Cube might not be one of the big bike brands, but put any preconceptions you might have about the German company to one side because the Cube Sting 140 WLS is a blast of a bike.
- Best women's mountain bikes: how to choose the right bike for you
- Women's cycling news, reviews, product info, advice and more on BikeRadar Women
Featuring 140mm of travel and nimble 27.5 wheels it’s designed for trail riding and while its general performance is good, it comes alive on drops, jumps and technical terrain where it feels agile, playful and lively.
If fun on the trails is your focus, then the Cube Sting WLS 140 would make an excellent partner in crime.
There are a few niggles; it does size up short, I have mixed feelings about the 2x11 gearing it comes with, and you do have to put some work in to get the best out of this bike — but it rewards you when you do.
Women's specific finishing kit
The Cube Sting is the women’s trail bike offering from the brand and the WLS in the name stands for Women Love Series, the term Cube gives to its women’s specific product lines.
In this case, the Sting WLS 140 is the equivalent to the Stereo HPA 140 and both share the same frame geometry, with the Sting featuring a women’s specific saddle, grips and colour scheme.
Also in the Sting WLS range is the 120 with — you guessed it — 120mm of travel, and the Sting WLS 140 Race which boasts 150mm travel on the forks.
An aluminium frame with standard trail geometry
The hydroformed aluminium Sting frame is constructed around what Cube calls it ‘Agile Trail Geometry’, which is designed to provide a lower standover and centre of gravity.
Low standover is certainly a feature of the Sting and the bike feels noticeably planted with a wheelbase of 115.3mm, which is similar to the Trek Fuel EX 8.0 Women’s 29er — also tested as part of Bike of the Year. In practice, this gives a stable feel on descents and plenty of space to manoeuvre above the bike when riding.
With a head angle of 67.7 degrees and seat tube angle of 74.5, the geometry is what you’d expect for a bike built for trail riding and in practice, combined with the suspension and gearing, this translates into a ride that climbs efficiently but not exceptionally and descends well.
Where it comes into its own is when you start to get playful with the trail. The reactive suspension system, featuring Fox Float 34 forks and Fox Float DPS shock, is poppy once set up correctly and it’s worth spending a day fine tuning it on the trail to get it just right.
When you do, it’s an incredibly fun ride. Put a little work in and you’ll generate plenty of momentum pumping through the terrain.
Cube does have something of a reputation for short bikes and while at 5’8/165cm I found the 18-inch frame was a good fit, taller riders wanting to ride a Sting would struggle as this is the largest size available in the model.
Cube is following the trend (finally!) for women’s trails bikes that feature decently wide bars. While at 740mm, the Cube Rise Trail Bar Pro is slightly narrower than I’d personally go for, coupled with a short stem it gives this bike a very agile and responsive feel with quick turning. The bike does what you want it to, even at slower speeds.
Boost hub spacing, the current standard for bikes, is good to see here and means the Sting is future-proofed when it comes to upgrading wheels and parts, at least for the next few years.
Give your airtime a boost
Where this bike does come alive is on technical terrain and in particular on drops, jumps, rock gardens and roots. The suspension system offers a smooth ride over small bumps, while larger hits are absorbed with nice progressive travel through the shock, which soaks it up without losing all the feedback feel from the trail.
The Fox 34 Float fork provides 140mm of playful travel and the Fox Float DPS shock offers the same at the rear, which can be set firm for efficient climbing or medium/fully open for maximum effectiveness on technical descents.
A short rear-end check aids that spring-like feeling, which makes popping off jumps and drops positively encouraging, like a bunny rabbit in springtime.
Reliable, predictable shifting and brakes
The Shimano XT groupset is a reliable choice and the shifting action here was smooth and predictable, even when changing gear under strain when climbing. The Sting WLS features a 2x11 system which offers an extensive range of gears, with plenty of low gears for tackling long or technical climbs.
2x11 systems aren’t that common on bikes at this price point for the UK/US market, but are more prevalent from European brands like Cube and Scott because they are more popular in their home markets.
It’s worth noting that should you want a 1x system, the unisex/men’s equivalent Stereo 140 HPA Sl offers it in addition to a more aggressive build overall.
The Stereo also features longer travel 150mm RockShox Pike forks, SRAM X1 gearing and Guide R brakes, and a RockShox Reverb dropper seatpost. While most of the differences are like-for-like equivalents across the brands, the lack of a Reverb seatpost on the Sting is something of a down spec and it would be good to see a Reverb offered.
Back to the Sting, and the Shimano XT hydraulic brakes offer, in this case, consistent, controlled braking and a comfortable adjustable reach.
The wheel and tyre choice here is good if not that exciting, and more than suitable for trail riding with a Fulcrum Red 66 wheelset with Schwalbe Nobby Nick 2.35 tyres.
Fitting the gripper Trailstar version upfront and faster rolling Pacestar version at the back is a nice and well considered touch, and the set-up is a good all-round option for trail riding, but they were noticeably less grippy on wet roots.
There's not masses of clearance around the rear tyre though, so be aware that if you were planning on upgrading your rubber you may not be able to fit in a fatter tyre.
Saddle and grips
The SDG Allure women’s saddle was a marmite choice with the reader test panel: I personally didn’t get on with it, some of the other testers did. The colour-matching to the coral and iridium frame is a nice touch, especially with the corresponding grips.
The saddle and grips remained a pristine white for all of about 10 minutes unfortunately after just one run down a muddy British trail.
Note: You may spot Ergon grips in some of the images of this bike. A crash unfortunately meant that the Cube Natural Fit Race grips had to be swapped out for safety reasons. Up until that point however the original grips felt good and provided excellent grip and control.
Cube Sting WLS 140 SL overall impression
The bike provided good performance with quality components that have robustness on their side. It's a nice all-round trail bike that really comes alive when you put some work into the trail.
If playing on drops, boosting off table tops or pumping through terrain is your favoured way of riding your local trails, then you’ll find the Cube Sting a whole lot of fun.
Cube Sting WLS 140 SL sizing and availability
The Cube Sting WLS 140 SL is available in three sizes: 13.5-inch, 16-inch and 18-inch.
It’s available from a number of retailers, including Evans Cycles in the UK (who will ship internationally ), and a number of local dealers internationally and is priced at £2,599. Visit the Cube website to search for your nearest dealer.
How we tested
This bike was tested head-to-head against a number of other women’s specific trail bikes as part of the BikeRadar Women’s Bike of the Year awards for 2017. Each bike was tested multiple times on a test loop that incorporated a variety of terrain from technical climbs and descents to rooty singletrack, steep chutes, berms, rollers, table tops and drops.
The size tested was a 18-inch frame, which is recommended for a rider of my height at 5ft8in.
In addition to the solo testing I conducted, each bike was also test ridden by a panel of five BikeRadar Women readers, all of a similar height and with a range of riding backgrounds, preferences and experience. Their views have been incorporated into this review.
What our reader panel says
The Cube Sting WLS 140 SL was tested as part of the 2017 Women’s Trail Bike of the Year awards, and it’s important to BikeRadar to take into account the views of women that the tested bikes are aimed at. So, all the bikes were ridden by at least three members of our panel and their feedback incorporated into this review, and into the judging for the overall title.
Here are a few of the panel's thoughts on the Cube Sting WLS 140…
Rebecca: "Really liked the stiffness of the rear, which was awesome. Cornered fantastically with no flex."
Natalie: "Smooth and consistent over rough terrain. Confidence giving over larger drops."