I decided to do a little S24O bike packing trip on ye olde Surly Krampus and my set of Blackburn Elite Outpost bags. I got to my destination and come night fall, let’s just say it wasn’t an ideal sleeping situation. Wicked high winds and a few too many passing cars and motorcycles made it hard to get a good night’s sleep. Usually I would’ve just stuck around, but I had work the following day and homework due as well.
I made the decision to do a late night ride back home, so we’ll say I took a few hour nap before heading home 😉 Spoiler, I know…still enjoy the video though if you want to see what gear I used!
Swift Industries has been a leader in promoting and supporting bike exploration since they came onto the scene. Their upcoming Equinox Campout is a great opportunity to get outside and explore your local parks, trails, and camping destinations.
I plan on doing an overnight now that I’ll have the luxury of a weekend day off and not having to be at work until noon most days! Quite exciting stuff coming from someone who hasn’t been able to get a consistent weekend day off for almost a year. Retail management is usually not super conducive to having weekends off like…ever.
If you want to explore rides in your area or connect with other campout leaders, head over to swiftcampout.com. There’s still time to create a profile and even post your own ride if you’d like to encourage others to join.
I plan on ditching the old fork and existing wheel set as the next upgrade I want to make is some Stan’s tubeless wheels so I can drop some weight off the bike and run lower pressure. I’ll likely keep the Rabbit Hole wheels so I can easily swap my studded tires onto the bike for winter commuting.
I really want to do a write up on both the Blackburn seatbag and the handlebar bag soon, so I’m excited to get out and see how it holds up. I’ve used it for commuting a couple of times, but would like to see how it holds up to 50+ miles of gravel riding and being packed with camping gear.
Stay tuned for that and thanks as always for reading.
As a bike shop manager it would be sacrilegious if I didn’t adhere to the N+1 methodology of bike ownership. That’s why when I saw the release of the Topstone Carbon line up, I knew I had to get one.
My shop already had been selling the Topstone Alloy models like hotcakes, so it didn’t surprise me to see Cannondale’s take on an all carbon gravel/any road machine. When the bike first dropped it was hotly debated on a lot of the bike blogs and YouTube channels I follow. I wanted to give the bike a fair chance before writing any sort of review on it. Read on knowing I’ve hit the 500mile mark on the bike just a couple of days ago.
It’s easy to play keyboard warrior about a product without having actually spent real miles on the bike. Snap judgements on the suspension, geometry, tire size, and some of proprietary components seemed to get people all worked up. I’m not sure why, because all of those are fairly minimal issues. This is my first ever Cannondale I’ve owned and was excited to try something new!
Originally I was settled on the “women’s” (I put women’s in air quotes because Cannondale actually uses a unisex style of geometry between the men’s and women’s bikes with the women’s bikes starting at smaller sizes. They also have a wider saddle, shorter stems, and narrower handlebars.) Topstone RX 2 model, but our rep had told me how happy he was with the upgrades of the Ultegra RX model, so I took his advice. It doesn’t hurt that the colour scheme of the RX model also reminded me of the British Racing Green Jaguars I always loved.
The bike has a classic, clean line aesthetic with a modern twist. Adding the skin wall tires with some of my added accessories I think it looks rather smart as the Brits say.
Integrated, 1.5″ lower to 1-1/8″ upper w/ reducer, 25mm Alloy top cap
HollowGram Sealed Bearing, straight pull, 12×100
HollowGram 22, 22mm deep, 25mm ID, tubeless ready
Stainless steel, 14g
WTB Riddler TCS Light, 700 x 37c, tubeless ready
Changes I’ve made:
Stem- swapped to a lighter and shorter Cannondale take off we had at the shop. I went from a 100 down to an 80 (I think, haven’t confirmed that- going off memory.)
PRO TIP! If you are looking at the women’s models, note they come with a shorter stem than the men’s/unisex models and Cannondale has not put what stem lengths they use on their spec sheet for some reason. (It could be buried somewhere and I just haven’t found it yet?)
Handlebar- Took off the flared 40 drops and put on a 40 Giant Contact SL road bar with a shorter reach and drop with no flare. Flared bars just aren’t my jam really. I like this particular bar as it came stock on my Liv Avail Advanced Pro 1 and I love the fit and feel of that bike. I’ve been happy with my decision thus far and would consider upgrading to carbon down the line just to dampen the front end of the bike a bit.
