The Calibre Two Cubed just feels right
MBR Editor’s Choice 2019: Calibre Two Cubed, £399
When we introduced the sub £375 category to our 2019 Hardtail of the Year test, we entered unchartered waters.
It was the lowest price-point test we have undertaken, as we’ve always believed that you need to spend £500 to ensure you get a proper mountain bike capable of withstanding the rigours of serious off-road riding.
Times change however, and firmly held beliefs need testing too, the Calibre Two Cubed proving that trickle down technology and modern approaches to business, like direct to consumer sales, bring unprecedented levels of perform to an even wider audience.
Calibre did the same with the Bossnut full-suspension bike, so it should come as no surprise that it is equally adept at disrupting the entry-level hardtail market.
That said, we were still shocked by how much bike you can get for £350. With a RockShox XC fork pumping out 100mm of smooth, composed travel, the Two Cubed led the test from the front and never looked back. Confidence was boosted further by a wide handlebar, stubby stem and hydraulic disc brakes.
What’s new for 2020?
All but the name is new. Frame lengths have grown by 10mm, the BB height has been lowered, the head angle has been slackened and seat angle steepened. In non-bike geek parlance that means it’s faster and even easier to ride. It’s a good thing then that Calibre has also upgraded the brakes to Tektro hydraulic units, that self-adjust with pad wear. The addition of a 2×9 transmission will mean less dropped chains and fewer oily hands, while lock on grips will stop them from spinning like throttles at the first sign of rain.
Sub £375 Hardtail of the Year: Calibre Two Cubed review
The Calibre Two Cubed is the Go Outdoors own-brand’s latest bike. The Two Cubed is dominant in the hardtail arena as £1k Bossnut is in full suspension.
Note: This bike looks like a more-than-£350 bike, and there lies the rub — it actually is. Calibre discounted it for its launch and is held the price down for about a week extra to let mbr magazine readers snap up the deal.
Calibre Two Cubed review
Calibre has been killing it in the last few years, the Go Outoors own-brand set on undercutting the traditional bike builders with its price, and matching and beating them in some cases for performance too.
The Two Cubed is the only bike in the Hardtail of the Year test not to come equipped with Suntour suspension forks, instead Calibre has specced the excellent RockShox XC30. It’s the best fork on test by a mile, it feels smoother and more controlled through its travel. It’s also appreciably firmer than all the other forks here, and while there’s no way to adjust the rebound on the XC30 that doesn’t matter when RockShox hits the sweet spot.
The Calibre has the kind of controls that make it standout from the rest of the pack, and the brakes are a highlight. While most other brakes in the test are cable actuated these Shimanos are hydraulic, letting me use one-finger braking. Schwalbe’s Nobby Nic and Fast Sam tyres are excellent, dishing out grip and support on build trails and soft natural tracks too, although strangely Calibre says half the bikes will come with these tyres, and half with WTB’s Trailboss. You’ll have to check out the bike in store to be sure what you’re getting. The controls are good with an excellent wide handlebars and short stem combo and bike also has the one of the biggest spread of gears on test with a 9-speed cassette.
The Calibre Two Cubed just feels right, the geometry of the bike is modern, meaning it’s relatively long, low and slack, giving you plenty of confidence. The fork gobbles up rocks and roots in the trail and does it without pinging you off in to the bushes with an overly fast rebound, while every component is a good choice from Calibre.
There’s one fly in the ointment though, the front is a touch too low, even with the stem jacked up as high as it’ll go on the fork steerer. There’s no rise in the bar either, which doesn’t help it. Calibre needs to grow its steerer tube slightly, or failing spec a fork with slightly more travel.
The Two Cubed has the best sizing and geometry of any bike here, and comes in three usable sizes so most riders should be able to get the right fit. The bike encourages you to push your luck on the trails, ride faster and have more fun, knowing the Two Cubed has the geometry, suspension and components to back you up. Calibre show that it’s not just a one trick pony, the Two Cubed proving that it can be just as dominant in the hardtail arena as it is with £1k full suspension Bossnut.