If you are living on the left-hand side of the Atlantic, there is a good chance that Cube are the biggest bike company you have never heard of. Like most German brands, their roots lie in offering value and features to a market who are far more interested in this than having the 'right' name on their headtube. Yet while many of the other German brands fighting for these consumers have gone down the direct sales route, Cube have eschewed this and built their business around the traditional dealer-based model. While their model may be traditional, that doesn't mean their approach is and they manage to keep their prices within a few percent of their direct sales competitors. They have never been big fans of marketing either, their marketing department is tiny compared to their size, as owner, Marcus Puerner, has built their company on the ethos that their best advertisements are the bikes themselves.
These days they aren't just competing with the established, American brands on price either, their bikes perform at the highest levels - as Nico Lau and Greg Callaghan proved, riding their Stereo full suspension platform to victories at the Enduro World Series. This mix of performance and value has made them the biggest bike manufacturer in Europe today - selling half a million bikes a year, without selling a single bike in the largest market in the world, the US. We took a look inside their headquarters in Waldershof, Germany to get a feel for the scale of this quiet giant.
The top floor of the building is where you will find Cube's development, product, sales and marketing departments - for a company like Cube, it's a very small setup indeed - the emphasis for Cube is firmly on the making of the bikes, and the business around them is kept as simple as possible.
Downstairs, on the first floor is Cube's testing lab - it is here they exhaustively test not just their frames, but the components they build their bikes with and the various combinations of frames and components they use together. This means that when they sell a bike they know precisely how every element of the bike should perform and can be confident their buyer is getting a reliable bike.
While this may look like the bastard offspring of a mountain bike and a torture chamber, it is Cube's geometry mule. They can change every element of the bike's geometry to dial in every measurement to the millimeter in the ever elusive hunt for the perfect riding position.This is only used for fully rigid bikes though, because full suspension bikes have constantly changing geometry, so the only way to figure them out is to get people out and riding them.
On the same floor as the testing lab is the prototype and development area - here they have the equipment to produce small prototype parts, like linkages or dropouts, plus they do a lot of 3D printing to test the form and fit of parts before they request the larger prototypes from their manufacturer.
Because Cube build their own wheels, aside from the factory wheelsets they use, their wheel process is so involved it is split into several smaller teams - together they put out 1600 wheels per day. The first team mount the spokes onto the hubs ready for assembly, a second team then laces the spokes and hub to a rim before it is run through the machine wheel builder. Finally tyres, cassettes and discs are mounted on the wheels and they are ready to be sent to the main assembly line.
From the initial prep of the frame, the bikes follow a number of steps on their way to being ready for shipping. The marked difference between Cube and the direct sales brands is the level of detail on the final steps - working with dealers mean that those final steps are done by the dealers, rather than Cube. That is always one of the strong arguments for buying from a local bike shop - that your bike will be checked by someone you know and it can be set to your personal preferences ready for you, rather than a factory default.