Review: Cube Reaction GTC / SL 29er
March 11th, 2016
March 11th, 2016
Ruairi "Roo" Phelan spent most of 2015 on the podium of the UK Gravity Enduro Series as a Junior. Now, moving into Elite, Roo is already signed up to his second year in the Enduro World Series and has been signed to the Bikesoup Racing Team.
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The Cube Reaction is an entry to mid-level cross-country mountain bike. Its lightweight construction is based around a GTC Twin Mould Monocoque carbon frame with a strong Shimano XT Groupset and Fox 32 Float FIT4 forks. The colour-way is bright neon yellowish green, which they refer to as Kiwi 'n’ Blue. I always thought kiwis were dark green, but anyway, the shy types may be pleased to know that stealth black (raw carbon and flash yellow cables) is also available.
The monocoque carbon construction is light, with impressive angles delivering a good positive ride. The frame is good and stiff with strong, bulky, reinforced carbon layers in both the headset and bottom bracket areas. It's good to see a through-axle on the rear too as this adds to the rigidity of the frame that in turn gives you a direct and stable ride. All this work is slightly undermined by the flexing wheels, but more on those later. The tapered headset and press fit bottom bracket make it easy to maintain and upgrade. The front fork delivered 100mm travel which took everything I threw at them. The Fit 4 offers accessible dampening control and the 15mm through-axle delivers added stiffness to control your corners and add confidence on the descents. The remote lockout works well too.
The XT Groupset never fails, even when pushed hard there is was low friction, little noise and no chain slack. The gear shifting was slick with no jumping or poor engagement; everything you expect from Shimano. It's great to see a full XT groupset for this money too, not a fish-mash of Deore and SLX, plus it comes complete with XT brakes too, where some manufacturers try to save money here. XT brakes are a favourite of many riders and racers and it's a real plus point to get these on the bike; they were well modulated and they delivered strong stopping power when I really needed them, plus they're easily serviceable and replacement parts are cheap. The finishing kit was good enough for the price of the bike. As a Large rider, I found the bars a touch too short and the stem too long for my style of trail riding, however, it is a good starting point for beginners or riders using this for cross country racing. For my second ride I swapped these out for a riser bar and shorter stem, which delivered a much more precise and controlled ride for aggressive riding. It's good to see a large brand on the saddle, provided by Selle Italia, but the Cube Prolight own-brand seatpost had a degree of flex to it. This shouldn't hamper riding though and, to be honest, this could actually make for a more comfortable ride on long days in the saddle.
Now for the bad news, these wheels flexed loads. The Fulcrum Red 66 wheelset are just not man enough. When cornering hard the wheels would brush the forks and even the rear stays, not good at all!! After two rides the back wheel needed some attention as the spokes had loosened and needed tightening. The bearing are far from smooth either, so I would recommend an upgrade, especially if you are serious about racing or you want long-life reliability. The tyres are a good standard, it's hard to beat Schwalbe Rocket Ron and Racing Ralphs, as they are excellent in most weather and terrain conditions. The Reaction comes with the Kevlar, 2.25, Schwalbe LiteSkin models, which means the sidewalls can be a bit fragile (Schwalbe SnakeSkin is a tougher model), but we're nit-picking here for a good, light cross country component.
First impressions are good; it has a proven and trusted spec. Even though the wheels are a bit of a let-down, it is excellent value for an entry level racer with so much branded kit on it. You may wish to upgrade the wheelset, tyres and bearings after a while, or if you decide to start racing cross-country seriously and you want something lighter and faster, but the rest of the bike is race ready with its spec and its bolt-through front and rear axels, making it pretty future-proof for upgrades. The Cube Reaction is a quick, light, and well equipped bike for the money, and stands up against competitors that are nearly twice the price. The Reaction proves it's namesake by responding well on the trail, and proved to be surprisingly Ruairi-proof when tackling extreme cross country too! Although I was left wanting more from the wheels, they do contribute to a pleasing sub-11kg (24lb) weight (without pedals and extras), and you'd be hard-pressed to find a carbon cross-country bike with this spec for such little money.