Words and photos: Dave ArthurI spent a month with the 140mm Cube Stereo 29er, the (slightly) bigger brother of the Sting tested here, and I’ve got to admit I was absolutely blown away by it. Dave gives us his take on the Sting here.
The Sting is a new bike in German company Cube’s 2014 range, and combines 29in wheels with an aluminium frame and 120mm travel. A 140mm version is also offered. Of the two available 120mm models, we’re testing the more expensive £1799 Race with a Shimano XT groupset and Fox 32 Float 29 CTD fork.
Ride and handling
In the ongoing conversation/debate/argument about wheelsizes, 650b may be grabbing all the headlines this year, but 29ers are now well established on bikes of this ilk. The combination of well damped 120mm suspension travel and the big wheels provides an impressively fast rolling bike over all manner of terrain, and the Sting is a good example of this category of bike.
It’s most at home being hammered hard up, down and across trails, tracks and singletrack. The steep 74.5 degree seat tube angle provides a good attacking positioning for pedalling, and as such climbs are handled well. The 69 degree head angle is pretty slack and gives good stability on the steeper descents and helps you to thread the Sting through rock gulleys and root infested tracks.
The suspension, with Fox dampers at both ends on this model, is well damped and very well controlled. The four-bar suspension layout is simple but very effective. It’s nicely active, but not overly so, on smaller stuff, well supported in the mid stroke and there’s a noticeable progressive feel as you push towards the limit of the rear suspension. It doesn’t have that bottomless or even playfulness of some 120mm 29ers, but it’s a very efficient package.
The CTD dials on both the fork and rear shock give you the option to tailor the suspension, locking them both out for climbs, open for the descents and trail for everything else. We found the shock, which is a large volume item, produced best results in Trail for the majority of our riding with good support throughout the stroke. We predominantly ran the fork in Trail mode too, just switching to descend solely for the fun bits.
Show the Sting a flowing descent interlaced with jumps and it’s easily worked through the berms and corners with good pace. The bike is a good fit, the shape feels right, definitely on the long side, making it settled and stable in low and high speed situations. It takes some speed to push the Sting out of its comfort zone, such is its ability to tame most trails.
As capable and well performing as the Sting is, it didn’t provide that fizz of excitement that some bikes provide. It has an understated manner, which is no bad thing, it just gets on with the job of smoothing the terrain and providing a platform that is capable of taking on any sort of riding or trail situation.
Frame and build kit
The frame, made from triple butted 7005 aluminium, is oversized in all the right areas to give it good stiffness while keeping the weight low. The huge down tube keeps the frame tracking true, and the dropped top tube provides extra clearance. Tyre clearance is a bit tight around the rear wheel, especially at the top of the chainstays.
The Sting features the FSP 4-link. Essentially it’s a four-bar setup with a one-piece rocker activating the vertically mounted shock with a chainstay pivot. Cube have located the pivot well ahead of the dropout, which they reckon minimises the impact of braking on suspension action. It’s a simple design, perhaps looking a bit dated, but it just works and works all of the time.
Cables are routed along the bottom of the down tube with clips keeping them in place, and we had no issues with the routing. There are bolt-on guides for a dropper post along the top tube – the bike doesn’t come with a dropper post – which we made good use of and fitted our own Reverb.
Our only rankle with the frame, and it’s a personal one really, we respect not everyone will feel the same way, was with the decals. We reckon Cube could do a better job here. But that’s just our opinion. It’s not a bad looking bike, it’s just a bit, well, underwhelming really. It’s not as exciting aesthetically as it could be. That sort of thing will matter to some people more than others.
Cube have established a good reputation in the UK for well appointed bikes for not a lot of cash, and that is certainly the case here. For £1799 you get a full Shimano XT groupset and, showing their Euro roots, a triple chainset. Now 1x and 2x groupsets might be all rage right, but triple chainsets still have a place, many people simply prefer the wider ratio of gears available. For a bike that is capable of going well beyond the sanitised confines of a trail centre, that’s no bad thing.
The brakes are Shimano too and it’s nice to see 180mm rotors at both wheels, providing plenty of stopping power if your riding takes you into the mountains with rotor scorching descents. The large reach adjusters on the brake levers are very useful to have, especially if you like you run the levers close to the bars. The shape of the Shimano levers still wins us over every time, and the feel and modulation is really very good.
No complaints from the solid and durable Sun Ringle Radium AM wheels through the test, with a regular quick release rear axle and a Fox 15mm bolt-thru up at the front. The rims are tubeless-ready, as are the 2.25in Schwalbe Nobby Nic tyres, so ditching the inner tubes and adding some sealant couldn’t be easier. We’ve come to be fans of the fast-rolling speed of the Nobby Nic tyres, but they can be pushed out of their depths on bigger trails all too easily.
The 720mm handlebar is a good width for the bike and the sort of riding it is up for, with a nice shape that is comfortable on longer rides. Reach was good with this set up with a good stretch to the bars without compromising the ability to easily chuck it about the trail.
The Selle Italia X1 saddle completes the build, providing a comfortable enough base for all-day rides.
Don’t let the drab looks of the Sting put you off, this is a thoroughly competent trail bike with plenty of speed from the bigger wheels and balanced and controlled suspension that is right at home on even the most techy trails. If you’re looking for a fast cross-country bike for doing some long distance events or all-day adventures across inhospitable terrain, the Sting is a great choice.
We wouldn’t describe it as the most fun bike we’ve ever ridden but as a bike for getting around a trail as quickly as possible, or from getting from A to B on a wild and remote challenge the Sting is a great package, and taking into consideration the price this is a very good bike for the money.Specs
Cube Sting 120 Race 29 vitals
Brakes: Shimano Deore XT 180mm
Suspension: Fox 32 Float 29 CTD 120mm/Fox Float CTD
Crankset: Shimano Deore XT
Wheels: Sun Ringle Radium AM
Cockpit: Cube Performance
Derailleurs: Shimano XT
Weight: 13,75 kg
Wheel size: 29in
Travel: 120 mm
Sizes: 16, 18, 20 and 22 inch
Colour: black anodized
More information: Cube Sting 120 Race 29