Superficially this 2013 model looks similar to the 2012 one, but the frame has been tweaked to incorporate a tapered (1 1/2in to 1 1/8in) head tube and fat bladed carbon fork for improved steering precision, and a skinnier seatpost for extra comfort on rough ground.
- Highs: An excellent aluminium frame and carbon fork, with quality Easton finishing components
- Lows: Minimally spoked wheels are flexy and noisy on rough terrain
- Buy if: You want a great value ’cross bike that won’t need upgrading for ages
The skinny seatstays, a slim but comfy Selle Italia saddle and Schwalbe 33mm Rocket Ron tyres add to comfort on demanding terrain, while an oversized shape-shifting top tube and down tube help create a chassis that’s incredibly stiff under power. Internally routed gear/rear brake cabling is a mixed blessing: it flatters clean frame lines and stays better protected from the elements, but servicing is more fiddly.
You’ll be lucky to find better kit on a bike at this price. A Shimano 105 drivetrain twins a 46/36 chainset with a 12-28 cassette, perfect for all but the steepest off-road climbs.
The Avid rim brakes were very squealy until the first muddy ride, where their more vague performance on muddy rims made us miss the other bikes’ disc brakes. But we love the extra brake levers on the bar tops in challenging off-road scenarios: they allow you to brake hard when off the back of the saddle on steep bumpy drops and you can constantly cover the brakes when cruising, either off-road or in traffic.
As an all-purpose bike the only thing the Cube lacks is seatstay rack bosses: you’ll need P-clips or a centre-strut rack fixed to the seatstay bridge. It does have eyelets on the rear dropouts and the fork legs, and there’s room to fit bigger tyres if you fancy heavy-duty touring.
Small-knobbed ’cross treads grip well in most off-road conditions but wear quickly on tarmac. The wheels are Easton’s flat-spoked, aero-rimmed, red-hubbed EA50s and the stem, bar and seatpost are all quality Easton offerings too.
Weight is excellent, and a fairly relaxed head angle gives confident handling on and off-road. The saddle-to-bar reach is shorter than on a lot of 56cm bikes, but that can be a bonus for some.
Handling was relaxed without feeling cramped, and a slightly longer stem wouldn’t mess with that. Our only gripe was that the stiff frame and low spoke count make for a clackety ride on bumpy terrain, with some rim flex and brake block rub when climbing or sprinting out-of-the-saddle.
This article was originally published in Cycling Plus magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.