The newest incarnation of Cube’s Litening – the C:68X – is very much a product of our time. Cube says it aimed to make the fastest bike possible within the UCI’s regulations: a machine built ‘without compromises’ and a bike to deliver ‘ultimate speed’ to the Litening-riding Wanty-Groupe Gobert team, regularly seen in day-long Tour de France breakaways.
Cube claims to have achieved a 30 percent reduction in drag by reducing the Litening’s frontal surface and reducing the number of wider, larger-diameter tubes.
Other bang-up-to-the-millisecond features include much greater integration, disc brakes and electronic gearing. As with Scott’s revamped Addict RC and Wilier-Triestina’s ZeroSLR there are no exposed cables at the front, creating a super-clean-looking one-piece stem and bar pairing that looks similar across all three bikes.
Electronic only Litening
There are four models in the 2020 Cube Litening range.
The £3,999 / €3,999 ‘entry-level’ C:68 Pro comes with Shimano Ultegra Di2 and Evolution rims from Cube’s regular wheel supplier Newmen.
The next model, the £4,499 / €4,499 C:68X Race has SRAM’s 12-speed Force AXS eTap, Newmen Advanced SL R38 wheels and Schwalbe One tubeless-easy tyres.
The £6,499 / €TBC Litening C:68X SL comes with Dura-Ace Di2 paired with DT Swiss 1400 DiCut 62 carbon wheels and Schwalbe Pro One TLE tyres.
Production models will come with DT Swiss ARC wheels with 62mm carbon rims. © Felix Meyer/Cube
The top-of-the-line Litening C:68X SLT has 2 x 12-speed SRAM Red eTap AXS with an unusual 48/35 chainset pairing and an upgrade to DT Swiss ARC 1100 DiCut 62 wheels – which handle well in the wind and we rate them highly – and the same Pro One TLE tyres. They also come with SINC ceramic bearings for eking out a little more of your power. Another marginal gain, after all.
The C:68X SLT costs £7,499 / €TBC. Expensive? Yes, of course, but still less than the SRAM Red eTap AXS-equipped Specialized S-Works Venge, Giant’s Propel Advanced SL 0 and Cervélo’s S5, and it’s on par with Cannondale’s SystemSix HiMod Red.
This actually makes it pretty reasonable value for a bike identical to those ridden by a Tour de France team. A few of Wanty’s riders having already put them to the test undercover in this year’s Critérium du Dauphiné and Tour of Luxembourg.
I had a three-hour test ride on this model, albeit on a bike with Newmen wheels because the DT Swiss hoops hadn’t turned up, and it was a ride that finished at a skin-frying, sweat-inducing 33°C.
Cube Litening C:68X SLT tyre width
There’s room for 28mm tyres and some 30mm tyres will also fit. © Felix Meyer/Cube
All Litening models come with 25mm tubeless-ready tyres and wheels, although Cube ships them fitted with inner tubes (sending tubeless wheels with sealant can turn very messy, apparently…).
The new Litening frame and fork will accommodate 28mm tyres and even Continental 5000 and Schwalbe tyres in 30mm-wide rubber.
Lighter and more aero
Neither of these things come as a surprise. Despite aerodynamics being more important than weight in just about every situation – yes, even real-world cycling – Cube’s designers have managed to shave a few grams from the new Litening.
The benchmark weight for a full aero road bike is around 1,030g, and Cube’s Litening comes in under 1,000g including mech hanger and the seatpost clamp — another very marginal gain.
More significant for the performance is the claimed 30 percent reduction in drag, while not compromising the handling that professional riders require.
The Litening stays right on the edge of UCI regulations while still reducing drag – which explains the similarities between pretty much all of today’s aero road bikes. The width of the steerer has been reduced in the middle, where the extra frontal area is not required, and the ‘tail’ at the top of the seatstays also adds a small aero advantage.
