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Do you believe in reincarnation? The Cannondale Slate disappeared from this world with little fanfare last year. It was very much a bike before its time, introduced to a world still skeptical of gravel bikes. It featured, in increasing order of strangeness for a drop bar bike at the time, a 1x drivetrain, 650b wheels at a time when finding replacement tires for the size was an undertaking unto itself and, of course, that signature Cannondale Lefty fork. Today, none of these features, save for the fork, is out of place in the world of gravel riding. If you ask some people, this bike played quite a role in introducing gravel bikes to the masses (of roadies). Since the Slate rode off to a farm upstate, we have seen some bikes push the envelope further, with the Niner MCR 9 RDO even featuring full gravel suspension.
But at the time, the Slate’s ambitions were probably too grand. The market for it was never quite there. Or was it there, lying in wait? Cannondale must think so. Just like that, a year and change later, the Slate is back—albeit with even more suspension, an updated fork and a new name.
Cannondale calls it the Topstone Carbon Lefty. We’ll fondly think of it as Slate Redux, aka The Artist Formerly Known as Slate. And it has an electrified cousin, the Topstone Neo Carbon Lefty, as well as a non-Lefty e-version, simply called the Topstone Neo Carbon.
The Topstone Carbon Lefty aims to be comfortable on-road, and more capable off-road. It takes the frame of a Topstone gravel bike, including its rear triangle KingPin suspension system, and accompanies it with a big update—the new gravel-specific Lefty Oliver Fork. This fork provides 30mm of travel and is built around the same internals as the heavier duty Lefty Ocho fork meant for XC mountain bike racing. Its travel is progressive, supporting riders while pedaling, and comes on gradually after a certain level of force is applied (once you hit a big enough bump). It also features a lockout that’s easy to reach and engage while riding. Weighing in at 1,340g for the carbon version and 1,610g for the alloy version, this fork accepts up to 650x47mm or 700x45mm tires.
There will be two versions: the Topstone Carbon Lefty 1 featuring a SRAM Force/Eagle eTap AXS 1x mullet build for $7,500, and a Topstone Carbon Lefty 3 featuring Shimano GRX for $3,750. If you’re is inclined to upgrade your bike, you can get the new carbon Oliver Lefty fork as a standalone for $1,500.
In addition to the unisex version available in sizes XS-XL, there will also be a women’s specific version available in sizes XS, S and M.
Cannondale has taken the Topstone Carbon Lefty and created an electric version as well—two, actually. Both feature a Bosch motor in the bottom bracket with a 500Wh battery, good for a claimed 79 miles of riding. The difference between the two models comes down to the fork and wheels. The Topstone Carbon Neo Lefty 1 features 650b wheels, the new Lefty Oliver fork and a SRAM AXS mullet build and costs $9,000. There is also a lower spec’d version of this bike, the Topstone Carbon Neo Lefty 3, with GRX which retails for $5,800. The Topstone Carbon Neo 2 on the other hand features 700c wheels and a rigid fork as well as GRX. It costs $6,500.
We have a Topstone Carbon Lefty in the Service Course now. Look for a review in the pages of Peloton soon.
More info: cannondale.com