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review

Cube Litening Aero C:68X Pro 2023

8
£5,499.00

VERDICT:

8
10
A firm ride offset by real world aerodynamics and great finishing kit for the money
Aero shape works in the real world
High-quality build
Precise handling makes it fun in the bends
Firm ride for UK roads
Steering can't turn full lock
Weight: 
7,770g
Contact: 

At road.cc every product is thoroughly tested for as long as it takes to get a proper insight into how well it works. Our reviewers are experienced cyclists that we trust to be objective. While we strive to ensure that opinions expressed are backed up by facts, reviews are by their nature an informed opinion, not a definitive verdict. We don't intentionally try to break anything (except locks) but we do try to look for weak points in any design. The overall score is not just an average of the other scores: it reflects both a product's function and value – with value determined by how a product compares with items of similar spec, quality, and price.

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Cube's Litening Aero C:68X Pro is a quirky looking bike, with its aero profiles and jaunty angles, but it's definitely one that's been designed for a specific job. The racers, or those of you who prioritise speed over everything else, will be very happy with the performance and will most likely overlook the fact that it doesn't have the most refined ride quality on the market.

Interested in the Cube? Check out our guide to the best road bikes for more options, and find your perfect drop bar bike whatever your budget.

> Buy now: Cube Litening Aero C:68X Pro for £2,379.15 from Bambobike

Many people consider the UCI's limitations on road bike frame design as stifling, but Cube seems to have pushed the Litening Aero's frameset pretty much to the aero boundaries through wind tunnel testing, as it feels very fast out in the real world. The way the tubes (if you can call them that) hug the tyres front and rear makes this a very slippery shape when paired with those deep-section wheels, and that means when the speed gets to the high teens mph and above it absolutely flies.

2023 Cube Litening Aero C68X Pro - riding 2.jpg

The geometry (I'll give you figures in a minute) is very much race orientated, so that means relatively steep angles at the seat tube and the head tube, putting you into an aggressive riding position to allow you to get the power down when seated, and the low front end helps those aero gains.

The handling is quick – this is a race bike after all – which gives great confidence in the bends, and high-speed descending is a lot of fun. One trade-off is that it can feel a little twitchy and vague at slower speeds, but that is to be expected on this style of bike.

2023 Cube Litening Aero C68X Pro - riding 4.jpg

One other thing is that the internal brake hoses are directed from the handlebar down into the head tube, like on many bikes these days, but the Cube uses a curved channel in the tube behind the steerer tube which limits how far the handlebar can turn in each direction. It really isn't an issue when riding at anything above walking pace as you don't tend to turn the bar that far; you can get caught out in traffic – say, where you need to make tight turns to filter, something I found when using the Cube for commuting – but mostly it's a psychological thing.

2023 Cube Litening Aero C68X Pro - head tube.jpg

This is also a very stiff bike, with the large tube profiles on the lower half of the frame including fairly chunky chainstays designed to minimise flex. Both seated and standing efforts see the bike surge forward without any feeling of wasted energy. This makes the Litening a great sprint machine, and even a decent climber, even though at 7.77kg it's no lightweight mountain goat.

2023 Cube Litening Aero C68X Pro - riding 3.jpg

This stiffness does have a trade-off in terms of comfort, though. There is some compliance in the frame and fork, but it's not as plush as some. It doesn't feel harsh, and it doesn't beat you up exactly, but high-frequency buzz from typical UK road surfaces is noticeable through the bar and saddle. This bike is about performance, though, so it is understandable, but others, such as Orro's Venturi, manage to achieve that while also having a smoother, more comfortable ride quality.

Overall, though, this is an impressive bike in terms of performance, with great handling at pace.

Frame and Fork

This Litening C:68X is made from a material with the same name, Cube's own C68:X grade of carbon fibre, which it says uses six different types of fibre in its lay-up, allowing Cube to save weight without reducing the stiffness required.

2023 Cube Litening Aero C68X Pro - top tube 1.jpg

Considering the deep aero sections of the frame, the C:68X comes in at a decent 980g, although Cube doesn't quote which size that is for out of the six on offer.

2023 Cube Litening Aero C68X Pro - rear.jpg

As I've mentioned, the Cube gets full internal cable and hose routing for a very clean look, and also sitting internally are the bottom bracket bearings as it uses a press-fit design. This allows for the actual bottom bracket shell of the frame to be wider, without increasing the distance between the cranks (the Q-factor). It also means the connecting tube profiles can be larger as well to give that all-important rigidity.

2023 Cube Litening Aero C68X Pro - bottom bracket.jpg

The bike also has clearance for up to 28mm tyres.

2023 Cube Litening Aero C68X Pro - fork clearance.jpg

The seatclamp for the aero post is integrated into the frame, with adjustment being taken care of by the two bolts on the rear of the seat tube.

