Gravel bikes have been experiencing a renaissance over the previous a number of years.
It wasn’t that way back that almost all severe riders would scoff at throwing chunky tires on a gravel body to get extra versatility, as a very good hardtail mountain bike might seemingly 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 accessible 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 street as it’s compliant within the tough.
The Cannondale Topstone has been the model’s key gravel rig for years. However the newest model contains a sharp carbon body and trail-smoothing entrance and rear suspension, making the Topstone among the many most comfy 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 costliest possibility 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 street bike for that matter.
It’s a particular sort of platform that felt prefer it reached as much as fill gaps between street and grime, reasonably than making compromises. It by no means actually strayed too far towards the texture of a street or mountain bike to make it something apart from a devoted gravel rig.
I spent 2 days placing greater than 70 miles on the Carbon 2 Lefty on a mixture of street, gravel, and singletrack in Aspen, Colorado. I made positive to punish my physique to the perfect of my means to see how the bike held up.
These 70 miles got here with practically 3,000 ft of elevation every day on diverse terrain. I bought a very good really feel for the way the bike features in all kinds of circumstances. For a rider primarily based in Austin, Texas, that sort of elevation is one thing I at all times must 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 often minimize my time within the saddle quick at increased 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 stop sliding out. Likewise, the Lefty Oliver Fork made huge impacts really feel much less extreme.
The suspension setup created extra dealing with compliance whereas decreasing the fatigue many gravel riders really feel constructing of their arms, fingers, and backs throughout huge rides.
I regularly discovered myself looking for out kickers to spring myself off of. I felt comfy within the data that my wrists wouldn’t buckle from a front-heavy touchdown due to 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 gives 30 mm of journey on the saddle. You get a further 10 mm or so of rear axle journey attributable to rear triangle body flex.
The Lefty fork delivers 30 mm of journey. It isn’t a lot, however it 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 contains a dropper publish, which is a kind of options that appears to scream “off-road” on the high of its lungs. It gave the bike a good higher feeling of functionality, particularly whereas pointed downhill.
The bike nonetheless felt like a snug climber. It didn’t bob beneath drive, and the identical flex that helped it monitor nicely in livid descents saved 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 comfy over each sort of terrain.
The Topstone Carbon line is on the market in inflexible and suspension fork choices, however all function 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 programs.
It’s a bit counterintuitive. Carbon often is lauded for its stiffness, which provides 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, however it’s not one thing I felt whereas driving in the identical manner as a conventional air or coil shock. The flex was adequately subtle that I forgot about it till I noticed that the terrain ought to have felt harder, 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 publish 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 irrespective of the terrain.
Utilizing the dropper publish barely inhibited the bike’s quantity of journey, because the Kingpin is supposed to flex all the way in which as much as the rider via the seat publish. 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 additional assist from the entrance and rear suspension provides comparable ranges of compliance with smaller, quicker, and lighter tires. Most inflexible bikes might solely discover that with larger choices.
The Lefty Oliver gravel fork introduced 30 mm of journey to the entrance of the bike, turning gentle 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 massive potholes on the street 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. Typically, particularly whereas climbing, I wasn’t conscious that the shock was doing something in any respect.
I didn’t really feel massive, springy actions or dramatic flexes that appeared like energy dumps except I put my physique’s full weight into the bars. For these occasions once I totally loaded the entrance, the fork contains a full lockout possibility 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 embrace 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 might value out a big contingent of patrons.
Nonetheless, the Carbon 2 Lefty is constructed to just accept the system, ought to riders choose to spring for the extra money, as are all Topstone Carbon fashions.
SmartSense is a totally built-in radar and lightweight system that features the Garmin Varia Radar, Lezyne entrance and hind lights, and a Cannondale wheel sensor. A single battery that mounts to the body powers the entire system. It begins routinely when the bike strikes and makes use of gentle and sound alerts to make sure that riders are conscious of approaching 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 device 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 supplied consolation to the arms and higher physique, considerably decreasing fatigue after hours of rattling over difficult terrain.
The inflexible fork Topstone Carbon lineup is extra environment friendly and contains SmartSense know-how to make time on the street safer. It additionally has extra mount factors for gear for bikepackers and those that must haul extra gear.
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 value factors.
The Topstone Carbon Lefty fashions are available 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 street 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 publish 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 contains the built-in SmartSense system and the SRAM Pressure eTap digital 12-speed groupset. The Carbon 6 drops SmartSense and contains the Shimano GRX 400 10-speed groupset. A number of builds exist for riders to seek out the perfect setup to fulfill their efficiency and value level.
Both manner, the Cannondale Topstone Carbon lineup will make your gravel grinds a lot much less of a grind.