2019 Cannondale Gravel Bikes Buyers Guide

Words by Cycles UK

on 01/02/2019 17:09:42

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Cannondale have gone a bit gravel bike mad in 2019. They’ve got gravel specific models like the Topstone, gravel capable variants of their standard road and cyclocross models, and bikes they are describing as ‘beyond gravel’.

In this guide we’ll start with Cannondale’s gravel specific bikes and then take a look at some of their gravel capable bikes. Cannondale, being Cannondale, call their gravel specific models ‘All-road’ bikes.

Cannondale Topstone - £899 to £1799

Cannondale Topstone Sora

The Topstone is a brand new model for 2019. Cannondale describe is as “pure gravel goodness”. The Topstone is named after a favourite gravel road loop near the Cannondale headquarters in Connecticut. All three models of the bike use an aluminium Smartform C2 frame and full carbon fork. It comes with 700x40c tyres fitted and clearance for tyres up to 42c to really soak up the bumps on even the roughest gravel roads.

The ride position on the Topstone is similar to the Cannondale Synapse endurance bikes, its performance rather than race focussed, designed for riding fast all-day. Cannondale have used their mountain bike know-how on the Topstone to combine a slack head angel and long fork rake to make the bike really stable at speed but still agile when you need it to be.

The Topstone is designed for doing big rides and comes with three bottle cage mounts which have been positioned so you can still use them when you have frame bags fitted. There are also top tube storage mounts and integrated pannier rack and mudguard mounts so the Topstone is ready for multi-day bike packing adventures.

Cannondale Slate - £2699 to £3199

Cannondale Slate SE Force 1

One of the few complaints we’ve seen about the Topstone is that it does exactly what you would expect a gravel bike to do. It’s not out-there, and quirky, and trying to re-invent the world like a good Cannondale bike should. If you want a very Cannondale gravel bike then you have to go for the Slate.

The Slate comes with one of their super light premium Smartform C1 aluminium frames and a carbon Lefty Oliver suspension fork so you get a bike that weighs in about the 10kg mark. The Slate is fitted with wide 650bx42c tyres that have the same roll-out diameter as a standard 700x23c road bike tyre. So you get the speed of a road bike but with massive amounts of grip and comfort when riding off-road.

The riding position on the Slate is similar to a traditional road race bike and the speed you can achieve should be too. With 30mm of travel in the fork and the big tyres you aren’t limited to the road. The Slate will handle tarmac, gravel and singletrack so you can ride it pretty much anywhere you like.

Cannondale Synapse SE - £1299 to £2999

Cannondale Synapse Carbon Disc Ultegra SE

The standard Cannondale Synapse was developed to race classics like the Paris Roubaix and Strada Bianchi so it can already handle sections of cobbles and gravel mixed into road rides. The SE version adds bigger tyres and lower gearing to make riding off-road easier and more comfortable.

The Synapse is an endurance road bike. It’s designed to be fast enough to race but comfortable enough to ride all day. The SE version is just slightly tweaked to be more off-road focussed. You will lose some top-end speed but gain the ability to tackle more terrain.

The truly bonkers thing about the Synapse SE bikes is the weight. These are bikes Cannondale sell as ‘all-road’ and say that it will be fast on roads where ‘others fear to tread’ but most of them come in well under 10kg. The Ultegra version, with disc brakes and 30c tyres weighs in at 8.3kg. That’s seriously light for a standard road bike and featherweight for a gravel bike. This makes the Synapse SE models perfect for riders who want to go really fast on the roughest UK roads and tackle gravel and off-road sections on the same ride.

Cannondale CAADX SE - £1199

Cannondale CAADX SE 105

The standard CAADX is Cannondale’s aluminium cyclocross race bike. As with the Synapse SE Cannondale have beefed it up with bigger tyres and lower gearing to make it more off-road capable.

Cyclocross bikes are popular with many gravel riders because they are designed to be ridden off-road and already tend to come with big tyres, off-road capable geometry and gearing. The CAADX SE just embraces that and takes it a step further to make a bike you can use in the new generation of gravel races, take on big off-road adventures or take on a super rough commute. The CAADX frame is tried and tested with excellent off-road handling that is much more sporty and agile than on many gravel specific bikes.

Cannondale SuperX SE - £3299

Cannondale SuperX Force 1

Take a pro level cyclocross bike, add bigger gears and wider tyres and you have the SuperX SE. Cannondale describe this bike as a ‘Gravel Smasher’. It’s gives you massive tyre clearance, really confident handling and loads of speed so you can race your way up any gravel roads, tarmac roads or any other kind of roads you can find. If you are interested in pure speed then the SuperX could be the ultimate gravel bike.