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The snappily titled Cube Litening Super HPC Di2 – we’ll just call in the Cube, if that’s alright with you – is one of those bikes that’ll have even non-biking mates whistling through their teeth and asking how much it weighs, how much it costs, and whether they can have a go. The answers are 15.2lb (6.92kg), £5900, and no. It’s a full carbon race bike that comes fitted with top of the range everything, including Shimano’s Di2 electronic shifting, and it goes like stink.
The Cube’s frame is a high performance composite (HPC) monocoque with an extended seat tube that you cut down to length. Measure twice, cut once, don’t forget. Or just get the bike shop guys to do it for you – it’s an expensive mistake if you get it wrong. A stubby Ritchey Mast Topper gives you a small amount of height adjustment for fine-tuning the fit if you swap the saddle or pedals, say.
The head tube is short – just 14.2cm on our 56cm model – and, with an integrated headset fitted (1 1/8in at the top 1 1/2in at the bottom), the front end is very low. Right from the off there’s no mistaking the fact that this is a bike designed for speed. You’re not going to be riding in anything but a racy, aggressive position here. If you want something sedate for cruising around the countryside, forget it – this bike has to be ridden fast.
The super-sized down tube leads down to a huge hunk of a bottom bracket junction that houses a pressed in BB, while the top tube slopes slightly along its length to bring the standover height down to a reasonable level. Out at the back the seatstays are pretty chunky too, in stark contrast to the seatstays which are incredibly skinny, verging on the point of undernourished, to be honest.
Naturally, the gear cables – sorry, wires – run internally, as does the rear brake cable… well, you wouldn’t want to ruin those clean lines, would you? The full-carbon Easton EC90 SL fork is colour-matched to the frame – and very pretty it is, too – and the finish throughout is flawless.
When it comes to the components, you get Xentis Squad 4.2 clincher wheels – the 4.2 refers to the rim depth in centimetres – and a Shimano Dura Ace groupset, the shifters and mechs being of the electronic Di2 variety… Syntace provide the cockpit in the shape of an aluminium Force 109 stem and Racelight Carbon oversized bars, while the saddle is a Fi'zi:k Arione CX Carbon. Time to hit the road…
Wheel the Cube out of the garage and onto the side of the road and it’s already champing at the bit. You can get bikes lighter than 15.2lb (6.92kg), of course, but it certainly falls into the ‘very light’ category – even with the slight weight-penalty that you pay with the rechargeable Di2 battery that sits underneath the left chainstay.
Push down on the pedals and the Cube really leaps into life with such energy that you know you’re going to enjoy your ride. Acceleration is crisp and urgent with barely a trace of frame flex, and flicking up through the gears could hardly be easier.
You might not have tried Di2 shifting yet but chances are you know the basics. Essentially, rather than pushing or sweeping the levers like you do with cables, you just touch them – dab them, if you like. You might not think that changing gear in the traditional way could be much easier, but once you’ve used Di2, it feels like a labour of Hercules. Okay, we’re exaggerating, but Shimano’s electronic shifting is smooth and simple and there’s virtually no delay between pressing the button and arriving in the correct gear. Every shift is spot-on and the front mech automatically adjusts to avoid any chainrub when you move across the cassette – you don’t need to trim it yourself because the little R2-D2 does it for you.
It takes a while to get used to because the up-shift and the down-shift levers are so close to one another, but once you have that sussed you won’t look back. Oh, and you have to press multiple times to get multiple shifts – you can’t just keep the lever depressed – but that’s just being picky.
Anyway, back to the bike itself… Hit the hills and the Cube skips upwards without a care in the world, that lack of grammage really coming into its own. We got a little bit of flex in the Xentis wheels when we got out of the saddle but really not much – they climb well, especially for something with such a deep-section rim, and the Schwalbe Ultremo tyres are among our favourites for providing lightweight grip.
Like many lightweights, the Cube can skitter a little on the downhills if you hit a dodgy section of road – it’s never going to be as planted as a heavier bike with a lot of ballast – but, in general, descending is confident and controlled. The Easton fork proves stable and accurate and the oversized cockpit components offer a good compromise between stiffness and comfort.
The braking surfaces are carbon, which can sometimes be a concern, especially in the wet, but the Dura-Ace callipers provide plenty of well-modulated power. We’ll leave it at that on the braking performance because for most of the test we had the wrong blocks fitted – standard rather than carbon-specific. We never did really work out why but rest assured, retail models will have the right compound.
