Cube's AMS 29 is amazing value, with 120mm of eminently tuneable Fox suspension front and rear that gives the sort of hard hitting ride potential that hasn't until recently been a part of the remit for big-wheelers.
Ride & handling: Impressive, but slightly compromised suspension action
The Cube may be a bargain but its all-mountain potential comes at a price. You'll soon be aware of extra heft on the climbs compared to a 29er hardtail or a similarly priced 26in-wheeled full-suspension bike – the bigger wheels/tyres and extra frame tube metal can't help but add a little heft. Still, we're not moaning. We doubt we'll find a better value or better equipped 120mm-travel 29er at this price in 2012.
The ride feel of the four-bar linkage suspension setup suits the bike well, and the tuning potential of Fox's RP23 Boost Valve rear shock allows you to dial in the ride to suit your particular requirements. We set it up with about 25 percent sag and the ProPedal platform damping engaged to allow the smooth roll of the wheels to absorb micro-shocks.
The shock more obviously kicks into action as bumps grow, while still leaving a fair bit of compression damping in reserve for those unexpected square-edge hits that come out of nowhere when you're hammering along being distracted, as we were, by icy patches on the frozen rutted trails on our second outing. Of course, that's the bonus of a full-susser regardless of wheel size – it can get you out of trouble if you hit something unexpected.
The clumsy, those lacking in finesse or those looking for more comfort and damage avoidance are often willing to put up with a little extra heft for the sake of carefree thrills. You'll be in smaller gears on the climbs hauling that heft against gravity, but it tends to become insignificant elsewhere and a generous 120mm of suspension travel front and rear is a bonus on the sort of terrain that kicks hardtails around.
Like all the best 29ers, you've also got the advantage of impressive stability and confident handling, with only tight, slow speed technical terrain showing up the downside of a long wheelbase. You'll need to get used to using Fox's ProPedal shock function though.
At its plushest, the Cube blows through its travel quickly, causing unexpected pedal-to-ground strikes if you're pedalling hard along rough, undulating trails. We used the ProPedal function on all but big, freewheeling downhills, so you might need to get used to flicking the lever on and off if your terrain varies constantly.
Equipment: One of the best value full-sussers available, regardless of wheel size
German brand Cube have been slowly but surely making a name for themselves ever since they arrived in the UK a few seasons back. Bikes are delivered to dealers direct from mainland Europe, cutting out many of the overheads of the normal distribution setup, so recommended retail prices are excellent.
In fact we couldn't quite believe that the AMS costs a penny under £1,500 as it includes a superb Fox 32 fork and RP23 shock that are usually found on far more costly bikes. The rest of the kit is on a par with that usually found on 29er hardtails at this price, with the basic Shimano crankset being the only obvious cost-cutter.
The four-bar linkage frame uses a well considered mix of hydroformed tube shapes, tapered head tube, through-axle rear wheel and a collection of thoroughly practical finishing flourishes. It's as future-proof as any bike of its type.