Cannondale Topstone Alloy 2 review – Gravel Bikes – Bikes

While the carbon fibre Topstone is well established in the gravel world, Cannondale’s latest alloy machine, the Topstone Alloy, brings the brand’s gravel bike platform to more affordable price points.

Here, the Topstone 2 is a mid-range offering at £1,800, which sits alongside a budget Microshift 10-speed option at £1,200 and top-tier alloy build at £2,400.

Having been launched earlier this month, the new Topstone Alloy is bang up-to-date, with plenty of mounting points for bags, mudguards and a rack, clearance for 45mm tyres and dropped seatstays.

In this guise, with a 2x drivetrain and 37mm tyres, it’s an excellent choice for riders who want a versatile gravel bike for all kinds of riding, though you’ll want to make better use of the clearance for more technical trails.

Cannondale Topstone Alloy 2 frame details

There’s (officially) clearance for tyres up to 45mm.
Russell Burton / Our Media

Cannondale’s ‘SmartForm C2’ alloy is used for the Topstone frame, with smoothed welds giving an appealing finish.

The seatstays have been dropped since the previous year’s model, giving a more curved shape towards the rear axle, though they still feature full rear rack mounts. There are full mudguard mounts at the rear, too.

In an additional nod to versatility, there’s also internal routing for a dropper post, should you wish to add one later.

Unlike some Topstone bikes of old, the new Topstone Alloy has a traditional wheel dish – matching the new Topstone Carbon – and, continuing the themes of simplicity and compatibility, there’s a threaded BSA bottom bracket. Cannondale says the new bike is also compatible with gravel suspension forks, including its own Lefty Oliver.

Geometry is fairly conservative for a modern gravel bike.
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As standard, a rigid, full-carbon fork is used, with bikepacking cage mounts both on the fork blades and, as mentioned, mounts for easy mudguard attachment.

Unlike some of the best gravel bikes, the Topstone Alloy is compatible with a double-chainring setup, using a band-on front derailleur.

In fact, aside from the most affordable model – the Topstone Alloy 4, with its 10-speed Microshift Advent X 1x drivetrain – Cannondale only specs 2x drivetrains across the aluminium range.

For 2022, the frames are available in this ‘Midnight’ colourway – a deep shimmering blue/black – or olive green, both with a matt black fork.

Cannondale Topstone Alloy 2 geometry and sizing

Cannondale employs its OutFront steering approach on the Alloy 2.
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Cannondale has applied its ‘OutFront’ steering philosophy, borrowed from the brand’s carbon Topstone gravel bikes. This sees a long fork offset paired with a slightly slacker head angle to keep the steering, Cannondale claims, confident but lively.

All things considered, the Topstone Alloy’s geometry is fairly middle-of-the-road as far as the latest gravel bikes are concerned, matching its ambitions as a safe bet for a variety of riding, whether that be fitting mudguards for winter road riding and commuting, or adding a bit more off-road capability through wider tyres.

Sizing is offered from XS to XL, which Cannondale says is suited for riders from 152cm/4ft11in to 203cm/6ft7in tall. It’s great to see Cannondale offer sizing for a wide range of riders.

The XS tested features a head tube angle of 70 degrees (this rises to 71 degrees across the rest of the sizes) and seat tube angle of 71.8 degrees (consistent across all sizes), with a wheelbase of 1,016mm.

Tyre clearance comes in at 45mm for 700c wheels, or 40mm with mudguards fitted. All sizes are fitted with 700c wheels and no maximum tyre clearance is provided for 650b wheels.

Cannondale Topstone Alloy 2 specifications

Stopping power is provided by Shimano’s gravel-specific GRX 400 groupset.
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Gearing and braking come from Shimano on the Topstone Alloy 2, with the most affordable, 10-speed Shimano GRX 400 gravel-specific groupset used, paired with an FSA Omega AGX+ sub-compact crankset with 46- and 30-tooth chainrings. The 10-speed cassette ranges from 11-34t.

WTB’s 700c ST i23 rims feature a gravel-tyre friendly 23mm internal rim diameter, laced onto Formula cartridge bearing hubs and shod, as we tested the bike, with 37mm Vittoria Terreno Dry tyres.

On that note, Cannondale lists the stock tyre option on the Topstone Alloy 2 as the WTB Riddler TCS Light, in the same 700c x 37mm size as the Vittoria tyres on my build.

Given the component availability issues being experienced across the industry, there may be some variance in the final spec on consumer builds – though, at the time of writing, Cannondale says most bikes are being sent out with the same Vittoria Terreno Dry tyres as on my bike.

The good news is that the Vittoria Terreno Dry and WTB Riddler are both excellent tyres, aimed at providing a good combination of rolling speed and grip, so any variance shouldn’t have too much of an impact on the Topstone Alloy 2’s ride.

Moving on and the finishing kit is predominantly in-house, with an alloy Cannondale 3 stem, seatpost and handlebar, which features 16 degrees of flared drop.

The saddle is a Fizik Aliante Delta.