2023 Cube Litening Aero C68X Pro - seat post bolts and seat stays.jpg

As for mounting points, you get bottle cage bolts in the usual position, although the down tube has three bolt options to give you a bit of adjustability.

2023 Cube Litening Aero C68X Pro - downtube bosses.jpg

The fork is also called the C:68X Aero, with a design that integrates smoothly with the bottom of the head tube.

2023 Cube Litening Aero C68X Pro - fork.jpg

The fork matches the frame in terms of stiffness. There is no hint of flex-induced understeer when cornering hard, and no chatter through the legs when braking very hard either.

2023 Cube Litening Aero C68X Pro - front disc brake.jpg

By running the brake hoses through the channel in the head tube behind the fork, Cube hasn't had to flatten off any sections of the steerer tube, leaving it completely round. This has all been hidden, though, by the headset spacers and the stem section of the integrated cockpit, giving a smooth aero look to the front end.

2023 Cube Litening Aero C68X Pro - head tube badge.jpg

The six sizes cover 50cm through to 60cm, with top tube lengths of 527mm to 592mm.

The geometry is fairly typical for this kind of bike, with no real surprises. For instance, a 54cm has an effective top tube length of 550mm with a 125mm head tube, although it's a little taller than that in reality when the lower spacer brings it in line with the top of the top tube.

The wheelbase is 984mm, which is what keeps the bike feeling nimble and responsive through the corners, and the chainstays are just 410mm in length.

The seat tube angle is 73.5 degree, as is the head angle. Stack and reach work out at 542mm and 389mm respectively.

Groupset

This Pro-level model comes with a SRAM Force AXS wireless groupset which suits it very well. We have a full review of the latest Force group on its way soon, so for now I'll just give you the short version.

2023 Cube Litening Aero C68X Pro - lever.jpg

It's a fully wireless electronic groupset thanks to the shifters and mechs each getting their own individual batteries – coin type CR batteries for the shift levers and fully rechargeable lithium ones for the mechs which, if the need arises, makes for very easy setup and adjustment.

2023 Cube Litening Aero C68X Pro - front mech.jpg

Here we have a 2x, 12-speed system with a 48/35-tooth crankset and a 10-33T cassette. Those gear ratios may look low compared with those offered by Shimano, but I'm a big fan of the large spread of gears they give you overall.

2023 Cube Litening Aero C68X Pro - drivetrain.jpg

The 48T large chainring proves very efficient – on everything other than steep climbs I didn't need to use the inner ring, I could just use the wide-ranging cassette, and while there are a few larger jumps between the bigger sprockets, the closely spaced lower half means you can keep your cadence to a narrow range.

2023 Cube Litening Aero C68X Pro - crank.jpg

With a 10-tooth smallest sprocket it doesn't lose out on top-end speed either. I've pedalled bikes at more than 55mph with this setup and still had a gear to push against.

2023 Cube Litening Aero C68X Pro - cassette.jpg

The shifting at the levers is quick, and there are no issues with any kind of interference for the wireless signal. You control the gear changes with a single button on each lever, with the one on the right lever moving the chain onto a smaller sprocket on the cassette, while the left-hand one moves the chain back up the cassette. If you press them both together, the chain moves onto the opposite chainring. It's simple to use and I'm a big fan.

2023 Cube Litening Aero C68X Pro - drop bar and lever.jpg

SRAM's brakes are also impressive to use, with plenty of power and modulation. Here you get 160mm rotors front and rear, which is more than enough stopping power than you need on a road bike.

2023 Cube Litening Aero C68X Pro - rear disc brake.jpg

Finishing kit

Moving away from the gearing, you'll find an integrated carbon fibre stem and handlebar, the ICR Aero Cockpit. As the name suggests, it's all about the aero, with a flat-topped bar and sleek lines into the stem, which is more rectangular than a traditional round option.

2023 Cube Litening Aero C68X Pro - bars 3.jpg

I found it a comfortable handlebar with plenty of hand positions and stiffness for hard, out-of-the-saddle efforts. Fitting extras like lights and computers is the only drawback with an aero bar, but Cube has included mounting holes for a Garmin/Wahoo computer mount under the central section of the bar.

2023 Cube Litening Aero C68X Pro - bars 1.jpg

The stem spacers can separate if necessary, so if you need to change your front-end position you can do so without having to mess around with the brake hosing.

2023 Cube Litening Aero C68X Pro - stem.jpg

The seatpost is a Litening C:68X Aero Comfort Flex with an inline saddle clamp. It comes with a Nuance SLT Road Carbon saddle fixed to it. I found it comfortable, with enough padding to soak up some of the firmness of the frame without feeling overly squishy.

