2020 cube stereo hybrid 160 hpc sl 625 27.5
30 Jul 2020

The Cube Stereo Hybrid 160 is the brand's longest travel electric mountain bike, but as Wil discovered, it's more recreational than radical

The not-so-minor details

Product

Cube Stereo Hybrid 160 HPC SL 625

Price

$7,299 AUD (or $6,299 + $5 Club Membership)

Weight

23.27kg

Positives

- Ford Fairlane-plush suspension
- All-day riding comfort
- Powerful and highly responsive Bosch engine
- Incredible package for the dollars

Negatives

- Geometry could be more aggressive for an e-MTB of this travel
- It's a noisy bastard
- Chunkier rubber would do wonders for this bike
- Cluttered cockpit
- Narrow handlebars

Wil Reviews The 2020 Cube Stereo Hybrid 160

While it’s sometimes easy to forget down here in our corner of the globe, Cube is not only of the world’s biggest bicycle brands, it’s also one of the biggest producers of e-Bikes. The German brand’s e-MTB range alone is staggering – we literally counted 100 of them on the Cube website. Holy smokes! Once you add all the e-Road, e-Urban, e-Tour and even e-Kids bikes, every single one of which is built around a Bosch engine, then it’ll come as no surprise to find out that Cube is Bosch’s #1 customer. Needless to say, if you’re in the market for a new electric mountain bike, this is a brand that’ll very likely be on your list.


Check out our video review of the Cube Stereo Hybrid 160 here!

  • 0:00 – Intro
  • 0:38 – The Cube Stereo
  • 1:18 – Cube The Brand
  • 2:00 – Stereo Hybrid 160 Overview
  • 2:14 – Frame Construction & Features
  • 3:27 – Geometry
  • 4:47 – Price & Spec
  • 5:35 – Confirmed Weight
  • 5:44 – Strengths
  • 7:20 – Weaknesses
  • 9:20 – Bosch Performance CX Motor
  • 11:17 – Competitor Comparisons
  • 12:42 – The Verdict

Featuring an entirely new chassis for 2020 that’s built around the 4th generation Bosch Performance CX engine, the new Stereo Hybrid 160 has taken a dramatic leap forward in terms of geometry, system integration and aesthetics over previous Cube offerings.

In the not too distant past, we had the chance to test and review the Cube Stereo 140 – both muscle-powered and the motor-powered variants. Here we’re looking at the big brother – the Stereo Hybrid 160. Featuring an entirely new chassis for 2020 that’s built around the 4th generation Bosch Performance CX engine, the new Stereo Hybrid 160 has taken a dramatic leap forward in terms of geometry, system integration and aesthetics over previous Cube offerings. As good as it looks though, we were eager to see how it performs in the real world, and to find out how it stacks up alongside some of the other electric assist bikes we’ve been testing lately.

We’ve previously tested the Cube Stereo Hybrid 140, though the new 2020 versions have been totally redesigned with sleeker frames, the new Bosch Performance CX motor, and a larger 625Wh battery.
2020 cube stereo hybrid 160 hpc sl 625 27.5
The Cube Stereo Hybrid 160 is the longest travel e-MTB in the Cube range, with a 170mm travel fork and 160mm of rear wheel travel.

The Name & Numbers Are Confusing, Please Explain

With no fewer than 36 full suspension e-MTBs on display, we’d forgive you for getting a little dizzy when perusing the Cube website. The naming system is actually quite simple though. ‘Stereo‘ means it’s a full suspension bike, ‘Hybrid‘ means it has a motor, and the number refers to the rear wheel travel.

So in this case, the Cube Stereo Hybrid 160 is a full suspension e-MTB with 160mm of rear wheel travel. Completing the puzzle is a 170mm travel fork, and 27.5in wheels that are wrapped with chunky 2.6in wide tyres.

Those figures put the Stereo Hybrid 160 squarely into the e-Enduro market, where it shimmies in alongside popular options like the Giant Reign E+, the Norco Sight VLT, Trek Rail and Merida eOne-Sixty.

