German company Cube market the Aerial as a leisure bike cum weekend racer and its spec is suited to these aspirations. At a shade over 21lb it’s no lightweight, but it’s no super-heavyweight either, and as a ﬁrst road bike or all-rounder it’s got a lot going for it.
- Frame & fork: Sturdy, solid and well-built rather than spectacular (8/10)
- Handling: Conﬁdent and steady – the Cube is unlikely to give you scary moments (7/10)
- Equipment: Shimano’s budget kit works well and is incredibly reliable (7/10)
- Wheels: Reasonable Shimano 500 wheels, good quality tough Schwalbe rubber (7/10)
The Aerial's handling is neutral, which always sounds like a veiled criticism but really isn’t. If you’re new or returning to the world of drop-barred road bikes after a few years off the last thing you want is an unexpected surprise, or twitchy handling. The Cube’s ride is steady, stable and solid.
It wasn’t the quickest handling machine we've tested, nor the most forgiving over the bumps, and we felt a bit more road buzz through the bars than expected. There’s no doubt that if your budget does stretch towards a grand that you will ﬁnd carbon ﬁbre machines a little zippier.
But once up to speed the Cube barrels along nicely and is very easy to keep at pace, while the own-brand saddle proved popular with the testing team.
The speccing of a triple chainset on a road bike is something that divided testers’ opinions on aesthetic grounds, but the gear range offered by the Cube's 30-39-50 chainset and 12-25 cassette is virtually identical to the 34-50 chainrings and 12-27 cassette found on compact chainsets in this price range.
As with any bike at this price there are going to be compromises when it comes to kit. The groupset is mainly nine-speed Shimano Tiagra, though there is an upgrade to 105 for the rear mech, one of the things customers look at ﬁrst in the bike shop.
The levers and mechs worked faultlessly, and while in the era of 11-speed Campagnolo nine gears may seem a little underwhelming, it wasn’t that long ago that riders were making do with seven or eight.
In practice it makes little noticeable difference, and as Shimano has just introduced a new eight-speed groupset, we don’t think it likely that eight- and nine-speed systems will be phased out any time soon.
The brakes are Shimano’s Sora, and there was general agreement that while these were just about okay – they were certainly tested to the full in some very wet conditions – they lacked the stopping power of the SRAM equivalents, which edge all-comers at this price.
The wheels too are an area where costs are trimmed on £800 bikes. But while the Shimano R500 wheels aren’t the lightest around, they're not bad for the price.
Tyres are Schwalbe’s tough-as-old-boots Blizzards. Again these emphasise strength and solidity over all-out speed. The 25mm width means they’re not the sort of tyre you’re likely to be competing on, but makes them a sensible tyre for commuting over variable surfaces and in all weathers.
All in all, we don’t doubt that the Cube Aerial would make a decent ﬁrst road bike. That triple makes it a sound and versatile choice for commuting, though a compact would be sexier.
It’s good to see Dedacciai forks on a bike at this price, and the Cube’s ﬁnish and welding are all ﬁrst-rate, so we’d have no qualms about its durability, and if you do have a prang at least the gear hanger is replaceable.
The wheels might need some occasional work with the spoke key and may be the only thing that we’d upgrade in time, but there’s nothing in the Cube’s make-up that’s likely to let you down.