Cube Litening Super HPC road bike  £6099.99

9/10

A high performance all-rounder that backs up its huge price tag

Weight 6320g   Contact  www.cube.eu/uk

by Stuart Kerton   February 2, 2014  

The Cube Litening Super HPC SLT Di2 is the German company’s road range topper and you really are getting a huge amount of bike for a huge amount of money. In fact Cube reckon it’s an “absolute top end road bike with nothing left to be desired or improved” bold claims indeed.

If you were playing road bike Top Trumps you’d want the Litening Super HPC SLT Di2 card in your hand, with stats like an overall weight of 6.32kg (a featherweight 13.93lb); frame weight of 860g; and claimed wheel weight of 1295g there isn’t going to be much to beat you. Just in case though, you could always chuck in the price, a cool £6,099.

Like most manufacturers Cube keep a lot of their techniques close to their chest but what we do know is all of the monocoque Super HPC (High Performance Composite) frames from 2014 onwards are created using what Cube call an Advanced Twin Mold process. This involves an internal form used to position each layer of carbon fibre exactly where it needs to be and keep it there during the layup and curing process, so there’s no bunching of fibres. The end result is less material can be used as there is no chance of fibres moving and leaving a weak point in the frame.

Extra material is added where it is needed in areas that are likely to see higher loads in various directions from sprinting, climbing and the like and the finished product flows rather nicely between the various profiles.

The beauty isn’t just skin deep though. Cube have created a frame thats just as easy to ride to the shops as it is flat out sprinting in a tight group. The key seems to be the geometry where a slightly slacker head tube angle  than normal   (72° on our 56cm) makes it easier to ride hard for more of the time due to a less twitchy front end. The steering is much more forgiving should you get things a little bit wrong. Don’t go crossing the Litening off of your wish list just yet though seasoned racers/bike handling gods, push the Cube hard into a bend and it’ll respond to your input and more.

While we are on the subject of geometry it’s worth double checking before you click on the ‘buy’ button. The sizing is a touch odd. Our 56cm doesn’t actually have a 56cm top or seat tube. In fact the horizontal top tube is just 54.5cm and the 58cm has a 56cm top tube. There is a decent range of seven sizes available from 50cm to 64cm.

The direct handling comes from the tapered head tube, something that is pretty much standard practice on performance bikes these days. There’s a 1 1/8in internal diameter upper bearing with a 1 1/2in lower, both integrated directly into the frame — no alloy cups here to add weight. It allows a good sized cross section of material to provide plenty of stiffness while the larger bottom diameter also means Cube’s own CSL EVO fork can begin with a larger crown before tapering right down to the carbon dropouts, bringing a little flex for comfort into the mix.

Getting the Cube up to speed is grin inducing. You’ll never tire of the way it surges forward from a standing start and you need the rapid shifting Di2  gears just to keep up as it gets up to its sweetspot of 20-27mph. It really seems to fly with what feels like minimal input.

Whether you’re sprinting away from the lights, climbing or just keeping the pace high the bottom bracket area does its job of turning your power into momentum. The Litening uses Shimano’s Press-fit cups whose 91mm shell means the down tube can be as wide as possible without resulting in a huge diameter while also meaning the chainstays can be a good solid size without affecting clearances. There is a knock on effect to the Q-factor but not so much you’d notice.

The pencil-thin chainstays mimic bikes like Cervelo’s R series for creating flex to stop road buzz travelling up through the seatpost to the rider, in turn reducing fatigue. I had to wait for the carbon railed Fi’zi:k Antares to break in though before it was noticeable but once that was done it highlighted how comfortable the Cube’s frame is.

The Di2 groupset used is the full Dura Ace 11 speed  that we have already reviewed elsewhere so I won’t go into too much detail. The quickness and smoothness of the shifting is a perfect match for the performance of the frame. All the cables run inside the frame, exiting at the exact point they’re needed. The rear mech sire comes out of the Multi Purpose Hanger, keeping the lines clean and minimalist.

