A while back our friends at Cannondale sent over a Topstone Neo SL 1 e-bike gravel bike to put through its paces, allowing us to see how it fared on the unforgiving Lake District gravel as part of a long-term test. Andrew Barlow takes us through this super-efficient hub-driven gravel bike…
Andrew Barlow has been onboard the Cannondale Topstone Neo SL 1 gravel e-bike for a couple of months.
The Cannondale Topstone family is rather large, consisting of a range of carbon and aluminium bikes. For those of you who are not familiar with the Topstone family, the Topstone range consists of go anywhere – do it all gravel bikes with large-volume 700c x 42mm tyres helping to give a really plush ride, slacker off-road-friendly geometry with a 71 degree head angle and a shorter, more upright reach helping you to stay comfortable during prolonged hours in the saddle.
The Neo SL 1 gravel e-bike joins an ever-growing family of Cannondale Topstones.
This particular member of the Topstone family is a little different, offering assistance via a small hub-driven motor from Mahle Ebikemotion. This compact Ebikemotion X35+ 250 watt motor combined with an internal Ebikemotion X35 250Wh battery provides a drive that complements your pedalling input for up to 75km between battery charges, a not inconsiderable distance. It’s surprising how this small amount of assistance encourages you to ride further, travelling faster and more efficiently and allowing you to enjoy your mini-adventures that bit more. It’s a confidence boost!
The compact Mahle Ebikemotion X35+ 250 watt hub motor combined with an internal Ebikemotion X35 250Wh battery gives up to 75km range.
Over the weeks onboard the Topstone Neo SL 1 I’ve been up hill and down dale; inching up steep single track, over rough & loose bridleway as well as navigating the mean streets of Manchester and beyond on a mixed-terrain adventure. On every ride I’ve taken great pleasure from putting this capable e-bike through its paces and here’s why…
The Cannondale Topstone Neo SL 1 encourages you to explore further afield thanks to its efficient drive system.
Starting with electrics, the Mahle Ebikemotion system is super simple to use; the hub-driven motor is controlled by a simple single-button that’s recessed into the top tube for a sleek, minimalistic look. Named the iWOC One, it turns the system on and off and enables you to cycle through its power modes: turn it on and the LED-lit ring around the button shines white, press and hold and it turns green for low assistance, orange for medium, and red for full assistance. It’s a really simple way of controlling the power assistance of the bike and is a case of set, forget and focus on your ride.
The Mahle Ebikemotion iWOC One control system is simple and easy to use.
After spending hours in the saddle, riding some of the most gravel-friendly trails in and around the Lake District and, I’ll admit it, sometimes crossing over into terrain that would be better suited to a hardtail mountain bike I found that the Topstone Neo SL 1 could handle everything thrown at it with a confidence-inspiring ride thanks to that relaxed, stable geometry and neutral riding position. Those wide 42mm tyres come into play too, providing plenty of traction when you’re pointed up the trails and a welcome amount of comfort and control on the downhills.
Surprisingly at home even on technical terrain those 42mm tyres help to provide plenty of control and comfort.
One of the Topstone Neo SL 1’s redeeming features which stood out to me was the internal cable routing, giving a simple, clean look and enhancing efficiency when it came to the longevity of gear cable life. Talking of gears, the bike’s gravel-specific Shimano GRX 600 groupset was oh so smooth and reliable, keeping each gear selection crisp and precise. This encouraged me to change gear more often than I might have done further helping me to feel fresher for longer into my rides. With a compact 40T single chainring upfront combined with an 11-42T cassette on the rear there was (almost) every gear I needed regardless of whether I was speeding along on tarmac or taking on steep, tight singletrack climbs. Saying that, I did feel like I could’ve done with a gear or two more on the extremely loose, steep climbs to give me the ability to spin rather than having to dig in and grind away.
The Shimano GRX 600 gravel-specific groupset was oh so smooth and reliable.
So, after spending a couple of months putting the Cannondale Topstone Neo SL 1 to work on my local trails and beyond, I’ve come to a conclusion – I feel this bike is the perfect answer for someone who may be commuting over a multitude of different terrains such as canal towpaths or cycle ways. It feels really in its element when you’re exploring the suburbs of the city, moving from tarmac roads and cycle lanes onto local trails and bridleways. The hub-driven motor really picks up your cadence along the flat so you can sit back, relax and really enjoy your ride – perfect getting to and from work with a commuter’s load before swapping out your luggage for bikepacking equipment at the weekend and heading out further afield for a real adventure.
The Topstone Neo SL 1 is a truly versatile gravel e-bike.
- Frame: SmartForm C2 Alloy, 135mm bolt-on, tapered headtube, flat mount disc, multiple gear/bottle mounts
- Fork: Full Carbon, 1-1/8″ to 1-1/4″ steerer, 55mm OutFront offset, flat mount disc, internal routing, 12×100 thru axle
- Drive Unit: Mahle ebikemotion X35+ 250W
- Battery: Mahle ebikemotion X35 250Wh
- Charger: Mahle ebikemotion X35
- Display: Mahle ebikemotion iWoc ONE integrated controller
- Crank: Shimano GRX 600, 40T
- Rear Cassette: Shimano SLX, 11-42, 11-speed
- Rear Derailleur: Shimano GRX 812, Shadow RD+
- Shifters: Shimano GRX 600, 1×11
- Handlebar: Cannondale 3, butted 6061 alloy, 16 deg flare drop
- Stem: Cannondale 3, 6061 Alloy, 31.8, 7°
- Handle Bar Tape: Cannondale 3, 6061 Alloy, 31.8, 7°
- Headset: Integrated, 1.5″ lower to 1-1/8″ upper, 25mm Alloy top cap
- Brakes: Shimano GRX hydraulic disc
- Brake Rotors: 160mm RT56 rotors
- Hubs: Front – Formula CRX-512, 12x100mm thru-axle, Rear – EbikeMotion X35
- Rims: Cannondale Disc, double wall, tubeless ready 32h (R) / 28h (F)
- Tyres: WTB Resolute TCS, 700 x 42c, tubeless ready
- Saddle: Fizik Aliante Delta, S-alloy rails
- Seatpost: Promax SP-2032, Alloy, 27.2
Written by Andrew Barlow
Photos by Andrew Barlow
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