2020 cube stereo hybrid 160 hpc sl 625 27.5
Up front is a chunky 1.5in steerer tube. This bike would be well suited to the new RockShox ZEB hey?

And The ‘HPC’ Bit?

In the most German way possible, HPC doesn’t stand for ‘Hot Pickled Cucumbers‘ like we hoped, but rather ‘High Performance Composite‘. This refers to the use of a carbon fibre mainframe, which has been moulded with sharp angular lines that are accentuated by the matte black finish. I’d reference some kind of German battle tank here, but I feel like that cliché has been done to death. Let’s just say it’s a nice looking bike.

It certainly has presence too, with a huge boxy downtube that houses a generous 625Wh battery pack inside. The battery is protected by an armoured plate along the belly of the downtube, and it can be unlocked from the frame entirely with the use of an included key. A flip-up charge port just north of the main pivot allows you to recharge the battery without removing it from the frame though, so you’ve got options.

The battery is protected by an armoured plate along the belly of the downtube, and it can be unlocked from the frame entirely with the use of an included key.

Up front is a straight 1.5in headtube with press-in headset cups. There are no funky steering limiters here, and there’s the possibility of fitting an aftermarket angle-adjusting headset for those who may want to slacken out the geometry.

Out back the Stereo Hybrid 160 sees a welded alloy sub-frame, with 148x12mm bolt-up dropouts and generous armouring around the drive-side chainstay. The upper seatstays feature a clean single-sided pivot where they connect to the long rocker link plates, though the pointy ends are exposed as the suspension is compressed, which made my thighs a little nervous during the first few rides. I’m yet to be butchered by them though, so that’s reassuring.

2020 cube stereo hybrid 160 hpc sl 625 27.5
The Cube uses a four-bar linkage, which drives a RockShox Deluxe shock via a trunnion bearing mount.

It’s A Belting Package For The Money

While there are four different bikes available globally, only the single model makes it into Australia – the romantically named Cube Stereo Hybrid 160 HPC SL 625 27.5. Rolls right off the tongue eh?

Cube is distributed and sold direct to consumer via 99 Bikes, which makes the pricing thoroughly competitive – for this bike you’re looking at a retail price of $7,299 AUD. Take note that it gets even sharper if you take out a $5 ‘Club 99’ membership, which drops the price to a frankly staggering $6,299 AUD. Given you’re getting a carbon/alloy frame, a Bosch Performance CX Gen 4 motor, along with a RockShox Lyrik fork and Deluxe shock, that’s bloody impressive.

What About The Competition?

For reference, here’s how it stacks up against some of the more popular options currently on the market;

  • Norco Sight VLT A2: $6,699 AUD
  • Merida eOne-Sixty 5000: $6,699 AUD
  • Giant Reign E+ 2 Pro: $7,699 AUD
  • Trek Rail 7: $8,999 AUD

Both Norco and Merida hit a sub-$7K price point, though it’s worth mentioning that both of those bikes come with smaller batteries, and a budget RockShox 35 fork – a big downgrade from the Lyrik and Charger damper on the Cube. The Giant gets a pretty tasty spec package with Fox suspension, but it costs quite a bit more than the Cube and it also uses an all-alloy frame. Same thing with the Trek – it has a Shimano SLX groupset and the same Bosch motor and 625Wh battery, but it comes with a cheaper Yari fork and again, an all-alloy frame. Certainly in terms of spec for the dollar, the Cube has them all licked.

2020 cube stereo hybrid 160 hpc sl 625 27.5
Cube is sold in Australia via 99 Bikes, and taking out a $5 club membership will see $1000 lobbed off the Stereo Hybrid 160’s retail price.

