Two Cubes: Agree C:62 SL and Attain GTC SL road bike review
Cube has been selling bikes for 25 years and in that time the German brand has grown considerably to gain a strong foothold in the international market. And while Cube may be best known for its off-road bikes, the company has been supplying road bikes to the Wanty-Groupe Gobert Pro Continental team since 2015.
In this review, Australian tech editor Matt Wikstrom compares and contrasts two bikes from Cube’s road catalogue: the entry-level Attain GTC SL and the mid-level Agree C:62 SL. The thinking behind the design of each bike is quite distinct, as are the specifications and pricing, so what do they have to offer buyers?
- Purpose: Entry-Mid level road cycling
- Highlight: Two distinct bikes — one for entry-level riders and another for mid-level shoppers — that hit their mark with ease.
- Material: Carbon fibre framesets
- Brake type: Rim
- Key details: Threadless BB86 bottom bracket, internal cable routing, tapered head tube, 27.2mm seatpost.
- Price: AUD$2,099/£1,599/€1,749 (Attain GTC SL); AUD$3,599/£2,999/€3,199 (Agree C:62 SL)
Waldershof, Germany, has been the home for Cube Bikes since it was established in 1993. Marcus Pürner, Cube’s founder, started with 50 square meters of space in his father’s furniture factory, and the company has been growing ever since. Current bike production reaches six figures annually, making Cube the largest bike brand in Germany, and one of the largest in the world.
After years of adding to its existing assembly facility, Cube commissioned a new 42,000 square meter factory in 2017 with a capacity to produce 2,500 bikes/day. Even though most of the company’s frames and components originate in Asia, Cube chooses to assemble the bulk of its bikes in Germany. This is for a variety of reasons, including avoiding the extra expense associated with importing complete bikes into Germany.
With that said, Cube has been operating a second assembly facility in Shanghai, China, for the last three years, specifically to serve markets in Asia and the southern hemisphere. The strategy not only minimises import costs, it reduces production lead time for the models involved.
All Cube’s design and engineering takes place in-house. This is something that the company has been doing for most of its life with a small team of its own engineers. In that time, the company has also developed a rigorous program of lab-tests designed to test the strength and durability of its frames, forks, and components to ensure that all not only satisfy European standards, but exceed them with ease.
Cube’s current catalogue comprises dozens of models with something on offer for almost every riding discipline, including a range of bikes for kids and several e-bikes. There are three models in the road range: the carbon fibre Litening, which has been the flagship for the range for many years with a number of significant revisions; the mid-range Agree, also made from carbon fibre, is another catalogue mainstay; the entry-level Attain, by contrast, is a relatively new addition, and is offered with a choice of a carbon fibre or alloy chassis.
All of Cube’s road bikes are available with a choice of rim- or disc-brakes plus there are at least a couple of builds on offer for each model. However, not all are available in every market, and for Australian buyers, rim-brake-equipped models outnumber disc brake versions.
For this review, Cube’s Australian distributor/retailer, 99 Bikes, gave me the opportunity to compare the Agree C:62 SL, which sits at the top of the Agree range, with the Attain GTC SL, the premium model from the Attain range. While there is a considerable gap in price for the two bikes (AUD$3,599/£2,999/€3,199 versus AUD$2,099/£1,599/€1,699, respectively), I found that it was the difference in frame geometry and overall performance that really differentiated the two bikes.
The Attain GTC SL: an entry-level bike with general appeal
The Attain GTC was added to Cube’s road catalogue for 2016. The GTC moniker — which stands for “Gran Turismo Composite” — is important, because it distinguishes the models with a carbon fibre frame from the lower-priced Attain, which has an alloy frame.
GTC has served Cube’s road bikes for several years, albeit as a second-tier offering to the stiffer, lighter, and more expensive composite reserved for Cube’s flagship race bike, the Litening. With the recent implementation of two new composites, namely C:68 and C:62 that incorporate nanoparticles, GTC now sits on a lower, more affordable rung. Some high modulus fibres are incorporated into the layup of the Attain GTC, though, to strengthen high-stress areas like the head tube, seat tube, and bottom bracket.
The result, according to Cube, is a frame that weighs 1,200g with a fork that weighs 400g.