I’m not a huge fan of the externally mounted battery but hiding it behind the chainset does work aesthetically compared to the down tube or chainstay. If I owned the Cube I’d never have ridden it through the conditions the test bike endured but if you must take it out when its freezing and through deep floodwater, the battery and mechs are unaffected by such abuse.

With a top end frame comes top end finishing kit. Syntace provides the carbon Racelite bars and seatpost with the stem being a more sensible alloy option. The Racelite bars have a subtle sweep back on the tops which in use is very comfortable, a feeling that’s enhanced by the subtle flex from the material. A neat touch is a cross hatched clamping section which provides plenty of grip for the stem , Garmin mounts and the like without the need for overtightening.

We’ve had a few bikes in with variations of the R-Sys Mavic wheels (Storck, Fondriest if I remember correctly) but these top end versions come with carbon spokes on the front wheel and the rear non drive with bladed Zircal on the drive side. The rear 25mm and front 22mm alloy rims have an Exalith coating which reinforces the alloy at application and for me it provides pretty much the best braking surface for rim brakes in all weathers. As is often the case with superlight wheels they aren’t the stiffest though. General riding or climbing in the saddle was fine but out of the saddle efforts caused the rear rim to rub the brake blocks even though they were backed off a couple of mm either side. Really push hard and you’ll feel some movement at the front as well.

The wheels come with dedicated tyres, Mavic’s Yksion Pro Griplink front and the Powerlink rear. These are pretty good in terms of performance and grip. There are others out which are better but they’ve a good compromise between rolling resistance and puncture proofing; I only suffered one flat in 700 miles of winter riding.

On the whole the Litening is a brilliant package with the frame and kit complementing each other. For a carbon frame the Cube offers a surprising amount of feedback with plenty of character, something that isn’t always the case as we found with Storck’s Fenomalist. It’s comfortable, handles well whether you are in traffic or descending switchbacks at full blast and above all, it’s exciting to ride.

There are a couple of little niggles, one of which all light bikes suffer from to a certain degree: rough surfaces can unsettle it and you need to show it a committed hand to keep it on your intended line. It’s not a huge issue but its something you need to be mindful of.

The other is the paint. It looks great out of the box, but once its dirty it’s an absolute pain to clean. Give me a glossy finish any day of the week.

Still, even with those couple of issues I’d still buy one. Everything works together to create a fast, lightweight, comfortable speed machine that’s just as happy racing as it is on the club run, sportive or summer commute.

There are other options in the Litening range using the same frame but cheaper finishing kit should the £6099 price tag be a bit rich but as a whole the Super HPC SLT Di2 is a complete package with no compromises.

Verdict

A high performance all-rounder that backs up its huge price tag.

road.cc test report

Make and model: Cube Litening Super HPC

Size tested: 54

About the bike

State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.

High modulas carbon fibre laid up using twin moulds (inner & outer) to control the layup of the fibres to ensure an even structure therefore using less material for lighter weight.

Spec wise:

Color Zeroblack

Frame Super HPC, Monocoque, Advanced Twin Mold Technology

Size 50, 53, 56, 58, 60, 62, 64 cm semisloping

Fork CUBE CSL EVO Vollcarbon, Tapered

Headset FSA Orbit I-t integrated, top 1 1/8", bottom 1 1/2

Stem Syntace F109, 31.8mm

Handlebar Syntace Racelite CDR Carbon

Handlebar Tape CUBE Grip Control

Rear Derailleur Shimano Dura Ace Di2 RD-9070, 2x11-Speed

Front Derailleur Shimano Dura Ace Di2 FD-9070, Braze + Clamp 34.9mm

Shift-brake-levers Shimano Dura Ace Di2 ST-9070

Brake Shimano Dura Ace BR-9000

Crankset Shimano Dura Ace FC-9000, Hollowtech II, 50x34T, 170mm (50/53cm), 172,5mm (56/58/60cm), 175mm (62/64cm), Shimano PressFit SM-BB91-41

Wheelset MAVIC R-Sys SLR

Tyre MAVIC Yksion, GripLink 60a, 23-622

Seat Fi`zi:k Antares Carbon

Seatpost Syntace P6 Carbon RaceFlex, 27.2mm

Seatclamp RFR Superlight 31.8mm

Tell us what the bike is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?

