My first ride on the Cube was by now a familiar scenario after already riding the likes of the Commencal Supreme and Canyon Sender, whose reviews are coming up. That singletrack mind to only go fast is very much there and you can almost feel the bike’s urgency to go as you’re stood at the top of a run. Getting further into the run is where the Cube begins to have a different character to the others. You begin to feel less an active part of the ride, almost as if the bike would go the same speed without you on it. That runaway feeling needing a lot of body language to keep in check.
On longer, smoother, more open turns the Cube really is a rocket. You can not even bother with the brakes and just set up high and really lean it in, opening up the corner to give you more time for the exaggerated choreography that is needed. In precisely those turns the Cube is probably the fastest of all the bikes we tested and is certainly the most stable and unflustered. But a DH track is not just exactly those turns.
Tighter turns, or ones in quicker succession, really need some muscle to flip the bike over from side to side. Or coming in ferociously hot to a very tight turn requires the same level of muscle. Something that when doing full runs is very much noticeable. The Cube can be a really tiring bike to ride.
When the terrain undulates is where the Cube also needs some serious body language. That high progression and ratios in the suspension translate into a lot of vertical chassis movement, something that needs to be controlled with your natural suspension in your arms and legs. Don’t put the work in on the Cube and it won’t let you get away with it. It’s sometimes a weird feeling to be so active in the movements yet feel less of an active part of the ride.
With the bike’s geometry and suspension, a lot of the input from the rider is diluted before it becomes an action. And with the speed that the bike wants to do, it leaves you having some serious internal discussions about if you’re up for that much commitment. While that level can be a lot of fun, I’m not entirely sure it’s something people are going to be up for every run of every day, something that is really highlighted when going back-to-back with the other bikes and comparing the speeds and how much you need to invest in the bike.
Trying to control the big bouncy chassis of the Cube leaves you with not many tools left over to fine tune and tweak. The high ratios need a lot of damping and a big spring, which in turn needs more damping, pushing you into a corner of setup if you really want to reduce the chassis movement at speed. The traction the suspension offers is incredible, but traction is certainly not there all the time at race speeds, where chassis composure takes precedence.
The progressive nature of the suspension also lends the Cube to riding dynamically low in its travel, which combined with the low BB means that it’s often making friends with the ground. And this makes me wonder if it’s how Cube landed on an adjustable head angle. Perhaps dynamically the bike is too slackened out and they were struggling with front end grip, something that can easily happen when you let your guard down and aren’t aggressive with getting your weight a bit more forward.
That lead me to running the adjustable headset in the steep position. It made the front wheel a bit more manageable with the bike riding a bit deeper in its travel and put a bit more load on the front wheel, which again helped in those aforementioned scenarios when it got a bit choppered out. It is a quick change to do and you don't even need to take the top crown off. But after a few times of playing around with the head angle, the plastic top cap gave up and split, so I swapped it out to an aluminium one for the remainder of the test, especially with the advice from Cube that this headset needs more preload than a regular one. This didn't do anything for my thoughts that plastic isn’t the material of choice for DH headsets, with the cups being a proprietary part.
Normally I would be adding a bit more air into the fork, especially if the Fox 40 was specced on some of the other bikes with a more stable chassis. On the Cube however, a slightly softer setup on the fork actually complemented the rear and helped me keep my weight more central and more of it on the front wheel. A stiffer fork often felt like it pushed my weight too much onto the rear and only exacerbated the problems. That tendency to end up a bit in the back seat remains on the Cube and you have to consciously maintain or pre-empt keeping a good riding position.
I’ve had experience in not only riding but developing bikes in the past with high levels of progression and leverage ratios, and it was a bit of déjà vu from those experiences with the Cube. Looking at some of the other DH bikes that have been released recently, or even what the race teams are now running goes a little against the high progression idea. Just as there is a too linear a bike, there can also be too progressive a bike. And I wonder if Cube has gone too far away from the happy window where all the factors are balanced.