2020 Cube Stereo Hybrid 160 HPC SL 625 27.5 Specs

  • Frame | C:62 Carbon Mainframe, 6061 T6 Alloy Rear Triangle, FSP 4-Link Suspension Design, 160mm Travel
  • Fork | RockShox Lyrik Select, Charger RC Damper, 46mm Offset, 170mm Travel
  • Shock | RockShox Super Deluxe Select+, DebonAir, 205×60mm
  • Drive Unit | Bosch Performance CX Gen 4, 75Nm
  • Battery | Bosch PowerTube 625Wh
  • Wheels | Shimano MT400 32H Hubs & Cube EX30 Alloy Rims, 27mm Inner Rim Width
  • Tyres | Schwalbe Hans Dampf, Addix Soft Compound, Apex Casing, 27.5×2.6in Front & Rear
  • Drivetrain | SRAM SX/NX Eagle 1×12 w/Acid 36T Crankset & NX Eagle 11-50T Cassette
  • Brakes | Magura MT Thirty 4-Piston w/203mm Rotors
  • Handle Bar | Newmen Evolution SL, Alloy, 31.8mm Diameter, 760mm Wide
  • Stem | Cube Performance Stem E-MTB, 50mm Long
  • Seatpost | Cube Dropper Post, 31.6mm Diameter, Travel: 100mm (Small), 125mm (Medium), 150mm (Large, X-Large)
  • Saddle | Natural Fit Venec
  • Confirmed Weight | 23.27kg
  • RRP | $7,299 AUD (or $6,299 + $5 Club Membership)

Testing The Stereo Hybrid 160

There are four sizes on offer in the Stereo Hybrid 160; 16in (Small), 18in (Medium), 20in (Large) and 22in (X-Large). At 175cm tall, I’ve been riding the Medium frame size.

Geometry has been radically improved over the previous version, with a dramatic shortening of the chainstays (441mm vs 473mm) thanks to the latest Bosch motor, which is significantly more compact than its predecessor. Reach has been increased (440mm vs 430mm), while the head angle is slacker (65º vs 65.8º) and the seat angle is steeper (75.5º vs 74.3º).

Overall, the new bike has a much shorter rear centre and a much longer front centre, and while it’s hardly pushing boundaries, it is definitely a move in the right direction for Cube.

2020 cube stereo hybrid 160 hpc sl 625 27.5
There’s a 170mm travel RockShox Lyrik on the front. It uses the more basic Charger damper, but you could always upgrade to the RC2 damper down the line if you fancied.
2020 cube stereo hybrid 160 hpc sl 625 27.5
Compared to some of Cube’s more contemporary competitors, the dropper post travel is a bit short, and seat tube length is a bit long.

Up-Sizing Is A No-Go

My only complaints in terms of fit with the Stereo Hybrid 160 are the narrow 760mm handlebars, and the fact that the Medium comes with a short 125mm dropper post. I clipped my nuts on more than one occasion when bombing down particularly steep sections of trail, which I’ll admit I could have done without.

Also worth noting is that the seat tube is quite long on this bike, which will severely restrict the option of up-sizing to a bigger frame. The seat tube swells from 420mm on the Medium to 470mm on the Large, which is a really big jump. At my height, that completely rules out the option of riding the Large.

To put those numbers in perspective, the Norco Sight VLT 29 we tested recently has a much shorter 395mm seat tube along with a 175mm dropper as stock. In comparison, you could say the Cube looks dated.

2020 cube stereo hybrid 160 hpc sl 625 27.5
The 760mm bars are too narrow for a bike of this travel and stature.

Setting Up

With their long plastic lever blades, the Magura brakes need to be run quite far inboard if you want to position them up for 1-finger braking. I found the SRAM SX shifter nestled in fine, but on the other side of the bars, things get crowded with the dropper post lever and Bosch Purion display. It would be nice to see an option to run the Bosch system without the display altogether, which would surely help to tidy things up a bit.

Both the fork and shock offer adjustable air pressure and rebound damping, and the anodised sag gradients on the stanchions make them easy to setup. For the fork, I followed the guide on the back of the lowers with 75psi to support my 68kg riding weight. Rebound was set a click slower than halfway at 11/24 clicks.

I found the SRAM SX shifter nestled in fine, but on the other side of the bars, things get crowded with the dropper post lever and Bosch Purion display.

