Cannondale Topstone Carbon 2 L test: The carbon gravel bike with the comfortable rear suspension is now also available with StVZO lighting system. The new model comes with numerous detail changes; in the Velomotion test, it appealed with a lot of comfort and top riding characteristics.
Cannondale now has 22 gravel bikes to choose from – ten aluminum and twelve carbon models, plus three e-gravellers. Deciding between aluminum and carbon frames is usually primarily a question of price, but there is another important difference with the Topstone: the carbon models (except for the SuperSix EVO SE) are all equipped with rear suspension, two of them also with it Lefty suspension fork. Velomotion introduced the Topstone Carbon 1 Lefty last year; with significant changes in specification, it is still in the program. And a lot has also happened with the models with rigid forks, as the Cannondale Topstone Carbon 2 L shows very nicely.
"Softtail" with tradition
The US manufacturer's KingPin system is no longer brand new; the principle of a suspension without a pivot point on the rear triangle goes back as far as 2001, when Cannondale introduced the lightweight Scalpel race fully. Of course, the Topstone Carbon doesn't have a damper and doesn't have a really long suspension travel either: the rear wheel can deviate 10 mm upwards; the flex zones on the rear triangle, seat tube and top tube give you at least 30 mm of freedom of movement on the saddle. All of this should result in noticeable shock and vibration absorption, and Cannondale also speaks of a plus in traction - exactly what you need on a gravel bike.
SmartSense for best visibility (ability)
And something else is new on the 2022 Topstone: Several versions are equipped with "SmartSense", a permanently mounted lighting system which, on some models, also has a radar unit that shows vehicles approaching from behind. The test bike has to do without the latter; when graveling on low-traffic routes, however, the issue of visibility and visibility is likely to be more important anyway.
On the Topstone Carbon 2 L, SmartSense consists of three components. The front light sits below the stem and is held by a plastic clamp on the handlebars; the light comes from Lezyne and is GoPro-compatible, so that a wide variety of mounts can be retrofitted - for example a combined bike computer/GoPro mount. The rear light is also attached à la GoPro, so it is possible to combine it with a saddlebag. Your cable runs from above into the seat post to the battery, which is located below the bottle holder on the down tube. The battery can be easily released with the large locking lever and is charged via USB-C.
Frame with many new details
Of course, the interface for the battery required a new frame, and Cannondale took the opportunity to give the Topstone Carbon a thorough overhaul. The gear cable is now routed in the chainstay (but not the brake line); Cannondale has moved away from the SpeedRelease axles and now uses conventional thru-axles. What is particularly surprising, however, is that the manufacturer has abandoned the company's own BB30 bottom bracket standard for the Topstone and is back to a conventional BSA housing with screwed bearing shells - a return to simple technology that has been tried and tested for decades and which will make many a mechanic cheer. There are also subtle geometry changes: the head tube has become a bit shorter in four of the five frame sizes, which means that the handlebars are a little lower. And last but not least, the tire clearance has grown from 40 to 45 mm.
Handy, agile and comfortable
With all of that, the 2022 Topstone is like a new bike; but when you pedal, it feels like a good friend. Even if it weighs almost ten kilos ready to ride, it can be accelerated easily, with the tubeless mounted Vittoria Terreno Dry rolling almost like narrow racing tires on asphalt. The 38s are pulled apart by the wide WTB rims to almost 42 mm. Despite the slack steering angle, the Topstone is very manoeuvrable, and a stem that is at least 100 mm long is fitted. When delivered, there is a decent spacer tower under the stem, which leads to an upright sitting position - if you remove all spacers and install a 5 mm headset cover, you can lower the handlebars by a whopping 45 mm and set the seating position noticeably sportier. This also makes sense off-road, because on the dusty trails of the test lap, the Cannondale only gave you the choice between spinning the rear wheel and rising the front wheel on extremely steep sections (which can be ridden quite easily with 31 teeth in the front and 34 in the rear). Even with low pressure, the Vittoria reaches its limits in such situations, but you can't blame it for that. Especially since the bike as a whole is convincing all around, even on demanding terrain, where the wide handlebars – 45 cm at the brake levers, 54 cm at the ends – offer great leverage when navigating around obstacles on the trail.
And the rear suspension? Unlike similar systems such as IsoSpeed from Trek with a visible flex in the seat tube, it works invisibly, but in any case provides a lot of comfort at the rear. On longer tours, this could be noticeable in the form of less fatigue, and cyclists who tend to have back problems should also benefit from the system. In any case, the KingPin suspension is without any disadvantages - there is no significant additional weight and no effect on driving behavior, so you don't really have to think twice.
GRX 800 and tubeless wheelset
When it comes to equipment, Cannondale goes all out and installs a complete Shimano GRX 800/810 with precise gear changes and snappy brakes that can be easily modulated. The smooth change between large (48 teeth) and small chainring (31 teeth) is particularly impressive. The 28-spoke wheel set is not too heavy (ready to ride 3,68 kilos) and very solid, which suits all those who want to use the Topstone for bikepacking. With threaded inserts for three bottle cages, a top tube bag, luggage mounts on the fork and even mudguards, the bike is made for it.
Inexpensive alternative without light
If you forget the time in view of the all-round inspiring performance of the Cannondale Topstone, you don't have to worry with the 2 L when it suddenly dawns: the permanently installed lighting system is there and so bright that you can drive quickly even in absolute darkness. The long-distance view is convincing, and there is also bright near-field illumination; and of course the lighting system complies with the StVZO. The heat generated by the Lezyne radiator is striking, as its metal housing gets quite hot. If you don't want to decide before every ride whether to put the battery lights on your bike or not, you might like SmartSense; on the other hand, with the Topstone you are committed to the specified components, as well as to the externally mounted battery. At 5.199 euros, the test bike isn't exactly a bargain either. However, with the Topstone Carbon 3, Cannondale offers an interesting alternative without SmartSense light: With the GRX 800/600 mix, this bike is imperceptibly simpler in terms of functionality and the wheels are a bit heavier; at 3.399 euros, it is significantly cheaper. Where the battery sits on the SmartSense model, there is a small shell to which a tool bag, for example, can be attached. Whether with or without light: The new Cannondale Topstone Carbon convinces with top riding characteristics, which also include the high comfort of its suspension - from the trail tour to the bikepacking trip it is perfect and highly recommended.
WEB: cannondale. com