I figured I’d add a few details about recently buying a new bike, the considerations, difficulties, etc. See if it could help anyone else there considering something similar - this is a litte long...
So I was riding a 2008 Spicy 316 that I bought second hand off a friend of a friend. It had a Rockshox Lyrik on the front, Vivid Coil on the rear, SRAM XO redwin shifters and rear derailleur, Avid Elixir (CRs I think) brakes, Truvativ stem, carbon handle bars, Stylo crank set, Joplin 4 dropper seat post. It was properly kitted out, but maybe 2 – 3 years out of date even though the gear was pretty high spec when brand new and mostly still worked well with a little TLC now and again (the SRAM shifters and derailleur and the brakes were epic). Hope Pro 2 Evo hubs, Mavic 521 rear, Mavic 721 front. Maxxis Minion 2.5 dual ply downhill tyres. It weighed in at about 36 pounds.
It was my first proper full sus and made for what I wanted to do, mainly cross country / downhill riding. Basically, if there was a choice between red and black I’d be hitting black every time. I took this bike to Fort William, it destroyed the red downhill course (in a very satisfying way might I add!) but definitely reached its limit on the world cup downhill. Took it to Verbier last year with Bike Verbier (which were excellent and I’d thoroughly recommend to everyone out there interested in riding in the alps) and it was again an epic ride but could have done with a few tweaks to the suspension. Then I rode a couple of enduro events at Innerleithen with the Alpine racing series. This is what promoted me to think about getting a new bike, mainly the massive effort I was putting in to pedalling it and not getting the pay off – I began to realise how inefficient it was to ride really. Cracked some ribs falling off it on the Antur Stiniog double black and I also went to Coed-y-Brenin and completed The Beast there and I couldn’t believe the effort I was putting in compared to some of my mates on certain sections.
So I started looking for a new All Mountain / Enduro machine and this is what I found.
I did shed loads of internet research, most of which was contradictory in some shape or form or was unhelpful. Some of which was great though. I had a budget of no more than £3K in mind that would have to go on finance so ordering something like a YT Industries Wicked or something similar was a no go as I was led to believe that it would require whole payment as there was no middle man who I could get finance through. I also wanted to sit and pedal on the thing.
I saw a demo day organised by Wheelbase up in Kendal but by the time I’d realised it was running the Intense Tracer 275 that I was interested in was fully booked out. Through the wisdom of youtube and other online sources, I decided on wanting to try a Norco Range Killer B2 and a Trek Slash 7. So headed off to the local Evans and had a look, except there were none to look at as you had to order them all in (a common theme with Evans with this level of bike it seemed).
So headed up to Stif Cycles near Harrogate and spoke to the guy there for about an hour and a half who was really helpful (even made me a cup of tea), had a pedal around on a Slash 7 (large, too big), a properly kitted out Orange Alpine 160 (18in, top tube seemed too long for me) and after a few more discussions the shop guy’s Santa Cruz carbon Nomad (which he’d just beaten me on the previous weekend at one of the Innerleithen Alpine racing events!). The Nomad was, as you’d probably expect, pretty special and everyone who worked there seemed to own one as they were the ‘best bike I’d ever ridden’. The problem was this was completely out of my price range, even the aluminium version was too expensive for me.
The one thing I did come away with was that if I could get the bike through Stif Cycles then I would because they were competitive, knowledgeable and very helpful. I did ask if they could get a demo on a medium Trek Slash 7 but after checking they advised it would be too difficult. I tried Trek’s website which was helpfully completely out of date, so that was a no go.
During all of this, Dalby Bike Barn held an excellent Scott demo day which was running the Scott Genius which was also a 650b. So I headed up there and had a blast around the 20min demo route on the low spec Genius and it was an absolute trail weapon. I hit sections on the demo track at speeds I wasn’t even aware you get up to having only ever ridden my Spicy there. The Twinlock system was awesome and the rolling ability of the bike was incredible. So suddenly the Genius was also a potential as well as being suitably impressed with 650b tyres.
The only question mark I had was whether a properly sorted modern 26in wheeled bike would also compare to the Genius on the same demo route.
