Top Ten Euro 29″er Products of 2011: Cube AMS SLT 29″er FS: by c_g
Editor’s Note: Yes…..more Top Ten Lists! This time from our European contributor, c_g. His unique perspective on 29?er products has been tapped to give us a look at what he felt were the best products he tested in 2011. Keep in mind that some of these products are available in Europe only.
1. The product had to be in the review process during the time period of December 2010 through to the end of November 2011. Reviews that are currently in process were not included and will be eligible for a 2011 Top Ten list. (Editor’s Note: c_g asked for a special exclusion on this rule for the Cube AMS SLT as he felt it deserved to be included. The request was reviewed and granted.)
2. They had to be products or bicycles that c_g personally used during this period. Nothing any of the other Twenty Nine Inches staff reviewed on their own could be considered for this list. This list doesn’t necessarily reflect the opinions of anyone but c_g.
3. The reviewed products were provided to Twenty Nine Inches at no charge for review. We were not paid or bribed for these reviews. We will give/gave our honest opinion or thoughts through out.
That said, let’s get on with this……
Number 4: Cube AMS SLT 29″er FS (complete bike): This is both a final verdict and part of our Top Ten here at TNI Europe – all in one post (talk about efficiency :)). Time flies when you´re having fun – and I had fun with the CUBE AMS :). It has been just over 5 weeks that I have been riding this 120 mm full suspension bike by German manufacturer CUBE. Those not familiar with CUBE and their new entry to 29″er, see my feature as part of the Eurobike coverage here. For the intro and first ride impressions of the CUBE AMS SLT, see here and here respectively.
Why It Made The List: Well, this bike is an exceptional value and a really good performer by a major European brand that prior to now has been absent with 29″er bikes (OK, that really isn´t something positive, but that the first take already came out this good says something :)). This is the first bike apart from TREK, (Gary Fisher Collection), to work their geometry around 51 mm offset forks, and by what I hear others will follow.
My Two Cents (a bit extended as a Final Short term verdict): The AMS has not been a “Sit-On and Feel-Good” bike from the start. Initially it suffered from a nervous front end, which I found a simple remedy for by sliding in all controls by about an inch on both sides. This simplest of all modifications altered the handling from nervous to positively agile.
As the newest addition, I received the stock spec wheels, the EASTON Havens (not the EC90s as mistakenly communicated earlier), which are not only wider than the pre- production DT-SWISS wheels (21 over 19.5 mm inner width), but also lighter by about 250 gm. In the stock trim the AMS then will weigh just under 12 kg (~ 26.3 lbs), which for the given travel is pretty good. Looks have changed from understatement to a bit more bling, but not that it stuck out too badly.
Last time I left off with commenting just how well the rear SUSPENSION sucks up anything rough when pedaling and the AMS continues to amaze me in that matter. You can just pedal along and over things I usually would need to use a lot more active riding style. I somehow got used to the geometry change when climbing up steeply and I don´t feel it to be distracting me as much anymore as I initially had felt. With the Pro-Pedal on it climbs simply great with loads of traction and very little tendency to raise the front wheel. I also have learned to push this bike further and ride more aggressively, now making full use of its travel front and rear.
By HANDLING the AMS sure is a more agile ride than many 29″er fans have come to know from a 29″er trail bike. It is not the “Gimme More” kind of bike that asks the rider to take to even more challenging terrain, but a “Feel-Good” bike for every terrain and style. When taking to the edge it requires a bit more control and confidence from the rider, but then it can be taken pretty far. I have mastered some pretty nasty 6 foot drops and bigger jumps on it with no problems – so the bike can take it, but it is not the bike that asks for that kind of terrain.
I personally credit CUBE for combining 120 mm “trail bike” travel with an agile (I´d go as far as saying almost XC-bike) handling, but it needs to be known when looking into the AMS that
it does not have that typical trail bike handling (I already see those comments coming of what a “typical trail bike handling” is, but those who get it, will understand, those who don´t, please forgive me :)). To me the CUBE AMS is a XC bike with trail bike capacity.
One more thing I have found when riding technical terrain, is that the straight top tube limits the bike´s standover clearance. It is nowhere dramatic but it can be an issue especially for
riders with a long torso and shorter legs. It is nothing outstanding but when comparing the bike to the ROCKY Element, I am riding as well, the AMS has about 1.5” less clearance in the center of the top tube than the Element.
All COMPONENTS are working like a charm with no negative comments anywhere. The new and slightly wider EASTON Havens add a bit of footprint to the tires and feel just as stiff laterally as the DT-wheels despite them having a lower spoke count (32 on the DTs and 24 on the EASTONs).
My only complaint continues, that the the left hand shifter needs too much lever throw when shifting from small ring to the bigger ring to work for my hands and I have pretty standard size hands for
an adult, so smaller hands may find that even more of an issue. For general riding the tire combination is fast and performing good but when ridden aggressively I often pushed the Racing Ralph rear beyond its limits. For mixed trail conditions (like we currently have with our fall weather) and aggressive riding I recommend going for a more aggressive rear tire.
Short Test VERDICT: Where does that leave me with the CUBE AMS SLT? After about a month of extensive riding I would say that the CUBE AMS has won a sweet spot in my heart. By its efficient and equally sensitive as stable suspension it can take a whole lot of hard riding. By its agile handling it is the kind of bike that is fun to ride in every terrain and speed. It will not get bored when ridden on long double track/fire road rides, nor does it push the rider too far when ridden in more severe terrain (it will need a bit more handling skills in such terrain though :)). Some may find this agility in a trail bike to be too much, but for me it made the bike even more attractive and more universal. Probably one of the best bikes I know – if I had to pick a One-Bike-Only, Do-It-All bike.
I admit that I am a bit torn by the realization that with CUBE (and almost all other bike manufacturers) doing 29″er, the Big Wheels have reached the place of being nothing more than mainstream, even here in Europe. But if mainstream looks and performs like the two CUBE 29″er I have ridden so far – then I am OK with it. The CUBE AMS has won me over (be it mainstream or not) – it is a great performing bike with hardly any point of criticism and for sure is an excellent value.
Stay tuned to find out our other picks as we continue our countdown of our Euro Top 3 picks!