Cube’s Stereo has been in the running for What Mountain Bike magazine's Trail Bike of the Year honours every year since it was one of the first firms to introduce a 650b-wheeled chassis in 2013. This latest, shorter travel, lighter and better tuned chassis is the most responsive and potentially radical yet – if the frame and ride feel fit you.
Frame and equipment: light, stiff carbon frame with outstanding value spec
Cube has a reputation for standout value without cutting corners and the HPC TM doesn’t disappoint. The full carbon frame gets internal dropper post and control cable routing plus Shimano XTR Di2 electric compatibility. Despite the frame quality it’s still rocking an exceptional – especially for this price – SRAM and Race Face-based kit package.
While most Stereo 140s get lighter 140mm travel 32mm legged forks, the TM (Trail Motion) version gets a 150mm travel fork. Even with a proper enduro-ready build that includes Stealth routed Reverb dropper post, E13 chainguide instead of a front derailleur and 2.35in treads, the Stereo is a kilo or so lighter than many of its peers.
The SRAM and Race Face-based kit list offers near-unbeatable value
The mix of low (12.14kg) complete bike weight, semi-slick rear tyre, frame stiffness and suspension that’s firm off the top equate to an explosive response to any power input. The 150mm Pike fork means it’s attentive and accurate when following any flick or nudge of the 750mm bars and 50mm stem cockpit.
The Cube/DT Swiss wheels are equally tight and light taking the sharp, incisive ride right through to the trail. At 25mm they’re wide enough to support the Schwalbe tyres at low pressure and they’re easy to turn tubeless. That’s a good job because the Tubeless Easy carcass seemed particularly wooden and clattery over the rocks or even hardpacked dirt singletrack of Spain.
Ride and handling: shock issues mostly sorted, but geometry can be found wanting
The previously linear shock feel that’s limited aggressive control on some previous Stereos has been noticeably retuned. It still pushes through the mid stroke easily once you’re past the initial platform feel but it starts ramping up early to remove excessive wallow. It definitely feels like a 140mm travel bike when you’re battering through big stuff, but there’s a lot more meaningful feedback for carving turns and surfing traction with. The low weight also makes it very easy to flick around or over any stuff that looks like real trouble and it’s a far more aggressive and proactive feeling bike than previous Stereos we’ve ridden.
While Cube has changed the proportions of its frames to make them longer and lower, it hasn’t done it by much. Add a steep 74.5-degree seat angle and 50mm stem and that means a proportionally very short reach that puts you right over an already slightly steep 67.5-degree head angle.
This special ‘Trail Motion’ version gets a burlier Pike fork and aggressive finishing kit – but the short cockpit means it can come unstuck when things get sketchy
This is okay on flatter, less ferocious trails where only breathing is cramped but a couple of big hits at speed will shunt you worryingly forward over the front wheel, compound the weight balance/steering problem – and make you crap your pants.
If you’re more into upright exploro than flat out enduro this is a stunning value, super-efficient ride that’s hard to beat for the money. Its frame construction, component packages and weight have always been outstanding and for 2015 Cube has worked hard on its suspension tunes too. But there’s no escaping the fact that when things get fast, loose and lairy the otherwise excellent Stereo comes up short compared with longer reach trail racers.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.