An enviable reputation can be a double-edged sword.
The Cube Agree GTC SL arrived for test at RCUK Towers follows in the wheel tracks of some impressive predecessors.
The German brand’s aluminium Peloton Race was one of our favourite bikes of 2012, and while we remain skeptical about the benefits of carbon chassis below a certain price point, the Agree GTC – the £1250, Shimano Tiagra-equipped junior sibling of our latest arrival – created a favourable impression this time last year.
What then will the SL incarnation of the Agree GTC offer? Tipping our scales at 7.87kg, we find a neatly designed chassis dressed in a full Shimano Ultegra 6800 mechanical groupset and ‘exclusive to Cube’ offerings from several leading brands, DT Swiss, Schwalbe, and Selle Italia among them.
At the heart of the Agree GTC SL we find a carbon frame and, surprisingly, a fork carbon in blade only. Our surprise at the latter has two sources: firstly, the bike’s very respectable weight, and secondly the presence of an aluminium steerer tube on a machine so well-equipped in other departments. How will it perform? We’ll let you know in our subsequent review. For now, we’ll return to the frame.
Despite the presence of many features now standard on the latest carbon frames, the silhouette of the Agree GTC SL is distinct. It is also extremely tidy, and boasts a range of pleasingly subtle features, including the cowling formed at the union of chainstay and seatstay, internal routings from which cables for front and rear mech emerge discreetly at the base of the seat-tube and the end of the driveside chainstay respectively, and a sizable, but neatly moulded bottom bracket shell, home to a Shimano BB71 standard, press fit bottom bracket.
Drilling down into the spec sheet, the numbers, as ever, provide only the broadest clues to the bike’s likely performance. Our test bike has a 53cm frame. A 74-degree seat-tube angle is a popular choice among manufacturers for frames around this size, while the 71.5 degree headtube is relaxed. Will the steering prove frustratingly slow or reassuringly stable? Time and testing will tell.
Cube report a stack height (the distance at which an imaginary line drawn upwards from the bottom bracket would cross a second imaginary line drawn horizontally from the top of the stem) of 528mm, and so an exact match for the Lapierre Xelius EFI 600 we have on test, an unashamedly race-oriented machine. Does this low-ish front end (achieved in part on both machines with a 130mm headtube equipped with an integrated headset) reveal a similar inclination to speed on the part of the Agree GTC SL? We’ll find out. Further clues to what we’re hoping we’ll be a fast and engaging ride might be found in the 406mm chainstays and 908mm wheelbase.
Key features include the flat-bottomed downtube, some 70mm broad at its junction with a similarly oversized bottom bracket. Conversely, the seatstays are pencil thin, a familiar device employed by designers seeking to induce compliance and so reduce the likelihood of road shock travelling upwards to the rider. The achievement of such slim stays here is made more impressive by their conventional round profile. This supermodel profile is usually achieved by flattening the tube: a visual ‘cheat’ revealed when the tube is viewed from above.
We’ll return briefly to the fork previously discussed and complete the picture by reporting an aluminium dropout, and a steerer tube that tapers from a sizable 1.5” lower bearing, the use of which supports a correspondingly broad headtube, which in turn provides the girth necessary to attach an oversized downtube. Cube have clearly planted their flag in the camp of ‘bigger is better’, or, at the very least, stiffer, and a glance at the offerings of their competitors will reveal that they are far from alone in this belief.
A complete specification of components from established manufacturers has been among the most impressive factors of the Cube bikes we’ve previously tested and we’re pleased to report that the German brand has adhered rigidly to its “no corners cut” philosophy when equipping the Agree GTC SL. The 6800 Ultegra groupset – the latest iteration of Shimano’s second-from-top offering – is deployed here in full: STI levers, derailleurs, chainset, and brakes. Full marks.
Elsewhere, we find components made for Cube by established third-party manufacturers. The tyres are badged as Schwalbe One, the German brand’s new flagship race tyre, rubber that encloses a pair of DT Swiss wheels bearing the legend CWS, for Cube Wheel System. The RA 2.0 model is absent from the Swiss wheelsmith’s online catalogue. Relevant? Not if made to the same standard with which DT Swiss manufacture their own wares. For the record, they’re 25mm deep, aluminium clinchers with 28 straight-pull spokes laced in a two-cross pattern on both sides of the rear wheel, and with 24 spokes, laced radially, up front. The hubs are attractive units with bright red flanges, finished with a low, “open” design that promises easy spoke replacement in the event of a broken spar.
Syntace supply the bars, stem, and seatpost, which in the first instance features an interesting ‘swept back’ design in the tops, and what looks like an easily adjustable two-bolt clamp in the last. The stem is standard fare: an aluminium unit with a four-bolt face plate and two-bolt steerer clamp. The saddle is another Cube-only affair from a reputable third party, this time Selle Italia. Our previous experience with this arrangement has been positive (the saddles supplied both with the Peloton Race and Agree GTC were perfectly satisfactory) and we’re hoping to ride in comfort again.
We’ll be racking up the miles on the Agree GTC SL in the weeks ahead. Check back soon for a full review.
Size: 50, 53, 56, 58, 60, 62
Colour: carbon and white