The Bike List

Cube Ams HPC Pro 2011

Tested by Oliver Laverack

Review

It's difficult not to be impressed by the aesthetic design of the four models that make up Cube's AMS HPC line up. The AMS HPC Pro with its smooth curves, clean lines and fantastic grey/black colour scheme interlaced with a few carefully placed light blue stripes looks like it could make anyone a faster rider. But you can't judge a bike by looks alone so when the latest AMS HPC Pro arrived straight from Cube HQ in Germany I couldn't wait to get out on it and give the bike a welcome introduction to UK trails.

The Pro is the cheapest of the AMS HPC models coming in at £2250 and the price goes up to £4,000 for the top-of-the-range SL model. Equipped with a full carbon frame, the AMS HPC Pro is competitively priced - especially compared to the aluminium framed Anthem X2 I recently tested which will set you back £100 more.

With 100mm front and rear travel, Cube says the AMS HPC Pro is designed for racing or fast rides, something I was keen to test out on my local Sunday hack. The 30-40 mile weekly ride always includes a good range of varying singletrack, a few grassy tracks and fields, a few lung-busting hills and a good measure of competitiveness. Keeping up with the faster guys is always a challenge so I was keen to get out there and see how well the Cube would roll.

When you swing your leg over the AMS HPC Pro the first thing you notice is the short top tube and flat bars which create a compact ride position that's clearly set up for speed and racing. Out on the trails this compact setup creates a nimble and responsive-feeling bike that handles nicely and corners well, too. Hammering over flatter sections, the suspension soaks up small potholes and bumps so impressively it's easy to maintain momentum at high speeds. Climbing is equally good and with ProPedal (ProPedal damping reduces pedal-induced suspension bob) turned on, the four-pivot suspension system feels really efficient as you grapple your way up rock-strewn tracks. The bar ends offer another position for your hands on longer rides and are great for really long climbs and getting a bit more leverage over the whole bike. The remote lockout offers another welcome way to save energy on smoother climbs and flat sections, and is easy to operate - even when you're on bumpy ground.

Descending on the Cube, it's easy to control your speed with the amazing performance of Formula's RX hydraulic disc brakes. The 1.5in headset helps keep the front end stiff, and Rock Shox's Reba RL forks and Fox Float RP23 do a good job of soaking up any punishing terrain. However, on more technical descents I didn't feel as confident and in control as I did on the Anthem X2 which was surprising, as the head angle of the Cube is half a degree slacker than the 71° head angle of the Anthem. A change from flat to slightly wider low riser bars like on the Anthem X2 would be well worth considering if you like racing down as fast as you went up.

Although AMS HPC Pro isn't the most exciting name for a bike, Cube's "carbon blue print" paint job looks super cool. The frame, which is made from high performance composite, uses what Cube call twin mold technology to eliminate imperfections during the manufacturing process. The result is a super-tough and laterally stiff frame that feels like it'll withstand a few inevitable knocks and won't crumble the first time you hit the deck or accidentally drop the bike. Chunky seat stays bridged by an X-shaped brace combined with beefed-up chainstays help keep the rear end stiff. Mud clearance at both ends is okay even with the wider 2.25 Rocket Ron tyres which are fatter than I'd normally run in winter. Cube's FSP 4 Link technology also means that the rear triangle isn't affected by pedalling or braking. Looking at the frame there's a real feeling of attention to detail. Surprisingly though, the bike on test (18in frame) came in at 26.32 lbs / 11.94 kg making it marginally heavier (0.49 lbs / 222 g) than the Anthem X2 (20in frame).

With such a nicely made, full carbon frame, surely the makers have cut some corners when it comes to components? Well, it's not clear where they have if they did. The Shimano 10-speed drivetrain comprises Shimano cassette, XT crank and rear mech and SLX shifters and front mech offering solid and reliable shifting. The 42x32x24 chainring combination and 10-speed 11-36T cassette offered a huge range of gears that should be more than enough for the racer and general cross country rider alike. The blue anodised hubs on the Sunringlé Ryde XMB wheelset look great. Looks were again matched by a solid performance as the rims have remained perfectly true despite having taken a few heavy hits. Schwalbe's Rocket Ron Kevlar tyres use a very open tread pattern that performed well on hardpacked and loose surfaces and even on the snowy / icy ground that we've had plenty of this winter (2010/11). Cable routing is pretty standard but you'd be wise to stick a pack of Lizard Skins Leather patches where the cables are likely to rub against the frame. Finishing kit such as saddle, seatpost, stem, handlebars and grips are all colour-coded and well made components completing what is an impressive package.

Comparing the Cube to other bikes its main competitive edge is its carbon frame which seems to be pretty rare on a bike at this price range. The AMS HPC Pro also comes equipped with a remote lockout which you'd expect but isn't always standard at this price range.

If you're looking for a fast, full-suspension carbon bike for your 2011 race calendar then the Cube AMS HPC Pro should be a strong contender. A stiff, yet responsive full carbon frame with a great specification for the money makes this bike a solid all-rounder. The looks are backed up by a sound performance and a complement of blue anodized finishing touches completes a great package. It's tempting to make generalisations about German products being well engineered but that stereotype really seems to ring true in this case.

At a glance

Verdict A great-looking, good value, full carbon cross country / race bike complete with a quality set of components that makes climbing feel smooth and efficient.
Value
Performance

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Cube Ams HPC Pro 2011 £2,249
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Cube Ams HPC Team 2011 £2,649
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