We’ve kind of shied away from anything to do with electric mountainbikes, but one day a fully charged Cube Stereo 140 Hybrid arrived at the Dirt office and we had no choice but to ride it. Three people, three opinions… the odd conclusion.
From Dirt Issue 147 – May 2014
Words by Mike Rose. Photos by Andy Lloyd.
So first there were 29er’s and then 27.5” and now there are mountainbikes with electric motors in them! What is the world coming to!? Look, one of the big things at last year’s Eurobike trade show in Germany were electric mountainbikes. If you didn’t have one of them on your stand (along with a fat bike of course) then you were nothing. We kind of laughed them off as yet another idea dreamt up by marketing departments to sell yet more bikes, but one of the Dirt team had a go around the show’s ‘test track’ and was intrigued and even slightly impressed. You see electric bikes have been around for a while in the ‘urban’ realm (there is even a magazine dedicated to them) but in MTB… well they haven’t really set our world on fire.
If you look there is some great stuff out there in the media on e–bikes, ‘electric bikes: for people who don’t cycle?’ and ‘more speed, less sweat’, are just two examples. But this is now big business, apparently sales of e–bikes make it the fastest growing sector in the UK bike industry. And there are quite a few different types: power assist, twist and go, battery in a back pack, etc., from brands you have never heard of. Even Tesco sell the damn things.
Many people say that this cheating and kind of going against everything that cycling is about (getting around under your own steam), and the fact that it is reliant (as seemingly everything is in our modern life) of needing to be plugged in every so often. Companies advertise e–bikes as having ‘no fuel costs’ but where does electricity come from? Mainly from coal, nuclear and natural gas sources… so not so green then.>>
So then – the Cube Stereo (in various forms) has appeared many times in the magazine over the years, and it is a bike that we get on with. This Hybrid SL is top of the range model are is very well spec’d: DT Swiss wheelset, RockShox Reverb Stealth seat post, Easton Haven carbon bars, Fox Float CTD forks, Fi’zi:k Gobi carbon seat, Shimano XTR gearing (rear) and brakes, etc., no corners have been cut here. Electric motor technology and batteries have vastly improved recently and we’ve been told that the Bosch motor used here is ‘the bomb’. Riding it is a very strange sensation, and even though I kind of hate myself for saying this, but riding it was a right laugh. But, for now, I am still firmly sat on the fence.WEIGHTLESS
Words by Steve Jones
In a world of gadgets, where the cordless drill is prodigious but the kitchen carving knife disturbs the Sunday peace, what place does the electric bike have in our woods?
There will be magazine editors and bike testers hiding under the covers I can assure you of that. Eager not to alienate or upset their readers, the stance will more than likely be one of derision, but worse still… indecision. We saw it with wheel size changes and no doubt the same will happen again with this innovation. But this is a tough call given the equipment we have to work with here.
Of course you guys will have seen it all before in this magazine. We’ve had motocross, speedway, minibiking and almost every wheel size imaginable, from kid’s bikes through to BMX and on to the current big wheelers. The point is that it’s just pissing around in the dirt and mud, it doesn’t really matter what it is.
The truth is that we work with facts on the ground. Dirt is not R&D, it doesn’t have an office full of boffins, but its mix of graphics, photography, irrationality and madness often has to deal with deranged ideas from some of the world’s best and least known bike designers.
Some incredibly poor bike design has been acceptable for the best part of twenty years now for many reasons, those include laziness and the problems of presenting people with the mindset–shift needed for something different. Wheel size change has certainly upset a few and with the current climate is still slightly volatile (hey look magazine editors didn’t design the bigger wheels), then diving into this one certainly made me think ‘shall I walk away and pretend it doesn’t exist’… for about a minute at least.
It all happened in Punta Ala at the opening round of last year’s Enduro World Series. Faced with a day in high temperatures, with no access to the stages, I was offered an electric bike. ‘Really?’ I thought. I’ve already had a pasting on my admittance that bigger wheels are faster and more stable, and hell if I’m seen on electric then… then ‘get a f–king grip’. This ain’t about image, it’s about getting to the best places to get the best photos of the best riders. Inthequickesttimepossible.
Fast forward to this year. I’ve been handed a cordless bike with a pair of bars with pedals, forks, wheels and a battery in the very familiar and effective Cube Stereo chassis. It has XTR brakes, a good tune on the Fox 34 fork, and its angles are pretty close to the original Stereo classic. From the outset it troubles me that there are some key questions I’m thinking might be asked… ‘Is it fun?’ And honestly that’s all I could think of.
With battery charged and power set to ‘TURBO” I set off on my 70 minute loop of trail and downhill tracks. The Cube covers a lot of ground quickly. In an instant, and with relatively little effort, you are up to 16.5mph and pushing effortlessly through the gears. There’s a reassuring note change from the box as you shuffle up and down the block. At which point the limiter cuts in and demands prudence in the pedal stroke as UK (or is it EU?) regulations puts a hold to the party at around 16mph when your thoughts are simply to smash on.
But you cannot (not unless you get chipped–up), but still the hills disappear under your wheels as you spin the bike at its threshold, life is sweet and you hit a patch of bog that normally invites the lactic to your legs and sharpness to your breathing when as if by magic you are through and onwards. Twenty minutes in and I’m thinking ‘something has simply GOT to give here’.
Singletrack trail brought slight ambivalence to the table, it became a tussle between plug–in power, push down or pump. Usually a mish mash of all three, at which point I cut the engine and cruised. Surprisingly fast… 20mph on natural singletrack I found was pretty common and way above the limited motor–drive. The downhill came into sight very quickly. I was not out of breath, I’d drank no water, eaten no food, not stopped for a breather and pretty much not been able to take the smile off my face. Something HAD to give.