MBR’s longterm tests put bikes through the ringer like no other evaluation. Hard riding and critical eyes mean only the best designs and builds can prosper. Here’s staff writer Jamie Darlow’s first impressions of his Cube Stereo Super HPC 140 Race (£2,899). You can read this article, alongside introductions to our Trek X-Caliber and Specialized Epic Comp, in February’s issue, out now — and for more on these bikes, plus the Genesis Fortitude Singlespeed, Giant Trance XW, Norco Revolver 2 and Canyon Nerve AL+ 7.0, pick up next month’s magazine!
Mountain biking isn’t a hobby, it’s a war. It’s an arms race, where bikes get more capable, the trails more challenging and riders more skilful. Fall behind on any of those battlefields and you’re bang in trouble, left for dead on descents. If you can’t ride new trails then you can’t push yourself, which means your skills won’t develop… and heaven forbid you don’t keep pace with changing technology — imagine a biplane trying to hold its own against a Eurofighter. Not pretty.
I know that’s an aggressive way to look at riding a bicycle, but that’s the way it is for me. I hate it when I can’t keep up so I’m always trying to ride as fast as I can (and crash as infrequently as I can). For that I need the latest technology, which right now means a sub-30lb 140mm-travel 29er — fast and grippy. It’s the mtb equivalent of the Eurofighter, and the Cube Stereo fits the bill.
To say I’m excited about this bike is an understatement — the Stereo looks amazing, it’s respectably light and it’s a big-wheeled, long-travel monster truck. A ‘trail weapon, a slasher’ said someone in the office. It was a hit even before the first ride — we were bouncing it down the corridors before it even made it onto the trail.
The riding position feels spot on and I’m sure that little bit of stiction I felt from the suspension on my first ride out will ease up in time. Then there are the details that make me hum with anticipation: routing for a stealth dropper post, the new direct mount derailleur hanger and Schwalbe rubber. It also looks like really great value, at £3,000 for a carbon frame, XT groupset and Fox shock and fork.
With such high hopes though, I’m worried about how far I could fall. I’m uneasy about a few things already, principally the fork’s rebound, which felt a little slow on my first outing, even with the dial fully open. As with the stiction, I’m hoping this will bed in. Then there’s the triple chainset, which seems very old school in an age where two chainrings up front are the norm, and SRAM has pushed things forward with its one-ring XX1. I haven’t dropped the chain yet, but I also haven’t ridden any tracks rough enough to expose weakness. And if I decide to ditch the triple there are no ISCG tabs for fitting a chain device, which is pretty backward looking. It wouldn’t matter so much if Cube had specced a Shadow+ rear mech on the back, as the clever clutch would control the chain and stop it smacking into the chainstay.
Frame Monocoque Advanced Twin Mold carbon fibre
Shock Fox Float CTD BoostValve
Fork Fox 34 Talas 29 CTD, 110-140mm travel
Wheels Sun Ringlé Radium
Tyres Schwalbe Hans Dampf 2.35
Brakes Magura MTC 180mm rotors
Shifters Shimano SLX
Front mech Shimano XT
Rear mech Shimano XT
Chainset Shimano XT
Handlebar RFR Flat Race Bar 720mm
Stem Easton EA70 70mm
Seatpost RFR Prolight 31.6mm
Saddle Selle Italia X1 Trail
Sizes 16in, 18in, 20in, 22in
Weight 13.5kg (29.5lb)