Cannondale Topstone 105, gravel & adventure bike, first ride review

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frogtape777
Posts: 118
Joined: Thu Dec 20, 2018 9:35 pm

by frogtape777

Topstone 105 test&fettle review ride (ignore the red temp pedals :shock: )



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The Topstone had a lot to live up to, I ride a Scott Spark full sus which is incredibly light and comfortable and my last venture into a fully rigid bike lasted 1 ride before I took it apart!

Back in 2013 I renovated my 1997 Swchinn Moab, changed the Indy forks to Kona Project IIs, single ring up front, new tyres etc (original Mavic STX wheels!) and at the time hoped for a winter hacking bike, and general local trail explorer.... it was truly awful, the ride quality was unbearable, harsh geo, shocking handling, a proper bone shaker with no give, and body took a beating on a single 2.5 hour offroad ride, which was also cut short, had me taking her apart and selling what I could on ebay :lol:

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So 5 years on my interest in getting a winter hacking bike was reignitied, the UK winter has many local trails turning to muddy mush, full suspension pivot bearings would last 3 months in these conditions, and it involved a lot of bike cleaning and maintenance which is next to nothing in summer. This pushed me into doing more road and cyclepath routes, not a problem on the Spark, but the gravel bikes i'd seen on youtube looked perfect, stick on some fenders to stay clean, they'll roll better on the tarmac for winter training, yet can still link up offroad trails!

Topstone 105 ticked all the boxes, stealthy in appearance, large tyre clearance, bolt thru axles, nice 105 groupset, gravel geo which looked good for comfort, endurance and offroad handling, the Canyon Grail was also on the list but 4 months away, and in the end wasn't as keen on the bulky welding. Any bike with x1 drivechain was instantly dismissed as there's some incredibly steeps hills in the peak district and lots of long stompy roads so wanted huge gear range, and decent hill gearing for spinning up. The Topstone purchase was made, the last Large I could find in the UK.

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To test her out and dial everything in went on a 30 mile gravel/XC/canal/tarmac ride, tools in bag to adjust saddle and bars and fine tune, nervous yet excited, expecting the worst on ride comfort, with wrists, shoulders, back and neck all prepped to take a beating! Met up with buddy on his Bianchi CX bike

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The Topstone felt instantly comfy, i'd matched saddle height + KOP, exactly to my Spark, and also lowered the bars 1 steerer space, plan to do a few more short rides with an even lower stem before cutting the steerer down.

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The ride quality was phenominal, acceleration super snappy, gliding over the first few roads on the way to the meetup point, shifting crisp, plenty of gear range for a quick trial on the drops, brakes not bedded in but feeling powerful, just an overall very planted feel. (The right brake does have an odd sticking point half way through pressing, if you press the lever slowly fine, if you press it smoothly you get a point of resistance you can press past, feels like a sticky piston? but performance doesnt seem affected)

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Leaving the road we joined a disused railway gravel section which covers around 10 miles, again impressed on the Topstones handling, sure-footedness, and bump absorbtion! In all honesty it didn't feel that far off the full sus for comfort, bar I was cruising along at a much much higher speed, with relative ease. Steering felt great on the flats, hoods and drops, responsive yet not twitchy as I was expecting from being used to super wide mtb bars. Theres also a fantastic flare on the drops which further gives more stability when stomping at speed, head down.

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Eventually the railway trail joined up with the canal, this was 15 miles into the ride, we stopped at the local barge refueling stop, with the heady smell of burning coal in the damp winter air, it was a welcome stopping point to talk about the first impressions of the Topstone over a coffee and cake.


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The route from here home headed over older canal towpaths, some offroad trails i'd ride on the mtb, rocky aggragate surfaces, sharper rocks, cobbles, slippy wooden bridges, it brought alive some of these trails to a degree, picking out the best lines, to avoid some parts which were handlebar rattling, I found switching to the flats of the handlebar pleasantly soaked up majority of the rough stuff nicely. Again shocked at how good a fully rigid bike could feel offroad.

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The faffiest setup of the Topstone was fitting the SKS Bluemels 53mm mudguards, sawing down stays, none existant instructions, a bag of 30 odd bolts, the outer mudgaurd boss not being usable as the rear axle skewer doesn't sit proud enough to clear it, the internal bosses worked a treat though, and the fitting proved well worth it as the bike stayed mostly spotless the entire ride, which covered some long soaking wet, muddy sections, along with having rain all night long.

