We review the Cube Axial WLS PRO women’s road bike
Cube Axial WLS PRO (2014)
The Cube Axial WLS PRO has an aluminium frame and a first-timer-friendly pricetag to match, but its surprisingly lively character means that it could be an equally good buy for experienced racers with less than a grand to play with.
Frame and fork
The stunning sky-blue frame of the Cube stands out straight away, and not just because of its looks – the prominent welds at the tube joints and heavy weight of the frame give away the aluminium under the paintjob.
It’s a nicely shaped frame though, with no-nonsense old-school rounded profiles and sharp white detailing. Internal cable routing looks classy, keeps things clean and saves snags. As far as female-specific shaping goes, Cube has gone the same way as the rest of our range, with a relatively short top tube designed to give a more upright position that’s more comfortable on the lower back and pelvis. The skinny seatstays and standard bottom bracket reinforce the classic road frame feel, but a carbon fork and tapered head tube with integrated headset hint that this is a cut above many entry-level frames.
Often kit is where you’ll find the compromises on women’s bikes. It’s a smaller market and, with less buying power, groupsets, wheels and finishing kit can be disconcertingly downgraded even at fairly high price points. So it’s a pleasant surprise to see that Cube has put the money where it matters on the Axial. The shifting is from Shimano’s second-from-bottom (but still perfectly reliable) groupset Tiagra, as you might expect, but the bits doing the hard work – the derailleurs – are upgraded to 105 for a really smooth and durable set of gears. The Fulcrum Racing 77 wheelset offers decent weight for the price while the wide 25mm tyres hint at the easygoing ride with good winter training potential. The female-friendly contact points are nicely put together, a Selle Italia X1 WLS Road saddle and lovely compact own-brand handle-bars making for a pretty impressive comfort and control package on a bike this price.
The colour of the Cube drew compliments but the obvious weight penalty and pre-supposed slower performance of aluminium, coupled with the frame’s classic rather than showstopping shaping, meant this was the bike taken out for easy lunchtime spins at first rather than the one we’d bagsy for a weekend long ride or cheeky morning interval session.
It’s nice to report, then, that this is a lesson in not judging a bike by its cover. Though it’s designed with comfort rather than speed in mind, it’s actually quite a racy shape in comparison with the Giant or the Felt, and this told as soon as the roads starting rolling and twisting. Yes, it’s heavy, which means more of a heave to get it up to speed, but once up and running it’s a pleasure to handle. The handlebars are real winners, giving a feeling of intuitive control that can be hard to find when you’ve got smaller hands. We found the Cube a little harder on our lower backs than other bikes, but the pay-off was that it was easier to get flat-backed and descend on, with sharp steering a plus on tight corners.
Over long rides, the weight did get us down a bit and comfort did lose out to cost – it was distinctly rattley over rough roads despite the skinny seatstays. The triple chainrings at the front meant we could confidently spin up any hill and trudge home no matter how hard the ride, though for an already fit rider it seems surplus to requirements and taking it down to a more standard 50/34 compact would save a bit of weight. Women with a bit more power in their legs will also find a frustrating lack of higher gears, as the big chainring is still a 50-tooth number. An own-brand, colour matched wireless bike computer that came attached to our test bike is another nice addition for newbies, but we couldn’t quite get to grips with it and would rather have that cash in our pockets to put towards a wheels or gears upgrade later.
Overall, though, it’s hard to have hard feelings for a bike that’s so eager to please and surprisingly fun to ride.
+ Nippy feel with sharp steering and fun ride quality
+ Decent spec for the price, with good female-friendly handlebars
– Weight is an issue on long rides and rolling routes
– Not a particularly smooth a ride