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Test Lab: Cube Agree GTC SL

Relative newcomer to the bike industry, German brand Cube has in quick time established itself as a contender in the crowded carbon-framed race bike market. They’re now distributing across 40 countries and building a reputation for design and quality bikes. We took the midrange Agree GTC SL road bike for a spin.

Twenty years ago German businessman Marcus Pürner created the first Cube bicycle in a corner of his Bavarian furniture warehouse. Evidently the bike struck a chord with customers and now the range consists of 170 different mountain bikes, road bikes, cross, triathlon, e-bikes and trekking bikes. Cube cut their teeth in mountain bikes and you can see on their global website their dirt bikes outnumber road models three to one. Their engineers and designers have stepped into the road scene though and currently distribute 10 models of road bike, two time trial bikes, and two ‘cross bikes into Australia. 

The Agree GTC SL is a good example of a well finished carbon frame, aesthetically punching well above its weight…or should that be ‘below’? Anyway it’s a good looking bike. Beautifully smooth tube junctions, a well-executed integrated fork design, top tube lines flowing seamlessly past the seatube and down the slender stays. The satin finish black and white artwork is stylish and complimentary. The chunky font used for the Cube decals on the downtube and the fine striping that flows along the toptube and down the seatstays accentuates the respective tube proportions. The black and white palette gets a few splashes of red to spice up the monochrome just a touch. The wheels get the black and white treatment and a hint of red too. The minimal use of colour gives the bike a sophisticated presence that attracts attention. 

Shimano’s prevalent Ultegra 6700 drive train has been chosen for the Agree, and as usual performed its task well. With 50/34 cranks, the wide ratio 12-30 cassette and the 175mm crank arms on this large size there was plenty of torque on tap for climbing the toughest hills in my area. And in the 50-12 the bike has long enough legs to keep my cadence down to a reasonable level while pushing for top speed. Effectively you’ll hold 12.8kph spinning at 90rpm in the easiest gear and achieve 47kph at 90rpm in the 50-12 combination. It’s a good total gear spread that will have you climbing steep hills in relative comfort, without losing out too much on the top-end gearing. If you never encounter steep hills, ask the dealer to swap the cassette for an 11-23; this would be a better match for the flatlands and provide more subtle steps between each gear change. 

Internal cabling, for all its detractors, does make for a very clean very sleek looking bike. I’ll admit I am a fan; I’ll deal with the frustration of poking around inside dark carbon tubes looking for that errant cable for a good length of time if the end result is a tidy and slick looking bike. I’m not prepared to wear too much loss of performance though; sometimes internal cable routing adds too much friction through tight turns or internal alloy tubes to guide the cable, resulting in poor shifting. Happily, the Cube delivers quite well on this front; gear changes were reliable and smooth. That said the rear brake cable did produce an annoying knock inside the top tube though when riding over bumps; but I’ll chalk this one up as something that could be easily enough resolved with a small block of dense foam pushed in via the head tube.

I found the Easton EA30 bars comfortable on both the drops and tops but couldn’t find a sweet spot while resting partly on the hoods, a tight radius of the bar digging into my palms. The stem and post too, are alloy Easton pieces both with some red anodised parts. The same finish has been used on the rear hanger which doubles as the exit point for the gear cable and secures the end stop for the short length of outer cable.

Comprising DT Swiss components, the Agree’s wheels are built at the Cube factory in Germany. The process sees wheels initially hand laced before final tensioning is finished by computer controlled machines. Whilst the process sounds impressive, I encountered problems with the build quality on my first outing. Within the first hour I could hear the spokes ‘tinging’ while climbing, ‘must be just settling in’ I thought. Shortly afterwards, one of the front spokes unwound completely from the nipple! While both wheels were straight and true out of the box, the spoke tension was too low. Ideally, this is something that your Cube dealer should attend to before the bike leaves the showroom floor but it is worth noting nonetheless. Once brought up to tension, the DT Swiss wheels should be solid and reliable performers. 

Cube runs Ultremo ZX tyres on the Agree. These tyres have a solid reputation as smooth riding, fast rolling and grippy, and they lived up to expectations, hanging on tenaciously to the hotmix corners of my favourite descent. Replacing one of the tyres that was damaged in the ride however, revealed one of the ways bike manufacturers can keep costs down with ‘original equipment’ (OE) items on their bikes. The damaged tyre had a wire bead—not like the Ultremo ZX we’re used to seeing. This one was some 90 grams heavier than the 195g kevlar beaded version you’ll buy off the rack in stores. According to Schwalbe the wire bead version is not retailed at all, and the two tyres are the same in all aspects apart from the bead. 