The Attain GTC boasts many of the features that have come to define contemporary composite frames such as an oversized down tube, tapered head tube (1.125-inch upper bearing; 1.25-inch lower bearing), threadless BB86 bottom bracket, 27.2mm seatpost and slender seatstays for extra compliance, and internal cable routing. It’s also worth noting that Cube provides a hanger specifically designed for Shimano’s new direct mount Shadow rear derailleurs.
The geometry of the Attain GTC (which is identical to the alloy Attain) is very forgiving with a generous amount of stack and short reach at every one of the six frame sizes on offer, as shown in the table below:
All frame sizes have a uniform bottom bracket drop of 74mm while the chainstay length for rim brake-equipped bikes is 410-412mm, increasing with the size of the frame. For those models with disc brakes, an extra 5mm is added to the length of the chainstays, making for a slightly longer wheelbase. Otherwise the geometry of the frame remains unchanged.
The Attain GTC SL features Shimano’s new Ultegra 8000 mechanical groupset with 50/34T crankset and 11-32T cassette. The entire groupset isn’t present, though, since the brake callipers that are supplied with the bike are Shimano BR-R561 (a lower-priced non-series offering) and the cassette comes from the current 105 collection.
As for the rest of the build, the saddle, post, bars and stem are all Cube-branded while Fulcrum provides an entry-level OEM wheelset dubbed Racing 77 with 28mm Continental Grand Sport Race SL tyres.
There is just one finish on offer for the Attain GTC SL, matte carbon with a few white panels and logos. It’s a simple, conservative finish, and while the wheelset and some components match nicely, the overall result is understated (or underwhelming, depending on individual taste).
The size 53cm sample sent for review weighed 8.30kg without pedals and cages, a modest weight in absolute terms, but one that is entirely fitting for an entry-level bike.
As for the price, the recommended retail price for the Attain GTC SL is AUD$2,099/£1,599/€1,699. That price includes a three-year warranty for the frame. For more information, visit Cube Bikes and 99 Bikes.
The Agree C:62 SL: longer and lower with more bling
There was a time when the Agree was constructed from GTC, but from 2016, Cube started using a new carbon fibre blend dubbed C:62. This composite takes its name from the amount of fibre content, which is 62%, and is bolstered with nanoparticles to improve durability and impact resistance.
According to Cube, the Agree C:62 frame weighs in at 1,150g while the fork is 400g.
The Agree C:62 shares many of the same features as the Attain GTC including the same head tube (1.125-inch upper bearing; 1.25-inch lower bearing), threadless BB86 bottom bracket, 27.2mm seatpost internal cable routing, and a replaceable alloy derailleur hanger to suit Shimano’s new direct mount rear derailleurs.
The Agree has been shaped with aerodynamics in mind, hence the seatpost clamp integrates with the frame and Shimano’s direct mount brake callipers sit flush with the fork legs and seatstays. The bike is still a long way from occupying the same wind-cheating territory as Cube’s Aerium but the Agree clearly has higher performance goals than the Attain GTC.
With this in mind, it’s not surprising that the geometry of the Agree is more aggressive. The stack of the bike is 15-20mm lower with 6-11mm more reach when compared to the Attain, as shown in the table below:
The Agree has a bottom bracket drop of 69-73mm, decreasing as the frame size increases, while the chainstay length is a uniform 412mm, regardless of whether the Agree is fitted with rim or disc brakes.
The Agree C:62 SL sits at the top of the Agree range. The build comprises Shimano’s new Ultregra 8050 Di2 groupset (50/34T cranks, 11-28T cassette), a set of Fulcrum Racing 44 Aero wheels, Newman carbon seatpost and bars, Newmen alloy stem, 25mm Continental GP4000s II tyres, and a Selle Royal saddle. Total weight for the 53cm sample sent for review was 7.47kg without pedals or bottle cages.
Considering that the Agree C:62 frame is only marginally lighter than the Attain GTC (1,150g vs 1,200g), the difference in weight between the two bikes reviewed here can be attributed almost entirely to the parts used. The wheels off the Agree C:62 SL weighed 2.74kg including tyres, tubes and cassette; by contrast, the wheels off the Attain GTC SL weighed 3.30kg, accounting for two-thirds of the total weight difference (which was 830g).