Cube market the Litening Super HPC SLT Di2 as a no expense spared top end race bike and our testing has also highlighted that'll pretty much take on whatever you ask of it, on the road obviously.

Frame and fork

Overall rating for frame and fork
 
9/10

Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?

The finish quality of the frame and fork certainly looks impressive. Its been well designed to provide plenty of stiffness, comfort and feedback

Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?

High modulus carbon fibre is used throughout without all the usual alloy finishing components (headset, BB cups and dropouts are all carbon) to reduce weight

Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?

Odd frame sizing and a slacker front end than expected.

http://www.cube.eu/uk/bikes/road-race/litening/litening-super-hpc-slt-di2/

How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?

For the 56cm reach is 385mm while stack is 541mm, pretty normal in relation to top tube and seat tube length but doesn't correspond to frame size due to the odd sizing.

Riding the bike

Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.

Yes, for a stiff carbon race bike its very comfortable. The first ride was a 200km audax which highlighted its ability to absorb rough road surfaces without compromising stiffness.

Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?

The stiffness is good without being over the top. Impressive BB and head tube stiffness backed up by comfort elsewhere.

How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?

The frame doesn't feel as if its giving anything away.

Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?

no

How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? very neutral and forgiving

Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?

The handling was responsive with loads of feedback but very easy to live with. On greasy wet winter roads the neutral feel to it meant you could correct sliding tyres without over compensating. Push the Cube hard though and it still responds with pin sharp handling that is quick enough to respond

Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?

Keeping the carbon seatpost to 27.2mm means some flex is felt here for comfort and the carbon bars take quite a bit of the road buzz out. On the flip side the saddle was rock hard until it was broken in.

Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?

The 91mm shell width BB gives a good platform for the ultra stiff Dura Ace crankset to work with

Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?

It's all a pretty sound package with each component working together. The lightweight wheels certainly bring a lot to the party as well.

Rate the bike for efficiency of power transfer:
 
8/10

The flex in the wheelsis the only complaint

Rate the bike for acceleration:
 
9/10
Rate the bike for sprinting:
 
8/10

wheels again I'm afraid just take the edge off

Rate the bike for high speed stability:
 
9/10
Rate the bike for cruising speed stability:
 
9/10
Rate the bike for low speed stability:
 
9/10
Rate the bike for flat cornering:
 
9/10
Rate the bike for cornering on descents:
 
9/10
Rate the bike for climbing:
 
9/10

The drivetrain

Rate the drivetrain for performance:
 
9/10

Keep the chain clean for precise shifting

Rate the drivetrain for durability:
 
8/10
Rate the drivetrain for weight:
 
8/10
Rate the drivetrain for value:
 
8/10

It's hell of a lot of money on its own but the performance is brillliant

Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?

The shifting is quick and precise and you really do notice the difference over 200km between this and mechanical, less fatigue in your hands. The narrower hoods are also more comfortable.

The waterproofing on the battery is top notch to, nothing could get in no matter how hard I tried.

Wheels and tyres

Rate the wheels and tyres for performance:
 
8/10

The performance is impressive until you ask for maximum effort, a bit too much flex for my liking

Rate the wheels and tyres for durability:
 
9/10

ice, potholes and floodwater and they were still running as smooth and true as when I picked them up

Rate the wheels and tyres for weight:
 
9/10

you aren't going to get much lighter without sacrificing reliability

Rate the wheels and tyres for comfort:
 
9/10
Rate the wheels and tyres for value:
 
8/10

aound 1500 quid is a lot of money but stands up well to their opposition

Tell us some more about the wheels and tyres.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels or tyres? If so, what for?

I'd happily sacrifice an increase in weight for some more stiffness if I was racing on them but for day to day riding they are fine. Going deep section would open up more of the Cube's top end speed

Controls

Rate the controls for performance:
 
9/10
Rate the controls for durability:
 
9/10
Rate the controls for weight:
 
9/10
Rate the controls for comfort:
 
9/10
Rate the controls for value:
 
8/10

Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?

All of the Syntace kit is great quality which does its job without being shouty. The swept back bars are very comfortable.

Your summary

Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes

Would you consider buying the bike? Yes

Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes

Rate the bike overall for performance:
 
9/10
Rate the bike overall for value:
 
9/10

Overall rating: 9/10

About the tester

Age: 35  Height: 180cm  Weight: 76kg

I usually ride: Ribble Winter Trainer for commuting, Genesis Flyer  My best bike is: Sarto Rovigo

I've been riding for: 10-20 years  I ride: Every day  I would class myself as: Expert

I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed,

 

10 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

Lets hope they cahnge thier stance and we see these in the Pro peloton one day getting thrashed day in-day out

Great looking bike.

posted by Nzlucas [89 posts]
2nd February 2014 - 23:39

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I love my Cube, and I'd buy one again ; but not at almost 7,Grand ..

posted by Mostyn [407 posts]
3rd February 2014 - 10:59

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Could you please elaborate on this comment please?

"with the stem being a more sensible alloy option"

posted by stuartp [58 posts]
3rd February 2014 - 12:13

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over £6k for a bike with flawed wheels? no thanks.

posted by 700c [556 posts]
3rd February 2014 - 12:19

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Will they be selling only the frameset?

willdeath's picture

posted by willdeath [27 posts]
3rd February 2014 - 15:06

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stuartp wrote:
Could you please elaborate on this comment please?

"with the stem being a more sensible alloy option"

im of the opinion as are a lot of the pro peleton that alloy bar and stem are a better bet.

you generally dont save any weight at all on the stem front as the carbon has to be so overbuilt to take the lawyer risk,

carbon doesnt fare as well in knocks/drops/crashes as alloy.

i race crits and the force you put through stems is horrific and the one part of my bike i really wouldnt want to shear off in particular would be my bar/stem.

metal bends/ carbon shatters

posted by russyparkin [579 posts]
3rd February 2014 - 22:25

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stuartp wrote:
Could you please elaborate on this comment please?

"with the stem being a more sensible alloy option"

I can't think of a single good reason for a stem to be carbon. All a stem has to do is take a thread in the bolt holes, and resist twisting forces. a metal tube does the job better than carbon, weight for weight. That's why all the lightest stems are alloy ones of one type or another: Extralite UL2, Syntace F99, ITM The Stem, KCNC SC Wing, Ritchey WCS, etc.

the only reason carbon stems exist is that it's possible to make them, and people will buy them.

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7302 posts]
3rd February 2014 - 23:02

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I have the king of stems, the Cinelli Grammo, titanium.

I like that frame, but jeezuz H, Shimano need to take a look at the 1980's space age looks of their chain sets!

Ruins this slick frame, and I know I'm a Campag guy, but that chainset looks wrong.

All Campag

posted by Flying Scot [520 posts]
3rd February 2014 - 23:21

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"The Litening uses Shimano’s Press-fit cups whose 91mm shell"...

Think you've been confuzzled a bit by the SM-BB91 part number. Shimano road press-fit standard gives a 86.5mm BB shell.

posted by Alb [80 posts]
4th February 2014 - 14:14

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Nice looking bar tape...not really feeling the bike though. Couldn't justify the price on looks alone...
Rich mans Canyon Ultimate SLX

posted by ronin [125 posts]
5th February 2014 - 15:26

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