It’s been a few years since Cannondale first introduced the Cannondale Slate in 2015, which was the first iteration of Cannondale’s entry into the gravel market. Cannondale took their knowledge from bikes that they designed in the cyclocross market and paired it with their mountain bike knowledge and vast road experience and tied it all together to make a unique bike. I think the Cannondale Slate was ahead of its time then and I think the Cannondale Carbon Topstone Lefty 3 gravel bike is still ahead of the curve now with their latest creation of the Cannondale Carbon Topstone Lefty 3 gravel bike.
As with the Cannondale Slate, Cannondale was able to keep the 650 wheels and road fit feel. I knew once Cannondale developed the new Lefty Oliver for gravel with less travel and paired it with the new design, I had to have the Cannondale Topstone Lefty 3 as I knew that the design of the Lefty Ocho would trickle down to Cannondale’s gravel bikes.
With most manufacturers having limited or non-suspension on their bike builds, it would soon be open season for aftermarket manufacturers to produce gravel suspension forks as it makes perfect sense.
Having had a non-suspension fork on my previous gravel bike and currently having suspension really makes a big difference on where you can ride and how comfortable or the control you might have when the roads get rough or technical.
I think the Lefty forks are an amazing piece of technology from the cycling industry. It’s the best fork on the market in terms of how it handles its adjustability and unique looks for mountain bike cross country or gravel use.
There are three pieces of technology that make the Cannondale Carbon Topstone Lefty 3 an amazing and fun bike to ride including:
- The suspension due to the Lefty Oliver technology
- The Kingpin suspension for the rear suspension
- 650b wheels
With these three key features, the Cannondale Carbon Topstone Lefty 3 gravel bike is one of the most fun bikes I’ve had the pleasure of riding. Cannondale did a bang-up job spec-ing the bike from everything down to the wheels, tires, and groupset choice. It is just the total package. In addition, Cannondale makes a Topstone Lefty with SRAM Red Electronic groupset and carbon steer tube on the fork that will knock a couple of pounds from the bike but comes at a much higher price tag.
I normally ride a size 54 or a medium-size in most bikes. However, it was recommended that I get a size small Cannondale Carbon Topstone Lefty 3. I’m glad I received the sizing advice, as the fit was perfect. I had set my Cannondale Carbon Topstone Lefty 3 up as close to my road bike as possible and it didn’t take much to do that. I just added a longer stem and lowered it a bit and it almost felt as if I was sitting on a sturdy version of my road bike. So once I got my bike all set up, when just rolling around, the bike just felt very nimble underneath me. Which is what you want if you need to tackle some tricky terrain at any point in your ride. I just felt like I wanted to jump and bunny hop on this bike as it was so nimble and responsive feeling. Once you get on this bike, it’s hard to get off as you want to explore and just see what limits you can take the bike to.
I’ve had a lot of bikes in my 40 plus years of riding and I can say this is one of the most fun bikes I’ve owned. I will take this bike pretty much wherever I would take my mountain bike due to its full suspension setup. Coming off my Bottecchia Gravel Monster set up with 700c wheels and no suspension on an alloy frame, there is really no comparison between the two setups. I noticed I’m able to go through rough areas much faster and hit things I would have avoided on my Bottecchia Gravel Monster with 700c wheels. Maybe on the street, it might be slightly faster but I think if the Topstone Lefty 3 was set up with a double chainring it might be just as fast or faster. I’d like to test my Cannondale Carbon Topstone Lefty 3 on some group rides that are strictly on the road to see if I can hang at high speed once I get the bike set up with an FSA WE Groupset and double chainring in the near future.
The more I set up the Topstone Carbon Lefty 3 like my road bike, the more time I will most likely spend on the bike for cross-training. The fact that I can hop on the paved road and then the dirt trails just expands the riding possibilities for where you can take this bike and adds to the fun factor.
I’m glad I waited for this bike to come to market. It was well worth the wait and then some for the Cannondale Carbon Topstone Lefty 3.
Now for some of the Cannondale Topstone Carbon Lefty 3 technical details. There is a 30mm of travel in the rear of the frame with the Kingpin pivot system and the manipulated carbon design to allow for flex in the frame to work in conjunction with the Kingpin pivot for a minimalist suspension system.
The Lefty Oliver front suspension features another 30mm of travel that is an inverted suspension system with a single-bladed fork design that actually is stiffer than most standard suspension forks with very little to no play from side to side as it uses needle bearings that provide stability in the oversized fork blade with an oversized front hub and axle for added stiffness and stability with amazingly no flex.
The fork just feels really smooth and stable when riding on gravel or dirt roads. It’s really a setup for the bigger hits, but I guess that also depends on how you set up the suspension.
The Cannondale Topstone Lefty 3 frame includes a proprietary BB30A bottom bracket shell that allows them to use their Cannondale 1 alloy cranks with a single chainring.
The one thing you really notice is how the whole bike just has a good balance and feel to it. I think that’s what makes It really nice when you are going fast or getting into some of the technical terrains and that’s where the Cannondale Topstone Carbon Lefty 3’s versatility comes through. This particular model could be a good climbing bike if it were a little lighter. But even with the weight penalty, it still gets the job done efficiently as the bike tracks really well due to the full suspension, but doesn’t bob around when you get out of the saddle to keep your momentum going.
The verdict on the Cannondale Topstone Carbon Lefty 3 is that if you are looking for a road bike, gravel bike, or mountain bike and can only buy one bike, then Cannondale Topstone Carbon Lefty 3 is a great option to take a closer look at. I would have to say that this is in terms of having fun and being able to explore new roads and trails that you wouldn’t have taken before.
Ideally, I want to get fit enough to do a gravel race and really test my Cannondale Topstone Carbon Lefty 3 capabilities at a race pace.
In the coming months, I will be building this bike up with an FSA K-Force WE groupset, wheels, and other FSA components. I think this will knock a few pounds off the current setup and add more efficiency. Please check back in the future when I get a chance to test and review the Cannondale Topstone Carbon Lefty 3 with the upgraded components from FSA.
More info: Cannondale
MSRP: $ 4,250
Available Colors: Mantis, Stealth Grey
Review by Frank Sarate, SoCalCycling.com