The Agree C:62 SL is finished with the same understated strategy as the Attain GTC SL, but rather than white, there are red panels and logos. Cube’s down tube logo is finished in gloss black, so it’s quite inconspicuous, adding further to the understated finish of the bike.
The asking price for the Agree C:62 SL is AUD$3,599/£2,999/€3,199. The other rim brake model in Cube’s 2018 catalogue, the Agree C:62 Pro, features an Ultegra 8000 mechanical groupset and sells for AUD$2,599/£2,099/€2,299, which should appeal to shoppers looking for more value.
After the ride: Attain GTC SL
With a choice of two bikes to ride, I decided to start with the Attain GTC SL, and spent a few days with it before throwing a leg over the Agree C:62 SL. After that, I swapped between the two bikes every few days, often re-tracing routes to get a sense of how the two compared on the same terrain.
The Attain GTC was a very inviting bike to ride. It was immediately smooth and compliant — bordering on plush — and remarkably calm and well mannered. It was a pleasing combination of traits and I found myself relaxing to match the poise and demeanour of the bike every time I took it out for a ride.
The bike worked well at keeping road buzz to a minimum while taking the edge of most hits. Swapping the wheels with those from the Agree C:62 SL (25mm tyres) proved that the 28mm tyres were responsible for some of this effect, but the Attain GTC SL was still an obviously compliant bike, even when narrower tyres were fitted.
While the Attain GTC minimised feedback from the road, riding the bike was far from a lifeless experience. There was always a murmur of sensation travelling up from the wheels, and it was enough to keep me connected with the bike. In this regard, the Attain GTC SL reminded me of Canyon’s Ultimate CF SLX and Scott’s Addict, two fine carbon bikes that manage the same trick and are equally easy to ride.
The Attain GTC SL wasn’t as light as those bikes, though, so it wasn’t as agile or responsive. A swap to the lighter wheelset from Agree C:62 SL was able to lift the performance of the bike, but it wasn’t enough to put the Attain GTC into the same league as the Ultimate or the Addict. That’s not really surprising, though, given that it inhabits a much lower price bracket.
Be that as it may, the Attain GTC SL proved to be almost as versatile as those other, more expensive, bikes. It was very stable over a range of speeds with neutral steering. There was some understeer at high speeds, requiring a little extra room when exiting corners, and at low speeds, the Attain was prone to some oversteer, but it wasn’t difficult to compensate for either.
At face value, the Attain GTC SL is somewhat removed from a more purposeful (and fashionable) all-road design, but I found it was quite well suited to tackling unpaved roads. I was able to complete a long gravelly 30km loop as part of a five-hour outing and the only drawback I could identify was that the steering of the bike was a little quick for loose surfaces. Nevertheless, the Attain GTC SL was able to make the transition between paved and unpaved roads with confidence, much like Cannondale’s new Synapse.
As for the stiffness of the Attain GTC, it was adequate in absolute terms, and arguably ideal for an entry-level bike. I can’t see it posing much of an obstacle for anybody that wants to start racing on it.
I’ve already mentioned that lighter wheels boosted the responsiveness of the Attain GTC SL but it’s an upgrade that can wait. In contrast, the R561 brake callipers almost demand immediate replacement because they require more effort and deliver less power than Shimano’s more expensive offerings.
It’s not uncommon for brands to install cheap brake callipers on their entry-level bikes but it makes for a compromise that I’ve never been comfortable with. In this instance, it also undermined the performance of Shimano’s new Ultegra 8000 groupset, making for a stark contrast between the quality of shifting (light and precise) and braking (heavy and weak).
As for the rest of the build, it performed well and the bike remained trouble-free for the duration of the review period. In fact, aside from the brakes, I couldn’t help but be impressed with just how well the Attain GTC SL performed given its modest asking price and its position in Cube’s road catalogue as an entry-level offering.
After the ride: Agree C:62 SL
Making the switch from the Attain GTC SL to the Agree C:62 SL wasn’t very difficult. After all, the geometry of the two bikes was near-identical, so all that was required was a change in stems to account for the difference in the stack and reach of each bike.
