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Cube Travel SL Review

Update: These are photos of the adjustable handlebar stem

I originally put up a quick video review on the day I brought the bike home from the bike shop and it follows. However, now that I’ve put up some mileage (~750km) I thought it was time to get into a bit more detail. The bike comes in at ~€1,379; additional cost due to my customisations are shown below.

If you watched the video you’ll see that I was quite excited by the bike. Since then, nothing’s changed: I love this bike and it’s perfect for me right now.

Background

Going back to the end of 2014 I was looking at replacement options for my Kona Dr. Good and the folks at FitzCycles mentioned the Hyde Pro as it had two things that were important to me; internal hub and disc brakes. I spent too long deciding and all stock of the bike disappeared in pre-orders.

Jump forward to September last year and I was looking at the cycle to work scheme again; then this tweet popped up :)

FitzCycles.ie on Twitter

2016 #cubebikes Travel SL – Alfine Hub, Gates Drive, Dynamo lights, carrier etc. #bikeoftheday #fitzcycles

Enough said, this was (is) the bike for me. The full specs are on the Cube site  but the keys ones are in the tweet and my preference is:

  1. Alfine internal hub. This hub has a great reputation for it’s reliability
  2. Disc brakes, front & back. Not everyone’s sold on disc brakes for commuters but I love the all-weather reliability of disc brakes.
  3. Dynamo lights. I put good lights ahead of hi-vis and a helmet when it comes to safety and dynamo lights are a winner against having to make sure your batteries are good. Also; these aren’t the old bottle dynamo lights you might remember.
  4. Belt drive. Novelty and functionality here for me. So much cleaner and smoother than a chain.

Making some changes

I’ve swapped over my Brooks saddle in place of the sporty Selle Royal Viper Video Gel. When I say sporty I mean; would break your hole.

For my own comfort and safety the next change came about because the top tube length of the Travel SL is ~3cm longer than that on my Dr Good; changing the handlebar and stem. Fitzcycles replaced the flat handlebar with Cube’s Comfort Shape handlebar and found me an adjustable stem.

handlebar stem - top view

Top view of the stem – clip for Topeak iPhone case holder shown

handlebar stem - side view

Side view of the handlebar stem, shows the extent to which the stem angle can be adjusted

Cube.eu Handlebar view

Nicked from the Cube product page – the swept back comfort handlebars

The combination means a higher handlebar with a slightly shorter top tube, effectively. It also helps me maintain a more upright position on the bike that suits my desire for a more comfortable, relaxed & slower style of cycling.

Conclusions

I now have ~850km on the bike since mid January (or so) which is made up of daily trips of ~6km each way to work and some trips at the weekend. Generally it’s just some light bits in my pannier bag but I do also pick up groceries fairly regularly on the way home. It’s a fantastic bicycle and I’m overjoyed with it. I still admire the belt drive the most for the quiet and smooth pedalling. It’s really noticeable when you’re cycling at night on a quiet road and there’s so little sound from the bike.  That combines with the bike being very light to leave me with an experience of gliding along and I smile a little because it does make me feel a childish glee at times :)

Here are some quick points:

  • 42mm tyres take getting used to after 32mm – they’re slower but you feel a lot less of the shit cycling surfaces we have
  • Hydraulic disc brakes are brilliant but I’m still not used to the different feel from a cable disc brake. I’m getting there but several years of becoming accustomed to the feel of cable braking is hard to shake
  • The quick shift paddles for the internal hub are really nice – I’m not going back to a twist shifter.

DSC_0402_quick shift

Here are some minor problems:

  • The connector on the hub dynamo caused some problems – it should be more robust and I’d like to see Shimano do something here with some of the light manufacturers. It’s just occurred to me that it could be possible (though maybe not wise) to reinforce the wires at the connector with Sugru.
  • The cord supplied with the rack looks lovely but really only stretches to something around the thickness of a rolled up Sunday newspaper. This limits the cords  usefulness. With proper bungee cords a bicycle can carry stuff like this:

Turntable on bicycle rack

  • I’m not 100% convinced by the tyres yet – there’s a different feel and I’m not sure if it’s due to the wider tyre or a change in grip. I’ve felt a little slide on some of the metal manhole covers that I wouldn’t have had before. So I may well change these for something similar to the tyres I was using on the Dr. Good (a Fitzcycles recommendation)

I’m very grateful to the Fitzcycles folks for their help in first identifying this bike for me and then getting it just right with the handlebar changes and fine tuning while everything on the bike was bedding in. Couldn’t send anyone looking for a bike anywhere else but to them.

