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Cube Axial WLS GTC SL review

Cube Axial WLS GTC SL Review
28 May 2015
Verdict:

You get a lot for your money with Cube's women's bike. However that doesn't make it the cheap option.

Price: 
£1,799

If this bike was a celebrity, I reckon it would be someone cool, clever and attractive – think Emilia Fox or Sheridan Smith. These ladies may not be camping out with the A-list in the Hollywood hills but they are credible, hard working and glam enough to get noticed. With that in mind, it was hardly surprising that on my first outing on the Cube Axial I found two keen admirers. Both skipped the introductions and insisted on immediately discussing the intimate details of this bicycle, which may seem a little forward, but with an attention-grabbing colour scheme and an impressive spec it’s obvious why this bike draws approving glances.

Stand up, look sharp

Cube’s Woman Like Series (WLS) comprises four road bikes with the WLS GTC SL at the top of the range. On paper it’s a modest offering when you consider that Specialized’s top-of-the-range, women’s-specific Ruby Pro is more than twice the price of the Axial. Yet despite its price point, this bike is far from average.The Axial doesn’t look like a women’s bike. The ‘redwood ’n’ flashred’ colour scheme is the antithesis of what we women are supposed to like, and the lower profile set-up is more race focused than sportive – something that’s refreshing to see. Internal cabling creates a slick silhouette that makes the bike look just that touch more pro than many of its peers. I get the sense that Cube has thought about this carefully. On looks alone the GTC SL has the potential to be a nippy ride.

Cube Axial WLS GTC SL Review Womens front wheel

While it’s always hard to determine what’s going on under the paintjob by reading the marketing blurb, Cube claims the Axial uses high-modulus fibres to create a stiff frame that’s further aided by a chunky head tube and bottom bracket shell. Fairly standard stuff so far then.On the road this translates into a responsive ride. I was wholly confident in the bike’s ability to hug a line through a corner or to kick away in a sprint, and I sensed my power was being used efficiently to propel the bike forwards. At first I felt a touch precarious on fast descents as I found it hard to get my weight far enough over the front of the bike to feel fully in control. Slamming the stem went some way to resolving this, however.

While this is a stiff frame, I’m not saying that it’s unforgiving. Thin seatstays not only look good but also go some way to bridging the gap between this being a pure race machine and a bike that gives a comfy ride. The Axial certainly absorbed a fair amount of vibration on long rides over Surrey’s finest tarmac, but when the going got really bumpy I found my arms getting tired and my backside getting sore – but then I guess that’s the payoff for a stiff, racy frame. Indeed, it was refreshing to ride a punchy women’s-specific bike. This is a good all-rounder that would well suit a pacy local club run, or a week in the mountains (as long as the roads were in decent nick). And when I swapped the wheels out for something a little lighter and racier – Mavic Kysrium SLS (around £600) – the Axial became something I’d happily use in a local crit.

Cube Axial WLS GTC SL Review Womens Bottom Bracket 02

If I were buying this bike, I would be making some tweaks. The 11-32 cassette is a fashionable addition – there seems to be a trend at the moment for adding a massive ‘safety’ sprocket – but if this really is a bike that’s made for performance it needs to go. Admittedly it’s nice on occasion to bumble along without ever having to shift out of the big ring, but unless you’re climbing the Hardknott Pass – a heinous 30% climb in the Lake District – then you’ll never really need that 32-tooth sprocket. Anything more than a 27t and you’re just cheating. What’s more, if you plan to race on this bike, the spread of gears could hold you back. I found the big jumps between sprockets (a knock-on of the wide range to 32t) annoying at times.

Is it ladylike?

Some manufacturers gloss over the need for geometry that fits the female form, while others embrace the concept, and sometimes take it too far. Cube’s ‘Woman Like Series’ may sound a tad Tarzan and Jane, but it does seem to be an intelligent approach. For starters, Cube hasn’t simply taken the easy option and aimed the Axial wholly at the sportive market – it’s more versatile than that. According to Cube this is a bike that’s ‘designed with performance in mind, and with performance comes endurance’, and despite this clumsy clutch of nouns, the result is really rather slick.

The absence of pink, purple, flowers or swirly calligraphy is a big relief

Cube Axial WLS GTC SL Review Womens Seat Post

The Axial is available in four sizes – 47cm, 50cm, 53cm and 56cm. To accommodate a female body the bike is proportionally shorter than a unisex bike. However, I was surprised at just how short the top tube is – on a 53cm frame it’s 51.5cm, so it’s worth studying the geometry before choosing your size. The level of spec on offer with this bike is impressive, especially given the pricetag. For a £1,799 women’s bike to carry a full Shimano Ultegra groupset is a bit of a shock (in a good way). At retail, the groupset alone would set you back around £500.

The WLS GTC SL comes with Fulcrum Racing 55 LG wheels (basically the same as Racing 5s). This is good because, for a complete bike at this price, I’d expect to see the budget Fulcrum Racing 7s specced. What’s more, this is the same wheel that’s offered on unisex Cube bikes at the same price point, which makes a contrast with some manufacturers that supply bottom-of-the-range wheels on women’s bikes as a matter of course.The Schwalbe One 25c tyres are good all-rounders with decent grip. Many of my test rides were carried out in the wet, or on damp roads, and the tyres performed confidently in and out of corners.

Cube Axial WLS GTC SL Review Womens Saddle

The Selle Italia X1 WLS saddle was comfortable from the outset and equally so after 100km. On seated climbs I felt supported and relaxed. The Wing Race Bars sound like they’re going to offer some kind of aero advantage – not that it was noticeable – but I liked the large flat surface, which offers something chunky to grip onto. Others may find them a touch wide for petite hands. Cube prides itself on making bikes in colours and styles that ‘others simply don’t dare’, and the absence of pink, purple, flowers or swirly calligraphy is a big relief. The burnt orange and rusty red colour certainly makes the bike stand out from the crowd, but for me what’s best about this Axial WLS GTC SL is that it’s a bike made for women who want more than a slow, comfy ride.

Spec

Cube Axial WLS GTC SL
Frame Cube Axial WLS GTC SL
Groupset Shimano Ultegra 6800
Brakes Shimano Ultegra 6800
Chainset Shimano Ultegra 6800
Cassette Shimano Ultegra 6800
Bars Cube Wing Race Bars
Stem Cube Performance Pro Stem
Seatpost Cube Performance Motion Seatpost
Wheels Fulcrum Racing 55 LG
Tyres Schwalbe One
Saddle Selle Italia X1 WLS saddle
Contact cube.eu

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