At the top of Cannondale’s Topstone lineup is the Carbon 1. It comes in two variations, the Lefty and the RLE. In this 2022 Cannondale Topstone Carbon 1 RLE review we will be talking about the latter. The RLE model stands for Radar, Lights and Electronic drivetrain.
The groupset on the Carbone 1 RLE is SRAM Force eTap AXS. The 2×12 drivetrain offers more range than ever before on a 2x setup. With the SRAM drivetrain, you also get SRAM hydraulic disc brakes. Stopping has never been faster or easier than it is with SRAM Force brakes, however I prefer the brake modulation of Shimano disc brakes a little more.
With a price tag of $7,800 the expectations for the 2022 Carbon 1 RLE are high. When it comes to weight, Cannondale knocked it out of the park by providing a bike with SmartSense radar and lights, and electronic shifting on a bike that barely weighs 21 pounds.
Cannondale Topstone Carbon 1 RLE Key Features
The initial reviews on SmartSense were not good, but it’s a big mistake for cyclists to give up on this kind of. technology. I have a Garmin Varia tail light I never leave home without because radar keeps cyclists safe. Having that type of technology as a standard feature on a bike is a bold move by Cannondale, and its one I love.
You cannot talk about Topstone gravel bikes without mentioning Kingpin Suspension. If you don’t already know, Kingpin is a thru axle in the seatpost that allows the rear triangle to rotate with the flex of your seatpost. This frame flex provides 30mm of travel at the saddle. It makes the 2022 Cannondale Topstone Carbon 1 RLE the most comfortable gravel bike this year.
A flexible carbon frame is unique, and it’s great to see Cannondale stand behind it with a limited lifetime warranty to the original owner.
One area I think Cannondale can do. better is on the tires. Just because a bike can fit a 45c tire doesn’t mean it should. This bike is lightweight, fast and comfortable. The 45c tires feel too soft and bulky, even for XC singletrack. A tire width of 40mm is an upgrade I’d like to see on the Cannondale Topstone Carbon 1 RLE next year.
2022 Topstone Carbon 1 RLE Overall Rating
This bike is tied with the Carbon 1 Lefty for Cannondale’s top of the line gravel bike. Any cyclist that also commutes on their bike will appreciate the SmartSense radar and light system. If you prefer riding singletrack with your gravel bike the Lefty will be a better option.
With only one color option, dubbed Black Pearl, this bike screams for colored accessories. Something like this Anodized Orange bottle cage would look great, and it only weighs 18 grams. (Check Current Price on Amazon).
Aside from the limited color options, the Carbone 1 RLE is an excellent bike. The SmartSense is great, but a discount would be nice considering this bike has the same price tag as the Left with the high priced Lefty Oliver fork. If the SmartSense system used a light brighter than 350 lumen, then price would be less of an issue.
The Kingpin Suspension is no gimmick. Its the reason this bike is my second pick for GBOTY (Gravel Bike Of The Year). You sacrifice some speed and efficiency with the Carbone 1 RLE compared to other bike brands, but what you gain in comfort makes up for it.
If you enjoyed this 2022 Cannondale Topstone Carbon 1 RLE review, consider reading about the best radar taillight on the market, or my number one pick for Gravel Bike of the Year: 2022.
Great review. Thanks for the thorough breakdown. However, I might disagree with your assertion at the end. I owned a 2019 Topstone with mech Ultegra and house carbon hoops, but I think the speed penalty due to the suspension was largely negligible. I made the silly decision to sell that bike, and pick up the ’22 Checkpoint SL7, and have regretted it ever since.
That surprises me. I’ve ridden the Checkpoint quite a bit, and the bike would sell before its even out of the box because demand is so high. The feedback from customers was always excellent across all Checkpoint models. That being said, I have less than 100 miles on the Topstone, so maybe I need to get my hands on another one and go for a little adventure! Thanks for sharing your experience.
Thanks for getting back, Ryan.
In the months since owning the Checkpoint, I guess I’m warming up to it a little. I’ve since dropped the tire pressure (as they recommend for better performance / comfort) down to around 24psi, and I see a significant difference.
You’re also right about the availability. They sellout fast. In fact, I paid every penny of retail plus tax, since the one SL7 that I found was the only one around for miles. I guess what irks me is my perceived lack of value in the Checkpoint. I bought my 2020 Cannondale Topstone for around 4k (again, outfitted with Ultegra mechanical and carbon wheels) and despite my skepticism of the Kingpin suspension, I was super impressed with it’s responsiveness and compliance. Moreover, it must have been at least a pound lighter that it’s replacement, the Checkpoint.
I guess I knew, up front, that the SL7 was no featherweight, but it really hit me when I happened across an SLR a month later, which felt weightless in comparison. In any case, the SL7 was just south of 7K after taxes, built up with Force eTap, Carbon wheels, etc, so why the hell is it so much heavier than my 4k steed in the Topstone (outfitted with fine, yet cheaper components)? Does Trek pre-preg the SL5 carbon layup with lead, or what?
Sorry, I’m getting away from myself here, but that’s where my frustration takes over. You may have another experience altogether, but those were my observations.
edit to my previous response’s paragraph:
I guess I knew, up front, that the SL7 was no featherweight, but it really hit me when I happened across an SLR a month later, which felt weightless in comparison. In any case, the SL7 was just south of 7K after taxes, built up with Force eTap, Carbon wheels, etc, so why the hell is it so much heavier than my 4k steed in the Topstone (outfitted with fine, yet cheaper components AND A SUSPENSION)? Does Trek pre-preg the OCLV5 carbon layup with lead, or what?