingpin rear suspension

First Ride: Cannondale Topstone Carbon gravel bike with Kingpin rear suspension
Our ride was led by Tim Johnson and Ted King, and included a stop at the Untapped maple world headquarters. Photo c. Meg McMahon.

From the first pedal, it is immediately apparent that there is something special about the Topstone Carbon. It just feels… smooth. There’s no other way to put it, it just offers a ride quality that is uniquely different, in a good way. The suspension doesn’t actually feel like suspension which was the point. Instead, it takes the edge off while providing 10-12mm of travel at the rear axle and up to 30mm of compliance measured at the saddle. During my first, and only ride on the Topstone Carbon, this seemed like just enough give to make it feel like the suspension was doing something, without feeling like any of my energy was being lost to inefficiency in the suspension design.

First Ride: Cannondale Topstone Carbon gravel bike with Kingpin rear suspension
Photo c. Meg McMahon
First Ride: Cannondale Topstone Carbon gravel bike with Kingpin rear suspension
Photo c. Meg McMahon

Without any sort of suspension up front, I expected there to be a more noticeable difference between the front and rear. Sure, large impacts still upset the front end more than if it had some sort of suspension up front, but I wasn’t left wishing that it had something more than the rigid fork up front. However, the gravel and dirt roads we rode in Vermont were pretty smooth – in fact the dirt roads were way smoother than the pavement! More aggressive terrain might have me thinking differently, but this is in line with how Cannondale has positioned the bike.

Aimed at more of a gravel/all-road platform, the Topstone Carbon is less of a singletrack shredder and more of an all day comfort machine. That isn’t to say that the Topstone Carbon can’t get rad – just that it’s aimed at being fast and smooth first.

First Ride: Cannondale Topstone Carbon gravel bike with Kingpin rear suspension
Photo c. Meg McMahon

That characteristic was apparent throughout the ride with the Topstone Carbon always feeling light and efficient. There were plenty of climbs to test out the bike both seated and standing, and both seemed to affirm Cannondale’s decision to go with a light, stiff, and efficient rear suspension design.

First Ride: Cannondale Topstone Carbon gravel bike with Kingpin rear suspension

First Ride: Cannondale Topstone Carbon gravel bike with Kingpin rear suspension

In terms of sizing, my 690mm saddle to BB measurement led me to the Small frame which has a 54.4cm top tube and 45.8cm seat tube. Compared to a lot of gravel bikes that I’ve ridden lately, the Topstone Carbon felt longer, with narrower bars – definitely more of a road oriented fit. Personally, I would like to run a shorter stem and wider bars than the 40cm bars that were included on the Small. On the Topstone Carbon Force eTap AXS that I rode this is made a bit more difficult due to the HollowGram SAVE semi-integrated bar and stem, but there are options for swapping the stem and bar. Or you can always swap the whole system completely for a standard bar and stem like those that come on all of the other complete Topstone Carbons.

First Ride: Cannondale Topstone Carbon gravel bike with Kingpin rear suspension
Photo c. Meg McMahon

Overall, the first ride on the Topstone Carbon was impressive. Fit issues aside, the bike seems like a great addition to the Cannondale line up that rides smoother than the original Topstone alloy, yet is more efficient and faster than the Slate. This is one that I’m looking forward to getting some more time on in the near future.

cannondale.com

14 COMMENTS

  1. @Zach Did you catch the crank length on your small demo bike? Thanks for the ride report. Looks like Cannondale has a potential winner. I keep thinking we’ll see some form of the Headshok return at some point. This bike with a Redshift Shockstop stem might be just the ticket!

  2. I’d really like to try one out. I believe that some form of suspension is going to be the norm in the gravel segment in the next few years.. and it should be. Not sure what the definition of gravel rides are for most readers, but out here in So.Cal, there are lots of loose soil, braking bumps, ruts and rocks, not really much of true gravel to speak of, although on some of my local USFS fire roads, they are starting to lay down some form of base material that resembles gravel in some sections.

    • The “gravel” name is unfortunate — I think “mixed-surface” or “all-road” are better descriptions of what this type of bike does well.
      My conditions tend to be a mixture of bad pavement and reasonably smooth dirt. Wider tires and a bit of compliance work well even though there’s not much “gravel” in sight.

  3. I managed to get one ahead of launch and use in the GBDuro (I bailed due to injury after 3 days). My immediate thoughts were for my weight that there was too much rearward flex with the Cannondale Save seat post and I fitted an inline Bontrager xxx post instead. I also swapped the stem for a Redshift from my old bike and it complemented the set up perfectly. Out of the box my medium bike felt 2cm too long and I agree the bars felt narrow until I descended in the drops and they were perfect. What’s it like to ride? in a word sublime!! They’ve nailed it.

  4. > They’ve nailed it.

    Well except for boneheaded decision to use a proprietary bottom bracket instead of BB386EVO.

COMMENT HERE: (For best results, log in through Wordpress or your social media account. Anonymous/fake email comments may be unapproved or deleted. ALL first-time commenter's posts are held for moderation. Check our Comment Policy for full details.)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.