CUBE Bikes Stereo 140 HPC SL 2018 Mountain Bike Review

CUBE Bikes Stereo 140 HPC SL 2018

Reviews / Trail Bikes

CUBE Bikes 358,038

At a Glance

When Cube rolled out their 2018 range last year it featured a mix of both old favourites and revamped models. The Stereo range didn't get a huge overhaul other than some tidy batteries on the electric range, and in the standard bikes, the 120 and 160 remained unchanged. It was the 140 that had seen the full makeover and was turning heads partly because of the new frame, but also from the lack of a 29er model!

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The 140 for this year gets a new frame and a different style, and for the moment only in 650b wheels. More angular and purposeful, the new model has a carbon front and an aluminium rear. The front, being carbon, allows for some sharp-edged profiles and a beautiful continuous line down from top tube to seat stay. Classic design, well executed.

Interestingly Cube sought to rid the frame of what they call, 'ungainly rockers' and 'unsightly pivots', hiding these in the frame and adding to the sleek look. Beyond the aesthetic, they have aimed to improve the performance too with a shorter rocker and improved suspension. Carbon has allowed a huge downtube and massive bottom bracket area to provide stiffness. The frame is, of course, Boost and they managed to shorten chainstays to a minimal 425mm!

Whilst on the numbers, Cube have decided to lengthen the 140 to bring it towards more modern reach numbers. Now, this is Cube, so don't expect massive reach numbers but the 20-inch size has gone up in reach from 444mm to 458mm. Better still for the tall the 22 inch now grows to a 478mm reach. Head angle clocks in at 66.5 and the seat tube at a nice and steep 75.2 degree. Together these numbers add up to a modern and capable trail bike.

Those eagle-eyed readers will have noticed a front mech on this model, and two of the three models have these. This is the HPC SL model and sits in the middle at a shade under £3000, with a model sat £500 below (HPC Race) and £500 above (HPC TM).

This build gets a full Fox treatment with a Float DPS Evol and a set of 34s up front. Shimano does the duties for the most part with XT doing nearly all the jobs. Wheels are Fulcrum and are good and wide in their profile shod with new Nobby Nics in the fast but exciting Speed Grip compound. Cube finish off a few parts with a dropper (150mm) and grips but you do get Raceface bar and stem which is a classy touch.

On The Trail

It's a neat package. Lightweight, smooth lines and great kit all for a competitive price. Cube can certainly put together a brilliant bike even if I do take issue with a couple of points, such as front mechs and tyre choice, but these are mostly just personal preference.

The idea of a trail bike has been perhaps pushed to the point that some feel it's just a short travel enduro bike, especially in the UK. For Cube a trail bike has to be light, fast and appeal to a very broad market which is what the 140 is all about. It needs to balance efficiency with stability and really reward power on the pedals and give a lively ride without needing to approach warp speed.

The top model (HPC TM) shows that the chassis could be more enduro focused. It comes with a one-by drivetrain, Fox 36s and a very much more aggressive build, suggesting how capable the frame could be, but this build here is a definite trail bike build.

So, I may have issues with front mechs, but each to their own and once you get pedalling you can easily forget. What you can't forget is that the dropper lever is compromised by the shifter and the ergonomics get a bit lost. The only other niggle are the rims which still need a rim strip to set up tubeless, this would be something to ask your bike shop to sort out for you before you roll away.

On the trails though is where this bike comes alive. First up is an impressive turn of speed from the pedals, and with that stiff frame, power transfer is excellent. Stamping on the pedals gives fantastic torque and instantly makes you feel fitter. This is key to making a great trail bike and Cube have got it spot on here. Like an excitable dog let off the lead... it's gone.

Playing about on the Stereo and throwing your weight around, I quickly found out how short the back end is. Just think about manuals or merely glance at the sky and you'll be on the back wheel. This backend is tight, and as such makes it exceptionally playful and manoeuvrable. Coming from big long enduro bikes, it's refreshing to feel the agility available in a compact bike.

High cadence, high-speed singletrack passes in a blur with the pace of the Stereo, but as things get a bit wild the tyres remind you that they are not the grippiest. Fast rolling they certainly are, but the grip is a secondary factor. That nippy, playful style also gets a bit wild when the going is steep and balancing weight between the wheels is more of a challenge than a big enduro bike. The benefits, however, are the speed and efficiency, allowing for a more engaging ride on moderate terrain.

Carving up turns on the twisty trails is a joy, with the suspension sitting happily in the mid-stroke without blowing through the travel. This allows the bike to lower through a turn then be ready to hammer the pedals on a firm platform as you exit. It really does encourage you to empty your energy reserves into the drivetrain.

It's great to get on a bike and be reminded what a genre is really about. Trail bikes can get a bit lost against the Enduro and All Mountain machines. To be fair to the Stereo, with 140mm travel and a 150mm fork this could easily do damage at a local enduro in the right hands. However, the DNA of this bike is firmly in the 'pedal fast everywhere' category and thus will reward most where pedalling and efficiency is king.

It was no great surprise that the front mech didn't win me over, and I soon rejigged the cockpit to prioritise access to the dropper lever over shifting. Also, the tyres did ok, but Speed Grip is not a tyre compound for UK conditions no matter how fast they can roll.

Cubes dropper post is great and in 150mm drop is perfect for the bigger sizes. Fox 34s have proven themselves once more to be a great contender to the Revelations and Pikes, but larger riders may see the benefit of a stiffer fork, which is available on the HPC TM model.

As a new Chassis, The Stereo 140 is a rapid piece of kit that looks exceptional. With three models this middle ground model is good, but I would perhaps push for the next one up if possible as the spec there is really fantastic!

Overall

The Spirit of the trail bike is alive and well in the Stereo 140. Hot on the pedals and designed to make you feel fit and smoke your mates both up and down the hill. The limits of the Stereo can only be found in the super steep and rough trails, but you'll still come out smiling and be fresh enough for another round.

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This review was in Issue 53 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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