2015 Cube Stereo 160 Super HPC SL 27.5 (discontinued)

Vital Rating: (Very Good)
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Discontinued
2015 Cube Stereo 160 Super HPC SL 27.5
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2015 Test Sessions: Cube Stereo 160 Super HPC SL

Rating: Vital Review

Reviewed by Brandon Turman and Steve Wentz // Photos by Lear Miller

Cube's Stereo was one of the first bikes available with 27.5-inch wheels. The early adopter immediately stood out from the others by offering a full carbon frame, 160mm of travel, and aggressive angles in a visually appealing package. Previously unavailable in the USA due to a suspension patent held by Specialized, the Horst link equipped Stereo will soon be accessible to anyone with a $4,199 $4,999 US price tag that'll make you look twice. As a result, we were finally able to get our hands on a bright green Super HPC SL model for the 2015 Vital MTB Test Sessions. Does the bike live up to its bold looks? We dropped into the gnar of San Luis Obispo, California to find out.

Highlights

  • Carbon frame
  • 27.5-inch wheels
  • 160mm (6.3-inches) of rear wheel travel // 160mm (6.3-inches) front travel
  • Tapered headtube
  • 66.5-degree head angle
  • 74.6-degree seat tube angle
  • 330mm (13-inch) measured bottom bracket height
  • 441.5mm (17.4-inch) chainstays
  • Press fit bottom bracket
  • 142mm rear spacing with 12mm through axle
  • Measured complete weight (size 18", no pedals): 27-pounds, 9-ounces (12.5kg)
  • $4,199 MSRP$4,999 MSRP

Cube takes pride in their "Advanced Twin Mold" carbon construction process said to maintain close manufacturing tolerances while avoiding the use of excess material. All frames with the "Super HPC" designation use high-quality carbon fibers and resins to achieve required strength numbers and low frame weights. They avoid the use of bonded alloy pieces wherever possible, instead choosing to create bearing seats out of carbon. We appreciate the downtube guard that extends a long way up the underside of the frame, offering protection where many others don't.

The suspension design is a typical four bar Horst link layout with a carbon rocker that actuates the easy to access rear shock. It leaves plenty of space inside the front triangle for mounting a bottle or carrying a spare tube.

Cable routing is a mix of carefully considered internal and external paths. The rear brake is entirely external for easy service, and the dropper post is partially external before entering the frame at the base of the seat tube for the same reason. Both shifter cables route through the front triangle, but unlike most frames the Stereo uses cable stops at the entrance and exit points, leaving just the cable and no housing inside the frame. This lightens the build by a few grams, and more importantly ensures things are rattle-free because the cables are tensioned inside the frame. The cable tension also helps to seal the frame from debris and water.

Additional details include a direct mount front derailleur, Syntace X12 through axle system with direct mount rear derailleur, post mount disc brakes, and press fit bottom bracket. Unfortunately the frame lacks ISCG tabs, but it is still possible to install an upper chain guide using the front derailleur mount should you make a 1X drivetrain conversion. Mud clearance on the seat stay bridge is quite minimal, with a tad less than 1cm of space for build up.

Cube offers the Stereo 160 in four aluminum and three carbon models, including one with a beefier 180mm FOX 36 fork used by the Cube Action Team. Vital's Super HPC SL test bike slotted right in the middle of the carbon options.

On The Trail

Our time aboard the Stereo 160 was spent bashing rocks and cruising through manzanita trees on West Cuesta Ridge and Madonna Mountain in San Luis Obispo. The bike saw a mix of terrain including never ending rock fields, loose pumice, steep ascents, twisty singletrack, and some flow trail action. Trails included some West Cuesta Ridge action, Morning Glory, Eucs, Elevator, and Rock Garden on Madonna Mountain.

Cube's cockpit is spot on with a 50mm length stem and 760mm wide, 35mm diameter Race Face Next SL carbon bars which strike a good balance between control and maneuverability for the average size human. On the size 18" frame our 5'8" and 5'10" testers felt as though the bike gave a nice upright position while seated with a relatively steep 74.6-degree seat angle for a 160mm bike. Shock sag was initially set to the recommended 30% while seated.