Unfortunately Cube doesn’t provide any detailed recommendations for the rear suspension though. After a bit of trial and error, I found the bike performed best with the shock set to 27% sag (165psi), and with the rebound set one click faster than halfway (5/9 clicks).

Surprisingly, the Stereo Hybrid 160 arrived to us with inner tubes fitted. I promptly removed those, taped up the rims, fitted valves, added some sealant, and setup the Schwalbe Hans Dampf tyres with 22psi in the front and 25psi in the rear. These tyres use Schwalbe’s burlier Apex casing, but they’re still pretty light – confirmed weight averaged out at 970g each. To put that into context, Schwalbe’s e-MTB specific tyre, the Eddy Current, weighs in at over 1,400g per tyre.

2020 cube stereo hybrid 160 hpc sl 625 27.5
Cube has spec’d 27mm wide alloy rims along with 2.6in Hans Dampf tyres.

Mr Congeniality

With its not-too-steep seat angle, not-too-long reach and those narrow handlebars, the Cube Stereo Hybrid 160 offers a comfortable and neutral riding position. It isn’t totally upright – the stack is actually pretty low at 607mm on our Medium test bike, and there’s a useful length of steerer tube to lift or lower the bar height as needed. But there’s certainly nothing strenuous about how you’re placed over the contact points. It’s a very congenial bike to ride.

For a 160mm travel e-MTB, it’s also easy to manage. That comes down to the conservative geometry, smaller 27.5in wheels and light-ish tyres. There isn’t a lot of resistance to steering inputs, with a nice and light feel at the grips. Along with the short back end, general changes of direction aren’t as taxing as they can be on bikes with much longer and slacker geometry, particularly when you’re riding at slower speeds and on flatter terrain.

Along with the short back end, general changes of direction aren’t as taxing as they can be on bikes with much longer and slacker geometry, particularly when you’re riding at slower speeds and on flatter terrain.

Ford Fairlane Suspension

Completing the easy-rider vibe are the supple 2.6in tyres and the ludicrously plush suspension. e-MTBs often have better performing suspension compared to their non-E counterparts, but the Stereo Hybrid 160 goes further with some of the deepest-feeling travel I’ve experienced. It’s luxuriously smooth, like a big, black Ford Fairlane.

The combination of a trunnion bearing mount, big-volume DebonAir shock and the low-leverage rate leads to a dynamic system that responds well to bumps of all shapes and sizes. Cube’s four-bar linkage is also notably disconnected from hard braking and pedalling inputs, which ensures the shock is able to react quickly and cleanly regardless of what your hands and feet are doing.

Overall the suspension is quite linear in its behaviour, and remarkably adept at insulating the rider from the trail. Of course depending on what you want from the riding experience, that can be a good or a bad thing. However, there are no doubts that it is excellent for pedalling over rough terrain, allowing you to stay seated and putting down (part of) the power for as long as possible.

2020 cube stereo hybrid 160 hpc sl 625 27.5
The Deluxe shock uses a high-volume DebonAir can along with a 60mm long stroke to deliver supple and active suspension performance.

Technical climbs are dispatched with very little interruption to your pedalling flow. I can’t say I was wishing for a steeper seat angle, but occasionally the cockpit can feel cramped when the climbing gradient really kicks up. A slightly longer reach would help to open things up and shift some weight forward. And while the short back end is great for negotiating tight switchbacks, it does mean the front end is more likely to lift on black diamond tech climbs.

I’d also like to see some toothier tyres to help with traction on loose, rocky climbs. The Hans Dampfs are ok, but they’re scrabbly on harder surfaces. They also have a rounded, lightbulb profile, which is exacerbated by the narrow rims. I’m not entirely sure why Cube didn’t spec Magic Marys, which have a squarer profile and more aggressive edging blocks that would bring a huge boost in traction. Sure the Hans Dampfs are light and speedy, but this is an e-MTB with a powerful motor and 160mm of active suspension – why wouldn’t you want more grip to make the most of it?

2020 cube stereo hybrid 160 hpc sl 625 27.5
The Hans Dampf is better suited to a mid-travel trail bike. For the Stereo Hybrid 160, we’d want to see burlier rubber – particularly up front.

