German brand Cube have completely reworked their popular Stereo frame for 2013.
Now on offer is a frame that accommodates the much anticipated, fairly new wheel size 650b. It’s all wrapped up in a ‘Super High Performance Composite’ construction, with 160mm (6.3in) of travel.
For fans of big wheels, there’s also a 29er option, with 140mm (5.5in) of travel.
We headed to Eurobike to take a closer look at the bike, and throw a leg over one, to see how it behaved.
In plain and simple terms, what’s on offer here is a completely different beast to the Stereo of old. Visually, things have really had a shake-up. The first and most obvious change is the shock position. Fox’s new Float CTD rear shock now sits within the confines of the front triangle, as opposed to nestling in behind the seat tube.
Closer comparisons also reveal that the new Stereo has a lower standover height and a slightly longer wheelbase.
Front and rear travel is now 160mm (6.3in) on the 650b bike, while the 29er gets 140mm (5.5in).
The 650b frames gets a nicely raked-out head angle measuring in at a claimed 66.5 degrees, while the seat tube angle is now 74.5 degrees.
When it came to the suspension kinematics, the guys at Cube pushed hard to create a platform that was more sensitive and supportive than the Stereo’s previous incarnation.
The result is a more constant leverage ratio curve that becomes slightly regressive (about 3.6 percent) in the last 25-30 percent of its travel.
In real terms, this should mean no variation in rebound damping throughout the travel, and a more stable and composed bike under big hits and hard landings.
With the Stereo’s go-anywhere capabilities, the frame has been designed with a triple chainset in mind, although a double is available.
When it comes to constructing this sleek little beauty, Cube wanted to keep strength high and weight low. That’s why the front triangle, rocker link and chainstays are all one-piece mouldings, keeping bonded areas to a minimum and avoiding interruptions in the carbon layering. The seatstays are bonded via a hollow bridge.
All bearing seats are now cast in-mould rather than being machined in later, which helps avoid breaking fibres and keeps strength consistent. With no need for aluminium inserts, Cube claim the pivots are less prone to the effects of temperature change.
At the rear, a new custom Syntace X12 system drops even more weight, taking the frame and shock weight down to a claimed 2,080g.
Just in case you’re worried that all that carbon goodness will get trashed with one stray rock strike, fear not – there’s a lengthy elastomeric down tube shield to keep things safe.
Of the three models in the 650b wheel size available, we rode the mid spec, SL version. This comes complete with a Fox 34 FIT TALAS 160mm 650b fork, a Fox Float CTD with Trail Adjust rear shock, SRAM XO transmission and Formula The One brakes.
Cube are one of many companies to embrace RockShox’s Reverb height adjustable seatpost in its Stealth guise, providing internal routing for it that enters not too far from the lower shock mount on the seat tube.
DT Swiss AM 2.7 wheels are wrapped conveniently in 650b Hans Dampf tyres – Schwalbe’s consistent grippers in pretty much any condition. An Easton Haven bar and stem combo finishes off the cockpit nicely.
It’s the top-spec model - the SLT – that makes the headlines though, including SRAM XX transmission and Reynolds carbon hoops taking the weight to a staggering sub-10kg.
It has to be said, the Eurobike Demo Day loop isn’t challenging. Far from it. In fact, there’s nothing on it that would unsettle a bike with 100mm (3.9in) of travel, let alone a bike with 160mm (6.3in).
That said, all we can really report back is a short glimpse into what it’s like to ride the Stereo without unleashing its true potential.
It’s clear that the changes made to the rear end have increased sensitivity in the initial portion of the shock’s stroke, helping glue the wheel to the terrain and scratch out all available grip.
Rear travel on the 650b bike matches that on the front, at 160mm
There’s certainly more support later into the stroke too, helping the bike sit up more efficiently when you’re descending rather than blow through its travel all too frequently.
There’s some noticeable pedal bob when you crank the bike hard, but thanks to the CTD shock it’s easily tameable. The change in wheel size to 650b is just about noticeable and quickly forgotten. Whether there’s a significant benefit, only back-to-back testing will really tell.
The slightly larger wheel size remains flickable and fun to ride though, which should keep even die-hard fans of 26in wheels happy. On the one descent (all 100m of it) we could hammer, stability was the name of the game and the Stereo behaved admirably.
We can’t wait to hit our local hills on the bike soon, and give you the full in-depth lowdown. Stay tuned for more over the coming months.