03 Jun 2013

The not-so-minor details


Cube LTD Race 29


Monza Bicycle Imports






RockShox Reba SL.
Strong frame.
Excellent acceleration.


Handlebar height.
Uncomfortable grips.
Standard QR on front end.

Cube is a 20-year-old German Bike Company that only recently made a name for itself on Australian shores. Cube has quickly gained local acceptance with a large range of performance mountain and road bikes at very competitive prices. One of Australia’s better known and more successful XC racing teams; Team TORQ is sponsored by Cube and so the 29” Cube’s are often seen at the pointy end of the field. We took the new Cube Ltd Race 29 out to see if this budget racer could keep up within a highly competitive and popular segment.

The Cube LTD Race 29.

First pulling this bike out of the box, we were pleasantly surprised. The LTD Race 29 looks twice its price and the colour-matched scheme of charcoal grey and green is difficult to dislike. Looking over the frame, it’s obvious that Cube has put a lot of thought into creating a short and snappy rear end; what Cube calls ‘Agile Ride Geometry’ or ‘ARG’. ARG is what Cube claims to make their 29” bikes handle closer to a 26”. Tucking the rear wheel tight to the seattube is no easy task and Cube employs the use of a direct mount front derailleur to aid in additional clearance. While clearance increases, the direct mount front derailleur is stiffer and easier to setup compared to conventional band clamp style derailleurs.

The use of a direct mount front derailleur has helped with frame design and keeping the rear-end short. Look how close that tyre is the the seattube.

Further clearance is achieved with the lack of a chainstay bridge near the bottom bracket. With a double-butted aluminum construction and mostly round tubes, the frame relieves weight out of the center of the tube while keeping the thickness at the ends where it is needed most for weld strength. Other areas of the frame aren’t as innovative and Cube makes use of a standard 1 1/8” straight head tube, threaded bottom bracket and IS type brake mounts; all features that work perfectly but are becoming a rare sight amongst the latest offerings.

It could almost be considered ‘retro’ to have a standard 1 1/8″ head tube these days.

On the trail, the LTD Race was no different to many other alloy hard tail frames and didn’t offer much compliance or comfort. On longer rides, we found our bodies more fatigued compared to higher end, smoother riding options. The upside to this is the immediate reward of power transfer with little hint of frame flex under power.

Geometry wise and thanks to ‘ARG’, the Cube features a competitively short rear end which made the bike feel more sprightly and flickable in tighter trails and on steeper climbs. At front, the head angle is a fairly slack (By 29” XC standards) 70 degrees and due to this, we experienced the front end drifting and washing out by surprise in a few turns. Lowering the handlebars would counter this handling quirk and Cube has gone to great lengths to make the head tube amazingly short, sadly this is then undone with the fitting of a 20mm tall headset top cap. This kept us from reaching our ideal bar height, although most riders will be happy with the available bar heights and shallower top caps can be bought cheaply if a lower bar height is desired. It’s worth noting that the issue of bar height is not specific to the Cube and is a common trait of many 29ers and there are now many aftermarket offerings in handlebars and stems to help achieve a lower bar height.

A short head tube will enable you to make bar height adjustments. You will just have to purchase a new headset top cap to replace the big 20mm one the bike comes with.

The LTD Race 29 features a few componentry surprises for the price and the 100mm RockShox Reba RL air fork with remote lockout is one of them. This fork was a pleasure to setup and will please newcomers with just air preload and rebound to adjust before hitting the trail. Even with the lack of a thru-axle and tapered head tube, the short travel Reba handled technical terrain with confidence and the lack of easily detectable flex is much in part due to the stiff and solid wheelset.

The RockShox Reba SL is an excellent fork for such a well priced bike.

The wheelset uses Shimano XT hubs that were a true delight for the price point. Using quality double-butted spokes with good even tension to the Alex 24 rims, these wheels were a fantastic mix of stiffness and durability, however they won’t be winning any weight weenie awards.

Wrapped around the rims were the brand new Schwalbe Rapid Rob tyres in a cool matching grey charcoal. Sharing the pattern of the much loved previous generation Racing Ralph, these feature close packed knobs for fast rolling and more than adequate traction on all but the loosest dry and soggy terrains. With a roomy 2.25″ width, the Rapid Rob’s certainly helped take the harsh sting away from the rock solid frame.

Schwable Rapid Rob, in grey.

A combination of a Shimano XT and SLX drivetrain offered dependable shift performance and didn’t miss a beat all test, and while the cheaper non-series level crankset worked a treat, it adds weight to the overall package. The Magura MT2 brakes didn’t offer a firm lever feel that many newer riders prefer, however they proved to be reliable stoppers with easily controlled bite. These brakes lack the all out power of higher end brakes, though the larger rotor on the front made up for this shortcoming.

The Magura MT2’s did the job but you have to remember this bike is at the bottom end of the market and they’re not going to be the best avaliable.

The wide 720mm handlebar had a comfortable bend and rock solid feel, however many riders upgrading from older bikes or coming across from the road will want to trim the width of these bars down to a more manageable 660-680mm width. Cube’s own grip was overly firm and didn’t help with fatigue, this is the first upgrade we’d suggest and luckily it’s a cheap one.

Bar width is a very personal thing and with 720mm as a standard with there is plenty of room to play with for adjusting.

There are many great offerings for sub 2 grand 29er hardtails and the Cube LTD Race 29 can be added to that list. Cube has managed a smart balance of a quality frame and components where it really matters while still not skimping in other areas. Even without the latest tapered steerer tube, thru-axles and weight saving frame features, the Cube’s great fork and durable build will serve for many years to come.