Cube’s super-light long travel 650b bike was one of the standout introductions of its summer press camp. But is it a viable and versatile enough machine for UK trail use?
Ride & handling: Confident, powerful bike to barrel along on
It’s an unusual bike to get a handle on. The light carbon frame and excellent parts pick mean lifting it out of the box is as easy as with most 120mm bikes. A tight top stroke means it surges forwards impressively when you press the pedals, and it’s not afraid to put the climbing metres in – and take a summit sprint from much shorter-travel machines.
The heavy-duty 650b Hans Dampf tyres and downhill-stable 66.5-degree handling give it the surefootedness and plough-through-anything persona of a much heavier machine.
Some found it a confusing bike to ride, at least initially. Despite all the rubber and travel, the reinforced Snakeskin sidewalls and relatively firm Boost Valve shock tune creates a surprisingly jolting ride. It wasn’t until we started dropping tyre and shock pressure that we began to get ‘into’ it – rather than balancing on top of it – and discovered exactly what it was capable of.
We weren’t surprised that the big rocker linkage and its 160mm of travel (plus the matching Fox 34 fork) handled rocky roll-ins, or casually launched rough landing drops.
What took some getting our heads around was how easily it turned back round and blasted straight back up again. Even the steepest, lumpiest boulder step-ups or loose, rocky farm-track scrabbles were vacuumed up without hesitation. There’s not even the significant heave that something with the Stereo’s unshakeable descending confidence would normally require.
The more we just let off the brakes and hit the straightest, fastest lines through off-piste boulder heaps, drops or boulder-built black runs the more the Stereo lapped it up. There seemed to be nothing wherever we went that would do the Stereo justice, short of pedalling straight up the mountain railway then straight lining Snowdon top to bottom.
Cube stereo super hpc 160 race: Russell Burton/Future Publishing
Frame & equipment: Super-light chassis and XT-based spec
The long wheelbase and heavy tyres that make it so mountain happy do mean it can seem disinterested in everyday tighter, slower trails. More problematically, the shock and fork are very linear, so we ended up relying on the Trail setting to get cornering support rather than the more predictable, fully-open Descend.
Double or single rings seem more appropriate than the triple here, and if you want a chainguide you’ll have to fit one without ISCG mounts – Cube are working on an aftermarket solution.
There’s no escaping the fact that going for 650b wheels will put you ahead of most shops for spares ability, and for a while yet. This, and the other niggles ultimately stopped this otherwise outstanding machine taking the third spot on the podium from the Zesty.
This bike was tested as part of magazine’s What Mountain Bike 2013 Trail Bike of the Year feature – read the full results in issue 147, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.