What else would you like to know about? Comfort? Well, you’re in that racy ride position so if your back isn’t into the idea, you’re not going to enjoy it much. You could always raise the front end up a bit by flipping the stem, but that’s kind of missing the point. This is a race bike, first and foremost, and the low position is all part of the deal. We found it perfectly comfortable, though, the lean seatstays providing enough rear end movement to keep the ride smooth and the carbon-railed Fizik Arione saddle joining in to complete the job.
Admittedly, not many of us have the funds to go splashing the better part of six grand on a bike so it's worth noting that the Litening is available in various other builds for far less cash. The Litening Super HPC Pro, for example, comes with a Shimano Ultegra-based groupset and Reynolds Attack Carbon clinchers, and it'll set you back £2499.
Light and punchy speed machine with instant electronic shifting – just try not to think too much about the price.
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Make and model: Cube Litening Super HPC Di2
Size tested: Bling
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
Frame: HPC (high performance composite) carbon monocoque
Fork: Easton EC90 SL CNT Full Carbon 1 1/8 - 1 1/2in
Mechs: Shimano Di2
Shifters: Shimano Di2
Brake callipers: Shimano Dura Ace
Chainset: Shimano Dura Ace 53/39
Chain: Shimano Dura Ace
Cassette: Shimano Dura Ace 12-25
Wheels: Xentis Squad 4.2 for clinchers
Tyres: Schwalbe Ultremo R Kevlar 700x23c
Saddle: Fizik Arione CX Carbon
Stem: Syntace F109 oversized
Handlebar: Syntace Racelite Carbon oversized
Headset: Acros Al-71 integrated
Seatpost: Ritchey Stubby WCS integrated
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?
It's a race bike, pure and simple. Cube say:
"The balanced frame geometry of our LITENING SUPER HPC is optimally tuned to the needs of the racing rider. It guarantees proper pressure on the pedals for maximum forward propulsion and agile riding manoeuvres but comfort too does not fall short over long distance use. Precise steering and directional stability on steep descents and outstanding power transmission during rapid sprints are also predictable features of the LITENING SUPER HPC."
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Spot on in terms of quality and looks great.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
They are carbon composite throughout.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
The seat tube is extended - you cut it to fit – and a short head tube makes for 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?
Fairly standard race bike fare
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Yeah, pretty comfy. If you have back troubles or lack flexibility, an aggressive set up like this is going to be hard work, but if you're fine with the position, it's an easy bike to ride. It's reasonably smooth and the contact points are great.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
Yes, no worries. We got a little flex in the front wheel, which surprised us, but not loads.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Yes, it feels stiff without compromising comfort.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? Neutral.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
It accelerates from a standing start really quickly and changes of pace are effortless. Lovely stuff. Maintaining your pace is similarly straightforward.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
We like the shape and flexibility of the Fizik Arione saddle - it's always a winner. We still don't know why it has that extended section at the back though. Everyone always says it allows you to alter your ride position, but no-one ever actually sits back there, do they?
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
We wish we'd had longer on the Xentis wheels. We'd have like to try them on a few other bikes for comparison, and to have swapped some other wheels onto the Cube, but the distributor needed it back quickly.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
The Shimano drivetrain components are great.
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
It's Dura Ace throughout. We like it a lot although you might prefer SRAM or Campag setups - that's going to come down to taste
No reason to doubt wheel durability. The Schwalbe tyres are pretty thin, but that's to bring the weight down
Di2 proved flawless during testing
A bit of a guess here, to be honest. We just can't be sure yet
You've got to factor in the weight of the battery
There's nothing to compare it too, really, other than cable shifting, and that's not really a fair comparison
Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
We wish the up-shift and down-shift levers were further apart of more distinct for use with gloved fingers – that would make life that little bit easier.
You do get a reach adjuster on the levers.
Anything else you want to say about the componentry? Comment on any other components (good or bad)
Don't be a Luddite – Di2 is the way forward. We want it on all our bikes. Now.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes.
Would you consider buying the bike? If I had the cash it would be on the list
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? I don't mix in those circles. But yes.
Anything further to say about the bike in conclusion?
It's hard to know how to mark this bike. The performance is top level, the price is massive. Is it worth it? If you want a brilliant race bike with Di2 shifting, this is the kind of money you have to spend. Sadly.
Age: 36 Height: 184cm Weight: 74kg
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, sportives, general fitness riding, mtb,
Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been road.cc technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now over 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.