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The Topstone 100% looks better without mudgaurds, so i'll be removing these come Spring, but comparing the pre ride spotless Bianchi half way in, without gaurds, it was clear they were serving their purpose and would make winter riding hugely maintenance free. (i've also ordered a rawflap for the front to catch that last bit of spray on the feet and bottom bracket area - https://rawmudflap.uk/product/ref-black ... h-mudflap/ )

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The internal cable routing is gorgeous, with a single ziptie needed up front, a stark contrast to the cable maze on my Spark. The charcoal grey colour, with metallic diamond speckles which glisten in the sun give it a shiny, yet from afar matt appearance which I love.

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So early days but first ride impressions couldn't be happier.


Future upgrades, she weighed in around 23.5-24 lbs with pedals on my digital bathroom scales, each time getting a different reading :lol: Although the geo, the skinny tyres, the lack of suspension, she was much much quicker than the Spark. I've got some ideas to lower this further below :


*Seatpost, Thomson Elite and saw down to 300mm. KCNC Ti Pro or Use Evo. (any good carbon 27.2 reccomendations around 300mm welcome!)
*Tyres and Wheels I think are ready to go straight to tubeless so i'll probably pick up a valve and do the rear next weekend with stans fluid, see how well it goes then test ride.
*Spare wheelset with some skinnier roadtyres, turn her into a roadbike for pure tarmac rides, thinking Hunts https://www.huntbikewheels.com/products ... less-ready or Hope with Sapims https://www.merlincycles.com/hope-20fiv ... 95181.html
*Ordered some shorter aluminium boss bolts to replace all stock ones
*Ordered an aero saddle bag with pump + tools, and a clarks 22g carbon bottle cage, so I can get rid of my camelback, which started to irratate towards the end of the ride with the much lower back position.
*Prefered the lower stack position so going to slam it all the way and test ride just to find that tipping point of aero VS comfort.

by Weenie


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Calnago
Posts: 8526
Joined: Sun Nov 07, 2010 9:14 pm

by Calnago

frogtape777 wrote:...Eventually the railway trail joined up with the canal, this was 15 miles into the ride, we stopped at the local barge refueling stop, with the heady smell of burning coal in the damp winter air, it was a welcome stopping point to talk about the first impressions of the Topstone over a coffee and cake.
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No real interest in the bike personally, but loved the story. Image
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triteacher
Posts: 34
Joined: Sat Sep 01, 2018 8:29 pm

by triteacher

@frogtape777 Nice one, mate. My Topstone is due late January and stories like yours - packed with tons of info - are just what I need Thanks a lot, keep us updated!

frogtape777
Posts: 118
Joined: Thu Dec 20, 2018 9:35 pm

by frogtape777

Thanks Calnago!

Cheers Triteacher, I took her on a 100% road ride today, with mate who's got a Ribble carbon road bike, laced with Ultegra groupset on skinny tyres, so expected a bit of a struggle with the topstones chunkier offroad tyres, aluminium frame, and more endurance geo. I'd planned to buy another wheelset in the future to fit some skinny tyres on for pure road rides.

Incredibly she easily kept up, the WTB Nano absolutely gliding along, also I had much less road buzz than he experienced on his carbon, guessing tyres soaked this up better?

Ended up being my highest average speed ride to date with some good distance to boot

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tomh79
Posts: 106
Joined: Thu Dec 27, 2018 9:50 pm

by tomh79

Thanks for the review! With what pressure are you riding?

MountainAddict
Posts: 42
Joined: Mon Aug 20, 2018 10:04 pm
Location: Colorado

by MountainAddict

Great review. Was planning on getting a Topstone 105, but since they're out of stock for months I ended up buying something else.

frogtape777
Posts: 118
Joined: Thu Dec 20, 2018 9:35 pm

by frogtape777

Hey Tom,

40 PSI.

The tyres list 35-50 on the sidewalls.

40 seem to roll amazingly on the tarmac, and take any harshness out the ride on and off road.


