Getting around town by bike has never been so fashionable, it seems, and the Cube Hooper utilising the new Alfine 8-speed hub, and is a low-maintenance option for everyday urban riding.
Ride & handling: smooth as they come for town riding
The heavy wheels and long wheelbase of the Cube mean that you won’t spend your time trying to out-sprint the cars, but around town it’s still a pleasant ride.
The big tyres suck up bad surfaces, and the unflustered hub gear behaves very well – being able to change gear at the lights is a definite plus.
The superb disc brakes make stopping a formality, and the bike is stable and comfortable to make up for its relative lack of agility.
The Hooper lends itself well to recreational riding too, especially on towpaths or unsurfaced tracks where it really shines.
You probably won’t want to do more than about 20 miles on it, as the heavy wheels start to take their toll, but for shorter commutes and general about-town pootling it’s a great low-maintenance ride.
If you’re going to be commuting by bike every day, then the hub gear and discs make a good deal of sense. If you’re more of a fair-weather rider, then a competitor derailleur-specced bike will most likely be a better match.
Frame: nicely finished, bosses aplenty and light
The Cube’s big aluminium frame looks chunky but is in fact a good half pound lighter than its Cinelli and the Boardman competitors. It’s very well built and finished, too, with decals cut through the paint to show the bare metal.
Cable routing to the hub gear is internal, and the chainstays have a round-to-square profile that enhances the rugged look.
The long rear triangle and relaxed head-tube angle give it easily a long wheelbase. All the mudguard and rack bosses are included, and there are two bottle mounts too.
Equipment: likeable hub drive and superb brakes
Shimano’s Alfine is its next generation of eight-speed hubs, and comes with a nice new Hollowtech II crank to match, giving a much sportier look than the more pedestrian Nexus.
Cable routing is improved too, and the hub is available with a centre-lock disc mount. It’s running in conjunction with Alfine hydraulic discs (which appear identical to XT, bar the name) and they’re simply a superb set of best brakes.
The Alfine hub gear takes a bit of getting used to – take-up isn’t immediate, and it’s not designed to shift under load – but all in all it’s a very likeable system, and the range, though not quite as good as competitor derailleur bikes, is comparable.
The Syntace bar, at 24 inches, is a little wider than standard and gives the bike a slightly less purposeful feel, but the cockpit position is very good.
There’s an excellent Fizik Rondine saddle to complete the package.
Wheels: good tyre choice but excessively burly rims
Cube has gone for a big tyre, the bulbous Schwalbe Marathon 700x35c. It features reflective strips and is an excellent choice, fast for a big tyre but with the added comfort of that big air chamber.
Why they’ve decided to mate it with huge, heavy rims, though, is beyond me, though. You could race downhill on the Rigida Taurus hoops they’ve specced and with such a big tyre, the possibiity of rim damage is very low.
The upshot is that the front wheel of the Cube is only 80g lighter than the rear of its Trek competitor.
The Alfine hub already makes the rear end heavy and the wheel weight is immediately noticeable. Although they roll okay the wheels ultimately make the Cube feel a bit sluggish.
Verdict: great year-round commuting option
The Cube is not a performance bike by any means. While it does have some good features it felt a little pedestrian and is not helped by those heavy wheels. The excellent brakes and sealed transmission are a sensible choice for all-weather commuting, though.