With a lower front end and thicker tubing, the Agree C:62 SL looks more aggressive and aerodynamic than the Attain GTC SL, but it was the build, weight, and ride quality that really set it apart. Electronic cockpit controls will always add a level of sophistication to any bike; add in a lighter wheelset and better brakes and the result is a sound mid-level offering at an attractive price.
Out on the road, the Agree C:62 proved race-willing with a stiff chassis and sturdy demeanour. There was more feedback from the road, too, and a satisfying amount of responsiveness. In short, compared to the sedate nature of the Attain GTC SL, the Agree C:62 SL was keen to be let off the leash.
The Agree C:62 was quite smooth and quiet to ride on paved roads, but there was an edge to the ride quality that wasn’t present for the Attain GTC. Thus, any kind of hit was felt more keenly at the bars and saddle, but the extra feedback was never harsh or overwhelming. In fact, the Agree C:62 SL managed to maintain a highly refined feel, even when I was riding on rough roads or unpaved tracks.
A switch to 28mm tyres took some of the edge off the bike and improved grip on unpaved roads, but it couldn’t disguise the stiff chassis. This is the kind of feel that race-oriented riders tend to prize, if only because the extra feedback can add to the rider’s sense of speed. With that said, I wouldn’t classify the Agree C:62 SL as an especially stiff bike. Giant’s TCR Advanced, Merida’s Reacto, and Canyon’s Aeroad CF SLX are all obviously stiffer than the Agree C:62.
Those bikes also have an edge over the Agree C:62 SL in terms of responsiveness, too. Nevertheless, buyers upgrading from an entry-level bike should notice the bump in performance that that Agree C:62 SL has to offer. When compared with the Attain GTC SL, the Agree C:62 SL was much easier to accelerate and considerably more frisky, as well.
The handling of the two bikes was near-identical, though. Like the Attain GTC SL, the Agree C:62 SL was very stable at high speeds and quite willing to turn. There was some understeer at high speeds, and at low speeds, there was a bit of oversteer. Neither dominated the bike, and overall, the Agree C:62 SL was generally predictable and well mannered.
With more emphasis on race-oriented performance, the Agree C:62 SL wasn’t quite as versatile as the Attain GTC SL. Not that there is any reason it should be, but it provided what is perhaps the greatest practical distinction between the two bikes. As a result, I wasn’t tempted to tackle the same 30km gravel loop with the Agree C:62 SL, and I found myself overlooking unpaved side-tracks and unplanned adventures in favour of quicker and more purposeful rides.
As for the build, it was flawless. Shimano’s Ultegra Di2 groupset has always been a strong, fuss-free performer, and the new iteration is no different. And with matching direct mount brake callipers, there was plenty of power on offer and a pleasing amount of modulation that really shone on tricky descents.
Cube’s dedicated direct mount hanger (also found on the Attain GTC SL) serves the new Ultegra derailleur well, but I have to wonder if the extra length will simply increase the risk of misalignment any time that the rear derailleur takes a knock. I had to re-align the hanger on one occasion after the bike fell over, and while that’s not enough to question the merits of the design, I’ve yet to find a reason to celebrate it, either.
Summary and final thoughts
The Attain GTC SL and Agree C:62 SL are both great bikes that fit very nicely into their respective categories. The former will serve entry-level riders with a forgiving fit, versatile performance, and lower asking price, while the latter will provide a significant step up in race-oriented performance with a more aggressive fit.
While the difference in price means that it will be pretty unlikely that any buyer will be forced to decide between the two, I found myself gravitating towards the Attain GTC SL because it was the more versatile bike. I was also impressed with the lovely ride quality that it had offer, which really seemed a lot more refined than what I’ve experienced for this price bracket.
As a more expensive bike, the Agree C:62 SL must satisfy bigger expectations, and overall, it does a pretty good job at that. However, there is a wider range of alternatives in this price bracket. The Agree C:62 SL won’t woo buyers on the strength of its aerodynamics, stiffness-to-weight ratio, or even its presentation, but it is a sound all-rounder that should satisfy any road rider looking to upgrade from an entry-level bike.