Topping out the models on offer from Cube in this road comfort ‘HPA’ (high performance alloy) category, the Axial WS Race has wide-range gearing from Shimano 105 and powerful hydraulic disc brakes alongside a subtle, shimmering paintjob and on-trend tan sidewall tyres.
Since the bike comes at a more affordable price than most carbon fibre alternatives, but the build still includes good-quality components, the Axial WS Race is a good option for those who are fairly new to road cycling.
It’s this combination of quality and affordability that sees the Axial WS Race included on the Women’s Bike of the Year 2022 shortlist.
The alloy range also includes the base model (the Axial WS) at £949, which is kitted out with Shimano Claris; and the Pro option at £1,049 with Shimano Sora, both featuring cable-operated disc brakes.
Upping the budget to £2,049 enables you to switch to the carbon fibre Axial WS GTC range, with the SL Ultegra-equipped model on offer for £2,499.
While Cube doesn’t allude to any women’s-specific design, such as geometry tweaks, the Axial WS Race is fitted with the brand’s own Natural Fit Venec Lite WS women’s saddle and is also available in a smaller 47cm size (and up to 56cm).
The equivalent men’s or unisex endurance road bike is the Cube Attain SL, offered in larger frame sizes up to 62cm.
Cube Axial WS Race spec details
Pairing a 6061 T6 aluminium alloy frame with a carbon fibre fork, the Cube Axial WS Race features a modern frame design with dropped seatstays and a slightly sloping top tube.
Thru-axles are used front and rear, which are best for keeping the disc rotors and calipers well aligned. Spacing and size are standard, with 12mm-diameter axles measuring 100mm up front and 142mm at the rear. This means that if you want to consider a wheelset upgrade further down the line, your choice won’t be limited.
The build is kitted out with Shimano 105, a mid-range groupset that boasts trickle-down technology from higher-tier Ultegra and Dura-Ace groups at a more affordable price point.
The gearing setup is fairly wide, using a compact 50/34-tooth double chainring with an 11-34-tooth cassette, which is suited to novice riders and hillier areas rather than competitive road racing.
The Shimano 105 spec also includes hydraulic disc brakes, a step up from the mechanical disc brakes found on the lower-budget models. Flat-mount calipers with 160mm rotors front and rear are designed to enable generous stopping power, even during long descents.
The bike rolls on Cube’s own 700c RA 1.9 Aero Disc wheels, which use Alexrims 6061 alloy rims with a 19mm internal diameter, which is fairly typical for road wheels.
If you’re set on running your wheels tubeless, then this might not be the bike for you, or at least you’d need to consider switching out the wheels, because these are not tubeless-compatible. That’s to be expected at this price point though.
Continental Ultra Sport III SL Kevlar tyres have been chosen, in a 28mm width, measuring up at a wider 29.7mm when fitted. The tan sidewall, which seems to be very in vogue these days, makes them look a little narrower though.
Tyre clearance isn’t too generous here, so if you’d prefer to run chunkier 32mm tyres for comfort and stability over rougher ground, then you might want to look at endurance road bikes or road-adjacent gravel bikes instead.
It’s also worth noting that the Cube Axial WS Race has mudguard mounts, a feature that’s often omitted on higher-priced, racier bikes.
This means fitting fixed mudguards for winter riding or commuting should be much simpler, and can boost your year-round bike-riding enjoyment.
Cube also offers a sleek set of black mudguards specifically for the Axial and Attain bikes, the Cubeguard Attain Disc (£39.95).
Cube Axial WS Race geometry
The geometry is fairly relaxed with a relatively upright riding position (don’t let the name ‘Race’ fool you), which means getting fitted and comfortable from the get-go was easy.
I’d say the fit caters for novice riders somewhat, with slightly wider bars at 40cm, compared to the 38cm that’s more common on bikes of this size, giving a more stable cockpit.
The slightly sloped top tube meant that standover wasn’t an issue either on this size 50, ideally sized for my 5ft5in stature. I did feel a little stretched out at times though, so would probably play with the stem length, switching the 90mm Cube Performance Stem SL out for an 80mm alternative.
|Seat angle (degrees)||74.6||74.6||74||73.5|
|Head angle (degrees)||70.6||71.5||72||72.5|
|Seat tube (mm)||430||460||490||520|
|Top tube (mm)||510||517||537||560|
|Head tube (mm)||120||130||152||182|
|Bottom bracket height to hub (mm)||74||74||74||74|
Cube Axial WS Race ride impressions
Even though I’ve been test riding the Cube straight after bikes twice or even three times the price, it has done anything but take the joy out of riding for me. There’s this sense of deep satisfaction from tidy, modest and well-specced bikes that don’t cost the earth.
On the flat, the bike rolls incredibly well, without any sense of harshness. The 28mm+ tyres certainly help there. Steering feels confident and I felt I could really put the bike exactly where I wanted without any struggles, which came in especially handy when navigating narrow, twisting city bike paths and rough, gritty and often potholed lanes.