Bar tape- Stock bar tape is usually pretty crap, not always, but often times it’s cheapo and I end up swapping it with something more cushy as I’m not a fan of wearing gloves when I ride all that much. I went with the Brooks Cambium Rubber Bar Tape in the tan colour that matches the skin wall tires.
Saddle- I have to have a cutout in my saddles and I found a Specialized Ruby on eBay for a good price. That’s historically been my favorite road saddle although Ergon and the new 2021 Liv & Giant saddles are also pretty damn awesome. I’ll keep this on for now, but may experiment if I can get my hands on something else to try.
Pedals- I took the Crank Brothers Candy’s off my Krampus and swapped them on. They still remain my favorite walkable cleat/2 bolt style pedals. They are just easy to use and maintain. Shed mud like champs and look good as well.
Bags- I transferred my Blackburn Outpost Elite seat pack to this bike and use the Topeak Fuel Tank Large on my top tube, although I am testing the Blackburn bolt on top tube bag, stay tuned for that review in my production bag review series!
Cycling computer- Giant Neostrack as a back up if/when Strava may fail. I haven’t paired the Cannondale made by Garmin sensor as of yet. TBH it’s not really a feature I care too much about. Maybe if I didn’t already have a bunch of sensors and computers and stuff, it could be a cool option. I just haven’t seen the need to use it.
The changes I made to the bike helped me dial in the fit to just about perfect for me. I’ve used the bike for everything from commuting to work, riding easy single track, bike packing, gravel grinding, and medium distanced road rides (30-40 miles).
I’ll admit that the bike did take some getting used to. At first the addition of a rear suspension element with the Kingpin design felt odd. Now it almost feels strange to ride a bike without it as I’ve come accustom to it smoothing road noise and chatter out for me.
I can say with confidence that if you are looking for an absolutely stiff carbon racing machine, this isn’t that bike. That’s ok though. It’s still impressively responsive and I’ve hit multiple Strava PR’s on this bike. It climbs well, it has amazing traction on just about any surface you throw at it, especially going down hill on sketchy gravel, grass, or dirt trails.
That’s really what I feel the Kingpin excels at, keeping your rear wheel under control. You can’t really tell that you are getting activation of the Kinpin until you realize on other bikes that riding that same line would feel sketchy without it. It’s greatly confidence inspiring and I feel that if someone were looking for a bike that could pull double duty as a cyclocross race machine, this bike would be a great option.
For someone who is newer to off road or multi-surface riding this bike would be a great option as the components are so well spec’d on it that you wouldn’t feel the need to upgrade to something nicer/lighter down the road.
Shimano’s new Ultegra GRX is stellar. The shifting is crisp, reliable, and responsive as always and the new clutch on the derailleur keeps the chain from popping off even on the roughest patches of gravel or dirt.I’ve really enjoyed the Hallowgram carbon wheels set up with the WTB Riddler tires tubeless. I’ve run a myriad of tire pressures and have yet to have any issues. I have been considering putting a 40c smooth tread tire on to replace the Riddlers, but they’ve been performing well and I loved the Riddler on my full suspension MTB, so it makes sense that I’d like the gravel version as well.Smooth enough to ride roads and just enough tread to rock some loose dirt and gravel. Cornering on pavement has felt great with them as well. I’ll likely continue to beat the heck out of them until they’ve given up the ghost and then likely swap to a smooth tread to gain a little more speed on pavement.
The Hallowgram crankset feels great as well. Shifting has been flawless and the gear ratio feels great. Obviously on flats or downhills I could stand to go a little bigger on the larger chain ring, but then I realize I’m able to climb more with the existing ratios and in the Driftless region of Wisconsin we all know how important climbing gears are to get up steep rollers.
Going back to some things I mentioned at the top of this post in regards to the internet trolls bashing some of the design features of this bike, I really haven’t had any issues with the proprietary designs.
When building the bike I did have to pull the crank and re-assemble it (following the guidelines of washer patterns and such) and had to torque things down a little past recommended spec to get everything to tighten up with no play, but so far it’s not been an issue. Loctite is also your friend when it comes to pressfit bb’s, just saying.
I made sure to double check the torque spec on the Kingpin as it is a bearing system and it did need a little more oomph than how it came out of the factory. So far I have 500 miles on it with no noise.
The thing I think upset most people was the asymmetrical drop out design. The rear wheel is not hot swappable with other wheels because it is dished 6mm to allow the drive side to be pushed over. This means that technically you have a stronger wheel as each spoke is evenly tensioned in the center of the rim.
