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Good scores are more common than bad, because fortunately good products are more common than bad.
German brand Cube has been quietly churning out some excellent bikes over the years and in my eyes its race-orientated Litening C68 Blackline is no exception.
The C68 frame is made by what Cube calls a Twin Mold process. From what I can work out from various descriptions, Cube claims that this allows the fibres to be more accurately placed in the mould before curing. By having a more reliable idea of where every fibre is within the structure, it can predict the performance of the material more precisely. What this means for bike riders like you and me is that Cube can get away with using less material and deliver a lighter frame while maintaining high performance in terms of stiffness and ride comfort.
As an engineer at heart, I would be interested in learning more about what the differences really are between this process and your average 'run of the mill' carbon frame, but I can't deny that the frame is certainly light.
Even from looking at the frame, it's quite evident that Cube has always intended for this bike to be stiff. The circumference of the down tube is enormous, and leads to a similarly enormous junction with the rectangular section chainstays and tapering seat tube.
As with many racy bikes, in an attempt to make the C68 feel a little more manageable, Cube has added a thinner diameter 27.2mm seatpost and relatively thin seatstays. Juxtaposed to the massive tubes elsewhere, these thinner tubes really stand out, but overall I think this is a good looking frame.
Up front, as you would expect from a frame interested in stiffness, there is a tapered steerer, from 1 1/8in to 1 1/4in. I found this a little annoying as it isn't the 'standard' (is there even such a thing in cycling anymore?) taper out to 1 1/2in you find on most forks these days. Realistically, what it means is that finding a replacement headset bearing might be a little more tedious than normal.
The fork is an all-carbon affair and the blades don't quite follow much of the rest of the frame's quest for massive oversizing. For some people they might almost look a little out of place with the rest of the frame.
I've just built myself a new personal bike, and from the outset I was adamant it would include two things: Mavic wheels and Shimano's latest incarnation of mechanical 11-speed Ultegra. As such, picking up this bike from road.cc towers was a bit of a delight.
The wheels on this bike are Mavic's semi-aero Cosmic Elite S editions, and have been excellent. Bike manufacturers often attempt to get away with cheaper wheels on mid- to high-end bikes such as the C68, and it's refreshing to see a solid set included in the price. You can definitely feel a touch of an aero benefit when churning along the flat at high speed, and yet they aren't so deep that you'll be dragging them up long/steep climbs. Similarly, they manage to avoid feeling more like you're sailing than riding in strong crosswinds. I can't really comment on durability of these specific wheels but my general experience with Mavic hubs has been pretty good. It would be interesting to see how they hold out over a winter.
The wheels are supplied with Mavic's own Wheel Tyre System tyres, in this case rather narrow 23mm Yksions. While I never really found myself wanting for grip, I think in time I would switch to 25mm tyres – which the frame has plenty of room for. It's a personal preference which I find gives me even more confidence to really bank a bike into steep and sharp turns.
There's not much I need to say about mechanical Ultegra that hasn't been said already on this website (you can read Dave Atkinson's review from last year here). It's easy to set up, the excellent braking constantly makes me question whether road bikes really do need disc brakes, and the shifting is faultless – especially at the front derailleur.
The rest of the finishing kit is supplied by Syntace, and is perfectly acceptable for this level of bike in my opinion. It would be easy to shave some more weight off the bike with fancier bits but the position worked for me and I had no qualms. The only thing I might change is the handlebar; I found the sweep of the drops a bit aggressive for my fairly small hands, leading to me having to wind the brake levers right in in order to be able to grab the brakes easily from the drops.
The saddle is a Selle Italia Flite model and I had no problems with it. I try to avoid reviewing saddles in any kind of real detail, though, as they can be such a personal preference from one person to the next.
As mentioned above, the C68 has been made very much with stiffness in mind. A byproduct of this is always going to be a ride that errs on the side of harsh rather than smooth. I have to commend Cube on its efforts to reduce road buzz transmitted to the bar and saddle – the bike does better than I actually expected. Nonetheless, if you're planning on very long, slow rides rather than shorter fast rides, you might be better looking elsewhere.
Looking at the geometry of the C68, the 56cm size I was testing has a 565mm effective top tube, 563mm stack and 398mm reach (the vertical and horizontal measurements from the centre of the bottom bracket to the top of the head tube). I found this pretty similar to what I normally look for in a bike, just a little shorter and lower.
Out on the road, I loved riding this bike. Even with narrower tyres and the quite harsh ride of such a stiff frame, the C68 felt planted and was happy cornering both at high and low speed with no fuss at all. One of the best compliments I can pay a product is that you don't ever have to think about it when using it out riding, and the Cube is a great example of this.