In the end I figured 650b was for me and decided to try and get hold of a Norco Range Killer B2 which was 160mm travel compared to the Genius’s 150mm and the Norco was constantly reviewed as an All Mountain bike capable on the descents as well as the climbs where as everyone seemed to think of the Genius as a fast cross country machine but that was a little out of its depth on the descents. But it turned out that Evans had stopped stocking the 2013 model (or at least that was the explanation I got) the helpful shop person said they were basically at the mercy of the buyers and the website, that getting a special order or any sort of assistance from the buyers was a no go which was frustrating – even a quick message to Norco came back with a generic response about Evans being the only supplier.
During all of this (and working all the hours under the sun – and moon in some instances! - somewhat delaying bike buying progress), Dalby Bike Barn had a Santa Cruz demo day with the possibility of a Bronson and a carbon Nomad. So off I went and it turns out only a Bronson frame made it to the trail centre (it wasn’t very fast!), but I had a go on the demo Nomad for 20min and it was as quick as the Genius although unsurprisingly a little more burly – it wasn’t as responsive in the climbs but the suspension was a little slack and not set up for me really. I also hired out a Genius from Dalby for 3 hours and whilst it was fast it did struggle on the really steep technical stuff they have there (which is limited).
Either way, I ordered a Trek Slash 7 in to Evans to try (I spoke with Stif again about a demo on a Trek and this time they were able to get one but it was going to take about 3 weeks and I was basically getting impatient by now). I figured that if the Slash felt right and pedalled well then it was basically as good as it gets for that type of bike and price – plus it was bright green! So I had a pedal around on one in the car park and to Evan’s credit, they just said go out on it for as long as you like.
But it just didn’t pedal as fast as I was expecting it to and with a niggling doubt in the back of my mind I had to reluctantly give it back. I guess if I’d ridden one on a trail it may have changed my mind, but I had one more bike I wanted to try and so asked them to hold on to it for a couple of days. I even tried a Norco Sight Killer B1 but this wasn’t as burly as I’d liked and was also out of my price range. By this time I figured I was splitting hairs about this and that, so it was basically going to be a toss-up between the Slash and a Cube Stereo Super HPC 160 Race.
Got up early on the Saturday and headed over to Tweak Cycles in Wrexham which were about the only shop within 3hrs of me that had a medium cube in. I went out for a ride on it and it just felt right from the off. Suitably burly with 160mm of travel but quick to pedal around the car park. I knew straight away that it was going to be the right one for me. I’d read about it but there was very little on the net, etc. and the lack of ISCG mounts and a 3 x 10 set up seemed very un All Mountain which is the market that this bike is squarely (‘scuse the pun) aimed at.
Anyways, so I bought it because logically it felt right, had the 650b tyres which I’d been really impressed with on the Genius, was light as it’s all carbon fibre and because it pedalled so well and efficiently in the car park. Fitted a bash guard, a dropper seat post, shortened the stem (which I’ve had to do on all bikes I’ve owned so this was a surprise for me) and I’m in the process of changing the middle (now larger) ring as the gearing is slightly off having lost the larger chain ring. It isn’t bright green though and I guess aesthetically, I’ve always liked the look of the Spicy / Santa Cruz VPP type suspension with the rear shock mounted on one of the front tubes as opposed to being positioned vertically adjacent to the seat tube – but that’s just opinion and has no substance to how the bikes perform. It’s definitely been bought by the mind, not the heart, but I am warming to it as it’s just so damn capable (plus it was bloody expensive!).
So I took it around Dalby and it was fast, as fast as the Genius and as capable as the Nomad. Then I went up to Kirroughtree and blasted around the black route there last Friday but wasn’t feeling too well so although the bike performed well I found the last 10 – 15% of the red route a complete f*^king monotonous bore, real disappointment really at the end which is a shame as the rest of it was fun. So headed to Whinlatter on Saturday, did the North loop twice and the South once. All of these were epic, really fast and flowy in places.
So how has the cube performed so far? On climbs it’s light, stiff and just ploughs up pretty much everything you’ve got the legs for to tackle. I’ve found that with the shorter stem I am wheelieing a bit on the real steep technical stuff but I put this down mainly to technique and adjusting to this – my spicy also did this but less; however, it weighted a lot more. On cross country type runs it’s fast and keeps up your momentum really well, the ‘Trail’ setting on the shocks is perfect for this and most red / black stuff you come across, you rarely have to touch the settings on the suspension. The type 2 clutch rear derailleur reduces chain slap but I am going to get a Bionicon chain guide to reduce this further – I’ve not lost the chain yet even on really rocky sections.