2023 Cube Litening Aero C68X Pro - saddle and post.jpg

Wheels & Tyres

On its website Cube lists the Pro model with Mavic's Cosmic SL 45 wheelset, but our review model (and others I have seen for sale online) came with a set of Newmen Advanced SL R.50 Streems.

2023 Cube Litening Aero C68X Pro - rim.jpg

They have a 50mm-deep carbon fibre rim, and at 18mm wide internally are quite a narrow set of wheels compared with what we are used to seeing. They work fine with the maximum 28mm tyres that you are going to be able to fit to the Cube, so it's not a major issue.

2023 Cube Litening Aero C68X Pro - front.jpg

With a 21-spoke build on the front and 24 on the rear, the wheels are plenty stiff enough, and a claimed weight of 1,490g is respectable for their depth. Their biggest asset, though, is the aerodynamics on offer from the deep rim; they certainly work well with the frameset, as I said earlier, to create a speed machine on the flat.

2023 Cube Litening Aero C68X Pro - tyre and rim.jpg

Fitted to them are Schwalbe's Pro Ones, which I consider to be one of the best performance tyres on the market. They have a lovely supple feel even at high pressures, and they grip very well too. They have good wear rates considering they're race-orientated tyres, but they are a bit too fragile for year-round use, as you'd expect.

Value

At £5,499, the Aero C:68X Pro is in line with its rivals on price.

I mentioned the Orro Venturi earlier in the review, highlighting its ride quality, but Orro's bikes also tend to score well on value. We have the latest iteration of the Venturi STC Tailormade on its way to road.cc Towers for review, and it has a similar build with Force AXS, an integrated carbon fibre cockpit and deep-section wheels, though it's £100 less at £5,399.99.

Mat reviewed Giant's aero offering, the Propel, in June, in its Advanced Pro 1 guise and was very impressed. It's the same price as the Cube and comes with all of the aero components expected, like deep-section wheels and an aero cockpit. It also gets an electronic groupset, but it's a tier below, being SRAM's Rival AXS.

I rate Merida's Reacto highly if you are looking for a well-priced aero road bike. I reviewed the Reacto 7000 recently, which came with Rival AXS for £4,350, but a closer comparison to the Cube is the Reacto 8000 for £4,850, with Reynolds deep-section wheels and a Shimano Ultegra Di2 groupset, or the Reacto 9000 for £6,500, which also comes with Ultegra Di2 and Reynolds wheels, but gets the top-end CF5 frame over the slightly heavier CF3 frame of the 8000 and 7000.

Conclusion

The Cube Litening C:68X Aero is a lot of bike for the money, and if speed is your main focus then it is definitely one to have on your short list. There are others out there with a smoother ride quality on UK roads, but you can't discount this bike's stiffness and power delivery.

Verdict

A firm ride offset by real world aerodynamics and great finishing kit for the money

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road.cc test report

Make and model: Cube Litening Aero C68X Pro

Size tested: 56cm

About the bike

List the components used to build up the bike.

DRIVETRAIN & BRAKES:

SHIFT/ BRAKE LEVERS - Sram Force AXS™

BRAKE SYSTEM - Sram Force AXS™ (160/160)

REAR DERAILLEUR - Sram Force AXS™, 12-Speed

FRONT DERAILLEUR - Sram Force AXS™

BOTTOM BRACKET - Sram DUB Road, 86mm Pressfit

CRANKSET - Sram Force DUB Carbon, 48x35T

CASSETTE - Sram Force XG-1270, 10-33T

CHAIN - Sram Force D1

COCKPIT:

HEADSET - ACROS, Top Integrated 1 1/8", Bottom Integrated 1 1/4"

INTEGRATED BAR/ STEM - ICR Aero Cockpit System, Integrated Cable Routing, Aero Spacer System, Garmin/Wahoo Mount Interface

HANDLEBAR TAPE - ACID Bartape RD

WHEELS:

WHEELSET - Newmen Advanced SL R.50 Streem

TYRES - Schwalbe Pro One, Tubeless Easy, 28-622

FINISHING KIT:

SADDLE - Natural Fit Nuance SLT Road Carbon

SEAT POST - Litening C:68X® Aero, Comfort Flex

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 says, "Rules are rules. A race bike needs to conform in order to qualify for UCI-sanctioned races. But designing a frame that's significantly more slippery through the air, without breaking the rules? That's completely legit. The Litening AERO C:68X's lightweight carbon chassis – built with our premium C:68X® material – was designed with extensive use of Computer Fluid Dynamics and real-world wind tunnel testing. The result is a significant 30% reduction in drag, in a fully UCI-compliant frame that elegantly integrates fork, stem, handlebar and seatpost. It's also extremely comfortable, power meter-ready and has clearance for tyres up to 28mm. But most of all, it's very, very fast."

