With the 2017 Cube Stereo Hybrid 160 HPA SL 500 the ultimate power-assisted enduro rig is no longer just an electric dream.
Cube Stereo Hybrid 160 need to know
- Super capable, slack 160mm enduro bike with Bosch pedal assist motor to get to the good bits fast.
- E-Bike specific aluminium chassis that’s super solid and uses a Boost 148mm rear end.
- High torque Bosch CX Drive unit comes with the largest capacity 500w PowerPack for more stamina.
- Solid, dent-resistant DT Swiss CSW EM rims with tough Super Gravity casing Schwalbe tyres.
One of the biggest players in the e-MTB game, Cube has a three strong enduro-ready range of power assist Stereos for 2017, the SL 500 here being the mid-priced model.
Cube’s sizing typically lies at the short end of the spectrum, but the latest 160mm Stereo has a longer reach measurement and shorter chainstays than its 140mm e-stablemate. Not only does this improve the overall fit, it provides better balance and intuitive handling that feels totally normal.
The four-mode Bosch motor mirrors rider input perfectly when climbing steeps or on flowing singletrack, while the 500W PowerPack cradled in the monstrous aluminium downtube keeps the extra weight of the battery pack as low down as possible. This helps manoeuvrability and keeps the Stereo fun even on mellower trails, but the real sell here is how the overall chunkiness and stability urges you to attack every descent.
The stability and traction stem in part from how hard it is to deflect a 53lb bike at speed, but the effect of the heavy frame and light wheels common to e-bikes can’t be ignored either. It’s a good job then Cube’s chunky chassis is engineered to handle abuse, as I repeatedly found myself laughing out loud when slamming down rough trails, sending it over the biggest jumps or scaling previously impossible climbs.
The Stereo’s lust to hammer downhill means the supple Fox 36 suspension fork and Float X shock can smash through travel too easily even with higher air pressures so adding volume reducers is a must. Motor assistance pushes the standard Shimano drivetrain too. Slowing back down, the XT brakes had plenty of bite, but displayed the all too-common issue where the bite point keeps changing.
If the Stereo’s sheer ease at speed wasn’t enough to pump the fun factor up to the same turbo levels as the motor, the low BB height seals the deal as it makes it ace at carving turns. It’s so ground hugging, however, one niggle is pedal clearance and it would be much better with 170mm crankarms as nothing should get in the way of climbing, when it’s so much fun with a 46-tooth cassette and 300% of assistance.
For more runs and bigger grins, long travel e-bikes are a revelation. At over four grand, the SL 500 is a big investment, but Cube has done its homework on all the essentials you need for maximum enjoyment: it’s neutral, well balanced and snappy, the frame is bombproof and the pokey Bosch CX motor comes with a big PowerPack battery for extended ride times.
One word of advice though, you’ll really regret ever running the battery flat or accidentally stumbling across a hike-a-biking section.
Spotlight On: E-bike Suspension
With the significant increase in weight that a motor and battery add to an eBike they change the ratio of the sprung to unsprung mass in favour of increased suspension fluidity. In regular English that means the wheels are much lighter relative to the frame so they react more easily and increasing sensitivity. This makes the long-travel Stereo feels close to a full-on downhill bike.
With the Fox dampers working overtime the tyres stick like glue to the ground so corning and breaking traction are huge even on the roughest trails. This extra supple suspension means repeated square edge hits don’t slow the bike as much, so the Stereo rolls faster than a normal bike, whether you ask the motor for help or not.