Cube Reaction Race Review: If You Want a Proper XC Race Machine at a Good Price

For 2018, the Cube Reaction Race offers a tweaked geometry, new frame material, Boost standard, in order to provide one of the best value-for-money XC competition bike on the market.

I’m in a fortunate position to of having ridden the 2017 Reaction, and now getting the chance to repeat the experience in 2018. So I have the basis for making close comparisons for these Cube XC race-oriented bikes. At first glance, the changes — apart from the finish — may not be apparent, since the details mostly reside in the interior of the bike. Indeed, the frame material and minor geometry changes are difficult to spot just by looking at the bike.

I really liked the 2017 Reaction. With respect to the frame, no major overhaul was needed, maybe I would have preferred the top tube a bit longer for a more racing riding position. Of course the development never stops, as lighter and stiffer frame materials and new standards are introduced year by year, so it is possible to see why this otherwise excellent Cube carbon MTB XC model had to be tweaked.

For 2018, the Reaction is made with C:62 carbon, where the number “62” stands for the percentage of carbon fiber in the composite. The more carbon fiber content, the stiffer and lighter the frame structure can be made. As a result, the Reaction now weights even less compared to the previous feathery model. The Boost standard also makes a noticeable difference for this new Reaction. The Boost frames will not only produce more rigid rear wheels, but designers can also employ shorter chains stays in order to increase drive efficiency and improve cornering. In addition to the redesigned “Boost-compatible” rear end, the engineers made additional tweaks to the frame, creating a new geometry called ARG2 (Agile Ride Geometry second version), which they claim to provide better ride characteristics than previous race-oriented Cube MTB XC models. Aside from the already mentioned decrease of chainstay length, the seat tube angle became steeper, the head angle shallower, all paired with a slightly longer top tube. In theory — according to the geometry data — both uphill and descending properties have been tweaked, so the new bike can climb more efficiently and it becomes less “embarrassed” on steep technical slopes.

The customary integrated cable routing and the PressFit bottom bracket are carried over from the previous model. As a further development, Cube took into consideration those, who would like to use a dropper seat post on the bike, hence the engineers provided clean cable routing for that as well. A variety of Reaction models are available which only differ in the equipment level, the Race model in this review comes with the Fox front suspension and Shimano XT component positioning it roughly in the middle of the lineup. So there are even higher-end Reaction models than the one tested, if one feel the need.

As previously mentioned, the Reaction Race comes with a Fox 32 Rhythm fork, mitigating road unevenness with 100mm of plush air suspension. There is a two position lockout to allow full compression dampening, or leave some movement in the fork. Evidently the fork accepts front wheel thru-axes in order to ensure the most accurate control.

The complete shifting, braking and drive components come from Shimano’s M8000 family, save for the cassette at the back, which is from the SLX set: slightly heavier than XT, but virtually the same. The shifting system is optimized for two chain wheels and Boost standard, 36/26 teeth in the front and 11-42 cogs at the back. So it’s not necessarily to be the strongest of mountain riders, the Reaction Race can be easily ridden on the hobby level even on the steepest of climbs.

The wheels come in the form of the Answer Atac AM, 15 × 110 front and 12 × 148 rear spacing, so they are especially robust and rigid thanks to the Boost design. No cost savings are apparent on the tires, Cube chose the Schwalbe Racing Ralph Addix Performance 2.25 model, which is integded mainly for competitive riding, it’s fast and with good grip on typical XC terrain.

We are more and more accustomed finding own branded accessories (handlebar, stem, saddle and seat tube) on Cube bikes, which are generally on par with the more reputable brands, in some cases providing better performance at the given price level. For the Reaction Race, the Cube accessories are clearly not there for merely saving costs.

After having ridden the 2017 Reaction, I was curious how the new frame material and geometry would perform. After some quick adjustments, I headed down to the rocky beach in the test center located on the island of Brac, Croatia. The path was straight down with more than 20% grade. My first impression was that the bike provides very good control, the effect of the 1 degree shallower head angle could certainly be felt. Last year I felt some lack of stability on the DH-course in Eplény, so the geometry tweak turned out to be effective. On flats and uphill, the Reaction behaved like full-blooded XC race bike, I was able to pedal efficiently, and when I light up the rockets, the bike moved instantaneously. I did not really feel the difference in stiffness compared to the previous model, but I probably do not have enough power for to truly test its capabilities. Nevertheless, I could not fault the stiffness of the 2017 model either…

At first, I was somewhat worried that the shorter chain stays would make it easier to lift the front wheel on steep climbs, but it did not experience such a problem. The Cube engineers were able to overcome all the pitfalls with the new AGR2 geometry. The short chain stay length’s benefits could be felt on the technical, winding slopes, so it was easy to navigate the turns with the Reaction into the narrower sections. The front suspension and tires are well-balanced, even on the slightly rocky terrain of the Mediterranean test center. I like the Racing Ralphs because they are fast but well-controlled at the same time, they fit perfectly the Cube Reaction design concept. I could not find any fault concerning the operation of the XT components, even if I wanted to. Likewise, I could not reach the boundaries of this setup, neither in terms of shifting, nor in braking. These components can stand up to serious competition without any problems.

Cube Reaction is truly a bone fide XC race machine, which I dare to recommend not only for domestic XC marathon competitions, but also for more challenging racing events. For XCO courses, the bike won’t be the weak link for most mountain bikes, it can stand up the rigors of an Olympic event. Another target audience of the Reaction would be the performance-oriented athletic mountain bikers who are happy to choose a more advanced bike for their rides. And even more importantly, this model represents good value for money as we have become accustomed from Cube bikes. Highly recommended!

Retail price: HUF 639,990
For more information, visit the manufacturer’s website.


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