The 423mm reach of the 18" frame felt plenty roomy without being too stretched out. 6-foot plus riders may run into an issue however, as even the largest 22" frame has a reach measurement of just 434mm which will likely feel cramped. Cube chose to keep the bottom bracket height the same when making the switch from 26 to 27.5-inch wheels, resulting in a measured 330mm height that is quite low. In combination with with the rear suspension characteristics the cranks contacted the ground on occasion. On the flip side, this does help the bike corner quite well in tight situations along with the 441.5mm stays and moderate 66.5-degree head angle.

Pointed downhill the Cube Stereo is perfectly capable. The ride is very quick handling with a somewhat bouncy, fun, and playful demeanor. We found that it encourages you to double all the little bonus gaps on the trail. The bike is easy to wheelie, manual, and pop over obstacles. It's not what we'd call a calm ride, but it's an engaging one that some riders may enjoy. Braking is quiet and controlled and the rear wheel feels planted and active.

When trail conditions get really chunky at high speeds, the bike occasionally feels a bit unruly due to the linear rear suspension feel. Small bump performance is pretty dialed at 30% sag, but square edges can sometimes feel a bit harsh due to the fact that it tends to push through the travel quickly. Sustained chatter is just okay. The bike seems to float over most bumps, however when they are in quick succession following a big hit it sometimes has trouble recovering fully and will get stuck down between bumps. This can often times make it feel as though the bike is getting away from you. It lacks a super stable, safe feel when going all out in the rough.

The interesting thing about the ride is that it can go as fast as you want, but to get to top speed we ended up changing our riding style. While we prefer to be centered on a bike in order to jump obstacles or move the bike around, the Stereo needs a different riding style to make it work well. Once we gave up on trying to jump things (compressing the linear suspension was a lot of work anyway) and just plowed over the trail off the back of the bike, it really worked well. Letting our legs do the majority of the work resulted in a more planted ride than what we got when centered. You can even see this riding style in some of Cube’s elite riders like Nico Lau. When ridden this way the linear feeling in the fork was not too much of an issue, though we did have to up the rear shock pressure to a firmer 25% sag point that let us push the suspension harder than what we initially started with.

On g-outs, drops, and jumps, the bike bottoms often due to the fact that it's so linear. We'd encourage any hard charging riders to install a larger shock volume spacer in place of the stock 0.6 cubic-inch spacer. As is, the low-speed damping tuned into the shock provides pretty good pop on jump faces, but doesn't provide sufficient support during large hits or in fast, bermed corners. The bottom out has a very distinct "thud" feel and is quite audible when it occurs. It's necessary to play a game of juggling pressure and damping adjustments (via the three-step FOX Float CTD adjustment with additional Trail Adjust feature) to find the perfect balance between the two extremes. At 30% sag it gets through the travel quite quickly, while at 25% it loses a bit of small bump compliance. We think the ideal solution is adding a larger volume spacer with around 30% sag or even increasing the base compression tune in the shock.

At 27.6-pounds the bike feels light as you bound from side to side of the trail. The suspension’s active feel also contributes to this as it makes the bike feel even lighter than it is. It rolls quite well and maintains speed with the best of them, aided by the fast rear Schwalbe Rock Razor tire. When you sprint it's pretty quick to respond.

Pointed uphill it doesn't pedal the best in the large ring. The anti-squat properties are much better in the small 24-tooth ring offered by the 2X system. With a narrow wide ring in the 32-36 tooth range it'd be just okay, though the suspension would still be a bit mushy while pedaling hard. Switching to Trail mode during sustained climbs helps quite a bit.

Build Kit

Aside from looking the part, the Stereo 160 has a well chosen build kit that is extremely high end considering the bike's price. Highlights include components from FOX, Race Face, Shimano, DT Swiss, Schwalbe, SDG, RockShox, and some in-house Cube items, all color coordinated to match the frame.

