Cube bikes really got our attention way back in the summer (oh it seems so long ago!) when we got the low-down on the new range at the 2006 Cycle Show.
We had the pleasure of having a thoroughly good ride of the Axial road bike as Cube launch their first entirely women’s specific range earlier this year. The range comprises six women’s specific bikes for road and off-road use including two hard-tail mountain bikes, two full-suspension mountain bikes and two road bikes.
We were impressed with the company’s philosophy and we were keen to see how that transferred in the ride. Paul van Holst of Cube Bikes said;
“Women are different from men, Cube understands this and so we have developed the WLS bikes.”
“A ladies bike should be more than just a small pink man’s bike with a lady’s saddle. All models in the WLS range are completely new designs and use the latest state of art technology. WLS bikes feature a shorter and lower top tube to increase control, handling and stand over height. All bikes feature a lady specific handlebar, brake levers, saddle and chainset. From colour to component choice WLS has been developed to show how serious we are about women on bikes.”
Cube are a new brand for the UK but don’t be fooled, they have quite some experience under their belt – Cube has been building high quality bikes for over 13 years with the production and development taking place in Bavaria, Germany. Cube’s mission is to manufacture technically advanced bikes at matchless prices.
The WLS Axial Pro is designed as a race worthy road frame and with this in mind, the alloy/Carbon set up came at a very reasonable price indeed.
The Axial Pro frame is made from 7005 aluminum with oversizing the order of the day. Both the top and down tube are substantially oversized, forming a large contact with the short head tube. The seat stays follow a gentle curve to the rear dropouts, while the chainstays follow a teardrop shape – large and flat at the bottom bracket and tapering towards the dropouts. The sloping top tube offered enough standover clearance for our 5’3″ tester on the 50cm test model.
As you’d expect from such ‘fat’ tubing, the frame is very stiff. It provided really effective power transfer making each pedal stroke feel smoother and more efficient. Torsional flex while cornering at speed was noticeably absent. And despite the stiffness, the slender rear stays offered a smooth ride, certainly comfortable enough for some of our epic training rides. Road buzz was eliminated at the front by the excellent Deda Black Blade carbon forks.
The finish and paint design are reassuringly tasteful and also resilient, the frame looked as good as new after some significant mileage on a range of road surfaces. The oversized tubing and subtle paintwork was striking but overall the Axial is understated and certainly not overly girly. When taken along to races and out on the road for training, it took the attention of a lot of those people who may not have been overly familiar with the Cube brand. Everybody wanted a closer look and the look, ride and componentry never failed to impress.
For the price, the Cube comes very well equipped. A full Shimano Ultegra groupset is hard to fault. We feel you know where you stand with Ultegra and we certainly experienced few problems throughout months of use. The triple chain set with 170 mm crank arms was perfect for our 5’ 3” tester, and the triple gave a good spread of gears – though we rarely used the small ring. A compact option would have been nice.
The groupset is complemented by some fine components. Ritchey supplies both the integrated headset and the Biomax Comp handlebars. The bars were the right width for us and we were a fan of the ergonomic drops although some may find this a little cramped depending on preference.
The 10-speed Ultegra groupset is by far the best groupset for serious riders who don’t want to pay the extra for DuraAce. It offers total reliability and precision without costing the earth, what more can a girl ask for in this price range?
Ok, so we loved the DT Woman “White Line” Hub spoke and rim, and like the namesake the rims were white, well until we went out in the rain that is. So, the rims didn’t stay white for long but scrub them up after riding and you’ll enjoy the stylish appearance until the next time you go out. Well, unless you restrict your riding to sunnier and drier climes, which thinking about it could be a good excuse actually…
The wheel set is not the lightest available but they withstood the test well and remained perfectly true. That said, they certainly aren’t the heaviest either and were an upgrade from many off the peg women’s specific bikes we’ve seen at this price point.
The Schwalbe Ultremo tyres were superb, highly puncture resistant and rolled really well so no complaints there.
This really was a pleasure to ride from the moment we took it out of the box. The 50’ frame fitted our 5’3” tester perfectly, offering a good race position without being so race oriented that relaxed mileage was out of the question.
It’s surprising how many women you will find who are reluctant to sit on the drops for any length of time because maybe the lever reach is a push or the bars don’t fit properly. Everything on the Cube is geared towards a woman. The lever reach, the bar width the overall frame geometry and the crank length. We loved the position provided by the Axial being just stretched out enough but not overly so.
The road buzz was absorbed by the carbon forks and this combined with the ‘Alu 7005 WLS konifiziert 2-fach’ alloy frame made for a responsive ride. Cornering felt confident and we found we could really put the power through the frame. We put the Axial through its paces on various road race circuits and we felt controlled and comfortable sitting tightly in the bunch. When we needed to respond quickly to changes in pace or attempt a sprint finish the bike coped well, how our legs coped is another matter!
As we don’t spend too much of our time tearing up a race circuit we were pleased to find that the bike aided us over quite some miles in the saddle. Longer chain gangs that used to drag seemed more leisurely and cruising with friends felt even more enjoyable. We really did want to find excuses to get out and do the time on this bike. It just made everything that bit more pleasurable and took some of the sting out of climbing and cruised really well on the flat.
This is the complete antithesis of “a small, pink man’s bike with a lady’s saddle.” Women don’t want to be patronized but there are some really well thought out design considerations which will help us out on the road. It’s not great for anyone to get stuck out on their own after a series of punctures but Cube’s philosophy is that they want to make the complete riding experience as comfortable as possible for women, whatever their level, including things like puncture resistant tyres.
We really have enjoyed riding this bike, it’s a great option at this price point and we really have converted those who hadn’t seen the Cube brand before.
Frame: Alu 7005 WLS konifiziert 2-fach
Fork: Deda Black Blade
Headset: Ritchey Logic Integrated
Handlebar: Ritchey Biomax Comp
Stem: Syntace F139
Seatpost: RFR Prolight
Saddle: Fizik Vitesse Sport
Crankset: Shimano Ultegra 3-fach (170mm)
BBset: Shimano Ultegra
Rear derialer: Shimano Ultegra
Front derialer: Shimano Ultegra
Brake: Shimano Ultegra
Brake: Lever Shimano STI Ergo
Shifter: Shimano STI Ergo
Cassette Sprocket: Shimano Ultegra
Chain: Shimano Ultegra
Rim: DT Woman “White Line”
Hubs: DT Woman “White Line”
Spokes: DT Woman “White Line”
Front tyre: Schwalbe Ultremo
Rear tyre: Schwalbe Ultremo
Colour: matt schwarz lackiert
Puncture resistant Ultremo’s