The Cube Attention hardtail has a head-turning specification for the price, but the geometry and handling are looking over their shoulder at the past.
For a hardtail mountain bike that’s had a very recent overhaul, the 2022 Cube Attention SL manages to keep one foot firmly planted in the past. Yes, it has a lightweight alloy frame, trendy tan-wall tyres, a remote lockout for the air-sprung RockShox fork and a cutting edge 1x Shimano drivetrain with a wide range 10-51t cassette. Dig into the numbers however, and the bike instantly seems dated compared to the best hardtail mountain bikes on sale now.
Need to know
- Top-end bike in Cube’s entry-level hardtail range
- Double butted alloy frame with internal cable routing
- Air-sprung RockShox Judy fork delivers 100mm travel and gets remote lockout
- Flat mount rear brake and FM kickstand mounts look neat
- Available in six frame size: XS and S use 27.5in wheels, M to XXL use 29in wheels
The 445mm chainstay measurement is considerably longer than the reach, even on the size L. So the weight distribution will be even more negatively skewed towards the front end of the bike on the size medium. And with size specific chainstay lengths becoming increasingly popular on hardtails, Cube really missed an opportunity to get out in front of its rivals here.
Also, given that plenty of 29er full full suspension bikes come with stays as short as 435mm, there’s really no excuse for longer stays on a modern 29er hardtail, unless of course it’s intentional on the bigger frame sizes.. Thankfully the two smallest Attention SL frame sizes use 27.5in wheels and get shorter 427mm chain stays.
It’s a similar story at the front end of the bike. And even if we ignore the rather truncated 427mm reach on the size L, is there really any place for a steep 69.1º head angle on a hardtail in 2022?
Given that the BMC FourStoke, a bike that took Pidcock to Olympic XC gold is the beat part of three degrees slacker, and hardtails needs to be even slacker to achieve the same dynamic geometry as full suspension bikes, the answer has to be a resounding, no.
Now, I’m not saying that every hardtail needs to be a hardcore hardtail, far from it. I’m merely highlighting the fact that not even XC bikes have geometry similar to the Cube.
So if the Cube isn’t an XC hardtail, what is it? Well, the kickstand mount on the non-drive side dropout speaks volumes to its intended use. So does the narrow 680mm handlebar that makes it ideal for ducking in and out of traffic.
It also makes the cockpit feel even more cramped and had me hanging my hands off the end of the grips to gain some extra leverage and keep the front wheel pointing in the direction I wanted it to go.
The frame itself is easy on the eye, but again it’s not without fault. Internal routing looks neat as it enters the down tube behind the head tube, but flip the bike over and you see that the bottom section of the down tube is just left open, creating one big exit port and an equally big entry point of muck and dirt.
One of the cables also rubs on the fork crown, which doesn’t sound like a big deal until it starts to eat through the alloy crown, in the same way that water carves a channel in rock, but this will take months rather than decades..
And even though the frame has a die straight and relatively long 470mm seat tube, I still had to chop the 27.2mm seat post down so I could drop the saddle height adequately on the descents. Yes, you could fit a dropper post, and there’s even internal routing for it, but the slender 27.2mm diameter post really limits your options here.
How it rides
I’ve tested enough hardtails over the years to know what works and what doesn’t. And I think I’ve been pretty thorough in describing what Cube got wrong on the Attention SL. Now it’s time to address the balance.
The 303mm BB height is bang on the money and of all metrics, BB height is probably the most important one to get right. Also I’m not a fan of longer travel forks on hardtails as they tend to steepen the head angle due to the increased amount of sag; the extra travel also causes bigger swings in dynamic geometry. So the 100mm travel RockShox Judy on the Attention SL helps mitigate some of those issues.
It also has a smooth, plush action, even if the 30mm upper tubes and 9mm quick release lowers don’t give you the steering precision and confidence to charge hard. Then again, I don’t think that was ever Cube’s intention, well, at least I hope not, otherwise it failed miserably.
In terms of the overall specification Cube has some highlights here too. The Shimano two finger brakes have a light smooth lever feel with stacks of modulation, so it’s easy to control your speed without overwhelming the traction available from the slender Schwalbe tyres. Shifting is also on point thanks to the 12sp Deore shifter and XT rear derailleur.
And even though the Cube doesn’t get a Shimano chainset to match the rest of the drivetrain, the Acid unit fitted is still a two-piece, pinch-bolt design with a threaded Shimano BB, so reliability should still be first rate.
The most surprising thing about the Cube Attention SL however isn’t how far off the mark it is as a trail bike, it’s how compliant the frame is, even with the 2.25in Schwalbe Smart Sam tyres and their relatively low profile tread.
With the Shimano XT clutch derailleur mitigating chain slap, the resounding feel of the alloy Attention SL frame is one of composure. Before riding the Cube I was half expecting a cacophony of alarm bells as I ratted down the trail. Instead, the Cube delivered a relatively smooth and silent ride, so you may well need a bell, if you’re riding the Cube in its natural environment, which are fire roads and canal tow paths.
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While Cube states that this is the ideal bike for advancing your skills, I get the distinct feeling that it’s been designed more for off road commuting than singletrack slaying.