I’ve not hit much in the way of technical black stuff similar to the Innerleithen enduro courses. On harder stuff the suspension feels very plush and stable and you notice the difference when you put the suspension into the descent mode. I did struggle on McMoab at Kirroughtree but then the wind was howling across the top of the granite and I was just struggling in general, I didn’t find the bike difficult to turn though – rather just the whole thing was difficult due to how I was feeling and the conditions. I don’t recall anything else being that hard except the rock slab ascent after a left hand corner on Judgement, tried this three times and just couldn’t get past the last couple of metres.
One thing that is different though is the ground clearance beneath the pedals. The bottom bracket feels ok and with the bash guard I’ve expected to ground it a couple of times and to my surprise, it’s rolled over without touching. But I have hit the pedals on the ground a lot, I’m not sure whether this was predominately at Kirroughtree due to the very rocky nature of the course or due to actual lower ground clearance. It could be that my spicy had shorter cranks so it’s all part of the adjustment or whether I will consider getting shorter cranks in time. I’ve still got to try it at a few other places that I’ve ridden my Spicy at to compare the two.
I’ve also had to be a bit more careful with the carbon frame. With my old bike I was pragmatic about getting scratches, etc. and wasn’t really bothered about chucking in my van or car with random stuff placed on it. Now I’m going to try and be a bit more careful with it (at least during transport, during the riding it’s no different as far as I’m concerned otherwise what would be the point in buying it), just to make sure the frame doesn’t get any abnormal loads put on it.
I guess one of the main things is how do the 650b tyres perform compared to riding a 26in bike? The wheels and tyres on my previous bike were almost at downhill levels of hardness so I think it’s inevitable that the wheels on this feel a little more light weight. The Hans Dampf tyres are performing well so far, there seems to be loads of grip and they actually inspire more confidence than my Minions did, although that could be the result of having a properly sorted bike wearing them as well. I’d read that 650b was all about trying to get the roll over ability and speed of a 29er whilst still retaining the technical agility of a 26er; that you often leaned in more on a 29er but had more tyre contact (and therefore grip) as a result.
I have found that I am leaning in more than I did on my old bike, but that could also be because I’m hitting corners at faster speeds – the result of a modern light bike against an older heavier bike and nothing to do with wheel size maybe? I’ve not struggled to get the bike around anything technical I’ve encountered so far although I’ve noticed that my line is regularly off going through corners, I’m either not carrying enough speed because the bike is gripping and I’m inadvertently riding a tighter line than anticipated or I’m over shooting on the exits sometimes, again I think because I’m carrying more speed than expected. I figure that at the moment at least, this is just some adjustment that I need to develop on my behalf.
It does roll awfully well though, I’m sure that is probably one of the biggest differences, the speed the wheels carry over rough terrain whether you’re pointing uphill, downhill or around a corner. I don’t have a particular preference for wheel size although I wasn’t interested in a 29er, the proportions just didn’t look right for me and I still wanted to maintain tight technical ability – who knows, once I’m used to this wheel size I may even go up to a 29er in like 3yrs time or something for the next bike. 650b was the limit for me and my choice of wheel size was based purely on how well they performed on the bike in the brief time I sat and rode on them.
You’ll be pleased to hear that’s about it for now. I can update in a bit if you’re not all asleep already, let you know how it’s performing after a few more rides. I just wanted to convey my experience of getting a bike like this, the difficulties and miles and hours spent travelling and surfing around and how it performs as there isn’t that much out there on the cube stereo at the moment.
A few others I’d considered – NS Bikes Soda Air, Specialised Enduro Comp, Lapierre Spicy 516, Nukeproof Mega, Scott Voltage, Cube Hanzz, Mondraker Foxy (I think), Ibis Mojo HD (too much, but brilliant in all reviews), Santa Cruz Bronson (too much), Orange Patriot (bit too burly), Transition, anything that looked good and was in the sale with massive discounts!, etc.
If you want to know anything more specific about the cube or other considerations then let me know and I’ll let my wisdom shine forth…or not as the case may be!