Those following the Enduro World Series will be most familiar with the Cube brand. The Cube Stereo 140 HPA Pro 27.5 is a direct descendant of its EWS team bikes, but designed with a little less suspension travel to add some pop to its handling, and then outfitted with components to make it a stand-out performance value. The German bike maker was among the first to field a pro team for the EWS, headlined by French phenom, Nico lau, and it is no secret that the popularity of enduro assures that an outstanding performance on the EWS circuit is the fastest method to put a trailbike on the radar. Which, is exactly why Pinkbike got our hands on a Stereo 140 Pro for our Sedona, Arizona, testing sessions. Meet the Stereo 140 HPA Pro 27.5
• Purpose: Trail/all-mountain
• Frame: Welded aluminum, triple butted, hydroformed tubes, four-bar rear suspension, 140mm travel, ISCG mounts, 27.5” wheels.
• Fork: RockShox Pike RC Solo Air, 150mm
• Shock: Fox Float CTD
• Crankset: Race Face Turbine 38x24T, 175mm
• Bottom Bracket: PressFit
• Drivetrain: SRAM X9/X0 two-by-ten
• Cassette: SRAM 11-36, Ten-speed
• Wheels: Sun Ringlé Radium EM 27.5
• Tires: Schwalbe Hans Dampf 2.35” TrailStar (F), Rock Razor Kevlar 2.35” PaceStar (R)
• Brakes: SRAM Guide R, 180mm rotors
• Seatpost: RockShox Reverb Stealth,125mm
• Sizes: Small, Medium, Large, X-large (16, 18, 20, 22”)
• Weight: 13.9 kg, (claimed), actual: 13.54kg /29.8 pounds
• MSRP: Europe - 2599 €, UK - 2199₤, Canada - TBD
• Contact Cube
Cube’s Stereo is actually a wide selection of dual-suspension trailbikes (27 models, to be exact)
, that includes both 29 and 27.5-inch-wheel models. The 140 HPA Pro 27.5 is the top offering in the range that uses an aluminum chassis. The bike looks good, and it ticks almost all the must-have boxes for the sport’s more talented bike handlers.
The Stereo 140 Pro is framed around a true, four-bar, 140-millimeter-travel suspension and its geometry is up to date. Stand-out components are a 150mm-stroke RockShox Pike Solo Air fork and a 125mm-stroke Reverb Stealth dropper seatpost, a SRAM X0/X9 drivetrain components and Guide R brakes, a Race Face Turbine crankset, along with a 740-millimeter Chester handlebar and a 55-millimeter Evolve stem. Wheels are Sun Ringle Radium, shod with Schwalbe’s fast rolling Rock Razor in the rear and a Hans Dampf up front. Assembled, the medium-sized test bike weighed a few ounces less
than its claimed, 30.58 pounds (13.9kg), at 29.97 and its MSRP is 2599 € in Europe and 2199₤ in the UK. (Cube recently entered the Canadian market, but due in part to a dispute with Nissan over its name in the USA - which, reportedly, they are very close to resolving - Cube bicycles are are not yet available here.
)(Clockwise) Cube's Horst-Link type rear dropout, and Syntace X-12 thru-axle. The brake caliper mount is dedicated to 180mm rotors. There was some lateral misalignment in the seatstays, but the wheel was in line with the chassis. Simple and effective, loop clamps for downtube hose guides. Stealth hose routing and a look at the left-offset swingarm pivot, which clears the base of the crankarm by a scant, five millimeters. Construction
Contrasting sharply with the present crop of swoopy-tube frames, Cube’s Stereo’s chassis is pieced together with straight pipes – each manipulated in profile and internally butted with a myriad of wall thicknesses. While the look may be refreshing at the present moment, its vertical shock position and seat-tube rocker are the tried and true stuff of classic bikes like the Turner Burner and Trek’s Fuel – which is a good thing, because it is a proven design that also makes room on the downtube for a full-sized water bottle or the battery of your lighting system.
Give the Stereo a walk-around and it becomes apparent that its designers have been around the block. The rear axle is a Syntace X12 model, with a locking taper on the non-drive side to bolster the swingarm’s torsional stiffness and to the same end, the forward swingarm pivot is offset well to the left to maximize the stance between the bearing supports there. The bottom bracket shell has chainguide tabs and, elsewhere on the chassis, the shift cables are routed internally, while the hoses for the RockShox Stealth dropper post and SRAM Guide rear brake run on the outside of the Stereo’s downtube, where they are cleanly secured by loop-style clamps.
