It wasn’t so long ago that alloy frames were the new black, and the material of choice for the discerning rider who had to stay one break ahead of the peloton. How quickly things change… Carbon is in, steel is making a comeback and poor old alloy has been cast down the pecking order, tarnished with the throwaway inference that it makes for a stiff, fast but uncomfortable ride.
An alloy frame does have one huge advantage over its carbon cousin. Because the production of aluminium worldwide is so prodigious, the cost of the material has plummeted, making for a real value proposition when it comes to a bike build. Finally, you can now have light, cheap and strong in the same equation.
In addition, aluminium construction techniques are years ahead of where they were only five years ago. Hydroforming (shaping tubes with fluid pressure), advanced welding techniques and CAD-assisted stress analysis can now yield cutting-edge performance at a reasonable cost. And if you can get the frame cheap, you should be able to spend more on the other bits.
Cube is a German brand with a range a mile long; so long that the range almost trips over itself in its offerings. The Streamer is intended to be an all-day sportif machine for the beginner-to-middling rider, and it certainly cuts a dash right off the bike shop floor. Bold graphics—the logos are applied as paint layers which is unusual, a strikingly bright and complex paint scheme and white-spoked Easton wheels unique to Cube guarantee you’ll twist necks when you roll out with the coffee bunch.
It’s equipped with a budget-minded mix of Shimano components, with an Ultegra rear mech and shifters combining with 105 chain, rear cassette, bottom bracket, dual-pivot brakes and a black 105 crankset. Generic Taiwanese parts make up the seating arrangements, and it’s a similar story for the control room. The Easton wheels, a Cube bespoke configuration, spin freely and in eerie silence. There’s not a single peep from the rear hub so if you ride on shared cycle paths it’s something to keep in mind.
Upon closer inspection, the Cube reveals a few characteristics we wouldn’t expect from a bike of this price point. Our chief beef is with the quality of the welds on the double-butted 7005 T6 frame; they’re plenty robust enough, but they are incredibly industrial in their presentation. In fact it’s reminiscent of a mountain bike frame from the late 1990s. As well,We we’re also surprised – and a little disappointed – by the bike’s heft. At 9.1kg, (size XL), there’s no getting around the fact that this is a heavy road bike.
Aluminium has certainly lost its lustre as a frame material on the shop floor, especially as carbon-framed machines swim down the price river to more affordable levels. But it’s value for money where alloy-framed bikes can shine, and it's here where the Cube needs to prove itself. There’s little doubt welds aside, it looks the part; prominent graphic integration, bold colours, those white spokes... It all presents brilliantly, let down slightly by the low-rent black finish on the otherwise perfectly functional 105 crankset. I don't know about you, but to me black drivetrain parts just don't look right on road bikes.
The value equation also comes into play when considering the finishing components. It’s a fair bet that the bars, stem and post came out of the same factory as, say, FSA parts—so why not add a bit of cachet this way and possibly shave a few grams off what is already a heavy bike? The Ready To Race logo is pretty cringe-worthy, to be honest. Where most of its direct competitors pitch in at the mid-eight kilo mark, the Streamer as previously mentioned, tips the scales at 9.1kg. For the RRP of $2399, that's a hard sell. It wouldn't be tough to tip it into the eights, but perhaps it should be there in the first place.