Cube claim that their AMS 120 Race 29 has the same ‘lively handling feel’ as their 26in wheeled bikes. That’s a pretty brave statement, particularly when you throw in the ‘All Mountain Configuration’ decal on the top tube. A race-focused 29er that’s all-mountain capable and handles as well as a 26in wheeled bike? Let’s find out if it stacks up…
Ride & handling: Effortless ability to tackle even difficult terrain fast
Let’s deal with the hype first – there’s no way that the AMS 120 Race 29 rides like a 26in wheeled bike. But then, it would be very surprising if it did. Because that would mean rewriting the laws of physics.
Cube’s designers have done a great job with this bike to get the weight below 30lb (13.6kg). Considering the travel on tap and the extra weight of those big hoops, it bests much of the smaller-wheeled competition. But big wheels have more mass rotating further from the wheel’s centre.
Whatever you do to minimise that mass – lighter tyres, lighter rims – it’s still heavier, like for like, than the 26in wheeled equivalent. And that has a fundamental effect on the way that a bike handles.
In the case of the Cube – and like most 29ers we’ve ridden – it’s most noticeable at the front. Big front wheels seem to have more inertia than smaller ones, and that translates to a ride feel that’s less ‘flickable’ than a smaller wheeled bike.
The AMS 120 Race 29 doesn’t want to be thrown around in the way that a 120mm (4.7in) travel 26in wheeled bike might do. But that’s not necessarily a problem, because those big wheels also roll over just about anything you put in their path. Put simply, 29in wheels with 120mm (4.7in) of suspension is roughly equivalent to 26in wheels with 140mm (5.5in) of travel.
In practical terms that makes the Cube a formidable companion for covering ground very quickly indeed – whether upwards or downwards – and regardless of trail conditions. It doesn’t ask to be muscled through tricky trail sections in the same way as some of the smaller wheeled competition, and that can make it feel a little less entertaining to ride.
But don’t let its unflappable nature fool you – this is a far more capable bike than its ‘race’ tag might suggest…
Cube ams 120 race 29: Steve Behr/Future Publishing
Frame & equipment: Great spec on a well designed, well finished frame
Shoehorning 120mm (4.7in) of rear wheel travel into a frame that also has to accommodate 29in wheels isn’t quite as straightforward as it might seem. No surprise then, that the Cube bristles with design details and an almost obsessive attention to detail.
The main triangle’s triple-butted, hydroformed tubes connect the tapered head tube to the offset seat tube, which sits slightly ahead of the bottom bracket to increase rear tyre clearance (it says here). Hmm. Tyre clearance around the bottom of the swingarm is on the tight side, but there’s no denying there’s plenty of space behind the seat tube itself.
Gear cables are routed internally – out of muck and harm’s way – and there’s a set of bolt bosses on the top tube for a remote dropper post retro-fit. That’s a nice touch on a bike that few riders would associate with the kind of riding that would warrant a dropper post – kudos to Cube for taking the ‘all-mountain’ tag seriously.
The suspension setup is classic four-bar territory with a Horst-esque chainstay pivot, low main pivot and rocker-activated shock. It’s not radically new or different, but probably all the better for it.
The bike justifies its price tag with a prime set of components that’s very difficult to find fault with.
The Fox Float fork and shock – the fork with custom offset and 15mm through-axle to improve front-end handling with the big wheels – both feature the proprietary CTD setup for quick and easy control in different riding situations.
The wheels have straight-pull spokes and are shod with big volume, grippy Schwalbe Nobby Nics, while finishing kit from the likes of Selle Italia and Syntace is all good looking and functional (although the blue flanks of the saddle lasted just a single muddy ride before they started to rub off and look scruffy).
The spec highlight, though, has to be the Shimano Deore XT groupset (apart from the shifters, which are SLX). More than two decades after its introduction, this is still the benchmark for performance, durability and all-round value in shifting and braking. Enough said.
This article was originally published in Mountain Biking UK magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.