It’s More Recreational Than Radical

Following on from that, I’ve not found the Cube Stereo Hybrid 160 to be as confidence-inspiring as one would expect given its substantial travel.

The 760mm bars certainly don’t help, and they seem a curious spec decision given that 100mm travel XC race bikes are coming with bars that wide. I did end up fitting some 800mm wide bars partway through the test, which felt more inline with what should come on this bike as stock.

Steering can also get a bit wiggly at speed. The 65° head angle isn’t exactly what you’d call steep per se, but it is steeper than the Reign E+, Kenevo, and Sight VLT 29. And the 46mm fork offset is a little longer than what some other brands are going for. Of course that’s how Cube has kept the steering relatively light and quick, but it also means that when you’re really hooking it on the descents, you won’t exactly be able to switch to autopilot.

There’s good weight to it, and with that cushy suspension it really does hug the ground even on the most jagged, rutted-out trails, allowing you to keep your forward momentum with less hang up at the wheels.

I found this particularly pronounced having recently hopping off the Norco Sight VLT 29 – a ludicrously stable e-MTB that just reeks of a hospital emergency department. In comparison, the Cube feels less likely to put you into those high-risk scenarios because it doesn’t run away from you as rapidly on the descents. Indeed it’s quite content with just cruising around on everyday singletrack, and you don’t have to feed it super-death-gnar in order to wake it up.

Not that it can’t go fast though. There’s good weight to it, and with that cushy suspension it really does hug the ground even on the most jagged, rutted-out trails, allowing you to keep your forward momentum with less hang up at the wheels. And when things do get steep, unlike uber-slack bikes that require you to heavily weight the front tyre to maintain grip, the Cube is totally fine with you straightening your arms and riding off the back when needed. That’s good news for the less assertive riders among us.

There’s good weight to it, and with that cushy suspension it really does hug the ground even on the most jagged, rutted-out trails, allowing you to keep your forward momentum with less hang up at the wheels.

The downside of the deep suspension is that it does tend to absorb your inputs a little too readily. With less of a platform to push off of, there’s not a lot of pop from the back end, particularly compared to the Merida eOne-Sixty we recently tested. On big machine-built jump trails, it’s hard work getting the Stereo Hybrid 160 off the ground.

Adding volume spacers to the fork and shock would no doubt help to increase progression for those who are looking for a little more pep out of this bike. And for those who wanted to push the limits further, as mentioned above, you could look at fitting an Angleset to kick out the head angle. I’m also intrigued to see what the Cube would ride like with a 29in wheel and fork up front, given the mullet trend has been gathering steam within the e-MTB market of late.

2020 cube stereo hybrid 160 hpc sl 625 27.5
Fitting volume spacers into the fork and shock will be necessary for heavier riders with more aggressively dynamic riding styles.

The Bosch Motor Is Smooth & Powerful

This was my first long-term test of the latest 4th generation Bosch Performance CX motor, and for the most part I’ve been impressed. There’s huge torque on offer, and initial pickup is both rapid and smooth. Compared to the ageing Shimano STEPS E8000 motor, the Bosch is noticeably stronger off the mark, and it delivers more torque at the top-end too.

Also interesting is that I was able to get support all the way up to 27km/h. However, while Australian law states a maximum assisted speed of 25km/h, there is a 10% tolerance, so the Cube was still within the legal limits. Also of note is that when you do exceed the assistance, the drive unit effectively decouples from the drivetrain, resulting in very little perceivable drag – an enormous improvement over previous Bosch motors.

2020 cube stereo hybrid 160 hpc sl 625 27.5
The latest Bosch Performance CX motor offers huge power that comes on quickly and smoothly. It’s a noisy bastard though.

The adaptive e-MTB mode is the way to go for technical mountain biking, which sees the system constantly varying the power output via a variety of sensors that measure your cadence, speed and power input. Push harder on the pedals, and the motor responds with more power in return. It’s not as gentle as the Shimano equivalent, but it’s still progressive and much more natural feeling compared to the Eco, Tour and Turbo modes that deliver their support in a linear fashion.

