The Litening is Cube’s top road bike, with the Super HPC Pro the entry point to a four-model range. But all the Litenings have the same high-modulus carbon fibre frame weighing a claimed 860g, so we’re not talking bargain basement here. All four also share the CSL full-carbon fork, the only real differences being with the kit.
And it’s a great specification, with a Shimano Ultegra 11-speed groupset, Fulcrum’s new Racing 55 wheelset, Schwalbe tyres and Syntace bar and stem – quality items, no corners cut, and it all looks like a bargain on paper. But does it live up to this promise on the road?
Our first impression is of just how smooth and quiet rolling the Litening is, the plushness initially masking a deceptive turn of speed. And though we have experienced plenty of endurance-orientated machines that cosset you with their vibration-reducing frame designs – usually allied with a more sporting geometry – this Cube is a hardcore race bike, which makes its smoothness much more unusual.
After those first few minutes we upped the ante, stepped on the gas and went searching for the bike’s limits. Standing up and pressing hard on the pedals had a huge effect on our speed, enabling us to undramatically and relentlessly eat up the ground ahead of us.
The down tube is a flattened inverted triangle, which is ribbed along the outside edge for extra rigidity. It flares to take in the bottom bracket shell, flowing seamlessly into the bike’s deep asymmetric chainstays. Power transfer is impressive, and with a racy 14.5cm head tube keeping the front end tight, the result is near lightning-quick agility. But the aggressive lower half is tempered by a heavily flattened top tube and slim seatstays, for a relaxed feeling that belies the performance beneath. It’s like a swan on water – serene above the surface but working hard below.
Shimano’s 11-speed Ultegra sits alongside a massive bottom bracket shell
Shimano’s new 11-speed Ultegra has the same familiar look, but the arrival of an extra sprocket has brought with it Dura-Ace-like function and a higher quality feel. Fulcrum’s Racing 55 wheels don’t disappoint, proving to be a great all-round choice with composed handling and lively acceleration. The rear features an oversized drive-side flange and asymmetric rim for great lateral rigidity, while the front wheel’s widely spaced flanges offer fine stability.
Shod with Schwalbe’s One clinchers, the Litening has superbly consistent grip on wet and dry roads, which results in confident cornering, but the 23mm rubber also rolls well and offers a good degree of comfort. The Syntace Racelite CDR carbon bar, with its titanium mesh reinforcement around the clamp, is a long-time favourite of ours, its six-degree backwards sweep and ergo drop relieving stress on your wrists. Cube’s own 27.2mm carbon seatpost and Selle Italia’s X1 saddle keep the rear end comfortable.
With impeccable handling and a performance fit for a racer, the Litening is a great value for money machine for competition or fast sportive riding, although its low front end won’t suit everyone. But if you are reasonably flexible and after a fast off-the-peg bike that wants for very little, move fast or it’ll be gone in a flash.