Cube Stereo 160 SL 27.5 first ride review£2,799.00

Long-standing all-mountain/enduro staple

The Stereo has been a mainstay of Cube’s line-up for years. It’s available with varying amounts of rear travel, topping out at 160mm on this all-mountain/enduro version.

Its frame shape puts it firmly at the more conservative end of the geometry spectrum, so are the German brand correctly sticking to a winning formula or is the Stereo being left behind?

Cube Stereo 160 SL 27.5 specifications

  • Frame: ‘HPA Ultralight’ hydroformed, triple-butted aluminium, 160mm (6.3in) travel
  • Fork: Fox 34 Float GRIP, 160mm (6.3in) travel
  • Shock: Fox Float DPS EVOL
  • Drivetrain: Shimano Deore XT w/ SLX shifters and front mech (2x11)
  • Wheelset: Fulcrum Red 55 EM wheels
  • Tyres: Schwalbe Fat Albert Addix Soft (f) and Speedgrip (r) Tubeless Easy 27.5x2.35in
  • Brakes: Shimano Deore XT, 180mm rotors
  • Bar: Race Face Chester 35, 780mm
  • Stem: Race Face Æffect R 35, 55mm
  • Seatpost: Cube 150mm dropper
  • Saddle: SDG Fly Mtn 2
  • Weight: 13.4kg (29.5lb), 20in size without pedals

Cube Stereo 160 SL 27.5 frame

This is one of two aluminium bikes in the Stereo 160 range (the third is carbon). It uses a four-bar Horst Link rear end, which drives a non-metric shock. Cables and hoses are routed internally, with rubber plugs to prevent rattling.

Geometry hasn’t kept up with recent trends, with my 20in frame offering a fairly short reach (442mm) and wheelbase (1,198mm). The 66-degree head angle is on the conservative side for a 160mm-travel, 650b-wheeled bike too.

On the plus side, the bottom bracket sits fairly low, with a drop of 14mm, and the 75.2-degree seat angle felt okay on the climbs once I’d slammed the seat forward. Riders thinking of ‘sizing up’ to get more reach should bear in mind that seat tube lengths increase by 50mm per size, reducing standover room.

Cube Stereo 160 SL 27.5 kit

Double cranksets are relatively rare on new bikes these days, but do provide a wider gear range
Double cranksets are relatively rare on new bikes these days, but do provide a wider gear range

Fox takes care of suspension duties, providing a 34 Float fork with its GRIP damper up front and a Float DPS EVOL rear shock. Drivetrain and braking responsibilities are handled by Shimano, with a mix of XT and SLX kit.

The SL model I tested bucks the trend for 1x drivetrains, instead offering the wider gear range of a double crankset. Schwalbe Fat Albert tyres are mounted on Fulcrum wheels. An SDG Fly Mtn 2 saddle sits atop a cable-actuated own-brand dropper seatpost.

Cube Stereo 160 SL 27.5 ride impressions

The Stereo 160’s rear end is very active. This keeps the wheel firmly planted on the trail, making it easy to generate traction. Unfortunately, the suspension lacks progression and has a harsh bottom-out.

I’d recommend adding some volume spacers to the shock to mitigate this. Up front, the fork is smooth off the top and supportive.

The Stereo’s a proven performer but its frame is beginning to look a little dated
The Stereo’s a proven performer but its frame is beginning to look a little dated

Schwalbe’s new ‘Addix’ rubber helps the tyres perform surprisingly well across a range of soft and hardpack surfaces. The ‘Soft’ compound on the front and harder ‘Speedgrip’ mix at the rear work well together, with the rear consistently breaking traction before the front.

Large spaces between the side knobs can make steering unpredictable at times, though. The 2x drivetrain is noisy when descending, and the two shifter pods, combined with the dropper post lever, make for a very busy handlebar.

Overall, the Stereo 160 feels like an over-sprung trail bike rather than an enduro smasher. It’s surprisingly fast when railing corners (thanks in part to that low bottom bracket) and on trails towards the mellower end of the spectrum. But I felt a little out of my depth on higher-speed and steeper tracks.

In the right hands, the Stereo can definitely perform — as proven by Greg Callaghan’s Enduro World Series victories on the 29er version — but a few geometry tweaks to the 160 would make for a more stable and confidence-inspiring ride.

Cube Stereo 160 SL 27.5 early verdict

Good trail bike with lots of grip, but short length means it feels out of depth on fast/steep terrain.

USA / Aus available from Chain Reaction Cycles

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