Cube XMS review£1,099.00

Racy steed for fettlers

BikeRadar score3/5

Fancy a stiff, race-style full-suspension bike and don’t mind spending a bit of time fettling your shock for best results? Then the Cube is a well-equipped option that will scratch your itch.

Ride & handling: Light, tight-feeling race bike, but rear shock needs patient and accurate tuning

The cockpit is the first thing you’ll notice about the XMS's ride – a skinny 640mm-wide riser bar and long 100mm stem. Add in a steep head angle and a fork that’s more likely to move than the rear end in any given situation, and the XMS ends up with a racy yet retro feel.

This is great for going up steep hills or along wider trails in straight lines, but the XMS is reluctant to snake its way round trees and twisty singletrack with immediate effect. While a wider bar/shorter stem upgrade would definitely increase control, it’s always going to feel snappy rather than stable in technical situations.

Still, that’s fine on a 100mm-travel speed bike. In terms of straight-line speed, the Schwalbe Nobby Nic front/Racing Ralph rear tyre combo is a racer’s favourite and the frame itself is impressively stiff in terms of tracking.

Having lockout on both the fork and rear shock will also please you if you’ve given up riding a hardtail for the sake of your back, but don’t want to lose any of the rigid sprint potential when you hit long hills or tarmac sections.

The Shimano Deore chainset helps the XMS feel sharp underfoot too and it always felt lighter than its real weight (13.9kg) on the climbs.

The smooth stroking Manitou Minute fork is a definite plus at this price, too. It gives a real top-quality look and feel up front – once you’ve found the narrow air pressure sweet spot that lies between stubborn start and sudden dive.

Fettling the rebound-damped Epicon rear shock to give smooth, quiet control takes a lot longer, though, and it still topped out harshly in the semi and full lockout settings whatever we did with it.

Once we got both ends dialled, the overall feel was tight but suspended enough to give real speed gains. Restricted steering aside, it’s a bike you can ride hard through techy sections without worrying about whether you’ll make it to the other side.

There’s a tight feeling, reasonably controlled and well specced race bike here, but only if you know how to get the best from the sensitive suspension.

Frame & equipment: Tight, sharp steering chassis; chainset, rear gear and smooth Manitou fork are all above par for the price point.

Cube’s XMS follows classic design cues with a short rocker link and shock under  the top tube, but keeps things current with hydroformed tubes and an inset headset. Despite decent mud room, it’s impressively stiff across the rear wheel and there’s enough room to carry two water bottles in the mainframe.

Neat linkage plates, forged dropouts and pivot sections on the asymmetric rear end give the Cube frame a nice depth of detailing. The Scape seatpost is a nicely sculpted piece too, and the anodised fixtures on the fork all contribute to a classy appearance.

Kit highlights include the decent Manitou fork and a Shimano XT rear mech, but this is balanced by basic Hayes Stroker Ryde disc brakes and the narrow, high-rise FSA XC300 bar.

Handlebar width is a matter of personal preference. Even so, the bar on the XMS is definitely on the narrow side. That means limited leverage when fighting the trail and a naturally more conservative attitude to technical lines and corners.

The grippy Nobby Nic front and fast-rolling Racing Ralph rear tyre combo is a classic racer's choice and ideal for the Cube's mile-eating personality. Like most budget/OEM tyres, though, the cheap rubber compound needs care in wet and slippery conditions.

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: 45
  • 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 than 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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