Gravel Bike - Trek Domane SL5 (GRX400) or Cannondale Topstone Carbon 5 (GRX810) at the same price?

Hey guys,

a friend of mine, who has been a very casual mountain biker so far, wants to venture a little bit towards the slightly “roadier” side of bikes and get a gravel bike.

His budget is €2,5k - he’s found a Trek Domane SL5 that would be set up with a GRX400 groupset. He also found a Cannondale Topstone Carbon with GRX810 for the same price.
He definitely doesn’t want the ride to be too harsh and position too aero.
Another consideration is that the Trek would be at a LBS, which is a plus. The Cannondale is an offer he found on the interwebs. Weight isn’t too much of a concern of his.

What would you get facing this decision and why?

I know it’s all secondhand information but the volume of folk (including my lbs owner who’s bike opinions I trust) reporting issues with Cannondale BB creaking and other proprietary parts would put me off. I guess the BB would be less of an issue if it was the lbs.

Which is a shame since lots of c’dale bikes look lovely!

Obviously this is very removed opinion since I’ve not ride one since my old Super V got stolen and that was before lots of new standards bar headshock. It was a great bike mind you.

GRX400(equivalent to Tiagra) is pretty low spec for a carbon bike IMO, and the Domane is more road bike than gravel. The Topstone seems to get pretty good reviews and the GRX810 is an appropriate spec for a nice carbon gravel bike. All things equal I’d go for the C’dale

Doesn’t the Topstone require a proprietary dish on the rear wheel? That will limit his ability to swap out the stock wheels with other wheels he may available.

If he is just going to use the stock wheels only, then no issue really.

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The biggest determinant of this will be tire size. What’s the biggest tire each bike can take?

^^^The Domane has ISO speed which adds some compliance under your bum, but the Cannondale may also develop a similar technology after a while when the frame cracks.

I know they are both big brands which will draw criticism but I would personally never buy a Cannondale over a TREK, and my LBS gets some pretty ridiculous deals on Cannondale for team members.

I’ve never owned a gravel bike, but both Treks I’ve owned have had issues. A work colleague’s 2017 Supersix Evo is still going strong.

Totally anecdotal, and n=1 and a bit, but I would put both brands on a par with regards to warranty issues.

That said, now I’d only buy either brand from an LBS I trust, precisely because if there is a problem, it’s more likely to get sorted without hassle.

What do you have already? If you have another 11sp bike in the garage, get the 11sp bike.
Which has the better paint job?

Having said that, and owning a Trek Checkpoint SL and aluminum Emonda ALR, save a bunch of money and get the aluminum bike (Domane AL or Checkpoint ALR) if that’s an option. It’s the same weight (low end carbon to high end AL), they ride the same (even with the fancy things), and the AL bike will be more ‘scrapable’. The Checkpoints and Domane pretty much feel the same in road or groad mode.

I have not ridden a checkpoint, but they don’t have the front iso speed system like the Domane.

Yes, and I think it’s also a proprietary crank offset, so you limit your options for crank-based power. I have a teammate who just bought one and runs it with a Lauf fork and he really likes the bike.

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I think you’d need to run 23c tires at 115psi to notice the front (or rear) iso dohickie. The current tube shapes and tires do a lot of the ISO thing. This isn’t 2008 with butted AL tubes. I can’t tell the difference on a pot hole hit between my Emonda ALR and Checkpoint in the same tires. I could easily rule out an AL Allez vs Carbon Tarmac in 2008.
The front thing will help, but it helps the rear work more than it helps the front. It really doesn’t do much on 25c plus tires.

Trek for the warranty. I have a 2015 Domane, great bike, no issues over 22,000 miles (35K km), and the LBS has been fantastic. I’m looking at buying another Domane to have the option of riding more gravel.

Tru dat… my 2013 Crockett’s frame cracked at the seat collar. Found it on my birthday. Took it into the LBS, Trek warrantied it (even though it was likely my fault somehow), got $$ credited for the frame, picked out a Checkpoint frame.

Thanks for your input, guys!