Cannondale Topstone 105: At The Finish – by MG
Hot on the heels of Cannondale’s recent announcement of the 2020 Topstone Carbon, it’s time to wrap up the review of the 2019 Topstone 105 we’ve been testing since early-May.
A Solid Foundation
Cannondale took a different approach with the Topstone than it does with many of its new models. Instead of launching a top-end “halo” bike, Cannondale instead chose to lead with value and performance for the dollar when it launched the 2019 alloy-framed Topstone. Now, it’s expanding the product line upward with the introduction of its carbon fiber 2020 Topstone Carbon.
The new models start at $2,750 for the Topstone Carbon 105, which has a very similar component mix to our test bike. That means the carbon bikes are roughly $1,000 more expensive than the equivalent alloy models, parts being equal.
Easy to Love
There’s a lot to like about the Cannondale Topstone 105. The good looking alloy frame, understated graphics and full carbon fork make it easy to mistake the bike for a much more expensive rig. On rides, I was often asked if it was a carbon frame, though at rest it was easier to see the alloy weld beads at the tube junctures.
At $1,750, the Topstone 105 is one of the most affordable Shimano 105-equipped gravel bikes on the market. Cannondale undoubtedly saves a few dollars with the FSA Omega crankset and KMC chain, neither of which is a deal breaker from a performance standpoint. That said, I’d have preferred to see a Shimano 105 crank, even if it bumped the price of the complete bike up a bit.
The ride quality of the Topstone alloy frame and carbon fork is impressive, especially considering the bike’s price. Handling is stable enough to encourage beginners, but engaging enough to confidently rail corners under an experienced rider.
Part of the great ride and handling is attributable to the WTB Nano tires, which measure a full 4mm larger (with my calipers) than their claimed 40c size*. As a result, I only needed 25-30psi to get a great combination of traction, bump absorption and easy rolling. The conversion to tubeless was a snap with the WTB rims and tires as well, and the setup has been 100% reliable over more than 600 miles to date.
Cannondale used its popular Synapse endurance road model as the template for the Topstone’s fit, and it worked well for me with minor adjustments. With the stock 100mm stem, the fit was a bit on the racy side, but swapping to a 90mm stem was all it took to get me into my preferred position on the bike.
Room to Grow
Overall, Cannondale did a great job with the Topstone 105 parts spec, but in reality, there’s always potential for upgrades in any sub-$2,000 bike. Fortunately, the quality of the Topstone frame and fork are worthy of upgrades down the road.
Aside from fit items (saddle, bar tape, crank length), the most significant upgrade we made to our test Topstone 105 was to the wheels. While the stock WTB wheels are strong and durable, there’s no escaping their 2,000+ gram weight.
We saved more than a pound by swapping the wheels out with Cantu’s 1,560g Rova wheelset. While the $1,595 wheels nearly double the price of the bike, the increased responsiveness is easy to feel on the road.
Cannondale’s Topstone 105 is a great example of the value and performance that’s available in a sub-$2,000 gravel bike. It gives new gravel riders a compelling introduction to the sport, and experienced riders on a budget an appealing option that won’t hold them back. Overall, we’re stoked with the bike’s performance and can recommend it without reservation. It’s definitely worth a look.
Learn more about the Topstone 105 or find a local dealer for a test ride of your own at Cannondale.com.
*Editor’s NOTE: Both MG and I are pretty sure WTB put a Nano 40 tread on a Resolute casing for the skin wall version of the Nano 40. The black wall version is no where near this wide or voluminous. While this is purely conjecture on our part, it is easy to see the difference between the skin wall and black wall Nanos if you try.
Please note: Cannondale sent the Topstone 105 for test and review at no charge to Riding Gravel. We are not being paid or bribed for these posts and will give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.