The first bike out of the trap for testing in 2013 is the Cube Agree GTC.
It’s an entrant from a heavyweight brand to the hugely competitive £1,250-ish market of carbon-framed steeds. Let’s take a closer look.
The frame contains many of the staple design features of contemporary carbon offerings.
A giant down tube measures 60mm across at its widest point and joins a bottom bracket shell still wider at 80mm. Stiffness should abound in this area, but we’ll let you know when we’ve put some miles on it.
The bottom bracket shell resembles many we’ve seen in recent months: a bulky, but smoothly moulded junction of downtube, seat-tube, and chainstays, that in the Agree GTC measures 100mm from its bottom edge to the junction with the downtube, and contains a press fit bottom bracket.
Emerging from the rear of the bottom bracket are chainstays that start their journey to the drop out at some 5cm deep. As with the junction of down tube and bottom bracket, the designers have placed the greatest amount of material in the area they believe will be subject to the greatest force.
Another popular trend is for flattened top tubes that widen on their journey from seat tube to head tube. We find the Agree GTC to be ‘on trend’ in this regard, too, broadening from 3cm to 5cm. The object? To place additional girth at the headtube where the machine is more likely to exhibit flex. Out of the saddle sprints and climbs are useful methods of testing if the design is successful in this regard, and we’ll be treating the Agree GTC to plenty of both.
The headtube’s height is often a clue to the designer’s intended use for the frame. A tall unit speaks of an upright position, typically adopted for long and unhurried hours in the saddle, while a shorter unit promises a more aerodynamic position and is likely to appeal to those with speed at the top of their agenda.
The 140mm unit on our 53cm test bike is somewhere in between. A 52cm Trek Madone 7, for example in its raciest H1 incarnation, has a headtube of 110mm, while the headtube on the ‘performance’ oriented Cannondale Synapse is 145mm. Is Cube’s Agree GTC a multi-purpose steed? We’ll find out.
Skinny seat stays are de rigueur on almost all carbon machines; a trend begun, and taken to weight saving extremes, by Canadian brand, Cervelo. They’re rounded on the Agree GTC, and curve slightly on their journey from seat cluster to drop out. Their slender and slightly curvaceous profile are both devices intended to induce comfort. With winter upon us, we have some long rides in store for this machine, which should provide a useful test of the frame’s ability to keep us in comfort all day.
The fork has carbon legs and an alloy steerer; a typical configuration at this price point. The steerer tapers from a 1.5 inch lower bearing: another increasingly common choice for designers seeking to stiffen the front end of a bike and produce positive steering.
Other minor details to gain our approval at this early stage include internal cable routing, and a protective metal plate that sits on the driveside chainstay behind the chainset to save the carbon should disaster strike and the chain slip between the two.
Having considered the frame, we’ll move to the components.
Cube have spec-ed a full Shimano Tiagra groupset, third up from the Japanese manufacturer’s 2300 entry level and, from our previous experiences, an able performer. We’re pleased to report that Cube has deployed the groupset in full, and resisted the temptation to reduce costs with generic brake calipers or a third party chainset: shortcuts frequently taken by some of the larger manufacturers.
The commitment to matched components from reputable suppliers extends to the finishing kit (handlebar, stem and seatpost), which is aluminium stock from Easton’s entry-level EA30 groupset. We’re slightly disappointed not to see a carbon seatpost, not ruinously expensive nowadays, and likely to be more absorbent of road chatter than the aluminium unit supplied, but given the quality of components fitted for the price elsewhere on the GTC, it’s hardly a deal breaker.
Shimano’s R500 wheelset and Schwalbe Lugano tyres are sound choices at this price, but neither is terribly inspiring. We were delighted to see Cube roll out their aluminium Peloton Race for 2013 on Schwalbe’s Ultremo ZX rubber, which, as expected, played a significant part in a ride quality that far exceeded its £1049 price tag, so the sight of the downscale Luganos is a little deflating.
On the plus side, Cube have rolled out the Agree GTC with a bottle cage, mini pump, and computer; the last, a feature we haven’t previously encountered as a standard item.
Our Park digital scales registered a weight of 8.3kg without pedals, an impressive weight for a bike at this price, and the principal advantage offered to a designer by carbon fibre.
The Cube Agree GTC costs £1250. It’s available in the black, white and blue pictured, and in six sizes from 46cm to 58cm.
Check back soon for a full review.