Even in the e-MTB mode, the performance is still quite a bit more powerful than a Shimano unit, and it can be easy for the bike to lurch away from you on steeper climbs. I soon learned that the best technique for attempting technical ascents was to get into a lower gear, and spin a faster cadence with lighter pressure on the pedals. Push too hard with your own muscles, and the Cube will lift the front end too willingly – a downside of those shorter chainstays.

Bosch Update

Worth noting is that Bosch has recently announced a software update for Performance CX motor users. The update unleashes another 10 Nm of torque out of the motor, bringing it up to 85 Nm. Peak power output doesn’t change, but the update means you’ll get more low-end grunt, and the cadence band has been widened so you’ll have access to more support at higher RPMs, say when you’re putting in a hard acceleration to get up and over an obstacle. Additionally, the e-MTB mode has been refined to make the power delivery more progressive based on your pedalling inputs. If you’ve got a bike with the Performance CX motor, you can have the update performed by your local Bosch dealer.

2020 cube stereo hybrid 160 hpc sl 625 27.5
The ageing Purion display is at least easy to read. We’d like to see better wireless connectivity and control of the power delivery.

There’s Room For Improvement

Bosch software update aside, it would still be nice to see more customisability to the peak power and support levels, like you can with a Specialized Levo and the accompanying phone app. Even Shimano lets you alter the power levels via Bluetooth. This is particularly important for lighter riders like myself, who might prefer a softer delivery of power.

Bosch is seriously lagging behind in this regard – the system is entirely pre-set and the Purion display offers no such wireless connectivity. While it is clear and easy to read, I’d also love to see the option to ditch the Purion display altogether and control the settings via a separate device.

The biggest downside of the motor however is the ‘clacking’ noise it generates when freewheeling over bumps on the trail. This has been well documented elsewhere, and in our opinion, it’s a real disappointment for a system that is otherwise pretty quiet on the trail. On really rough descents, the noise is totally distracting, and amplified by the large carbon chassis. Add in some cable slap, and this is one e-MTB that doesn’t live up to its stealthy looks on the trail.

2020 cube stereo hybrid 160 hpc sl 625 27.5
Keep an eye on the charge port door – the latch is flimsy, and ours occasionally opened up on its own.

I also had the charge port door flip open on its own a couple of times, as the latch is kind of flimsy. Our winter has been pretty dry in these parts, so thankfully I never had a soaking-wet ride on the Cube. For those who do live in wetter climates though, I’d be keeping a close eye on that little door – if water leaks in there before your next recharge, you’re potentially in for A Bad Time™.

While I’m throwing out improvement ideas to Bosch, let’s see some neater integration of the chainstay-mounted speed sensor eh? Ditch the spoke magnet, put one on the rotor instead, and integrate the speed sensor into the non-driveside dropout. Cheers.

2020 cube stereo hybrid 160 hpc sl 625 27.5
It’d be nice to see neater integration of the chainstay speed sensor.

How’s The Mileage?

With the 625Wh battery, range is solid. In order to get some hard data though, I took the Cube Stereo Hybrid 160 to one of my local testing grounds at Mt Tarrengower in Maldon. The concept was simple – see how many self-shuttling laps I could get in off a single battery charge. This is a test I’ve also performed with the Merida eOne-Sixty and Norco Sight VLT 29, which helps to set a basis for comparison.

The climb up involves a 2km stretch of smooth bitumen road with 188m of vertical gained every lap. I set the motor to the most powerful Turbo mode, and soft-pedalled the whole time to make sure the motor was doing almost all the work, simulating a worse-case scenario. On the way down, I alternated between two different singletrack routes, both of which are loose, rough and rocky, and sufficiently fast enough that if I did need to pedal, I was always pedalling above the motor cutoff. I rode as many laps as I could until the battery was drained flat.

The concept was simple – see how many self-shuttling laps I could get in until the battery ran flat.

