Ode To A Topstone
I just bought a new bike.
While I am of course excited, I can’t help but feel it’s a bittersweet moment. It's bittersweet because sadly this means I will need to say goodbye to probably the best bike I’ve ever owned. My Humble Cannondale Topstone.
The Cannondale Topstone first arrived on the scene in 2018, one of the earlier gravel bikes from a big brand, and what an entrance it made. Sporty handling, comfortable geometry, clearance for big gravel tyres and an attractive price point. It was a recipe for success from the start and sure enough, it proved to be a best seller.
Around the same time, I found myself looking for a new bike. I wanted to cycle to work. I had started to dream of venturing off road on gravel rides and while I had a couple of bikes, all were rim brake, all with clearance for no more than 25mm tyres and no way to carry luggage. Not what I needed. It was at this point Cannondale released their first gravel bike, the Aluminium framed Topstone and It was just what I needed.
I got in touch with my local bike shop (where I wasn’t yet an employee) and went out on a test ride, I was hooked straight away. I couldn’t remember a bike being so fun; powerful braking, responsive handling and the way it went wherever I pointed it, down steps, over fields, it was like I was a kid again. I even got a little carried away, taking far longer than usual on the test ride, and only realised when I got a phone call from a slightly panicky Dougie wondering where I had got to. I pedalled back and I bought the bike right there and then.
Fast forward a couple of months and I was so impressed with my new bike that I sold my other bikes and used the money to fund a second set of wheels fitted with fast road tyres, which I could change to whenever I liked, in only a couple of minutes. For the next 2 years my Topstone was my sole bike.
I used it with 28mm tyres and light weight wheels as my road bike, where the geometry which is largely borrowed from Cannondales synapse model, meant that the bike never felt sluggish, something that other gravel bikes don’t always achieve. It held its own on many a group ride, seen me through a few sportives and even helped me steal a KOM or 2.
With bigger knobblier tyres mounted and set up tubeless I discovered the joys of gravel cycling. Venturing away from traffic, enjoying the freedom of mile upon mile of gravel roads through more natural environments and having a lot of fun weaving down the odd section of singletrack. I experimented by putting on some 650b wheels which allowed me to use tyres that were even bigger and designed for mountain biking, the extra grip and comfort meant I could explore further being confident that no route would be too much.
On one occasion, I dipped my toes into the muddy waters of cyclocross racing, where despite being head to toe in thick claggy mud, my wheels kept spinning, never getting too clogged up thanks to the ample tyre clearance.
I even strapped on some bags and used it for bike-packing, where the low gearing and chunky tyres kept me spinning through the Trossachs, the Cairngorms and even further afield, all while carrying multiple days’ worth of supplies and camping equipment. I think it was these multi trips more than anything else that solidified my affection for the Topstone; wading through rivers, cycling over mountain passes between snow-capped Munros, skirting around untouched lochs. How could I not love the bike that was allowing me to experience all that.
And amongst all this, I put a pannier rack on it and rode it to work and back 5 days a week, in every weather. Confident in the Hydraulic brakes to stop me urgently and as dry as Scottish weather allows one to be, thanks to my full-length mudguards.
The Topstone epitomises why gravel bikes have become so popular. The sheer versatility is unparalleled; road, off road, commuting, bikepacking and touring, they can do it all, and they can do it well.
Cannondale have just released a brand-new model for 2023 and it’s looking better than ever. They’ve updated the frame being careful to maintain the road bike handling that set the Topstone above its peers. While simultaneously making the bike more capable of off-road adventures, by adapting the frame for increased comfort and increasing tyre clearance. On top of that there’s the new fork with cargo mounts making this new generation of Topstone is the most capable ever.
Whether you’re looking for a capable commuter, a winter road hack, a gravel machine, a cyclocross racer, a long-distance tourer or a bikepacking rig. Or if you want something that can perform any combination of these, then I can’t recommend the Topstone enough, give us a call we have all models and sizes ready to test.
II’ll be sad to see mine go.
Or maybe I'll keep it.....
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