If you want a competent, tackle anything all-rounder that’s great value but still comes from a proper shop, rather than some rule-breaking handling experiment that’ll get you weird looks, the Cube Stereo 160 Super HPC Race 27.5, What Mountain Bike Trail Bike of the Year runner-up, is the runaway winner.
Video: Cube Stereo 160 Super HPC Race 27.5
Frame and equipment: thoroughbred credentials
Given that the Cube Stereo’s appeal is in its total tick-box perfection, it makes sense to go through what those boxes are. The carbon frame isn’t just another jelly mould semi-carbon or compromised weave unit made with one eye on cost. It’s class.
The mainframe is bonded from two halves to form a very stiff and light keystone; the rear stays are similarly structurally impressive, the rocker linkage is carbon and the extra, diagonally angled guide for the semi-internal dropper post and rear brake hose – gear cables are fully internal – is a masterpiece of practical detailing. The only thing it’s missing is a set of chainguide mounts, but the neutrally smooth rear end sucks up punishment so well we never rattled the chain loose.
The Stereo has a top quality carbon frame for the price of an alloy bike
The geometry is properly on point for a 160mm bike. The 66.5-degree head angle gives easy self-correcting steering, and it’s backed with real authority from the stiff front triangle when the hits get random. While the suspension rides naturally high, the low bottom bracket and top-spec TrailStar compound Schwalbe tyres keep it surefooted whether you’re railing washed out ruts and grooves or trying to surf a turn through gravel.
The wide-rimmed Sun Ringle Radium wheels and Schwalbe tyres are tubeless compatible if you want to add even more traction. There’s no lack of leverage through the wide Easton Haven bars and 70mm stem, and the Stealth Reverb drops the saddle out of the way when you need to throw your weight around.
Big-rotored Formula brakes, RaceFace cranks and SRAM X0 gears are all parts to be proud of, and faithful friends however hard you’re riding.
Ride and handling: keeps on trucking
While the rear end generally rides high enough to make the Stereo feel sharper than its head angle suggests, hit something hard and it opens up and rushes through its travel. This effectively slackens the steering all of a sudden, leaving it a little vague – and in Descend there’s nothing to push against for pumping and popping – but then little seems to stop it simply thundering straight over whatever it encounters. Even the Evolution-damped Fox 34 fork couldn’t render our worst lines sketchy or scary.
Masses of pedal-neutral travel plus stiffness and low weight mean it climbs efficiently on smooth fire roads and random rock steps alike, and scientifically speaking the Cube is close to ticking every box.
Low weight and neutral pedalling action make any climb a cinch
Emotionally speaking, its exceptional ability to plough through or up anything does mean it may lack an edge for more dynamic riders – it can feel disconnected, uninvolving. The Stereo is a best friend to get you out of trouble, not a bad influence to get you into it.