One issue we ran into during setup was that we couldn't put the RockShox Reverb lever on the left side of the bars. The included lever mount is simply not compatible with Shimano's brake lever and shifter combo. It would be possible if you replaced the Reverb lever with a top left mount, however this would run an additional charge. The post itself worked flawlessly with 125mm of travel for on-the-fly fun.

The FOX 34 was among the smoothest FOX forks we've ever tried, pointing to continued improvements to the 34 line for 2015. It was very plush and active with no noticeable stiction, though like the rear end we found it using a lot of travel quickly in Descend mode. Surprisingly, switching to Trail mode didn't add much damping, even when adjusted to the firmest Trail setting. We ended up adding an additional 5-10psi over what FOX recommends for our weight. Even so, the performance of the front end mirrored what was happening out back well, providing a balanced feel.

Schwalbe's 2.35-inch Hans Dampf tire up front offers good volume with a stable feel. The rear 2.35-inch Rock Razor tire may struggle with braking in loose over hard, but the increased rolling speed almost makes up for it. Traction during some rides was unreal due to hero dirt conditions, but when we rode the bike in drier conditions the tires would skate around more than we wanted. Cube wisely specs the bike with the softer TrailStar compound up front and more durable PaceStar out back.

The Cube System EM 3.7 Wheels are made by DT Swiss. They came setup tubeless and have a decently wide profile. They're a pretty standard straight pull wheelset with average engagement, and come with the base model ratchet system installed. After some rather large rock hits they still ran true. We expect rear wheel durability to be pretty good on this bike considering how quickly the suspension allows it get up and out of the way.

As we've come to expect, Shimano's XT brakes were as dialed as ever with 180mm Centerlock rotors front and rear. Cube chose to spec the cheaper brake pads that lack the cooling fins, and while this may not be the best decision for extended descents, it actually makes the bike a touch quieter as the finned pads tend to rattle a bit.

The 2X Shimano XT drivetrain shifted well with no skips, and surprisingly held on during rough descents. It has 24/38 gearing up front with an 11-36 tooth cassette, providing a slightly wider range than any 1X system will. As expected with any 2X drivetrain, there is a good deal more noise due to chain slap and the front derailleur - the clutch helps, as does descending in the big ring. We also suggest adding some type of paint protection on the inside of the seat stay. The bike comes with a neoprene protector on the chainstay.

Long Term Durability

The primary durability concern is the result of the tendency for the bike to bottom in harsh terrain. This could lead to bent shock bolts and high stresses throughout the frame. As mentioned previously, installing a larger volume spacer in the shock could help alleviate the issue. Cube backs the bike with a two year warranty.

What's The Bottom Line?

The Cube Stereo 160 is a fun, fast, active, jumpy ride that turns even mundane trails into a playground. Hard charging riders will want to make some slight modifications to the stock rear suspension setup. It does very well on most terrain, but can feel taxed in the roughest portions of the trail due to the linear suspension characteristics. Considering the impressive $4,199 $4,999 (updated) price tag for the full carbon frame, good suspension, and reliable component list, this bike is a great value that is worth spending the time on to dial things in perfectly.

[UPDATE: Cube provided new pricing details after this review was published. Updates have been made above to reflect the new price, and the star rating was adjusted from 4 to 3.5 stars as price/value is an important factor in our ratings.]

Visit www.cube.eu for more info.

Bonus Gallery: 18 photos of the Cube Stereo 160 up close and in action


About The Testers

Steve Wentz - A man of many talents, Steve got his start in downhilling at a young age. He has been riding for over 18 years, 11 of which have been in the Pro ranks. Asked to describe his riding style he said, "I like to smooth out the trail myself." Today he builds some of the best trails in the world (and eats lots of M&M's).

Brandon Turman - Brandon likes to pop off the little bonus lines on the sides of the trail, get aggressive when he's in tune with a bike and talk tech. In 15 years of riding he worked his way through the Collegiate downhill ranks to the Pro level. Formerly a Mechanical Engineer, nowadays he's Vital MTB's resident product guy.

Which reviewer resembles you the most? Don't miss our Q&A with the testers for more insight about their styles and preferences.

