We’ve featured a Cube in each of our enduro Bike of the Year tests over the past few years and, while they’ve always performed reasonably well, they’ve never really stood out. That is, until now.
It seems that after years of feedback from its Enduro World Series team, Cube’s latest Stereo 170 29er has properly hit the nail on the head to deliver on almost every level. Almost…
Bike of the Year 2020
The Cube Stereo 170 SL 29 is part of our annual Bike of the Year test.
Head to our Bike of the Year hub for the full list of winners, categories and shortlisted bikes, as well as the latest reviews – or read our behind-the-scenes feature on how we tested Bike of the Year 2020.
Stereo 170 SL 29 frame and suspension details
There’s nothing over the top or fancy going on with the Stereo 170. The simple, clean lines and subtly hydroformed aluminium tubing (in anodised black in this particular case) may not jump out at you, but this machine packs some decent numbers and some truly enviable ride characteristics.
It’s still a great-looking frame, though, and I really like its understated looks.
At the rear, a Fox Float X2 shock controls the 170mm of travel, which is delivered via a four-linkage full suspension mountain bike.
While some brands promise their frames will work with a coil or an air shock, Cube has gone one better by giving the bike two shock-mounting positions, depending on what type of shock you want to run.
That’s because each mounting position offers a specific leverage curve dependent on the type of shock that’s bolted in place.
Look closely and you’ll spot a flip chip at the upper shock mount, while there are two drillings at the lower shock mount.
Cube has laser-etched ‘air’ or ‘coil’ by the corresponding holes too, to ensure you bolt the right shock into the right position.
Fox’s Factory Float X2 shock has loads of adjustment and worked in a very controlled, composed manner throughout testing. Dan Milner/MBUK
You’ll need to remember that the mounting positions are designed for different stroke length shocks, though. A 230 x 62.5mm air shock or a 230 x 65mm coil shock is needed in order to get your full 170mm of travel.
In a bid to better protect the Stereo’s pivot bearings, Cube’s chain and seatstays overlap the pivots, pretty much hiding them and adding a little extra in the way of weatherproofing – handy if you live on a soggy island such as the UK.
While the Stereo 170 29er is currently only available in aluminium, Cube has eluded that it may offer the bike in carbon in the not too distant future.
Stereo 170 SL 29 geometry
The Stereo 170 SL 29er comes in three frame sizes (18 to 22in), each of which boasts a healthy amount of reach and some reassuringly aggressive angles.
frame I tested offered up a reach of 446mm (steeper setting) which, although not as progressive as the likes of Specialized’s latest Enduro, is still decent enough.
Should you want a bit more in terms of stretch though, upsizing might not be possible, unless you’ve got particularly long legs. That’s because as you step up from frame size to frame size, Cube has increased the seat-tube length by 50mm with each jump.
A rubber bumper on each of the chainstays helps to protect the frame from heel rub and is a nice touch. Dan Milner/MBUK
While the 18in frame had a seat tube of 420mm, which suited my stumpy 172cm stature just fine when paired with a 150mm dropper post, I wouldn’t be able to comfortably ride the 20in with its 470mm seat tube, even if I’d like to try the 466mm reach it offers. Certainly something worth considering.
Cube allows you to alter the head angle (and, as a result, bottom-bracket height and seat angle) thanks to angled headset cups it’s developed alongside the components brand ACROS.
Switching them is easy and just requires you to drop the fork out through the frame before rotating the cups 180 degrees.
This allows you to alter the head angle by 0.6 degrees of adjustment, dropping the bottom bracket by 1.6mm and slackening the seat angle by 0.2 degrees as well as reducing the reach by 2mm.
The Stereo 170 SL uses an aluminium frame so, compared to many of its carbon competitors, offers higher end components as a result. Dan Milner/MBUK
After some testing, I settled on the slacker of the two settings, where I measured the head angle at a slack 64.4 degrees, while the bottom bracket sat at 346mm off the ground (with nearly 27mm of drop).
Cube has made the effective seat-tube angle impressively steep at 76.7 degrees, which should help keep things feeling efficient on the climbs.
The Stereo’s chainstays are quite compact at 435mm, but work well with the reach on offer for at least the 18in frame. The chainstays don’t grow as the reach numbers/frame sizes increase, though very few brands offer this.
Frame size: 18in
Seat angle: 76.5 degrees
Head angle (slack setting): 64.4 degrees
Chainstay: 43.5cm / 17.13in
Seat tube length: 42cm / 16.54in
Top tube (effective): 58.1cm / 22.87in
Bottom bracket height: 34.6cm / 13.64in
Head tube length: 10.3cm / 4.06in
Wheelbase: 1,209m / 50.79in
Reach: 44.4cm / 17.48in
Stack: 61.9cm / 24.37in
Stereo 170 SL 29 specifications
By using an alloy frame, Cube has been able to adorn the Stereo 170 SL with some drool-worthy kit.
For a start, the Stereo has more than its fair share of Kashima coated tubes thanks to the Fox Factory 36 fork and Float X2 rear shock. It also uses the Fox Factory Transfer post with 150mm of drop.
The GRIP2 damper which features in the Cube’s Fox 36 Factory fork is superbly controlled and comfortable when the going gets rough. Dan Milner/MBUK
The fork uses the GRIP2 damper, has low-speed and high-speed compression damping adjustment, as well as low-speed and high-speed rebound damping adjustment, all of which can be tweaked externally.
There’s 170mm of travel to match what’s on offer out back. The X2’s adjustments are almost identical, though it gets an additional, easy-to-use compression lever, which helps to firm the shock up for more efficient climbing.
The Newman wheels are also worth a mention and manage to deliver a smooth ride when things get tough, along with a rapid pick-up when you do need to get moving quickly.
