Like most German brands, Cube has a reputation for producing great bikes at even better prices; what sets Cube apart from many of its rivals, however, is that bikes like the Cube AMS 120 29 are actually available in bricks-and-mortar shops.
Throwing a leg over the 19in AMS 120 it soon became obvious that the top tube is far higher than on the other test bikes, dramatically reducing standover clearance. In fact, it measured up a whopping 95mm taller than the Specialized Camber. It was also the shortest bike on test. We considered upsizing to a 21in for some extra reach, but Cube uses size-specific rocker links so it can move the shock and top tube up and maintain the same suspension characteristics on all four sizes. So that ruled that out. Feature-wise, the Cube AMS 120 29 frame has everything you expect on a modern trail bike: 142x12mm back end and tapered head tube for improved frame stiffness, internal cable routing for styling and the all-important dropper post remote guides.
The Manitou Radium Expert shock delivers 120mm of travel and has a rotating valve that makes it easier to attach the shock pump. It’s a neat feature, but we can’t help thinking that it’s just one more way for air to escape, like on the original RockShox Monarch shock. Up front, the 120mm Recon fork has a smooth, controlled action and gets a 15mm Maxle quick-release to boost stiffness. One concession to price, however, is that you don’t get a tapered steerer tube.
The Cube AMS 120 was the only bike on test to have steel-bead tyres, which adds roughly 150g to the rotating weight of the wheels, making them much harder to get rolling. Also, the rear tyre buzzes on the chainstays when you stand up to sprint. It’s not as if the frame is flexy, it’s anything but, it’s just that the 2.35in Nobby Nic tyre is simply too wide for the frame.
This is where the Cube AMS 120 really shines. The mix of Shimano’s 3×10 gears, including a low-profile XT Shadow rear mech, offers the smoothest and most dependable shifting in test. Changing gear couldn’t be easier. Reeling in the speed was equally easy, thanks to the excellent modulation and stopping power of Shimano’s entry-level M395 hydraulic disc brakes.
An Easton stem and seatpost makes a nice change from in-house components and the 90mm stem felt about right, as it compensated for the lack of length in the frame. In fact, our only gripe with the contact points was that the saddle is too flat, so you’d end up sliding back on it as soon as you start to climb.
On the flowing trails of the Surrey Hills the Cube AMS 120 could definitely hold its own. The short front end makes the bike easy to manoeuvre, while the poppy rear suspension gave it a distinctly lively and playful character. Both are traits that anyone making the switch from 26in wheels will really appreciate. For a bike with 120mm of travel front and rear, it pedals well too, making both lockouts redundant. It wasn’t until we took the Cube to Wales that it started to get out of its comfort zone, most notably under braking, where the rear suspension seemed to lock out and bounce rather than maintain contact with the trail and track the terrain.We couldn’t tell if this was an inherent flaw in the suspension linkage design or a characteristic specific to the rear shock, but it was enough to give the Specialized a clear performance advantage over the Cube, even though it has less travel and an inferior spec.
If you’ve got long legs and a short torso, the Cube AMS 120 29 should fit like a glove. At 5ft 11in tall we had no standover clearance whatsoever, so this is one bike that you really need to straddle before taking the plunge. With more progressive sizing and possibly a better rear shock the Cube AMS 120 29 could be a great bike, but even the best Shimano drivetrain and brakes aren’t enough to compensate for the shortcomings in sizing and the rear suspension’s inability to react under braking.
MBR rating: 7
Frame 7005 aluminium 120mm travel
Shock Manitou Radium Expert RL
Fork RockShox Recon Silver LO 120mm travel
Wheels Sun Ringlé Radium wheels, Schwalbe Nobby Nic 2.35in tyres
Brakes Shimano M395 180/180mm
Drivetrain Shimano M552 chainset, Deore 3×10 shifters, SLX f-mech, XT r-mech
Components Easton EA30
Sizes 17, 19, 21, 23in
Weight 14.6kg (32.2lb)
Size tested 19in
Head angle 67.9°
Seat angle 70.1°
BB height 335mm
Front centre 698mm
Down tube 690mm