Here’s how the Cube stacked up against the others in terms of the distance covered, and vertical elevation gained;

  • Cube Stereo Hybrid 160: 35km & 1,800m
  • Norco Sight VLT 29: 33.8km & 1,665m
  • Merida eOne-Sixty 9000: 30km & 1,497m

Of course the Merida comes with a smaller battery (504Wh), so the Cube was always going to win out there. However, the Cube also got more mileage than the Norco, even though both bikes basically weigh the same and have similar sized batteries. Aside from the motor, the main difference is that the Norco comes with much heavier and stickier tyres, which can have a huge impact on drag, and therefore efficiency.

On the Cube, I ended up getting nine laps in, before the battery went flat about 1/3rd up the climb on my way for my 10th lap. Once I was down to the final battery bar on the display, I felt the assistance level drop a little at the pedals, and within another 50m, the motor cutoff completely. This differs from the Shimano system, which automatically drops down into Eco mode once you hit the final battery bar, in order to preserve the remaining juice.

2020 cube stereo hybrid 160 hpc sl 625 27.5
Uh-oh!
2020 cube stereo hybrid 160 hpc sl 625 27.5
As you flick between each mode, the range estimation changes based on the assistance level. It also regularly recalculates the range based on the conditions.

One thing I learned during the test is that the Purion display does actually give you access to range estimation. You’ll need to hold down the “-” button for two seconds to see your current trip distance, then hold it down again to see the odometer, then once more to see the remaining range. It’s not the most intuitive design – I’d been riding the bike for a number of weeks before I found out about that function. But it’s obviously very useful when planning bigger routes.

What is really quite clever though, is that the more you ride the bike, the more accurate the Bosch system gets with its range calculation. The system essentially ‘learns’ your typical demands from the motor, and adjusts the range estimation to suit. Neat!

Component Highs & Lows

Given the carbon mainframe, Bosch motor and RockShox suspension package, the price on the Cube Stereo Hybrid 160 is mighty sharp. However, in order to squeeze all of those headline features into an e-MTB that costs less than seven G’s, compromises have to be been made in the spec.

The stock wheels are basic, with Cube’s own alloy rims, straight gauge spokes and cheap Shimano hubs. They’re not flashy at all, but they have been plenty solid – I’m still yet to buckle them or inflict any significant damage to speak of. As mentioned earlier, it would be nice to see a wider rim to support those 2.6in tyres though.

I also had no punctures with the stock tyres, which really surprised me. While they’re pretty light, the Apex casing has proven to be significantly tougher and more stable than a Maxxis equivalent. The Hans Dampf tread blocks are looking pretty haggard though, the rear is desperately in need of replacing. Personally, I’d look at fitting some Magic Marys, or even Eddy Currents, to make the most of this bike’s glue-like suspension. On the note of tyres, clearance isn’t massive in the back of the frame, so for anyone who’s wondering, I’d rule out the idea of going any wider than 2.6in.

I can’t say I’m a fan of the long and thick lever blades, and down at the business end, setup is also quite finicky as there’s a bee’s dick worth of clearance between the pads and the rotor.

2020 cube stereo hybrid 160 hpc sl 625 27.5
While the Apex casing proved its worth all throughout testing, the soft rubber tread blocks didn’t hold up quite as well.

The Magura MT-Thirty brakes are essentially a budget OEM version of the MT5/MT7 brakes. They use big 4-piston callipers that are paired to Carbotecture (read: fancy plastic) lever bodies. I can’t say I’m a fan of the long and thick lever blades, and down at the business end, setup is also quite finicky as there’s a bee’s dick worth of clearance between the pads and the rotor. They do dish out strong power though, and they were fade-free throughout testing. The levers did become squishy over time, but unfortunately none of my local bike stores had a Magura bleed kit on hand, so I just put up with it. For this reason of serviceability, I think most Aussie customers would prefer to see a Shimano brake on there instead.