About Test Sessions

Three years ago Vital MTB set out to bring you the most honest, unbiased reviews you'll find anywhere. That tradition continues today as we ride 2015's most exciting trail, all-mountain, and enduro bikes in San Luis Obispo, California. Reviews can be accessed 24/7 in our Product Guide. Test Sessions was made possible with the help of Foothill Cyclery. Tester gear provided by Five Ten, Race Face, Easton, Troy Lee Designs, Club Ride, Kali, Royal, Smith, Pearl Izumi, and Source.

Specifications

Product Cube Stereo 160 Super HPC SL 27.5
Model Year 2015
Riding Type Enduro / All-Mountain
Rider Unisex
Sizes and Geometry
16", 18", 20", 22" View Geometry
Size 16" 18" 20" 22"
Top Tube Length 566mm 586mm 598mm 606mm
Head Tube Angle 66.5° 66.5° 66.5° 66.5°
Head Tube Length 100mm 110mm 120mm 140mm
Seat Tube Angle 74.6° 74.6° 74.6° 74.6°
Seat Tube Length 420mm 470mm 515mm 565mm
Bottom Bracket Height -14mm Drop -14mm Drop -14mm Drop -14mm Drop
Chainstay Length 441.5mm 441.5mm 441.5mm 441.5mm
Wheelbase 1150mm 1170mm 1183mm 1193mm
Standover
Reach 407mm 423mm 432mm 434mm
Stack 598mm 607mm 616mm 634mm
Wheel Size 27.5" (650b)
Frame Material Carbon Fiber
Frame Material Details Super HPC Monocoque Advanced Twin Mold Technology Carbon
Rear Travel 160mm
Rear Shock FOX Float CTD Adjust BoostValve
Fork FOX 34 Float 27.5 CTD Adjust FIT, Tapered, 15mm Quick Release Axle, Kashima Coated
Fork Travel 160mm
Head Tube Diameter Tapered
Headset CUBE I-t Integrated, Top 1-1/8", Bottom 1-1/2"
Handlebar Race Face Next SL Carbon, 35mm Oversize, 760mm
Stem Race Face Turbine Basic, 35mm Clamp
Grips CUBE Fritzz, 2-Clamp
Brakes Shimano XT K-M785 Hydraulic Disc, 180/180 Rotors
Brake Levers Shimano
Drivetrain
Shifters Shimano XT SL-M780-I, Direct Attach
Front Derailleur Shimano XT, FD-M786-D, Direct Mount, Down Swing, 2x10-Speed
Rear Derailleur Shimano XT, RD-M786-DGSL, ShadowPlus, Direct Mount, 10-Speed
ISCG Tabs N/A
Chainguide N/A
Cranks Shimano XT, FC-M785, 175mm
Chainrings 38x24 Tooth
Bottom Bracket Press Fit
Pedals N/A
Chain Shimano XT CN-HG95
Cassette Shimano XT CS-M771, 11-36 Tooth, 10-Speed
Rims DT CSW EM 3.7 Straightpull Wheelset, 584x25C Tubeless Ready, DT Swiss Pro Head Reinforcement System
Hubs DT CSW EM 3.7 Straightpull Wheelset, 584x25C Tubeless Ready, DT Swiss Pro Head Reinforcement System
Spokes 28/28 with Squorx Alloy Nipples
Tires Schwalbe Hans Dampf Kevlar 27.5"x 2.35", TrailStar, Tubeless Easy Front // Schwalbe Rock Razor Kevlar 27.5"x 2.35", PaceStar, Tubeless Easy Rear
Saddle SDG Circuit MTN
Seatpost RockShox Reverb Stealth, 125mm Adjustable Seatpost, Internal Routing
Seatpost Diameter 31.6mm
Seatpost Clamp CUBE Screwlock, 34.9mm
Rear Dropout / Hub Dimensions 142mm x 12mm, X12 Through Axle
Max. Tire Size 2.4”
Bottle Cage Mounts
Colors Green´n´Orange
Warranty 2 Years
Weight 27 lb 9 oz (12,502 g)
Miscellaneous
Price $4,999
More Info

Cube Website

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