Cube is correct in saying that this is a very fast bike. Its aero design works in the real world and its geometry and weight make it feel nimble and responsive too.

Where does this model sit in the range? Tell us briefly about the cheaper options and the more expensive options

There are four models in the range which all come with the same frameset but different finishing kit. The SLT is the top model, for £8,499, with a Shimano Dura-Ace groupset and it's available in two colours.

The SLX comes next, with SRAM Red eTap AXS for £7,499, then the Race, from £5,999 with Shimano Ultegra Di2, and then the Pro. A frameset is also available.

Frame and fork

Overall rating for frame and fork
 
8/10

Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?

The stealth black finish suits the angular shape of the frameset and the overall quality looks to be of a high quality.

Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?

The frame and fork use Cube's C:68X carbon fibre which it says uses seven different grades of fibre in its construction.

Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?

The geometry is racy with steep angles and a low front end.

How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?

The stack and reach figures are fairly typical of similar bikes of this size.

Riding the bike

Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.

The frame is very firm which compromises the ride quality a bit.

Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?

Stiffness is very impressive with a tight feeling over the lower half of the frame for power transfer and at the front end to resist braking and cornering forces.

How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?

Power transfer is impressive throughout the bike, and at below 8kg it feels efficient.

Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so was it a problem?

No.

How would you describe the steering? Was it lively neutral or unresponsive? Lively.

Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?

The handling is quick, as you'd expect on this type of bike. The turn-in is very precise, and with plenty of feedback it is a fun bike to ride in fast corners.

Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?

The saddle is a good balance of padding for comfort and resistance to power output. I also got on well with the shape of the aero handlebar.

Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?

The deep-section wheels offer plenty of stiffness for out of the saddle efforts or when putting the power down.

Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?

The SRAM groupset feels efficient thanks to the large spread of the gears, and the use of smaller chainrings.

Rate the bike for efficiency of power transfer:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for acceleration:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for sprinting:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for high speed stability:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for cruising speed stability:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for low speed stability:
 
7/10
Rate the bike for flat cornering:
 
7/10
Rate the bike for cornering on descents:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for climbing:
 
8/10

The drivetrain

Rate the drivetrain for performance:
 
9/10
Rate the drivetrain for durability:
 
8/10
Rate the drivetrain for weight:
 
8/10

Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?

A very good groupset that works well. The shifting design and spread of gears makes it feel efficient too.

Wheels and tyres

Rate the wheels for performance:
 
8/10
Rate the wheels for durability:
 
8/10
Rate the wheels for weight:
 
8/10
Rate the wheels for comfort:
 
7/10

Tell us some more about the wheels.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels? If so what for?

A good weight for such deep-section wheels, and with impressive stiffness levels too.

Rate the tyres for performance:
 
9/10
Rate the tyres for durability:
 
6/10
Rate the tyres for weight:
 
8/10
Rate the tyres for comfort:
 
8/10

Tell us some more about the tyres. Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the tyres? If so what for?

Great quality tyres whose performance matches that of the frameset. Loads of grip and low rolling resistance, although not the most robust.

Controls

Rate the controls for performance:
 
8/10
Rate the controls for durability:
 
8/10
Rate the controls for weight:
 
8/10
Rate the controls for comfort:
 
8/10

Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?

Well-specced finishing kit, and I found both the cockpit and saddle to be very comfortable.

Your summary

Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes

Would you consider buying the bike? Yes

Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes

How does the price compare to that of similar bikes in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?

It's competitively priced – close to the Orro Venturi STC, and arguably better value than the Giant mentioned in the review.

Rate the bike overall for performance:
 
8/10
Rate the bike overall for value:
 
5/10

Use this box to explain your overall score

A well-built and effective aero bike that works in the real world. I'm not a fan of the limited lock on the steering, but that is a minor issue on what is a very fast bike. Overall, it's very good.

Overall rating: 8/10

About the tester

Age: 44  Height: 180cm  Weight: 76kg

I usually ride: This month's test bike  My best bike is: B'Twin Ultra CF draped in the latest bling test components

I've been riding for: Over 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,

As part of the tech team here at F-At Digital, senior product reviewer Stu spends the majority of his time writing in-depth reviews for road.cc, off-road.cc and ebiketips using the knowledge gained from testing over 1,500 pieces of kit (plus 100's of bikes) since starting out as a freelancer back in 2009. After first throwing his leg over a race bike back in 2000, Stu's ridden more than 170,000 miles on road, time-trial, track, and gravel bikes, and while he's put his racing days behind him, he still likes to smash the pedals rather than take things easy. With a background in design and engineering, he has an obsession with how things are developed and manufactured, has a borderline fetish for handbuilt metal frames and finds a rim braked road bike very aesthetically pleasing!

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