Heed the warnings and just make sure if you want to use a different wheel set or say a 650b wheel that you get it custom laced and built so it has that proper 6mm dish. Generally a factory built or pre-built wheel isn’t going to have enough threads on the spokes to just be able to simply take a pre-existing wheel and make it work. That’s not to say that it absolutely can’t be done, but it likely won’t work, so just work with your local bike shop or professional wheel builder to talk about your options.
In relation to the wheel issue, many people complained that 700x40c wasn’t wide enough for a gravel bike. This bit kind of blew my mind because it wasn’t that long ago that everyone was riding 700x23c on their road bikes and 32c was considered a wide tire!Oh how things have changed. I suppose if you want to go monster cross/ultimate back road adventure machine, sure. A wider tire would be nice, but you can put 650b wheels on the Topstone Ultegra RX and run up to a 48c width, which is damn near close to what people are riding on the Great Divide Race these days.Personally I’m fine with 40c being the max width. If you really want that much clearance there are plenty of other bikes on the marketplace or just buy a 29er hard tail and call it a day.Much of what people have been complaining about or judging on this bike is just rubbish. Many people who probably have never even swung a leg over one and just want to complain because Cannondale uses a proprietary bb. So what, you can always order a spare as a back up if you are that worried about it.
Yes, it would be nice if all bikes came with threaded bottom brackets, but standards are ever changing and that’s because bike design is ever evolving and pushing the limits of geometry and fitting wide tires on without the bike riding like crap.
I find myself grabbing my Topstone Carbon Ultegra RX the most often out of my fleet because it’s just so fun to ride. It’s the bike that if I’m not sure where I want to go, I take it because there’s a good chance I’ll end up on some gravel or crappy rural roads that need repaving. I know the bike will provide a smooth and comfortable ride no matter where I go with it.The fact that the bike has three bottle mounts, fork mounts, and plenty of room for gear storage is also wonderful. It makes setting up things for a bike overnight a breeze.
If you were to pick one bike to have in your garage, it should be this one or something damn near like it. With smooth treaded tires you can easily keep up with a road group ride, you can do a gravel or rail trail ride, you can do some singletrack or urban cross on it, you could race a ‘cross season on it, you can adventure with it, and be comfortable while doing all of that.
My one sort of note on single track is that it wouldn’t be a terrible idea to invest in a dropper post if you are planning on trying to do more of that style of riding on the bike. Rocks, roots, etc. as I found that I get caught on my saddle a lot on this bike on single track and generally have had to slam the seatpost down to make it easier to clear that sketchy stuff.
Obviously there’s a weight penalty with a dropper, but it would make this bike legendary. I am also excited to see about trying the 2021 model with the lefty front suspension. I’m sure it’s an absolute blast to ride.
Personally I think the Cannondale Topstone Carbon line has been seriously underrated and I think it’s because people seem to hold a grudge against Cannondale for pushing the limits of bike design and technology. They aren’t doing what other big brands do where they are copying designs, they are focusing on doing what they do best in pushing the limits of what we expect a bike to be or what a bike should look like.
I fully acknowledge that Cannondale wasn’t the first nor will they be the last brand to adopt a rear suspension design on a bike, but I like their take on it more than say T*** as it’s not just an elastomer that ends up changing the actual reach on the bike.
Now I’m going to sound like a hater, but I’ve not been impressed with how some of their gravel/any road type bikes have ridden. Granted I’ve only ridden the alloy versions, but it’s still a valid opinion.
That’s one thing I’ve always appreciated about a brand like Cannondale. They aren’t afraid to be a little different, but still hold mass appeal and well known lineage with their brand.
Riding down the Badger State Trail
Another view of the updated handlebars.
Getting that lactic acid buildup out of my legs mid-ride.
Pit stop in Cross Plains, WI
Specialized Ruby Saddle
First commute home.
Assym chain stains
More fun on the Badger State Trail
At $4200 retail the Cannondale Topstone Carbon Ultegra RX holds a wealth of value. Full carbon frame, carbon wheels, Hallogram crank, tons of mounting options, a carbon seat post, built in rear suspension, tubeless ready, dropper capable, and great aesthetics to top it off. The price point is a little higher than some of the other competitors in the market, but the ride quality and weight of the bike really sets it apart.
