Women's specific Cube Axial Race WLS review
The women's-specific aluminium Cube Axial Race WLS demonstrates value for money without compromising on specification or performance.
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There’s a lot of bikes on the market around the £1,000 price point; the challenge can be sorting the wheat from the chaff in terms of what you get for your money, often accepting big compromises in some way. The Axial Race WLS feels far from any compromise and really pushes the boundaries, demonstrating that it is possible to deliver a performance ride, without shortcutting in the wheels or drivetrain department. Chapeau, Cube. Chapeau.
Stiff, but comfortable
Great for riding in hills
Tricky home maintenance
Wide-ratio cassette means big gaps if riding on flat terrain
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With no WorldTour team delivering eatales-enhancing wins, it could be easy to overlook Cube. Well, it would be if it didn’t make such impressive bikes for exceptional value – with the Axial Race WLS being no exception to this rule.
Until now, my experience had been limited to Cube’s carbon steeds, but it’s clear it also does aluminium very well – so well in fact that this bike made our shortlist for Women’s Bike of the Year 2017.
The alloy chassis and carbon fork combo spearheads Cube's range of performance aluminium race bikes.
At first glance, it’s clear that the Axial Race WLS is a racing machine. It's made from what Cube call its Superlite aluminium, a 7005 aluminium alloy which is not the lightest alloy on the market, but this has enabled Cube to keep the price down.
Using oversized tubing, Cube has been able to make tube walls as thin as possible, which combined with a double-butted construction method results in a lowish overall weight of 8.71kg.
The boxy down tube and tapered head tube have also made the Axial Race WLS very stiff, but elements of comfort have been factored in with the inclusion of slender seatstays for an ever-so-slight flex and the more absorbing carbon-bladed fork.
The frame geometry errs on the racy side. This isn’t to say that it’s an 'arse up and head down' position – the seatpost isn’t crazy steep at 74.6deg – but with a head tube length at 130mm for a 50cm frame, it's not exactly 'sit up and beg' either.
There’s a bit of a love-hate divide on internal routing and a press-fit bottom brackets in the cycling world and the Axial Race WLS has both. While they don’t particularly lend themselves to easy home spannering, they do make for very good-looking clean frames, with the Axial Race WLS no exception.
>>> How to change a press fit bottom bracket
The Axial Race WLS specification is really where it excels when you factor in the sub-grand price tag.
It uses Shimano 105 complete, which is now 11-speed and uses Ultegra 6800 shifting technology which, along with an improved braking performance from previous versions, makes it pretty much faultless.
The only thing that may require a reconfiguration if you're on flatish terrain is the 50/32t compact chainset and 11-32t cassette in order to get closer gear ratios.
>>> Are you using your bike gears efficiently?
With Shamino fully on board, it would be easy for Cube to slip in a cheap wheelset, so I was impressed to see a pair of bombproof colour-coded Mavic Aksium Elite wheels. They’re strong, stiff and not too heavy in the scales department.
If you are looking to race the Axial Race WLS, it’ll worth investing in a pair of faster hoops with your own personal preference for tyres over the fitted-as-standard Mavic Yksion Elite that the Aksiums come shod with, but as rouleur's wheels go, these are spot on.
It all adds up to a cracking ride that, when given a poke, is responsive and rapid.
It’s stiff – not the teeth-chattering alloy stiffness of old, but a performance-enhancing rigidity that ensures every pedal revolution is put in to forward propulsion.
The slender seatstays and carbon fork do assist in the reduction of road buzz transmission, but it definitely qualifies as a more-noticeable-than-most feel. However, for me personally, it only served to provide good tarmac feedback, giving me further confidence that I was firmly planted on the road (especially in the wet).
The women's specific ergonomic design and compact cockpit enhances the feeling of total control especially if, like me, you have small hands.
I found the aforementioned compact chainset and large sprockets perfect for steep long hills, and with no real weight penalty from the frameset, it would be happily at home in the mountains. As I suspected, you will notice gaps in the cassette once the roads flattens out a bit, but better to be undergeared than overgeared in my opinion.
I said at the start Cube is known for exceptional value and that the Axial Race WLS was no exception.
It’s ready to ride straight out the box, and with some personalisation here and there, it’ll make it an impressive race machine for anyone.
Some die-hard carbon fans may be put off by the alloy, but to get a carbon bike that rides this well with this level of componentry you would be looking at double the price.
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Hannah is Cycling Weekly’s longest-serving tech writer, having started with the magazine back in 2011. She has covered all things technical for both print and digital over multiple seasons representing CW at spring Classics, and Grand Tours and all races in between.
Hannah was a successful road and track racer herself, competing in UCI races all over Europe as well as in China, Pakistan and New Zealand.
For fun, she's ridden LEJOG unaided, a lap of Majorca in a day, won a 24-hour mountain bike race and tackled famous mountain passes in the French Alps, Pyrenees, Dolomites and Himalayas.
She lives just outside the Peak District National Park near Manchester UK with her partner, daughter and a small but beautifully formed bike collection.
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