There aren’t many companies still offering a complete ti bike build in their range, but Cube have two. The Litening Super HPT gets a higher grade 6AL/4V Ti alloy but costs a staggering £9,500, making the 3Al/2.5V the much more affordable option available.
FRAME AND FORKS
Don’t think you’re necessarily missing out massively either, as most of the leading manufacturers now use 3Al/2.5V in preference to 6AL/4V anyway. As it’s easier to work, you can shape tubes to do things and hit performance aims with the cheaper alloy that you can’t get near with the less-malleable mix. In the case of the Litening, that means triple-butted tubes forming the old-skool flat top-tube mainframe. The old-skool vibe also flows through the skinny rear seat and chainstays, which meet at the chunky machine-relieved dropouts.
Speaking of major manufacturers, the small cloverleaf detail on the rear brake bridge and the frame sticker on the flat ovalised downtube reveal the Litening is another Lynskey creation. Cue immaculate welds, spot-on alignment and an eyecatching white gloss paint/raw ti finish. If we’re being really picky we prefer the headtube gear stop of the Lynskey than the rub prone maintube downtube position though. Frame weight is reasonable and headtube length less towering once you factor in that this is a signiicantly larger frame size than the other bikes on test.
As a complete ‘off the peg’ bike, equipment choice is obviously very relevant, but don’t worry as Cube have done a good job. Colour-matched red anodized Acros headset, seat collar, replaceable gear hanger and wheels create a classy custom look. The CNT-enhanced Easton forks are excellent, light and accurate, but not as smooth as the ones on the Planet X, so while they are a really good fork they are part of the kit that makes the Cube feel less comfortable than the PX.
It might be worth haggling on an ’09 or waiting until 2010 bikes though, as they will get a stiffer, sharper feeling 6700 Ultegra rather than the Ultegra here, as well as Easton wheels. Unfortunately, the unavoidable comparison to the ‘direct buy’ Lynskey or the Lynskey-built Planet X does make it look pricey for a mid-spec bike.
Kit snifing aside, the first thing we noticed with the Cube are the proportions. Considering the tall frame with a short seatpost extension, it’s a relatively high and short bike and we certainly didn’t feel stretched, despite it being 4cm larger than our normal size. On a plus point, that means you won’t feel too far over the front if you fit tri bars.
Chopping down the excess seatpost length will probably save nearly as much weight as you gain by having to run a larger frame too. However, the correspondingly long head tube means handlebar height will always be high, so it’s always going to feel an orthopaedic rather than aerodynamic bike.
The hoped-for smoothness of the triple-butted tubes versus the double-butted ones on the Planet X is impossible to discern too. In fact, once you add deeper section wheels and a sharper feeling set of forks, the Litening is a noticeably more rattly ride than the Pro Road. Small diameter bars and slim stays mean it’s still more forgiving and fluid than most carbon or alloy bikes.
The titanium surge is unmistakable every time you wind up to power or tap along at tempo too, quietly urging you forward whenever the road or pace rises slightly. The tightness will also appeal to powerful riders who are lucky enough to have smooth roads to appreciate its muscular manners on.
Despite relatively steep 73° parallel angles, the Cube is a steady line holder in classic Euro roadie fashion. That means you sometimes have to bully it through tighter turns, but it makes fishing in pockets for energy bars or swinging through a high-speed sweeper stress-free.
If you’re after an old skool, steady handling, upright and stiff take on ti then the Cube ticks all those boxes. Despite its pedigree, it’s not as compelling a reason to ignore carbon fibre as the other three though, and – very uncharacteristically for Cube – the pricing looks high in comparison.
+ Equipment is good
– You sometimes have to bully it through tighter turns
+ The ti surge is unmistakable every time you wind up to power
– The pricing looks high in comparison to the other bikes