Although the Axial is designed for paved riding, it wasn’t fazed by some light linking sections of gravel, which is good to know in case you find yourself off the tarmac, planned or otherwise.
I was suitably impressed by the latest generation of the Shimano 105 groupset, featuring the faultless shifting and powerful braking I’ve come to know and enjoy at Ultegra level, only with a slight weight penalty to achieve a lower price.
The R7000 hoods have also been radically upgraded from the bulky, ugly shape of the RS505 to a much more ergonomic profile that’s far friendlier for smaller hands.
While I found the ride comfortable in most aspects, the handlebar shape wasn’t ideal for me, with a very sharp angle to the bend, meaning I couldn’t ride in the drops without an awkward angle to the wrist.
Moving the shifters from their factory setting should help a little, and will involve retaping the bars, but I feel a less compact design would work better here.
The 40cm width is also wider than I’d usually encounter on road bikes of this size, but I can understand the logic if Cube is aiming at less experienced riders, and switching out bars for a more suitable shape and size thankfully is relatively cost-effective.
Talking of comfort, I got on well with the Cube Natural Fit Venec Lite, a women’s-specific saddle, which somewhat resembles the popular Specialized Power saddle, with a slightly recessed central channel and short nose.
As is the case with saddles, it certainly won’t be suitable for all women, but it’s a great starting point. The 235g weight is also fairly reasonable for a budget saddle with CrMo rails.
There’s no denying that at 9.59kg without pedals or bottle cages, it’s far from the lightest road bike around, but at this price other elements are prioritised: comfort, handling, reliability and most importantly, affordability.
So while it may not be the nippiest on the climbs, the Axial WS Race is still a really fun bike that’s fit to serve a variety of riders.
The wide range of gearing helps to offset the greater weight of the bike on the steeper climbs a little, and I was certainly glad of the 34/34 on Coxgrove Hill heading out of Bristol. Where a lot of bikes are now geared towards racing, I’m glad to see the Axial reasonably geared for everyday riding and hillier terrain, which is something I would personally opt for.
Finally, there’s the aesthetics. I couldn’t hide my disappointment when I first saw the bike, after reading about the fun-sounding ‘Sparkle Lilac ´n´ Black’ colourway.
In reality, it’s a dark, matt grey with black detailing, though in the right light you do get a subtle iridescent shimmer.
I suppose I’d prefer that to anything too out-and-out ‘girly’, but I still felt it was a little uninspiring.
The glistening silver of the mid-range carbon Axial WS GTC is much more exciting, though it comes with a heftier £2,499 price tag.
Cube Axial WS Race bottom line
Sitting in the middle of the range between budget road bikes and pricier, lightweight carbon models, the alloy Axial WS Race benefits from a really great spec, with reliable and smooth shifting from Shimano 105, as well as the power and control that you gain by upgrading to hydraulic disc brakes.
Ignore the name: the Axial is built for accessible all-day comfort, hilly riding and practicality rather than eye-watering speeds and aerodynamic advantages.
While a few tweaks could really improve the fit and look of the Axial, Cube really does offer great value for money with this bike.
Women’s Bike of the Year | How we tested
While a number of major bike brands have moved away from women’s-specific models, our 2022 test focuses on three brands that continue to produce women’s road bikes.
That includes Liv, a brand offering truly women’s-specific bikes from the frame up, based on women’s fit data, and Cube and Scott, who offer women’s-specific builds. It’s worth emphasising, of course, that many brands offer an improved range of unisex bikes, too.
The roads, lanes and a few unpaved tracks around Bristol were the testing grounds for the Women’s Bike of the Year, trialling the three bikes on rides ranging from short, pacy blasts and all-day endurance rides.
The gradual climbs and steep ramps of the southern Cotswolds and Mendip Hills enabled us to put the bikes’ climbing prowess to the test, and similarly assess their handling on the descents.
With a wide range of price points represented, from £1,749 to £5,699, value for money was key to the test, rather than solely assessing how the bikes performed.
To win the Women’s Bike of the Year category, we were looking for a bike that not only plastered a smile on our faces, but also didn’t leave us feeling cheated out of our hard-earned cash.
Our 2022 Women’s Bike of the Year contenders are:
|Available sizes||47, 50, 53, 56cm|
|Handlebar||Cube Compact Race alloy|
|Tyres||Continental Ultra Sport 3 SL Kevlar|
|Stem||Cube Performance SL alloy|
|Seatpost||Cube Performance alloy|
|Saddle||Cube Natural Fit Venec Lite women’s saddle|
|Rear derailleur||Shimano 105|
|Grips/Tape||ACID Bartape RD|
|Bottom bracket||Shimano press fit|
|Front derailleur||Shimano 105|
|Frame||Aluminium 6061 T6|
|Cranks||Shimano 105, 50/34|
|Cassette||Shimano 105, 11-34|
|Brakes||Shimano 105 hydraulic disc|
|Wheels||CUBE RA 1.9 Aero Disc|