Just in case you haven’t heard about compacts, ebiketips is here to tell you just what you are missing! The fact that compact e-bikes are, er, compact is obvious, but all the benefits are sometimes overlooked and perceived disadvantages exaggerated. Compacts are small and nippy through busy town traffic and are easy to store in a corner at come should you be space strapped. Having settled on 20” diameter wheels as standard they accelerate fast, which isn’t only great for getting ahead of motor traffic at lights but it’s simply great fun too.
You might think carrying capacity would be an issue but that’s simply wrong, as our Cube test model proved, with its sturdy rear rack and optional front rack. And despite the fact that most compact bikes have ‘one-size-fits-all’ frame designs, they still work for larger riders. The Cube Compact Hybrid features a nifty quick release below the stem, allowing the bars to be raised and dropped to help make it suitable for a large range of riders.
And do the small wheels affect the handling? Not a bit of it – especially if you have the super-reassuring 2.5” wide balloon style tyres and a super solid frame with centrally placed motor and battery like the Cube. The it feels safe predictable speeding into corners and smoothing out the potholes and kerb drops-offs.
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At ebiketips we reviewed the Sport (derailleur) and really liked it. The hub gear version keeps the majority of the advantages that make it such a funky, fun and practical bike
These include the X-shaped frame along with the excellent Schulz Speedlifter quick release stem that allows the bars to almost instantly rotate 90 degrees for easy ‘flat profile’ storage. There’s a generous 500Wh of battery capacity, those wonderfully comfy wide profile tyres and plenty of storage space. We also got to try out the optional sturdy front rack too which looks like it would take any weight of object you could practically fit on it whilst still being able to keep the bike under control. There is a wonderfully sturdy low slung rear rack too, positioned towards the rear of the bike to allow for plenty of load in your panniers. We used it haul stacks of camera gear to a photoshoot location in a hilly Pennine location and it managed this with total ease.
The two main changes come in the form of swapping derailleur gears for 5 Shimano hub gears and downgrading the motor from Bosch’s Performance Line to their Active Line Plus. The first change worked for me; I’m a big fan of hub gears, especially on a town-oriented bikes like the Compact. You can twist the twistgrip as much as you like in either direction and get quickly to the gear you want, even from a standing start; do back off the power a bit when pedalling though. What’s more the new Shimano Nexus Inter 5-e hub gear unit proved a revelation; it’s a good 263% range but where the new e-bike specific hub really wins is with its wider spaced gears. You just don’t need the close ratios on a e-bike you do on a regular bike as speedier acceleration means you go through the gears so much quicker. The 5 gears are also slightly closer together at the lower end of the range mirroring the typical ‘fast then faster’ acceleration pattern on an e-bike.
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. The latter we couldn’t comment on without a very long term test (hub gears tend to go on and on and on..) but certainly during testing shifting proved excellent and smooth under modest load. Even under heavy load it simply ‘clunked’ rather noisily through the changes without too much complaint though changing under heavy load for the sake of it is not recommended. Perhaps with a very heavy load up a very steep hill you might want slightly lower gearing but we never felt that an issue and in fifth we were pushing hard on the pedals downhill at over 25mph with more speed to come.
It would be interesting to try the hub on a speed pedelec (should it be rated for it). It would also be nice to try it with electronic Di2 shifting which it is compatible with and particularly with a belt drive which suits compacts as they are more likely than most bikes to get kept in a house, where oily chains aren’t welcome.
Unfortunately the gains from the excellent hub are slightly undone by Cube downgrading to a less powerful motor. At a time when some other manufacturers of compacts with serious cargo hauling credentials are upgrading their mid-motor power Cube have chosen to downgrade – presumably to keep the price competitive. Personally I would have preferred a modest increase in price with the noticeably extra motor power of the Performance Line. Not that that the Active Line Plus isn’t a great little motor, it’s just one we would expect to see featured on a lower-budget city bike rather than this do-it-all load hauling compact. The Active Line Plus certainly never struggled on hills despite a heavy rider and a heavy load and it remained a beautifully smooth and quiet performer; it just lacked the pep and ease of the Performance Line up the very steepest of hills and needed a bit more pedal power. Still, others living in less hilly areas might prefer to have the extra cash in their pocket and a slightly less powerful motor.
The Cube Compact also seems to have gained a bit of middle-aged spread compared to the Sport, climbing from 23.1kg to 23.7kg presumably mainly due to the introduction of the hub gears (our test bike actually weighed in at 24.94kg with the sturdy optional front rack). A worthwhile price to pay in my eyes but derailleur fans and weight weenies may disagree.
The high quality integrated LED lighting and effective mudguards remain, as does the single sided kickstand which still could do with replacing to a double legged one to easily balance those heavy loads.
The original verdict stands; in short this is a very, very useful little bike with big capability. Had Cube kept the Performance Line motor and added a double-legged stand this would have been an absolutely outstanding e-bike at what remains an attractive price given the bike’s undoubted high quality. Even with the lower-spec engine, it’s still easy to recommend.