Words by David Arthur.
German company Cube have a good reputation for well-designed and affordable mountain bikes, and they offer a huge range of 26 and 29ers across a spectrum of prices. The £1,600 Cube Reaction GTC Race 29 packs a full carbon fibre frame, light overall weight and decent build kit for a ready-to-race hardtail or just a very rapid mile-muncher for those who prefer a hardtail for trail riding.
The Cube Reaction GTC Race is a carbon hardtail in the stiff and race-ready mould. The carbon fibre frame is incredibly rigid, there’s very little compliance or vibration absorption factored into the design of the frame. This results in a jarring ride on rough ground, and maintaining your line and traction through some of the more technical trails is challenging.
On the flipside, the bike accelerates with impressive ease, partly aided by the 26lb weight. Climbs are dispatched with ease, and provided you can keep the rear tyre in contact with the ground, it will scamper up most hills. The rigidity of the frame comes into its own when out of the saddle and heaving on the cranks and leaning on the handlebars.
It’s an engaging ride, but one that won’t suit everyone. If you like your carbon hardtails as stiff as they come, well they don’t come much stiffer than this. The geometry makes for fast handling with a short head tube and steep head and seat angles setting it up for an aggressive stance on the trail. This is certainly felt when riding it.. It doesn’t do sedate and comfortable, it’s hard-wired to ride fast and hard all the time. But for many people, I feel the ride quality is simply too stiff and jarring.
The RockShox Reba fork works hard up front to soak up the impacts and there’s a handlebar lockout lever, I used this for the sum total of once. If you’re racing on a course with some fireroad or Tarmac climbs it could be useful, but most of the time it went ignored. You only get a 9mm QR axle, carbon race hardtails are reluctant to switch to 15mm bolt-thru, but it’s only a matter of time.
The frame carries a Shimano SLX transmission with an XT rear mech. As with all Shimano kit regardless of price, shift performance is faultless with a really nice lever feel, light and crisp gear changes every time. I would have liked to see a 2×10 chainset fitted rather than a triple, the low weight and racy credentials of this bike such that the granny ring went unused during the test period. If I bought this bike I’d switch the chainset out straight away.