Race Face supplies the carbon NEXT R bars and cranks too, which I’ve always rated highly.
The Race Face NEXT R carbon crankset is light yet super-stiff underfoot. Dan Milner/MBUK
Another worthy mention goes to the Shimano XT drivetrain which, although quite sensitive to cable routing, offers a really wide range of gears courtesy of the 10-51t cassette and shifts incredibly smoothly.
I’m also a fan of the four-piston XT brakes. While I’ve had issues with a wandering bite point on XT brakes in the past, this particular set remained problem-free throughout testing.
The four piston Shimano XT brakes are super powerful and offer masses of control. Dan Milner/MBUK
The Stereo’s spec does have an Achilles heel, though. While I’m a big fan of the Schwalbe Magic Mary in its ADDIX SOFT compound that sits up front, the Hans Dampf at the rear in the ADDIX SpeedGrip compound feels nervous in damp conditions and the EVO SnakeSkin casing just isn’t tough enough to deal with the type of riding that the Cube can deliver.
Cube doesn’t supply the Stereo 170 SL 29 set up tubeless.
Stereo 170 SL 29 ride impressions
Wherever we rode the Stereo it proved to be a lively, fun and capable machine, I just wish it had tougher tyres. Dan Milner/MBUK
I split my time riding the Cube on a mix of natural, more technical trails as well as higher-speed, bike-park type tracks.
This enabled me to expose the Stereo to root riddled, rocky trails out in the wild covered in mud with little in the way of man-made obstacles, as well as all the high-speed, high-load berms, jumps and rock gardens that a bike-park has to offer.
I finished off my time aboard the Cube in Spain, where the trails were dry, dusty and super rocky.
Stereo 170 SL 29 climbing performance
As with any enduro bike, climbing is never likely to be a strong point, but the Cube isn’t bad when working against gravity.
The steep 76.7-degree seat angle certainly helps to keep things feeling efficient here, as does the relatively low weight.
I did find it best to flick the low-speed compression lever on the shock when grunting up steeper pitches at lower cadences because the back-end can bob a bit.
When things really get steep, the front wheel can lift a little because the seated position is quite upright. That’s partly down to the steep seat tube and short 581mm effective top tube.
Still, climbing on the Cube never felt overly laborious and on smooth, fireroad ascents I certainly appreciated the fast rolling rear tyre.
Stereo 170 SL 29 descending performance
From the moment you start descending, the Stereo 170 29er oozes a playfulness and agility that you’d never imagine a big wheeler, 170mm bike to possess.
Its sprightly, nimble nature really encourages you to throw it about and pop it off just about anything that resembles a take-off. And the more your ride it, the more fun it seems to dish out.
That’s not to say it’s not surefooted and stable when it counts. While it’s not the lengthiest bike in this category, the Stereo still manages to exude confidence when the trail does steepen or the speed picks up.
It helps that both the fork and shock – which offer some really useful adjustment – are really well-controlled and deliver a very composed, supportive yet comfortable feel.
Shimano’s latest 1×12 XT gearing is smooth and dependable and we’re big fans of it. Dan Milner/MBUK
The light touch and punchiness of the XT brakes further help to boost confidence, allowing you to leave braking later and kill speed without pumping your arms up on really long drags.
Suspension balance was easy to find and setup took minutes rather than hours, which is always a plus. The easy-going geometry is very quick and natural to get used to, and I felt comfortable going fast almost immediately.
While the bottom bracket isn’t the lowest out there, I had no issues getting the Stereo to initiate a turn where it felt well-balanced, easy to control and nicely responsive when I wanted to change direction quickly.
Although I trust and rate the Magic Mary front tyre (in the ADDIX Soft compound), the same can’t be said for the faster roller Hans Dampf ADDIX SpeedGrip.
Okay, I felt totally fine with it in the dry, but in damp conditions it just feels nervous and a little skittish when tackling rocks or roots.
It doesn’t help that I needed to run higher pressures in the rear to help ward of punctures either. I would happily swap both tyres to a heavier casing (Schwalbe’s SuperGravity) and far prefer a tacky rubber compound on the rear to match that of the front.
Rear tyre choice is critical on an enduro bike as capable as the Cube. So it’s a shame that the lightweight Schwalbe Hans Dampf in its EVO SnakeSkin casing with ADDIX SpeedGrip compound has been used, which struggles with traction in the wet. The casing just isn’t tough enough to handle the riding the Stereo encourages. Dan Milner/MBUK
I think the added damping and traction that a change as small as this could have on the Stereo would be really significant.
As it stands, the tyres and more reserved reach numbers do mean the Stereo doesn’t feel quite as steadfast or collected as bikes such as Specialized’s Enduro or Whyte’s G-170C 29er.
There’s not a lot in it though and the Cube retains the edge on them when it comes to outright fun, which is a really important factor.
And if you’re not bothered about owning a carbon frame, the fact that the Stereo 170 boasts such a killer kit list should certainly make this a bike worth considering if you’re in the market for a new enduro rig.
Stereo 170 SL 29 bottom line
The new Stereo 170 SL 29 is one of the most fun enduro bikes I’ve ridden. It’s not the longest and the tyres aren’t the most confident inspiring or toughest going, but its agility, balance and composure do well to make up for any short comings.
Yes, I’d swap the tyres if this was my bike, but they’re certainly not a deal breaker by any means.
It may not be the fastest bike on the burliest of downhill stages, but it handles a pummeling without a fuss and you’ll likely have a great time.
The spec is superb, and providing you’re not worried about owning a carbon frame, the Stereo is definitely worth considering if you’re in the market for a new enduro bike.