CUBE COMPACT HYBRID
The Cube Compact Hybrid e.bike is slotted into the Urban Mobility section of the German manufacturer’s website along with speed pedelecs (capable of providing electric assist up to 28mph) and electric cargo bikes. This all suggests it’s a niche product but in fact many of the larger e-bike brands are starting to produce compact models. Cube say their Compact Hybrid model is an ‘urban mobility solution that'll slot so easily into your life’ adding ‘you'll wonder how you ever managed without it.’ So just how useful is it?
This review comes courtesy of electricbikereport.com contributor Richard Peace.
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The Cube Compact Hybrid e-bike aims to be all things to all riders; small and nippy enough cut through town traffic, easy to pop into a corner of your garage or flat when not in use, and capable of handling plenty of cargo too.
Having ridden it around for a couple of months I can say I’m thoroughly sold on the concept. Right now the bike is leant up by the work surface in our small kitchen, it’s handlebars twisted 90 degrees using the excellent tool-less Schulz Speedlifter quick release handlebar stem, meaning it can be walked around and leant over and easily charged without even having to remove the battery. I can just wheel it out of the door, rotate the handlebars in a trice and cycle off. So, for once I have to say how accurate the advertising blurb is – it really has slotted, literally and metaphorically, into my life.
Spec & Options
The Compact Hybrid features an immensely strong aluminium alloy frame in a funky X-shape. Indeed Cube’s technical documentation gives a max ‘structural’ weight limit of 142kg for the bike – this includes the 24kg-ish bike weight, rider weight and cargo. There is plenty of adjustment for rider height in the seatpost and the clever quick release handlebar setup allows the stem to be height adjusted as well as ‘flatpacked’ for storage in narrow spaces. You can also adjust the bars fore and aft but need an Allen key for that.
I found the rear rack sat far enough back on the bike to house a couple of full size panniers that, if carefully placed, wouldn’t catch your heels (not always easy to achieve with smaller wheelbase folders and compacts). I found the bike could exceed the 15kg max rear pannier weight rating by several kilos without any drastic effects on handling.
The front rack fixes onto the headtube and also looks very strong, the 12kg max rating again looking fairly conservative. Being headtube mounted it affects handling far less than other handlebar or fork mounted systems.
The Bosch Active Line Plus motor is the one slightly disappointing aspect of the bike as the alternative Sport spec of the Compact Hybrid has the more powerful Performance Line which is just as quiet and also weighs 3.2kg. Why not spec the more powerful motor, even if it means a modest increase in price? It seems better suited to a bike that invites you load it up with cargo and tackle the steepest hills. Not that the Bosch Active Line Plus isn’t a very capable hill climber, it’s just the Performance Line gives that extra pep and enjoyment factor even while fully loaded and battling hills and headwinds.
The Shimano Nexus Inter 5-e Speed Hub gears are a relatively new design and Shimano say they have been specifically designed for e-bike use. Like all good hub gears, shifting whilst stationary is a big boon, as is low maintenance and the Inter 5-e’s 263% range should be plenty in all but the most extreme of scenarios. This newly-designed hub unit also has wider spaced gears as the extra power of an e-bike means the closer ratios of a non-electric bike aren’t really of use. The 5 gears are also slightly closer together at the lower end of the range allowing for standing start and hill-climbing finesse where they are more needed. Shimano also say that the hub’s shifting under load is better than non-ebike specific models and that the gearing itself is more robust but the without a very long term test it’s had to comment on the latter. Certainly it shifted OK under load, though clearly it’s not something you would make a habit of.
The 500Wh battery should keep you riding for most of the day and it is easily removable for charging if needed. The very practical spec is completed by powerful, hardwired LED lighting, chainguard and kickstand.
Performance Pros and Cons
I’m struggling to see many cons, other than the rather penny pinching choice of a slightly less powerful mid-drive, and the rigid - rather than folding -pedals.
You might think handling would perhaps feel over-lively with the use of relatively small 20” wheels but I found that just not to be the case. The combination of large volume, 2.4” wide-profile tyres and the relatively heavy weight of the bike meant it rolled comfortably over smaller potholes and, even fully loaded and at speed, handling felt very stable. It will also tackle towpath and railpath type tracks and even more benign countryside bridleways. Hydraulic disk brakes provide reassuringly strong but sensitive stopping power too.
At around 24kg the Compact Hybrid is quite heavy, especially for a small e-bike. However, in practice this didn’t feel too much of a burden – if you need to lift it much above knee height it surely will be, but why would you want to? If you need to carry it over a big step or onto a train the small reinforcing bar near the bottom of the mainframe makes an excellent handle to carry it by your side and the bike remains nicely balanced and stable when lifted. I was even happy lifting it up small flights of steps where the compact nature helps it to stop bumping into things – portability isn’t just about weight, balance and shape are important too.
The compact e-bike field is getting busier and busier each year and with ‘urban micromobility’ gaining ground and getting people used the idea that small wheels are practical (and are not just for children) it’s easy to see this trend continuing.
Currently there are similar offerings to the Cube Compact Hybrid from Orbea’s Katu-E at £2099 and Benno’s RemiDemi at £3399.99 (though heavily discounted if you shop around). Pricier competition comes from Tern’s non-folding HSD and GSD models which feature a plethora of carrying options including child seats and even child weather protection, whilst their folding Vektron range are also pretty capable load carriers. At the more budget end of the market Rad Power’s Rad Runner is available direct from Europe for little over a £1000 and whilst it lacks the build quality and motor power of the Cube it still looks mighty practical and great value for money.
So, it’s not hard to see the Compact’s appeal spreading beyond a specific ‘urban’ class of bikes and e-bikes. Having used the Cube Hybrid Compact for all manner of riding there’s no practical reason why that shouldn’t happen – it’s small size and ‘flatpack’ ability will also appeal to those who regularly take their bikes on trains where storage space is often limited. Indeed, one day compacts might become the standard bicycle size and you would need a specific reason to opt for a ‘big bike’ (like going full-on mountain biking). Fashion is a powerful thing and it might just be starting to swing in favour of the compact bike.
Weight: 23.7kg as standard 24.9kg with optional front rack
Motor: Bosch Active Line Plus mid-drive (the Sport version comes with Bosch’s more powerful Performance Line mid-drive)
Battery: Bosch Powerpack 500Wh
Power Delivery: Pedelec torque sensor
Gearing: Shimano Nexus 5 speed hub gears (the Sport version comes with Shimano Tiagra 10 speed derailleur version)
£2299 for both the Compact Hybrid and Compact Hybrid Sport versions.