Shouldn’t every £1250 bike be as good as the Cube Agree GTC?
Its manners are impeccable, its specification complete in all areas (Shimano Tiagra components, Easton-Selle Italia finishing kit, Schwalbe tyres), and its appearance elegant.
If you’re seeking a first ‘serious’ bike after testing cycling’s waters with a budget machine, and carbon is your chosen frame material, look no further.
High praise? Justified, we’d say. Here’s why.The frame
The frame is a carbon monocoque, not wildly dissimilar in silhouette from many others we’ve seen. For a detailed consideration of its tube profiles and angles, read our ‘first look’ article.
The Agree GTC is patient, forgiving, and impeccably well mannered, and on descents proved supremely stable. These are qualities likely to divide opinion between experienced riders and newcomers (what the old hand may deride as uninspiring, the newbie is likely to welcome as reassuring). Riders from road cycling’s new and wildly expanding cohort are likely to welcome the Agree GTC as a willing helpmeet.
The Agree GTC’s impressive stability was its most notable quality, one we relished when traveling downhill at speed. A neutral fork performed its function adequately. The steering did not feel unduly heavy and was unhurried: a key factor in the Agree GTC’s mild persona.
It cantered rather than galloped on flat roads, and on climbs took no more than a share of the workload, but with the exception of its skill on descents, analyzing the Agree GTC’s performance by specific areas is to miss its raison d’etre. It’s a machine that performs competently everywhere, rather than excelling in specific conditions. Given its price and market position (an attractive proposition for riders seeking a first ‘serious’ bike), we’d suggest Cube have got the balance right.The components
The Cube Agree GTC is equipped with a full Shimano Tiagra groupset. We were delighted by the absence of a third party chainset, unbranded brake calipers, or any of the many and varied shortcuts routinely taken by the larger manufacturers in the quest to ‘achieve a price point’. If Cube can do it, why can’t their rivals?
Tiagra is an attractive, 10-speed groupset that during tests of the Cube Agree GTC performed with a quiet competence. The throw of the shift levers is longer than its upscale cousins, and the shifting not quite as positive, but these are minor concerns. The smaller lever hoods offered by the external cabling were refreshing. The brakes we’d describe as fit for purpose and an improvement on the Shimano BR-R561 supplied with the Agree’s Peloton Race sibling, which in all other areas uses components from the upscale 105 groupset. The Agree GTC’s calipers are fitted with pads no more elaborate than a single block of rubber, rather than the superior cartridge design, and these represented one of the few opportunities for immediate improvement.
The Cube Agree GTC rolls on Shimano R500 wheels, from the lower end of the Japanese giant’s wheel range, with 20 spokes front, 24 rear, and a claimed weight of 1900 grams for the set. They were solid, dependable, and, as such, a good match for the Tiagra componentry (some vendors brand them as ‘Tiagra wheels’). We’re strong proponents of matched components, and their integration with an all-Shimano drivetrain is be lauded in our view, however strong the claims for compatibility among rival manufacturers.
While the performance of almost any bike can be improved by installing lighter wheels, we tend to the opinion that to do so in this case would be to somehow miss the point of the Cube Agree GTC. This is a bike whose essence can be found largely in its price tag. It is an impressively competent all-rounder that, at £1250, represents superb value for money. Spending a further £400 on upgraded wheels, perhaps the minimum required for a notable improvement in performance, would sour the sense of having captured a bargain. Equally, lighter wheels would likely expose the limitations of its chassis, one inclined to stability rather than speed.
The all-Easton finishing kit was another welcome sight, if its performance failed to match our personal preferences. We bridled against the manifest profiles of the EA30 aero bar when we first encountered it in the Peloton Race, and found it no more endearing on the Agree GTC. The top slants toward the rider, placing undue pressure on the wrists and triceps when hands are placed on this part of the bar. The straight part of the drop is too short to be of use.
Its partners, the EA30 stem and seatpost, were functional and elegantly finished with retaining plates anodized in the Agree GTC’s signature blue – a nice touch. The aluminium seatpost, however, did much to negate the absorbent qualities of the carbon frame and as such might be viewed as a false economy. The shape and character of the Selle Italia X1 Road saddle did nothing for us, but may prove a better match for others. It is well made, attractively finished, and, again, we can only applaud its inclusion on a machine of this price.
The Schwalbe Lugano tyres were a pleasant surprise. While of no great quality (a 50 tpi carcass), they rolled along nicely at 100psi and coped well with the grime of winter roads.Conclusion
You’ll struggle to find a better bike for the money than the Cube Agree GTC. While the handling is entirely neutral (a good or bad thing, depending on your level of experience), the chassis does not isolate the rider from the road; a deficiency of some budget carbon framesets. The full deployment of Shimano’s affordable, but competent Tiagra groupset, and its pairing with offerings from Easton, Schwalbe, and Selle Italia amounts to a package on which no corners have been cut, despite the price tag. Chapeau, Cube!‘Affordable’ carbon vs. aluminium – a personal view
The elephant placed this reviewer’s room by the Cube Agree GTC is its use of carbon at this price point. Having nailed my colours so firmly to the mast of its aluminium stablemate, the Peloton Race, have I now changed my mind? The answer is no. At this price, I’d still choose an aluminum frame over a composite equivalent.
In my experience, significantly greater investment is required before the superior qualities of a carbon frame are apparent. A well-made aluminium frame will offer a level of engagement between steed and rider only available from sophisticated – and significantly more expensive – carbon chassis. This is an argument most clearly illustrated on this website by the Kinesis TK3 and LOOK 695SR – both excellent, but poles apart in price and character, and in the sophistication of manufacture.
Given £1250 and told to choose a Cube, I’d spend the nearly £200 that separates the two models on 105 brake calipers, different handlebars, and a carbon seatpost for the Peloton Race, and enjoy its superior components and more engaging, but admittedly harsher ride. Others may have a different opinion; a fact to which the hugely expanding market for affordable carbon frames attests.
UK Distributor: Cube