With the range of different frame styles offered these days, every brand uses a different sizing system. The Agree GTC uses what Cube accurately describes as a semi-sloping frame, although their sizing is slightly unusual. I typically ride a 58cm frame with a 58cm effective top tube. To get these dimensions in the Agree I had to ride their 62cm frame size—a size that I’d typically assume was too big. However, the ‘62’ measures 58cm from the centre of the bottom bracket to the top of the seat tube and the effective top tube length is 580mm. With a 205mm head tube it certainly looks like a big bike but the reach isn’t quite what you’d expect from a ‘traditional’ 62cm frame. At the end of the day you really need to try the size before you commit, or rely on the experience of your Cube dealer to get you onto the appropriate size.

The tall head tube and shortish top tube creates a moderately upright riding position that’s more or less in line with the ‘endurance-style’ geometry that’s become quite popular these days. It’s also slightly at odds with Cubes terminology as they call it ‘Ready for Race’ or ‘RFR’ geometry. The geometry may be pitched more towards providing comfort than flat-out speed but the Agree still gives good account of itself in the local club races and it’s more than capable of running with the pack. That said, long Sunday rides in the hills are where the bikes handling traits really shine through. 

The fork is a Cube proprietary item that meets the frame seamlessly, secured with an FSA orbit integrated headset. Coupled with the oversize stem and bars, the fork didn’t exhibit noticeable deflection.

The downtube tube profile and bottom bracket areas are very broad, measuring a massive 91mm across the bottom bracket. The result is a high level of lateral stiffness that will bring a smile to your face while sprinting and climbing out of the saddle. The oversized chainstays also play their part in delivering this solidity. Cube’s engineers are clearly aiming to enhance the vertical compliance of the bike as well, so the downtube has a relatively shallow cross section, and combined with the slender seatstays makes for a comfortable ride in the saddle, effectively taking the buzz out of blue metal roads and muting the blows of potholes and rough roads.

On the road the Agree is a pleasure to ride, comfortable and confident. I couldn’t feel significant flex in the frame while climbing; and knowing your power is being used efficiently is a good feeling. Once the wheels were tightly laced steering was true through swoopy corners, though in really tight turns you can feel the front end beginning to push. At a smidge over eight kilos the Agree is no super lightweight climber’s machine but it’s not a heavyweight either; you can feel the Agree’s weight when the grade increases, but settle in for the long haul or get up and romp and the Agree will go with you.  The gearing specced on this bike as I mentioned earlier is quite low at the bottom end, with the 34-30 ratio, so you can maintain a comfortable spin with ease on long steep hills. 

Bikes for many of us are a means of pushing our boundaries, of exploring new places, and provide opportunities to challenge ourselves. Venturing out on the Agree I found myself planning to take on hills and routes I’d been avoiding for years.  Some would call that inspiration. 

Quality

Frame build and finish are very good on this bike. The poor spoke tension was a surprise and something for retailers to look out (hopefully any issues such as this would be sorted before the bike hits the road). The Shimano / Easton / DT Swiss component mix endows the Agree with a level of credibility to match the frame’s quality. 

Performance

The Agree is more limousine than circuit racer but still capable of mixing it competitively in your local bunch. It’s no super lightweight but the component mix is solid and reliable. 

Value

You may find a similarly spec’d bike for marginally less money but the Agree GTC SL represents very good value for a Euro based brand with a particularly well finished carbon frame. An extra $400 will buy you the Agree SLT and cut 400g from the overall weight of the SL. 

Overall

Cube’s first few years in the road bike market have produced a strong breed of bikes. The Agree GTC SL is a mix of Euro style, effective design and quality components combining to make an attractive and capable bike. 

Specifications                   

Frame: GTC Monocoque Advanced Twin Mold Technology

Fork: CUBE CSL Race Carbon, 1 1/8″- 1 1/2″

Head Set: FSA Integrated

Stem: Easton EA30 Oversized

Handlebars: Easton EA30 Aero Oversized 31.8mm

Saddle: Selle Italia X1 Road

Seat post: Easton EA30 27.2 x 350mm

Shift Levers: Shimano Ultegra

Brakes: Shimano BR-R561

Front Derailleur: Shimano Ultegra

Rear Derailleur: Shimano Ultegra

Cassette: Shimano 105 12-30

Chain: Shimano

Crank: Shimano Ultegra 50/34 Compact

Bottom Bracket: Shimano Press-fit

Wheels: DT Swiss CSW RA 1.0 Race, 28/28 spokes

Tyres: Schwalbe Ultremo ZX 23×622

Weight: 8.3kgs

Price: $3,499

Distributor: Monza Imports www.monzaimports.com.au

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