Cube’s designers went through numerous tests before coming up with the new frame, including 100 hours in the wind tunnel and more than 1,000 hours of computerised flow simulations.
They experimented with different down-tube designs and dimensions before finalising on an 8cm-deep down-tube to deliver “the best possible package” and even “a sailing effect” – or negative drag – in certain conditions. Cube also carried out computerised flow simulations on the seatpost, seatstays, seat-tube fork and handlebar.
The blade-like seatpost went through 20 iterations, trying to combine “aerodynamics, safety and flex for comfort”. Cube says the post’s new carbon layup even makes it more comfortable than some round seatposts, which is quite a claim given its skinny profile.
The neat one-piece carbon stem and bar has all the cabling and hydraulic hoses running through it. © Felix Meyer/Cube
The one-piece bar and stem has the now-familiar clean lines, with no cables visible from the side. The cables are routed through the rear of the stem, hence its oversize proportions.
The bar is a very narrow wing-like affair. A dedicated Garmin adaptor ensures that the cockpit’s aerodynamic qualities aren’t compromised, with K-Edge inserts for Lezyne, Sigma and other GPS brands.
Cube Litening C:68X SLT first ride impressions
Going Dutch – Rhenen’s impressive Gothic Cunerakerk forms a lovely backdrop to the ride. © Felix Meyer/Cube
We went for a three-hour spin along the dykes and through the woods near Leersum in the Netherlands. The picturesque quality of the ride was matched by the country’s superb cycling infrastructure and a smooth, fast-handling performance from the newest Litening.
The handling is actually borderline twitchy, the sort of instant steering response that pro riders require.
Geometry on my 54cm test bike was a racy 73-degree head and 73.5-degree seat angle. The 389mm stack and 542mm reach are similar to Specialized’s Tarmac and the Cube’s head tube is 3mm shorter – so it’s every inch (or millimetre) the race-flavoured machine.
The Cube’s bar and stem also provide a lot of feedback and while this isn’t as harsh as on the first generation of aero road bikes, this isn’t a soft-riding Sunday runabout.
Familiar features for an aero road bike and the equally de rigueur dropped seatstays. © Felix Meyer/Cube
That said, Cube’s designers have delivered the goods with that sharp-looking seatpost. All the testers were genuinely surprised by how much comfort is factored into it.
There’s no visible flex in either direction but somehow there’s enough ‘vertical compliance’ (sorry!) in there for a surprisingly comfortable ride. Good work.
Cube Litening C:68X SLT kit
I wasn’t able to check out the Litening’s climbing qualities, the Netherlands not being renowned for its mountains, but a long, shallow downhill did give me a chance to suss out some of its handling qualities when you get the legs spinning – and it didn’t disappoint.
I found myself having to ease off the pedals for fear of overtaking the photographer’s car, which may actually have been the “sailing effect” in action. It felt like the Cube was absolutely flying.
The Litening may not be lightning-fast but it’s certainly no slouch.
SRAM Red eTap 2×12 and hydraulic brakes – as good as it gets? © Felix Meyer/Cube
SRAM’s Red 48×10 pairing provides a 127in top gear, much higher than a standard compact’s 50×11–120in top.
The gearing and SRAM’s hydraulic disc braking were equally efficient, offering the smooth-shifting, controlled stopping that you’d expect from a bike at this exalted level.
The wheels felt swift and smooth but the Newmens will be a little heavier and less aerodynamic than the DT Swiss wheels with their 62mm rims on the production Cube C:68X SLT.
I will be calling in a new Litening for a more extensive, more challenging test, but my initial impressions were positive – it’s an aero road bike with very good speed, great acceleration and sufficient comfort.
The DT Swiss wheels are some of my favourites and the SRAM Red eTap AXS groupset is pretty much beyond reproach.
Cube Litening C:68X SLT geometry
Size Tested: 54cm
Seat angle: 73.5 degrees
Head angle: 73 degrees
Top tube horizontal: 55cm
Seat tube: 50cm