Cube Stereo 160 Super HPC SL 27.5 £3699

Updated version of a 650b benchmark

BikeRadar score 4/5

It’s no secret that we were massive fans of the 2013 Cube Stereo, so we couldn’t refuse when we were offered the chance to get a leg over the new model.

Frame and equipment: lots of high points, but a previous gripe has not been addressed

Cube’s HPC carbon technology allows the company to mould the entire front triangle in one piece. This in turn means the pivot bearings can be pressed directly into the frame with no need for alloy inserts, which makes it stiffer.

The headset bearings press directly into the head tube too, which removes any possibility of fitting an angle-adjustable headset. Our biggest gripe with last year’s bike still hasn’t been addressed; the Stereo lacks ISCG mounts on its press-fit bottom bracket shell, which severely limits your choice of chainguide if you decide to ditch your front derailleur.

The SL bike we tested is a mid-range model shod with good hard-wearing kit – and you’d hope so too, considering the price. Easton’s Haven bar and stem combo creates a comfy cockpit, with the drivetrain and brakes coming from Shimano’s dependable XT line-up.

A 1x drivetrain would be better suited to the bike than the 2x10 that's specified, but it’s not hard to change that later down the line. A RockShox Reverb Stealth dropper post tops the build off nicely.

Ride and handling: dependable and predictable with plenty of character

The Stereo hasn’t lost any of its character or speed since last year, combining top-notch pedalling efficiency with a dependable and predictable suspension feel. We did feel the Fox CTD shock would benefit from a volume spacer change for heavier or harder riders, simply to gain more ramp-up towards the end of the stroke.

We also found ourselves using the trail mode for most of the test, thanks to the extra support it gives through the travel. The back end doesn’t exhibit any noticeable bob when climbing unless you’re winching hard in the granny ring, and that disappears when the climb mode of the shock is engaged.

The 66-degree head angle, 320mm bottom bracket height and 1,170mm wheelbase give impressive stability at speed while still allowing you to tear around tight, steep turns with ease, partly thanks to the short 440mm chainstays. The 650b wheels only offer a marginally different cornering feel to 26in hoops too.

Schwalbe’s Hans Dampf tyres are some of our favourites for all-conditions riding, while the fast-to-accelerate lightweight DT Swiss wheelset is still stiff and hard-hitting enough to plough through any section of trail without flinching.

The Easton bar and stem are comfortable choices, although we’d have liked to see a shorter stem on a bike of this calibre, rather than the 70mm offering that comes as standard. We also found it hard to mount the Reverb remote lever in a position that was easily accessible, due to the shape and clamp location of the shifter and brake lever. The XT gear was solid, dependable and easy to use though. 

This article was originally published in Mountain Biking UK magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

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