We jumped straight onto the Cube LTD Pro for a few more runs down the Verderer’s trail at the Forest of Dean after we folded the rear wheel of the Cannondale Trail SL 29er 2 with a particularly crunching landing (see how it happened here). The contrast between the two bikes couldn’t have been more pronounced — the Cube felt like a total bone-shaker in comparison.
Yes, the super efficient (read ultra-rigid) frame makes for instant acceleration on smooth trails but it holds the Cube LTD Pro back on rougher terrain, making it much harder to maintain an even pedal stroke as the back end bounces and skips around. You need to keep the cranks spinning as every bump eats into your momentum, robbing you of precious speed and flow.
The higher-spec Manitou Marvel fork didn’t have the annoying top-out knock that plagued the Tower on the Merida Big Nine TFS 900, and while it tracked roots and rocks well when climbing you need to be fit enough to ride stood up or you’ll feel every ripple in the trail transmitted to your posterior though the saddle. Get the Cube up to speed on the descents and it’s even more uncomfortable — the fork instantly chokes as it tries unsuccessfully to take the edge off the hits. This lack of sensitivity, combined with super-flexy handlebars, made it difficult to pick a line and stick to it.
On test in our Hardtail of the Year competition:
Cube has a great reputation for producing performance bikes that are incredibly good value; the LTD Pro isn’t one of them. The Manitou Marvel fork is a let-down and the frame is too stiff, so even though it has a great riding position that inspires you to forge ahead, the ride quality didn’t set our world alight, even though it left our hands and feet burning.