The rear suspension rides on sealed ball bearings and is a faithful rendition of the four-bar Horst-Link, with sturdy clevis-type dropout pivots and a forged post-mount rear caliper boss dedicated to 180-millimeter rotors. A forged-aluminum rocker drives a “custom tuned” Fox Float CTD shock, with a non-disclosed leverage rate that produces (with the shock opened up) a good firm feel at the pedals and a well-supported, albeit on-the-harsh-side ride through the mid-stroke of the suspension. The Stereo’s 140-millimeters of rear-wheel travel is countered by a slightly longer, 150-millimeter-stroke RockShox Pike Solo Air fork – a combination which has been praised in earlier PB reviews.
Cube did not stray far from the present geometry trends, but the Stereo 140’s numbers suggest that it was intended to be a brighter handling trailbike than some of the most recent “enduro bro” designs that ride like warmed over DH machines. The top tube length is a good compromise for both climbing and descending and with a quick-steering, 67.5-degree head angle and a sharp-accelerating, 74.5-degree seat angle, the Stereo may give up a little performance down the pointy bits, but it also suggests that its rider will arrive at the trail’s more technical sections fresher – which may offer a better chance of survival than showing up to battle, exhausted and armed with a blunt instrument
|The different position of the chainrings, dependent on the virtual pivot point (that every 4-link rear end has), can be used for kinematics design. On a small chainring, the chassis can be kept stable by the chain tension when you climb. On the other hand, you get less influence or pedal kickback on the big ring while pedaling fast on a trail or descending.|
- Product manager Frank Greifzu on two-by drivetrains
|By design, perhaps by accident, the Stereo's geometry made it easy to relax over the bike while it bounced and chattered over the irregular stones and slickrock that characterize the Sedona landscape.|
Because the Cube Stereo 140 looks so much like the basic Euro-trailbike, it was easy to assume that its handling would be similar as well. A bundle of slightly better-than-average handling and pedaling traits – a bike that clicks all the boxes, but doesn’t muster a stand-out performance in any one category. I am happy to report, however, that Cube’s 140-millimeter trailbike defied those assumptions.
I took the blue machine out for a short shakedown ride on sore legs, expecting to be back in an hour with a shopping list of tweaks and tunes. Instead, I rolled in three hours later, racing the last light of the evening. By design, perhaps by accident, the Stereo's geometry made it easy to relax over the bike while it bounced and chattered over the irregular stones and slickrock that characterize the Sedona landscape. It requires a relatively light touch on the grips to keep it on line, and when it does get bounced off course, it is able to find its own way back nine out of ten times.
“Easygoing” is a fitting descriptor for the Stereo’s performance under power. Its steep seat tube angle made for quick transitions in and out of the saddle, which helped eat up the faster, rolling sections of the landscape, and as such, it required a minimal effort to maintain pace. The bike maintained its momentum so well that I had to look down a few times to see if I was in fact, on 27.5-inch wheels and not riding a 29er.
Similarly, the balance and responsive steering that makes the Cube a joy on rough, fast-paced trails also plays well in the cornering department. Smooth or rough, the Stereo tracks a predictable line, with breakaway thresholds about the same on either wheel when traction is exceeded. The bike’s low bottom bracket may be a help here, as there is rarely need to drop a foot unless you need to force a slide. I felt like I could leave the bike to figure out the corners while I concentrated on the trail ahead. At the end of the session, both riders who reviewed the Cube gave it high marks for its easy and intuitive feel in the bends.
Although the Schwalbe Hans Dampf tire is shunned by many hard core riders as too wimpy for high pressure turning, it worked well here in combination with the edgy Rock Razor rear tire, and while its two-compound edging blocks were separating at the bases after only three days on the trail, so were the edging blocks of the Maxxis High Rollers – a tire with a reputation for toughness. Perhaps Schwalbe is finally bolstering the Hans Dampf tread – or maybe we got lucky.
Climbing was an uneventful process. The Stereo’s two-by drivetrain offered up one lower climbing gear than the more popular one-by equipped steeds which dominated our stable during the Sedona test sessions. That, and an active rear suspension kept the Cube digging for traction without over stressing the quadriceps on the steeps. But, the Stereo lacks some of the lively feel that characterizes the better climbing bikes. Assisted by the bike’s calm handling and good balance, however, we could get the job done without requiring fancy antics while attempting to climb the area’s more challenging steeps.
