It won't win any beauty contests, but the Cube Sting proved to be a capable performer
The Sting is a new 120mm-travel 29er from Cube. It shares a lot of the same features as the carbon Stereo 29er, including Cube’s rocker-link suspension design and Agile Ride Geometry, but gets a triple-butted aluminium frame to keep the price in check.
And it’s not just the choice of frame material that helps keep the cost down. By using quick-release rear dropouts, Cube can spec a less expensive rear hub, even if it means that the frame won’t be a stiff as one with a 142x12mm bolt-thru rear-end. That’s something worth considering if you are a heavy or harder rider, as you will definitely need a stiffer set-up.
Size wise, Cube bikes tend to combine a fairly high front-end with a relatively cramped cockpit. The Sting is no different. As such, the somewhat boxy design meant that the reach on our 20in test bike actually felt OK with the rather long 90mm stem, but there wasn’t much in the way of standover clearance. Ideally, we’d like to see Cube drop the top tube much lower, or at the very least, put a bigger kink in it to dramatically reduce the chances of damaging your family jewels. This change would also make it easier on the eye, which, let’s face it, is half the battle with 29ers.
Cube hasn’t scrimped on the suspension components, where the Manitou rear shock and fork both offer good bump-munching ability and a balanced, controlled ride. The fork and shock can both be firmed up for fire-road riding but we never felt the need to use the lockouts. In fact, the fork lockout lever on the handlebar just gets in the way of the shifter and there’s no obvious on/off position on the rear shock, so we shied away from using it.
The only real concession to price here is in fork stiffness, and most obviously the quick-release dropouts. Less apparent is the straight fork steerer tube instead of the stiffer tapered designs found elsewhere in this test. A reducer headset has been used to plug the thinner 1 and 1/8in steerer into the oversized tapered head tube.
The Shimano SLX chainset was easily the best in test. With hollow-forged arms improving stiffness and its two-piece design offering a massive leap in reliability, getting the power down on the Sting was every bit as slick as the shifting itself. Mixing it up, Cube specs cheaper Deore disc brakes, but it was virtually impossible to tell them apart from the SLX units fitted to the Vitus. One area where there was a noticeable difference in performance, however, was the rear mech. Cube may have jumped one notch up in Shimano’s pecking order, but fitting an non-clutch XT-level rear mech is a step backwards. The SLX Shadow Plus design would offer equally good shifting while helping to prevent the chain dropping off the chainrings.
Even though we’ve been riding and testing 29er trail bikes for a couple of years now, we’re always amazed at how capable they are. Obviously the bigger wheels on the Cube rolled over the rough stuff better than the three bikes with 650b wheels in this test, but the benefits go a lot further than simply being able to steamroll over anything in your path. The Cube climbed with less effort, even though it was the second heaviest bike in test, and thanks to the stable steering geometry and longer chainstays it was never sketchy at speed. It also felt really stable on technical downhills thanks to the bottom bracket being much lower than the wheel axles. It’s this extra BB drop that gives riders that feeling of being ‘in’, rather than ‘on’, the bike, and it’s a trait we adored on the Cube. We weren’t so crazy about every spoke in the rear wheel coming loose after the third ride, however. Obviously wheel strength is still a concern on 29ers, especially on entry-level bikes like the Cube Sting 120.
In the 20in size the Cube Sting has a profile that only a mother could love. Once you get over its gangly looks, however, it’s a great riding bike. It pedals and climbs efficiently, and its big wheels and balanced suspension make it easy to take the Sting well beyond its design remit. Casing jumps, smashing berms, dancing through roots and clattering over rocks were part of the repeated punishment the Cube had to endure, so it’s hardly surprising that the back wheel took a beating. However, there’s no excusing the straight steerer tube on the Manitou fork and the lack of a clutch rear mech.