Cube Stereo 160 Super HPC Race 27.5£3,099.00

True and trusty carbon steed

BikeRadar score4.5/5

If you want a competent, tackle anything all-rounder that’s great value but still comes from a proper shop, rather than some rule-breaking handling experiment that’ll get you weird looks, the Cube Stereo 160 Super HPC Race 27.5, What Mountain Bike Trail Bike of the Year runner-up, is the runaway winner.

Video: Cube Stereo 160 Super HPC Race 27.5

Frame and equipment: thoroughbred credentials

Given that the Cube Stereo’s appeal is in its total tick-box perfection, it makes sense to go through what those boxes are. The carbon frame isn’t just another jelly mould semi-carbon or compromised weave unit made with one eye on cost. It’s class.

The mainframe is bonded from two halves to form a very stiff and light keystone; the rear stays are similarly structurally impressive, the rocker linkage is carbon and the extra, diagonally angled guide for the semi-internal dropper post and rear brake hose – gear cables are fully internal – is a masterpiece of practical detailing. The only thing it’s missing is a set of chainguide mounts, but the neutrally smooth rear end sucks up punishment so well we never rattled the chain loose.

The stereo has a top quality carbon frame for the price of an alloy bike: the stereo has a top quality carbon frame for the price of an alloy bike

The Stereo has a top quality carbon frame for the price of an alloy bike

The geometry is properly on point for a 160mm bike. The 66.5-degree head angle gives easy self-correcting steering, and it’s backed with real authority from the stiff front triangle when the hits get random. While the suspension rides naturally high, the low bottom bracket and top-spec TrailStar compound Schwalbe tyres keep it surefooted whether you’re railing washed out ruts and grooves or trying to surf a turn through gravel.

The wide-rimmed Sun Ringle Radium wheels and Schwalbe tyres are tubeless compatible if you want to add even more traction. There’s no lack of leverage through the wide Easton Haven bars and 70mm stem, and the Stealth Reverb drops the saddle out of the way when you need to throw your weight around.

Big-rotored Formula brakes, RaceFace cranks and SRAM X0 gears are all parts to be proud of, and faithful friends however hard you’re riding.

Ride and handling: keeps on trucking

While the rear end generally rides high enough to make the Stereo feel sharper than its head angle suggests, hit something hard and it opens up and rushes through its travel. This effectively slackens the steering all of a sudden, leaving it a little vague – and in Descend there’s nothing to push against for pumping and popping – but then little seems to stop it simply thundering straight over whatever it encounters. Even the Evolution-damped Fox 34 fork couldn’t render our worst lines sketchy or scary.

Masses of pedal-neutral travel plus stiffness and low weight mean it climbs efficiently on smooth fire roads and random rock steps alike, and scientifically speaking the Cube is close to ticking every box.

Low weight and neutral pedalling action make any climb a cinch:

Low weight and neutral pedalling action make any climb a cinch

Emotionally speaking, its exceptional ability to plough through or up anything does mean it may lack an edge for more dynamic riders – it can feel disconnected, uninvolving. The Stereo is a best friend to get you out of trouble, not a bad influence to get you into it.

This article was originally published as part of What Mountain Bike magazine's Trail Bike of the year awards. What Mountain Bike is available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

Guy Kesteven

Freelance Writer, UK
Guy started filling his brain with cycle stats and steaming up bike shop windows back in 1980. He worked the other side of those windows from '89 while getting a degree in “describing broken things covered in mud" (archaeology). Dug historical holes in the ground through the early '90s, then became a pro bike tester in '97. Guy has ridden thousands of bikes and even more components the world over since then and can remember them all in vivid, haunting detail. Can't remember where the car keys are, though.
  • Age: 44
  • Height: 180cm / 5' 11"
  • Weight: 68kg / 150lb
  • Waist: 76cm / 30in
  • Chest: 91cm / 36in
  • Discipline: Strict sadomasochist
  • Preferred Terrain: Technical off-piste singletrack and twisted back roads. Up, down, along — so long as it's faster tfhan the last time he did it he's happy.
  • Current Bikes: An ever changing herd of test machines from Tri bikes to fat bikes and everything in between.
  • Dream Bike: His Nicolai Helius AM custom tandem
  • Beer of Choice: Theakston's Old Peculier (not Peculiar)
  • Location: Yorkshire, UK

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