Otherwise the rest of the Cube Stereo Hybrid 160 performed fine and with minimal razzle-dazzle. The SRAM drivetrain is entry-level, but the SX shifter and NX derailleur and cassette carried out their job as intended. Likewise, the dropper post isn’t particularly refined, it needs more travel, and the remote lever is cheap and wobbly, but they still work. Sure, there’s plenty of room for upgrades over time, but the core package is solid and functional.

Really though, the Cube Stereo Hybrid 160 is more of an all-rounder, and one that’s suited to riders who value the safety net of a long-travel bike, but don’t necessarily want (or need) the super-slack-and-long geometry to go with it.

Cube vs Merida vs Norco

While the Merida eOne-Sixty, Norco Sight VLT 29 and Cube Stereo Hybrid 160 are all long-travel e-MTBs that are brand new new for 2020, there are some significant differences in terms of handling and suspension that separates their performance on the trail.

The Norco is without doubt the most gravity-hungry of the three, with thoroughly progressive geometry that includes a raked-out head angle, a short-offset fork and a long wheelbase. Add in the sticky, heavy Double-Down tyres, Code brakes and piggyback shock, and you’ve got a stupendous amount of high-speed stability that makes it well suited to properly steep terrain.

Whereas the Merida is quite sporty though, the Cube is more grounded. The extra 10mm of travel at either end gives it a bigger presence on the trail, and overall it feels a more brutish thanks to the ludicrously smooth suspension.

The Merida is much more lively, in part thanks to its mullet wheel setup. The back end is quite short, so like the Cube it offers intuitive steering, particularly around sharper turns and at lower speeds. The rear suspension is a lot poppier than both the Cube and Norco, giving it a more playful attitude through berms and jumpier flow trails.

The Cube is more similar to the Merida in terms of its capabilities and handling. Whereas the Merida is quite sporty though, the Cube is more grounded. The extra 10mm of travel at either end gives it a bigger presence on the trail, and overall it feels more brutish thanks to the ludicrously smooth suspension. The Bosch powerplant has both more grunt and a bigger fuel tank, enhancing its ability to steamroll over chunky terrain.

There are of course a lot more smaller details separating all three bikes, which makes them suitable for different riders and different terrain, depending on what you’re looking for. For more info on the other two, be sure to check out our detailed comparison of the Merida eOne-Sixty vs the Norco Sight VLT 29.

Flow’s Verdict

Thanks to the substantial redesign of this new 2020 model, the Cube Stereo Hybrid 160 has made some much-needed improvements over its predecessor.

For a start, it’s a vastly better looking bike, and the sleek carbon frame does a much better job of integrating the new Bosch drive unit and the bigger 625Wh battery pack. The geometry is significantly better, and the ludicrously plush suspension gives it a stoic, ground-hugging demeanour that makes short work of tough, technical singletrack.

For the money, it’s been decked out with a pretty decent package. However, Cube really needs to give it wider bars, more aggressive tyres and a longer dropper post as standard. This is a big travel e-MTB after all.

Still, it isn’t the most aggressive e-MTB we’ve ridden. It isn’t hugely stable at flat-out descending speeds, and the suspension is likely to be too cushy for those who really want to throw their bike around with reckless abandon. If self-shuttling bike parks and double-black downhill trails is more your jam, then we’d be more inclined to recommend the Giant Reign E+, the Norco Sight/Range VLT, or the Specialized Kenevo.

Really though, the Cube Stereo Hybrid 160 is more of an all-rounder, and one that’s suited to riders who value the safety net of a long-travel bike, but don’t necessarily want (or need) the super-slack-and-long geometry to go with it. For those riders, this is an easy-riding bike that doesn’t require the steepest and gnarliest terrain to get the most out of it. Indeed with its comfortable riding position, amenable geometry, and active suspension performance, it’ll chug its way around a broad variety of trails, and it’ll ask very little of you in return – particularly from your bank account.

2020 cube stereo hybrid 160 hpc sl 625 27.5
Plush suspension, neutral positioning and a conservative build kit make the Cube Stereo Hybrid 160 a very comfortable and easy-to-ride long travel e-MTB for those who are after an all-day all-rounder.

Mo’ Flow Please!

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