I fully think the purchase price is worth it when you look at comparable bikes on the marketplace. The level of technology and design that went into this bike is impressive and am happy to say as a first time Cannondale owner, I’m happy with my decision to buy.
As always I was not in any way, shape, or form asked to write a review about this bike from Cannondale or anyone else. I do not benefit from the writing reviews other than hopefully helping other folks make informed decisions.
I plan on doing a follow up review once I’ve had the bike for a full year and some additional mileage on it to update on any issues that may arise. Hopefully there won’t be any as so far, so good.
Gear hording is something I feel is inevitable once you start getting into any hobby. This has been the case for me with cycling primarily, but as of late I’ve been re-assessing my camping and bike-packing gear as well.
I used to bike camp with heavy tents, a heavy cook pot that could be used on top of a fire, a heavy inflatable mattress, and a sleeping bag that barely fit inside my panniers. It was fun at the time because I was 23 and my body could recover from putting in lots of miles fully loaded over a weekend.
I’m 34 now and while I’m still very active, it’s more difficult to have the enthusiasm to lug 20-30 lbs of gear, food, and water on my bike. With age has come experience on nice, lightweight bikes and more disposable income to invest in lighter gear.
The other reason for my foray into ultralight gear comes two fold. The first is that I’m limited by the size of my bike. I ride a small or 51cm usually across the board on most bikes, so space is an issue. I don’t have the luxury of being able to have a large inner triangle bag or even a large seat bag because I often fun into tire clearance issues.
I have to pack intelligently and make use of every cubic inch I can get, while making sure I have all the amenities to stay safe and comfortable on a trip.
The second is that I’d like to get into section and thru hiking. A bucket list goal for me is to hike the JMT (John Muir Trail or as indigenous folx call Nuumu Poyo) which is 500 miles of grand, challenging beauty off of the Pacific Crest Trail.
My gear would serve double duty and carrying gear on a bike is a much different experience than carrying it on your back and own two legs.
This is where the Klymit Inertia Ozone comes in. I’ve been a fan of Klymit since purchasing their insulated Static V pad a few years back. It was much more comfortable than the previous pads I had used. The shape and design of the baffles provides a good night’s sleep and you can sleep in just about any position and be comfortable.
The downside of this pad is it’s bulky and HEAVY. It works well for my car camping excursions or even as a temporary bed when crashing at a friend’s house, but it’s not something I want to lug around several miles on my bike or back.
I actually have ditched sleeping pads pretty much all together as a hammock camper, but I had heard that the Ozone was a pretty decent alternative to carrying an under-quilt.
What makes the Ozone unique compared to other sleeping pads is the strategically removed material on the pad. The holes provide a way for bags to loft and fill the void for a warm and comfortable sleep. The mat also features an integrated, inflatable pillow!
I’ve always been a fan of the Thermarest camp pillows with their shredded memory foam. Super soft and cozy, but they do not stay in place well when you’re tent or ground camping.
Klymit’s website claims a 12.2 oz weight for the Ozone. I weighed mine with stuff suck and the included repair kit and it came out to an even 14oz. I haven’t taken the time to weigh it on it’s own as I’m not going to go full weight weenie about it. A sub 1lb. pad is pretty damn good.
The Inertia Ozone also caught my attention because of the price. Thermarest’s widely loved ultralite pads are pricey, even if you can find them on sale. I’m sure for as much use as they get on a long distance trip, the cost is actually not all that bad. I just knew that I wanted to stay within a certain price point and Klymit fit the bill.
Full disclosure, I actually found out that Klymit sells refurbished products through eBay at a fraction of the cost of what they sell for on their website. Now I’ll say that for something like electronics or a high dollar purchase, I’d almost never go the refurbished route because the warranties on them are pretty bad.
I’m sure people have had perfectly good experiences with products like this, but I just can’t afford to not be able to buy something for several hundred or even thousands of dollars and know the company may not back it because it’s a refurb.
Since this was a $40-45 purchase, I was willing to take that risk. Klymit is very transparent with their refurbished product process. It’s items they often get on return either from retailers or individuals who purchased from them directly. They could be absolutely new in packaging still, but they test every product that comes back and if there is an issue, they will fully repair it, test it again, and if it passes it goes on their eBay site.
Normally I’d try to purchase either from a local retailer or from the company directly via various channels, but with COVID19 and the fact that I wasn’t able to find a local retailer that had it readily for purchase on their websites, I went the eBay route.