Suspension was best left on the firmer side of comfortable to squeeze out the most performance from the Cube’s four-bar rear suspension. Pressurized at the firmer side of 25-percent sag kept the shock from using up all its stroke over the red rock’s many square-edged impacts, and also helped to maintain a stable ride height while climbing. The firm shock setup balanced well with the RockShox fork which, while offering a supple ride in the initial travel, ramps up quickly in the mid stroke to provide the support which it has become famous for.
Dropping the pressure to arrive at the more typical 30-percent negative travel number that we preferred for red rock trails provided a much smoother ride, and it set the Stereo up beautifully for descending technical steeps, but it came at the expense of eroding the bike’s neutral feel under power and at speed. Also, with over 15 millimeters of bottom bracket drop, the Cube Stereo 140’s cranks were low enough to clip a lot of terra firma, so the last thing we needed was to effectively lower the bike’s ride height to exaggerate an already awkward trait. Firmer was better.
Wrapping up this trail review with the Cube’s technical and descending performance, there is more good news to report. We expected the 67.5-degree head angle and steep seat angle to work against efforts to ease the bike down the harder lines tucked into the Sedona archipelago, but assisted by smooth-modulating Guide brakes its 125mm dropper post and a low bottom bracket, the Stereo felt remarkably stable dropping down near vertical lines and some wicked stair-steps. It would be a stretch to claim that the Stereo was on par with the likes of monsters like the Yeti SB6c, but it could be trusted to drop the same lines without cause to fear. At speed the Stereo gives up a measure of stability in exchange for its nimble trail manners. While the Cube could be trusted to rip, the rider must make take up some of the slack for its steeper geometry and reduced wheel travel.
Some riders would happily put up with dragging or smacking pedals on outcropping rocks and roots in exchange for the cornering stability and straight-line braking performance that it affords, but I am not among them. The negative bottom bracket drop that 27.5-inch wheels naturally provide precludes the need for the excessively low bottom bracket height that 26-inch wheel bikes need to achieve the same goals. The Cube’s BB is too low for flow.
Another questionable design aspect is that the short seat tube of the medium sized frame was not matched with a longer seatpost to compensate for riders who may have inseams in excess of 32 inches. I had the 125mm-stroke Reverb dropper at the limit line and I am a bit shorter than most who ride medium frames. A taller seat tube would solve the issue and may be a lighter weight option than spec’ing a longer dropper post. Either way, keep this in mind if considering a Stereo 140 purchase.
X0/X9 Two-By drivetrain: Good - I’ll grudgingly admit that the Cube’s wide-ranged and closely spaced gear selection was a useful tool for the variety of situations I faced in Sedona. That said, I would have gladly traded it all for fewer gearing options, just to have the dropper button solo on the left side of the bar. We asked Cube why they chose a two-by for the Stereo 140 in light of the prevailing one-by trend for longer-travel trailbikes. Product manager Frank Greifzu tells us:
The different position of the chainrings, dependent on the virtual pivot point (that every 4-link rear end has), can be used for kinematics design. On a small chainring, the chassis can be kept stable by the chain tension when you climb. On the other hand, you get less influence or pedal kickback on the big ring while pedaling fast on a trail, or descending.
Guide R Brakes: We were split on which were the best brakes for technical desert riding, with half the test pilots swearing by the raw power of Shimano XR and XTR. My vote was for SRAM’s Guide brakes due to their superior feedback and modulation – especially considering how easy it was to lock up the Schwalbe Rock Razor when descending off-angle rock faces.
XO transmission: Better rear shifting than the XXI and XI drivetrains we had in the fleet, but up front, it was a different story. Both test riders tossed the chain on occasion, and the front mech, with its multifunction cable options, looks like it is styled after a grain elevator.
Loop-clamp cable guides: Not huge, but a simple and elegant routing method compared to a bunch of CNC-machined weld-on fittings and zip ties.
|Cube's Stereo 140 HPA Pro addresses the need for a more capable trailbike - one that can be trusted to get a rider with good skills down truly technical trails, without sacrificing the brighter handling and pedaling aspects of the genre that are best suited for the type of trails that we spend the most time upon. Riding the more nimble Cube around Sedona made the prospect of hauling our butts around the mountain on long-travel, super-slack enduro racing bikes just to get the maximum enjoyment from the 120 seconds we spent dropping down super-techy sections seem comical. The Stereo 140 Pro is a bike that makes almost every twist and turn of the trail a joyful challenge. The Stereo 140 proved to be an enjoyable and capable AM/trailbike - one that offers both the performance and the price tag that will make a lot of riders happy. - RC|
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