Thanks MountainAddict they do seem like golddust in the UK too!

tomh79
Posts: 106
Joined: Thu Dec 27, 2018 9:50 pm

by tomh79

Thanks!

jonnysyoung
Posts: 1
Joined: Tue Jan 29, 2019 2:09 pm

by jonnysyoung

Thanks - good review and one that Id agree with on the whole.
Ive had a Topstone 105 in XL for the last month. Im 6'5" and fit is bang on. I bought this as a replacement for my Cannondale Synapse road bike, but wanted something a bit beefier for tow paths etc.
I was pleasantly surprised with how similar to the Synapse it was (shares same geometry etc) - it's fast! I think with a change to slicks it should cope fine with the odd Sportive, which was what I was looking for. Ive also had it out on some pretty rough tracks, which it coped with fine.
Cannondale have also made some sensible spec adjustments to the Synapse such as replacing the press fit BB with a threaded, so should be more durable. The touring attachments, including on the top tube also highlight how versitile this bike is.
The frame is a work of art. I would differ with your thoughts on the internal routing however. Theyve internally routed everything - even brake cables through the front fork. While it looks great, Im anticipating it will be a pain in the arse to replace cables etc, which annoys me from a practical viewpoint. Not had to cross that bridge yet though!
So all in all, Im really pleased with the bike - everything Id hoped for.

moyboy
Posts: 447
Joined: Thu Aug 18, 2016 12:19 am

by moyboy

Just curious, how heavy is the wheelset on the topstone

frogtape777
Posts: 118
Joined: Thu Dec 20, 2018 9:35 pm

by frogtape777

jonnysyoung wrote:
Tue Jan 29, 2019 2:20 pm
Thanks - good review and one that Id agree with on the whole.
Ive had a Topstone 105 in XL for the last month. Im 6'5" and fit is bang on. I bought this as a replacement for my Cannondale Synapse road bike, but wanted something a bit beefier for tow paths etc.
I was pleasantly surprised with how similar to the Synapse it was (shares same geometry etc) - it's fast! I think with a change to slicks it should cope fine with the odd Sportive, which was what I was looking for. Ive also had it out on some pretty rough tracks, which it coped with fine.
Cannondale have also made some sensible spec adjustments to the Synapse such as replacing the press fit BB with a threaded, so should be more durable. The touring attachments, including on the top tube also highlight how versitile this bike is.
The frame is a work of art. I would differ with your thoughts on the internal routing however. Theyve internally routed everything - even brake cables through the front fork. While it looks great, Im anticipating it will be a pain in the arse to replace cables etc, which annoys me from a practical viewpoint. Not had to cross that bridge yet though!
So all in all, Im really pleased with the bike - everything Id hoped for.

I've not had to deal with internal cabling replacements yet, well nothing more complex than a gear cable which was a straight pull out and feedback through, I imagine brake cabling would involve bleeding as a minimum to take apart.


Great to hear she rides like the Synapse too, slicks are on the wish list and a hunt wheelset still :D

Stem is now an 80mm, and much more comfy than the stock 100 for me, don't feel so stretched out :beerchug:

frogtape777
Posts: 118
Joined: Thu Dec 20, 2018 9:35 pm

by frogtape777

moyboy wrote:
Tue Jan 29, 2019 3:46 pm
Just curious, how heavy is the wheelset on the topstone

Next time I have them off i'll get the scales out :thumbup:

Scott1298
Posts: 2
Joined: Fri Feb 01, 2019 4:31 am

by Scott1298

SIZING, SIZing, sizing. I've really enjoyed the review & am very excited about the Topstone, but I'm 5'9"/175cm and haven't found anybody mention my fit?
I know the bike shop will have an opinion, but would like to know what to expect when the bikes arrive in March. Any advice would be appreciated!

frogtape777
Posts: 118
Joined: Thu Dec 20, 2018 9:35 pm

by frogtape777

Glad you liked the review.

I'm guessing you are going Medium Scott?

I've got super long arms and legs, and 6' 2", and large is now perfect with a 20mm shorter stem.

by Weenie


Scott1298
Posts: 2
Joined: Fri Feb 01, 2019 4:31 am

by Scott1298

frogtape777 wrote:
Fri Feb 01, 2019 8:10 am
Glad you liked the review.

I'm guessing you are going Medium Scott?

I've got super long arms and legs, and 6' 2", and large is now perfect with a 20mm shorter stem.
Thanks for your input, & that makes me feel better. It's been a long time since I was small anything, and I have a high quality 10mm shorter stem begging to get out of my parts box if necessary!

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