The stuff sack of the pad actually has a stamp on it stating it is a refurbished item. Which goes to show they at least took the time to take a look at the product. A little peace of mind goes a long way.
When I received the pad I first disinfected the mouth pieces with some Lysol and a dose of iso-alcohol. Can’t be to careful! I blew up the body of the pad, which only took maybe 5 full breathes. I then inflated the pillow, which also only took a few full breathes.
I discovered it’s actually better to leave the pillow slightly under inflated as it cradles your head a little better and is more comfortable.
The body of the Ozone has an ergonomic shape to it. You can see in the photos how it has almost a wave in the body. I found this to be quite comfortable. One of my primary complaints about sleeping pads is that when on my back, I get some lower back and hip pain as I have a anterior pelvic tilt. Usually side or stomach sleeping is more comfortable for me because of this, but I actually didn’t feel that usual twinge of pain while on this pad. I actually slept on the pad in one of my tents for two nights and had successfully fell asleep on my back and stayed there for several hours before changing positions.
I used the pad in two different ways. The first was laying my sleeping bag (a Marmot Trestle Elite 30 degree women’s bag) on top of the pad. The second night I put the pad inside the bag and slept that way.
Both options worked, but I did feel cramped having the pad inside the bag. I admittedly don’t like sleeping in mummy bags. I’m a warm sleeper and like to sleep in several different positions depending on how my body is feeling. I only really like mummy bags for when the temps drop and I need to warm up quickly in the middle of the night.
Because of this, I’ve decided to invest in a quilt from a big name outdoors brand, but I’ll save that for another post!
The length and width of the pad felt good for me. I’m 5′ 5″ and usually weight anywhere from 175-185. My body has always hovered between those two weights pretty consistently over the past few years. I’ve been down to 169, but had to really work on tracking everything going into my body and working out 4-5 times a week to maintain that. Which was pretty exhausting on top of my already pretty taxing job.
For me the pad feels comfortable. I don’t know how it would be for someone larger or taller, but have seen reviews from folks in the 6ft range saying they enjoy it as well.
In addition to sleeping on the pad in two different sleeping bag configurations, I also slept on the pad one night with the pillow just as is and the next night actually doubled the pillow over to add more loft to it and position my head up a little more. I actually ended up even sticking my puffy jacket under my head and then using a long sleeve camp shirt under the pillow as well to add more loft. I snore if I sleep on my back and my head is too low, so I have to prop my head up a little more to help avoid that. It worked well and I was comfortable.
I tried to simulate how I would sleep if in a tent or had to set my hammock up in a ground configuration. I have not yet tried the pad in an actual hammock. I plan on doing that soon to see if it will work for me. I have used my old Static V before, but it usually slides around too much, so I’m usually a just sleep with a bag, a pillow, and the hammock kind of person.
To test the level of deflation I left the pad out for an additional two days after the two nights I slept on it. The pad still was holding air, but I did need to puff another large breath in the body of the pad to get it firmed back up, but that’s to be expected when you are breathing warm air into something that is getting exposed to cooler air temps at night and also left unattended for a couple of days.
So far I’m happy with my purchase and am excited to field test it beyond my living room. I think Klymit does a good job with designing their products and offering something unique to what other brands are doing on the market.
They seem to have great customer service based off the interactions I’ve seen on YouTube and Instagram. They also shipped my pad to me almost instantly after I made my purchase through eBay.
Once I’m able to give the pad a try in a hammock setting and get some more nights of sleeping on it, I’d love to do a video and another update!
I was not in any way approached by Klymit to write this review of their product, nor was I paid to write about their products. Any links in this post are for consumer research purposes, I’m not getting any affiliate kickbacks for linking out to eBay or Klymit’s own website.
I paid for this product with my own money and was not given any product for free to review.
If you like this overview, please check out the rest of the blog on the site. I have other reviews and overviews for camping and cycling products.
I also have some videos on YouTube.com/spokehaven for your viewing pleasure. Content has been a little slower to produce at the moment as I’m working for an essential business (a bike shop) and we’ve been getting absolutely crushed by the demand for tune ups, repairs, and new bike purchases. An awesome problem to have, but we’re all pretty exhausted at the end of our work days.
I’m trying to utilize my couple of days off to just have a little mental health breather, but miss putting out content. I’ll work on finding a happy medium.
As always you can see what I’m up to in real-time on Instagram @spokehaven
Thanks for reading as always and I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy!