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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.
A high performance all-rounder that backs up its huge price tag.
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Make and model: Cube Litening Super HPC
Size tested: 54
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
The flex in the wheelsis the only complaint
wheels again I'm afraid just take the edge off
Keep the chain clean for precise shifting
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.
The performance is impressive until you ask for maximum effort, a bit too much flex for my liking
ice, potholes and floodwater and they were still running as smooth and true as when I picked them up
you aren't going to get much lighter without sacrificing reliability
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
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.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes
Would you consider buying the bike? Yes
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes
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,
With 20 years of road cycling and over 150,000 miles in his legs it's safe to say Stu is happiest when on the bike whatever the weather. Since writing his first review for road.cc back in 2009 he has also had a career in engineering including 3D-CAD design and product development, so has a real passion for all of the latest technology coming through in the industry but is also a sucker for a classic steel frame, skinny tyres, rim brakes and a damn good paintjob.
His fascination with gravel bikes is getting out of control too!