If I had to be really picky, I would say that with some spacers under the stem to bring the bar up to a suitable height for me, I found that my weight ended up being a touch further back than my ideal position. As a result, the steering felt a little lighter and more responsive to small inputs – which at times was great but at higher speeds could feel a little nervous. I'm only talking fractions here, though, and on the whole the C68 handled wonderfully.
For most, £2500 is serious money to spend on a bike, and when testing around this price I expect to end up with pretty excellent performance in order to justify it. I think the Cube delivers on this. You can certainly get bikes with better groupsets and/or better components on other frames for this price, but as an overall product that you're going to be riding 'out of the shop' as it were, the C68 represents good value.
I've really enjoyed my time with the Cube C68. I really can't find any flaws with it. Apart from adding some wider tyres, and possibly a different bar, I wouldn't change a thing. The value is good and it rides really nicely. The fact that I didn't have to think about it when riding suggests it performs really well, with no problems. For it to achieve full marks I'd want it to inspire me a little more with its performance, but nonetheless, it's a fantastic bike to ride and I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a new steed at this price.
Surefooted, stable, race-orientated machine that shines on the component choice front
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Make and model: Cube Litening C68 Pro Blackline
Size tested: 56cm
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
Frame:CUBE C68 Advanced Twin Mold Technology, Internal Cable Routing
Fork:CUBE C68 Technology, 1 1/8 - 1 1/4" Tapered
Headset:FSA Orbit ACB I-t integrated, top 1 1/8", bottom 1 1/4"
Handlebars:CUBE Wing Race Bar Carbon
Front Brake:Shimano Ultegra BR-6800
Rear Brake:Shimano Ultegra BR-6800
Brake Levers:Shimano Ultegra ST-6800
Gear Shifters:Shimano Ultegra ST-6800, 2x11-Speed
Front Derailleur:Shimano Ultegra FD-6800BM, 31.8mm
Rear Derailleur:Shimano Ultegra RD-6800SS, 11-Speed
Crankset: Shimano Ultegra FC-6800, Hollowtech II, 50x34T, 170mm (50/52cm), 172,5mm (54/56/58cm), 175mm (60/62cm), PressFit SM-BB71-41
Cassette:Shimano Ultegra CS-6800, 11-28
Wheelset:Mavic Cosmic Elite SFront Tyres:Mavic Yksion, 120 TPI, 23-622Rear
Tyres:Mavic Yksion, 120 TPI, 23-622
Saddle:Selle Italia Flite MG
Seatpost:CUBE Performance Motion Post Carbon, 27.2mm
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 dealer Cyclesurgery.com says: "The Cube Litening C68 Pro Blackline 2015 is built to be ridden fast by riders who never shy away from a race in both friendly and competitive conditions.
"Thanks to a cutting edge Advanced Twin Mould Carbon frame with a matching fork, the bike is able to deliver blisteringly fast speeds when you need it to, pair this with an ultra-reliable Shimano Ultegra Groupset ensuring everything is running smoothly mile after mile, and you are left with a true force to be reckoned with out on the roads."
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Top notch carbon frame and fork. The oversized frame tubes seem to be a bit at odds with the narrower fork blades, but out riding I found they performed really well.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
Carbon fibre made with Cube's Twin Mould technology.
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Surprisingly comfortable for such oversized tubes, Cube has done well there. Still definitely on the harsher side of the "comfort spectrum", if you will.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
Plenty stiff. Not overly so anywhere though.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
The Cube springs forward when you mash on the pedals, and definitely feels efficient.
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? Neutral to lively.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
Even with 23mm tyres, it felt surefooted, stable and great. I think with 25s it could feel even better. As mentioned in the review, the steering can feel slightly over-responsive at times, but this is pretty minor.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
The bar, for me, could have been a better shape, but other than that I can't see Cube doing much better on the comfort front without having to change the frame design.
You can find plenty of reviews on this website singing Ultegra's praises. I think it is truly excellent.
Great wheels and good tyres that could be made even better by being wider.
Tough to say over the short test period I had the bike for, but no problems during that time.
Easiest place to put the C68 on a bit of a diet for sure.
I would probably change the bar in time.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Absolutely
Would you consider buying the bike? Yes
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes
Age: 23 Height: 182cm Weight: 75kg
I usually ride: Kinesis Pro6 My best bike is: The first steel bike I made
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: road racing, cyclo-cross, commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking