CUBE Bikes Stereo 150 TM 29 2018 Mountain Bike Review

CUBE Bikes Stereo 150 TM 29 2018

Reviews / Enduro Bikes

CUBE Bikes 359,254

At A Glance

The story behind the new Stereo has already been told when I wrote up the first ride a few months back. In short, Cube's enduro team had access to a long travel 650b bike but chose to ride the shorter travel 29er (stereo 140) and Greg Callaghan ended up winning the Irish round of the EWS on board the big wheels. This obviously got Cube going with a long travel 29er and the Stereo 150 is the result.

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Currently available in 3 models, the Race, SL and TM which we have here. They are based on the same frame, but the TM model gets the C:68 Carbon rather than the C:62. The 68 carbon has some pretty fancy engineering behind it that allows for a 68% carbon content and nanoparticles (sounds pretty Sci-Fi) which increase stiffness whilst keeping weight down. Simply put, the higher-grade frame is both stiffer and lighter.

The frame sees Cube break their mould in terms of geometry and stretch things out a bit. The sizing remains the same, using inches and keeping seat tubes quite tall, but the reach has been extended, getting to 477mm on the 22-inch bike. Head angle is 66 degrees, chainstays are short at 435 and a 35mm bottom bracket drop keeps it low and stable. Seat angle is steep at 75.5 degrees, which is great to see brands moving forward with this angle.

The build on the TM is pretty hard to fault. The Fox Factory suspension and dropper give a clear message that this is a top end bike. A one by drivetrain proves that this is a race bike, though you can run a front mech if you like (Greg Callaghan still does). Tyres again suggest an aggressive approach to riding with Schwalbe Super Gravity tyres front and rear in the form of a Magic Mary and the new Hans Dampf. Newmen are on wheel duty, which may be a new name to some, but have been producing high-quality components for some time now and it's good to see their kit on the Cube.

As a package, it presents itself as a race ready machine that looks able to deliver on the descents but retains efficiency in its light and stiff frame.

On The Trail

My first ride on the Stereo was back in Finale where I was happy to jump on board and commence plummeting without too much thought. This is always a good sign, as the trails in Italy are tough and for a bike to deliver confidence straight away is an impressive feat.

Back at home, it's always more of a fair test on trails you know well and can gain some comparisons. Having been uplifting in Finale, back on my local trails its pedals only, and the Stereo didn't disappoint. The stiff frame gives excellent power transfer and it climbs much better than many of the enduro rigs that are hauled around the hills. It feels light and tight, responding much more like a trail bike despite the big tyres.

I did feel a little cramped up front, this is in part to the steep seat angle, which is great, but it's not roomy. It does, however, give a good forward climbing position and the reach is still a great improvement on previous Stereo sizing.

Technical ascents allowed the Stereo to show some skills, and offer a creative and rewarding approach to climbing. The low weight makes for easy wheel lifts and challenging lines can be attacked rather than slowly winched over. This was true on slower speed technical singletrack or boulder fields, where little hops felt easy and the compact size making trials-like manoeuvres possible.

On steeper terrain, I did suspect that the more conservative length on the bike may lead to a less confident approach, but it did prove me wrong. I rode all my favourite steep trails with fewer foot dabs than usual, and with plenty of speed. Steep and rocky trails did catch me out however as I just needed to get too far back to keep rolling and this just felt a bit unbalanced. Again, a more measured and tactical approach was required rather than just charging!

Suspension performance is hard to fault, with the latest Fox Factory kit offering more adjustments than ever. I was lucky enough to get it dialled in by Fox in Italy and kept the settings for further testing which has continued to prove that the latest versions are incredible. The Stereo has a far more progressive fell than previous models and with the X2 set up well, it allows the Stereo to both have plenty of depth (150mm) but still have a playful style which fits with its lightweight and manoeuvrable feel.

The Stereo 150 is definitely an enduro bike, but rather than a down-tuned downhill bike, it's more of an enhanced trail bike in its personality. It's not yet another steamroller of a bike, it's accurate, precise and flexible. The geometry means the bike lends itself to skilled riders who can look for lines through rough terrain rather than hold on and hope, a bike for jumping rock gardens rather than ploughing through them. Sure, it can smash rocks with the travel it has, but the geometry means it doesn't excel in that way, especially if you are at the upper end of the size range for the bike.

The Stereo is one of those rare bikes that is truly versatile. All day rides can be handled as it's a lively ride uphill, and technical terrain is taken in its stride. Mixed, technical terrain suits the Stereo best, with long complex climbing and descents which mix the need for both carrying speed and threading gnarly lines.

When you consider the price, things get even more exciting, with the TM coming in at a shade under £4k. That may be a lot of money, but you'll struggle to find a better-specced bike and frame for that money anywhere.

I would like a slightly longer reach, and I would like a couple of inches off the seat tube to allow more riders to size on reach rather than seat tube length. However, the whole package makes a lot of sense as a sprightly and agile ride, which makes it very engaging and fun.

Components have all held up well, The Newmen wheels have remained stiff, true and trouble free, but do have a wildly aggressive sounding freehub, which can be distracting. SRAMs Code brakes are still some of the most powerful out there and fit well with the capabilities of the bike. Tyre choice was excellent, and the new Hans Dampf gives more edge and seems more durable than previous versions.

Overall

Stereo 150 is an exceptional bike with a brilliant balance between climbing and descending. It's not at the forefront of progressive geometry but still manages to take on the hardest, steepest trails in style. In my opinion, this is probably the best bike Cube have ever made and really puts them front and centre in the enduro bike market.

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This review was in Issue 55 of IMB.

For more information visit CUBE Bikes

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By Ewen Turner
Ewen Turner is a self-confessed bike geek from Kendal in the Lake District of England. He runs a coaching and guiding business up there and has a plethora of knowledge about bikes with an analytical approach to testing. His passion for bicycles is infectious, and he’s a ripper on the trails who prefers to fit his working life around his time on the bike.

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