It sure is. I’ve ordered a 2019 Cannondale Topstone 105 SE on the Evans Cycles Ride-to-Work scheme and now have to wait until mid February for it to arrive.
The scheme has worked out as decent value for a bike model which thus far has barely arrived in the UK. The list price is £1,500 but if I trade in a bike I get 10% off that which brings the price down to £1,350 in addition to the tax savings from a £1,000 Ride-to-Work voucher. And my employer gives me an Evans code for another £100 too.
Incidentally the bike trade-in bit? Evans will accept any bike even if it’s just an old kids bike you got off eBay for £5 or less…
So, economically it makes sense but why gravel?
For me it’s not gravel, which is a term far more appropriate to the back roads of the American Mid-West and elsewhere in the world. In my case this bike is all about versatility.
Over the past few years I’ve been commuting quite regularly (about twice a week), a 30-35 mile round trip either on the road or off-road. Both options are sufficient of an effort to make riding more often just a bit too much for me.
If I’m off-road, the route is shorter but the effort is quite hard when you have a weighty laptop on your back and the trip is interupted by 8 eight hours of work in between.
If I’m on the road then I go further to enjoy quiet scenic roads rather than A-road traffic, but wherever I go the roads are increasingly scabby and pot-holed.
Throw in weather conditions which can leave roads slippery with ice and mud at various times of the year and it’s become clear to me for a while that a bike with a bit of versatility has a lot to recommend it.
Having a so-called gravel bike means bigger tyres (in this case 40c WTB Nanos, which are based on the old Nanoraptor MTB tread pattern) that I can run tubeless and at reasonably low pressures for grip and comfort – how low we will have to see.
In the case of the Canondale Topstone 105 SE it also means a full 2×11 Shimano 105 groupset with hydraulic disc brakes and bolt through hubs front and rear. It means ultimately that the bike is better able to deal with rough roads and a variety of conditions.
Added to all that, the Cannondale Topstone runs quite relaxed geometry with a 71° head angle and in the size large has a 1060mm wheelbase, so it should be inherrently more stable on the road.
I’m hoping that these elements will make my commute more relaxing straight off. But the real bonus is I can now mix ‘n’ match my route with bits of trail (or go off-road entirely).
It means that if the weather deteriorates during the day and the roads look icy, I can go off-road via Headley. Or I can cut across the golf course at Brockham to Pixham. Or cut through Norbury to the sawmill and on to Bookham. Or up and over past Denbies to Ranmore.
Not only will I now have a bit more variety in route choice, which breaks up the commuting routine, but maybe the energy saved will allow an extra day of cycle commuting. I might be being over-optimistic there!
But we shall see. My only complaint about this specific model at this stage is the colour which is rather dull. However I have plans to address that.
In a few weeks I’ll have the bike and will post the full component spec and my thoughts on how well it fits my expectations…