German brand Cube are slowly setting up a UK dealer network. We've been impressed by the bikes we've seen so far, especially the 'choose your own finishing parts' options. You can either go for a frame and fork with headset and stem, or a complete bike with your choice of groupset, fork and brakes. Either way, value for money is excellent and build quality is superb. Cube AMS suspension bikes are obviously aimed at cross-country riders rather than those with more radical intentions, but look out for their new longer travel Dual Trail Control bikes.
Cube's AMS '4-Link System' is a well established suspension design that benefits greatly from Fox's ProPedaltuned shock internals. The AMS Pro has 100mm (4in) of travel, back and front. If you'd prefer a little more travel, an AMS FR offers 125mm (4.9in), a similar component package plus a RockShox rear shock and Recon U-Turn fork for £1,369. The Pro, with its Fox Float RP3 rear shock and RLT fork, still seemed like the more attractive deal to us, mainly because we're so impressed with this particular Fox fork. The RLT offers all the best fine-tuning combinations of Fox forks: it's plush, it's light, it doesn't flex obviously, the compression and rebound damping are excellent and a lockout lever on top of the right-hand leg still enables the fork to work if you hit something hard. The build quality of the matt black anodised AMS Pro is excellent. The frame is light, but it has enough reinforcements to offer confidence when you're pushing limits: there's a ring strengthened head tube, gusseted down tube behind and gusseted top tube in to the seat tube. Mud room is generous, there are two bottle boss sets and the pivot bearings (proper bearings not bushings) are easy to replace.
The component package on the Pro is slightly better than average for a sub £1,500 bike. The drivetrain has Shimano XT gear mechs, and LX cranks (hollow axle, outboard bearing) and shifters. A Rapid-rise rear mech will stifle the enthusiasm of some riders but, like most things, you get used to it. Gear shifts were flawless, even in the filthy, muddy conditions we experienced during much of the test. Braking was equally flawless: the Hayes Nines always perform well and their durability is excellent. The wheels are a highlight too: Shimano XT hubs, tight-laced with DT Swiss double-butted spokes to light but strong Rigida Taurus rims. A Schwalbe tread mix adds a great fast-rolling XC finishing touch - Racing Ralph 2.25in out back, Nobby Nic up front for more grab on the bends. All the other finishing touches are sensibly light XC-biased kit too. The stem and 622mm (24.5in) lowrise bar are from Syntace, the saddle is a comfy Nisene Sport model from Fi'zi:k and the two-bolt RFR seatpost means the 18in bike stretches to riders around the 6ft mark.
The 100mm (4in) travel Pro has an altogether 'tighter' riding feel than other bikes - it doesn't move around as much under power. A low bottom bracket adds stability, especially noticeable on slow-speed technical terrain, and you'll never feel any weight shift 'wallow', even with the fork and the shock fully active. The ProPedal-tuned Fox rear shock really helps here. AMS type designs used to be wallowy when subjected to aggressive pedalling, especially on climbs. The Cube is an excellent climber, a fact obviously assisted by its 12.65kg (27.9lb) weight. The long reach of the Pro and its inherently stable ride character encourages the sort of XC speed surges that the bike is obviously meant for. With other bikes you need to consciously think about dialling in the fork and shocks for pure XC speed, whereas the Cube is always ready, willing you to stamp hard on the pedals and use its full acceleration ability to fly past your mates. Oh, and while we're talking of flying, don't expect the AMS Pro to deal with air time as well as other bikes. It's much more of a wheels-on-the-ground machine. It tames bumps superbly, but you'll be asking for trouble if you frequently land from heights on a frame this light. It can take a lot of XC punishment, but it's not a bike for big drops, stunts or clumsy lublins. Ride it with finesse and it'll reward you handsomely. The sweaters loved it and the jumpers felt a little nervous, although it survived a few 'incidents' unscathed.