Short Term Test – CUBE LTD SL 29″er: by c_g
German bike manufacturer CUBE (www.cube.eu ) has entered the 29″er market very late but in very massive way. This was announced only briefly before Eurobike (here) and certainly drew our attention during Eurobike´11 – see my report on the different models here. There are three full suspension models (sharing one frame) and seven hard tails (several different frames in alloy and carbon).
The specialty, by which Cube wants to implement a specific ride character into a 29″er chassis (Cube calls it “Agile Ride”) is by designing their own geometry around 51 mm offset forks throughout. Seems someone has picked up Gary Fishers thoughts and created their interpretation thereof. Of course these were reasons enough to get us interested in those bikes and so we requested a CUBE AMS full suspension bike, which we expect to arrive by early November. But instead of having us wait for that bike to arrive, Cube was kind enough to send us the only currently available model for a short term review – the alloy framed CUBE LTD SL 29″er
THE BIKE: The CUBE LTD SL is the top end bike among their alloy framed 29″ers – all above get carbon frames. As usual for Cube, you get an outstanding package for your hard earned money:
The frame itself is hydroformed of double butted 6061-alloy with a large diameter down tube that flares out massively towards the head tube, a diamond shaped top tube and a very short 44 mm head tube (for semi-integrated head sets). Other features are a direct mount front derailleur, a BSA bottom bracket and an IS mount brake boss on the seat stays. Nothing spectacular, no odd shapes or bends but a plain and well executed frame and still a good basis for long term compatibility with the newly evolving standards and trends. There are four sizes available 17”, 19”, 21”, 23” – we tested the size 19”.
The drive train is a XT/SLX/Deore mix. Formula RX brakes (that are already upgraded with the FCS “Feel Control System” which allows for a wide modulation range) keep the speed controlled and a Fox F32 100 RL (Performance Series, FIT damper) takes over to smooth out the trail. Wheels are SUN RINGLÈ´s Radium with SCHWALBE´s Rapid Rob (last year´s Racing Ralph tread with a budget casing) and the rest is a full list of nice alloy components.
In typical CUBE fashion all bits and pieces are color matching down to the smallest detail, which makes the bike look really like a unity. I am not a huge fan of the grey/bright green/white color scheme but that is my personal taste.
And for those wondering – you get all this for an entry level price of only € 1199.- – not a whole lot one can complain about, given the asking price.
RIDE IMPRESSIONS: Although it had been just a bit over a week on board the Cube LTD SL, this time has proven to me that the ride characteristics Cube had aimed for, or in fact the entire bike, were more than just marketing talk. I came away really impressed with what is possible with so little money.
By design intention the LTD SL is all-rounder aimed at general riding with no special purpose. The seating position on the bike is comfortable and a tad on the relaxed, upright side but still long enough to put plenty of pressure on the front wheel to go wild. It´s not evoking the rider to be ridden all out all the time but has a more touring like feel to it. Unfortunately the tall conical head set top cap with no spacers limited the adjustment range to flipping the 80 mm stem only, but I found it OK as it was for general riding (flipping the stem does alter that into a more aggressive ride position). The alloy frame is built nicely stiff and direct, with very little flex anywhere but also little compliance to it :).
In terms of handling the bike is unspectacular in a very positive way. On one hand it is more agile than many other 29″er bikes I have ridden – making the transition for new 29″er converts really easy, and on the other it creates a relaxed and confident feeling that will especially appeal to novices and people seeking to expand their trail pleasures. I rode the bike on all my home trails and while I cannot pinpoint to why exactly – the LTD SL rode best on flowy and moderately technical trails. When riding it too aggressively it somehow never felt “at home”, I don´t know why.
Interestingly the bike climbed really well, which given the compact seating position, moderate wheelbase and rather hefty weight of 12.7 kg (~ 27.8 lbs). Overall, the bike felt a lot lighter than it really was, which to me is an indication for a well refined end efficient geometry.
The components worked flawlessly during testing – all did their duty with such precision and performance that more than once I wondered about the bike´s asking price. The FOX F32 RL Performance series with FIT damper did a really good job with its 100 mm travel and the RX worked like a charm. The FCS allowed for whatever modulation feel you may be asking for. Shifting and propulsion were just fine, as well. Initially I missed the dual activation and multiple shift capability of the higher end groups, which the Deore shifters didn’t provide, but other than that I have no complaints.
For me the efforts of color matching every little detail, from seat collar, stem caps and saddles, down to the hubs, wheel and fork decals did little in increasing my riding enjoyment but it sure was something that sticks out to the onlooker. Doubtless the bike looks a whole lot more expensive than the price suggests.
SHORT TERM VERDICT: Being given to us as a short term test, I have really enjoyed my time on the CUBE LTD SL. In handling this bike to me did provide a very nice balance between agility and security, showing to me that Cube has done a good job in refining their first take in 29″ers to a remarkably good level. The bike ridden had no quirks or negative peculiarities, which we have often seen in other new 29″er market entries. By character it is a more touring and general riding oriented rig than a specialist, which is exactly what it was designed for. The components are outstanding for the price and the attention to detail is worth noting as well.
In the end the CUBE LTD SL is an easy going, yet fun and agile handling 29″er bike with outstanding value. A very universal 29″er that comes at an entry level price but performs and looks (almost) like a high end bike.
PS: Our thanks go out to CUBE for your support and efforts to put us on your bikes. With that experience on the LTD SL we are dearly looking forward to our upcoming test of the CUBE AMS 29″er.