Disclosure: I’ve a lot of praise for FitzCycles.ie in this post (and in general, I mention them on Twitter and in person). They’ve looked after me really well as a customer for the past number of years and that’s it; I’m not shilling. They genuinely love cycling in all it’s forms and get a kick out of pairing people up with a bike. Same lack of shilling goes for any other brands I’ve mentioned.

 

 

Posted by James Gallagher

39 year old nerdy sort who now lives in Rathfarnham, Dublin, Ireland.

  • Very interesting and helpful review. I’m looking at buying a bike when our BTW scheme reopens next month, and I’m currently torn between the Travel SL, the Cube Hyde Race and the Marin Fairfax SC 4 Belt. Did you consider those, or any other bikes, before you decided on the Travel SL?

  • Sorry for not getting back to you quicker. I looked at the Cube Hyde Race and that was going to be my purchase until the spec for the Travel SL came along. What changed my mind was that the Travel SL had the rack, dynamo lights and mudguards out of the box – all of which could easily be added to the Hyde Race but I figured factory fitted would be “cleaner”. I had also looked at some smaller German manufacturers who were doing hub and belt drive but they were around the €2k mark. I wasn’t aware of Marin but that Fairfax SC 4 Belt looks like a great bike – there aren’t many commuters out there with that sloping frame geometry (which I really like). The only thing that would put me off it is the Nexus hub – I had a 7 speed Nexus on my previous bike (Kona Dr Good) and when it failed, we (LBS and I) couldn’t find parts/replacement hub: it felt a bit abandoned by Shimano. I did find an 8 speed Nexus hub eventually and they are much better regarded, however the Alfine hub seems to be better regarded so I decided to make that one of my “must haves”. I’d suggest talking to your LBS and see what their view on the hub is and how confident they are about the supply lines for maintaining it over the next few years.

  • Many thanks. I agree that the factory-fitted accessories was tempting me too, plus some of the components (tyres, for example) seem to be better on the Travel.

  • Tyler Ashcroft

    Hi James I just bought the same bike here in Canada it’s been years since I’ve ridden. So I thought this would be a great all around bike for me to ride with the kids and work up to commuting. So it’ll be more casual use for a while, I prefer the more upright riding position anyhow I was wondering if you could send a couple of pictures of your stem and bars setup. I’m thinking of doing exactly the same thing pictures would give me a better idea if it’ll do what I’m looking for.

  • Hi Tyler, sorry I overlooked your comment. I’ll take some pictures and send them on to you in the next 2 days

  • Geert

    Hi, I’m taking to get the 2017 version of this bike. But I’m wondering: will it be good for short bike-tours of max 1 week, carrying 2 pannier bags, a tent in between on the rack and a handlebar-bag? Can it take that load and still get you up some hills decently?
    I don’t plan to go to the Alps with it but I should be able to climb some hills of a few kms. What is your idea on that? Can the alfine-8 handle that or should I stick with the regular gears? But a belt-drive + alfine hub sounds quite good in terms of maintenance :-).
    It would be either this bike or the Delhi Exc, since they have the same price-tag.

  • I’ve added some more photos at the top of the post – let me know if they’re not what you’re looking for

  • I’ve updated the post with some additional photos of the stem. Not sure if they help or not – basically I’m almost completely upright when cycling now as I’ve raised the stem angle further. I did that by loosening the allen head screws on the stem and changing the angle. Then when I’d tightened them back I loosened the front screws and rotated the handlebars slightly so the grips were level again.

  • Hi Geert, I’ve had no problem while cycling with rear pannier loads of ~15-20kg. However, I did break a spoke shortly after a trip where I had about 14kg in a single pannier and cycled on very poor roads (hidden potholes). So I’m now adding a front rack so I can distribute the load better – I’m ~90kg so with all factors I wasn’t overly surprised at breaking a spoke :) The mechanic was surprised that it happened but on the positive side it didn’t throw the wheel out. In terms of the actual cycle, not a problem at all and the range of gears was fine on the hills. As an example, there’s on stretch where over a distance of about 1km I went from an elevation of 61 metres to 90 metres and while I definitely felt the effort I was ok with the range of gears.

  • Tyler Ashcroft

    I bought the adjustable stem it’s worked great, but I think I may still buy a set of comfort swept back bars, then I just need a far more comfortable saddle and I’ll be all set.


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