Cannondale Topstone Alloy 2 ride impressions

Braking from the entry-level GRX 400 groupset was precise and reliable.
Russell Burton / Our Media

Riding out the door, the Topstone’s prowess on the tarmac immediately shone through; the nippy and fast-rolling build put me into ‘road mode’ as I sailed down the lanes in the drops and carved my own lines round the bends through the valley.

Saddled up, the Topstone doesn’t feel too dissimilar from progressive endurance road geometry, with the exception of the flared handlebars, which you only really notice when in the drops.

With its relatively narrow – by gravel standards – 37mm-wide, semi-slick tyres and double chainset, the Topstone Alloy 2 is at the more conservative end of the spectrum when it comes to the build, and this translates to how it rides, too.

40mm tyres are about standard on most gravel bikes these days, with burlier builds going wider, up to 45-50mm and beyond, so things can get spicier on more technical terrain.

The Vittoria Terreno Dry is an excellent choice of tyre for the Alloy 2.
Russell Burton / Our Media

The tyres specced on my test bike are excellent, though.

I reviewed the Vittoria Terreno Dry tyres recently and was mightily impressed; again, here I was not disappointed. For a semi-slick tyre, they really do deliver grip when you need it most, thanks to the raised shoulder knobs flanking the faster-rolling honeycomb central tread. (You can also read my WTB Riddler review, if the bike you’re considering buying comes with that tyre).

Zipping between off-road sections, road and lighter gravel, the Vittoria tyre choice was great, but as soon as things turned more technical on rough trails with small boulders, roots and little steps, the narrow width of the setup became quite limiting.

For context, I tested the Topstone Alloy alongside two other bikes in the £2,000 price range, with the Vitus Substance VRS-1 HT Apex and Ribble Gravel AL SRAM Rival 1x both sporting 47mm tyres, albeit in smaller 650b wheels.

The higher tyre pressure you need to run with a narrow tyre means that the roughness of the trail can become exaggerated, which starts to have an impact both on comfort and capability.

The flared Cannondale 3 gravel bar impressed during testing.
Russell Burton / Our Media

However, the Topstone Alloy has clearance for up to 45mm tyres (with 6mm of clearance either side, so you could probably – unofficially – go a bit wider).

Therefore, a switch out for something more chunky should make a considerable difference, if your riding is aimed at the more technical side of gravel. It’s an easy upgrade for any gravel bike.

Ultimately, it depends on what you want from your gravel bike – it’s a broad category, with everything from road-like builds to machines, such as the Cotic Cascade with its 1x-only design and 2.4in tyres, that resemble drop-bar mountain bikes, both in build and geometry.

With full mudguard mounts in addition to rack mounts, the Topstone 2 is also well-suited as a winter road bike for rougher lanes, or an urban commuter with sturdier tyres. Gravel in the summer, mudguards in the winter.

The full-carbon fork is adorned with handy bikepacking cage mounts.
Russell Burton / Our Media

In terms of spec choices, the handlebars really shone on the more techy trails. 16 degrees of flare on a gravel handlebar hits that sweetspot where you really do gain more control in the descending position, without anything else changing too drastically.

Generally, I’m a 1x fan when it comes to gravel riding. Continuously shifting from the big ring to the little ring feels unnecessarily complex on my local terrain. I’d like to see Cannondale offer more 1x options in the range, be that from Shimano, SRAM XPLR or Campagnolo Ekar.

However, the 1x vs 2x debate is a personal one.

This Cannondale feels equally at home on light off-road trails and smooth tarmac.
Russell Burton / Our Media

GRX 400 is Shimano’s entry-level gravel groupset, with 10-speed shifting that feels a little long in the tooth now 11-speed and 12-speed options are becoming commonplace elsewhere. It’s a solid option, but the 11-speed Shimano GRX 600/800 build of the £2,200 Topstone Alloy 1 stands out, if your budget can stretch to it.

Braking on the Shimano GRX 400 setup didn’t disappoint; it’s precise, reliable and ergonomic, to really put you in control.

Last but not least, the colourway is fantastic. The shimmering, deep blue/purple/black looks something like a night sky, and with the gloss finish should be easy to keep looking good. It’s a shame the fork isn’t painted to match.

Cannondale Topstone Alloy 2 bottom line

The Topstone Alloy 2’s versatility makes it a compelling choice within the wide gravel spectrum.
Russell Burton / Our Media

The Cannondale Topstone Alloy 2 is a versatile gravel bike that can turn its hand to a wide variety of riding, providing you’re not looking to get too technical.

If you’re looking for a gravel bike that feels at home on light off-road trails, can comfortably turn its hand to a bikepacking trip, or be used as a commuter or winter bike, then Cannondale’s Topstone 2 is a great option. Simple mudguard mounts, a double drivetrain and swift, agile ride make this a smart choice.

At the same time, with its 2x drivetrain and 37mm tyres, it’s not the most progressive build out there, and there are other gravel bikes that are more heavily geared towards testing off-road riding, through spec choices and geometry.

Still, there’s good clearance on offer here, so an investment in wider tyres will open up more of the Topstone’s off-road capability without losing its road-like versatility, if that’s the direction you want to take your gravel bike in.

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