CAL­I­BRE TWO CUBED

£399.99 (with £5 card) One hell of a bike for £400

Mountain Biking UK - - WRECKED & RATED -

There are al­ways go­ing to be com­pro­mises at this price, but GO Out­doors’ in-house brand have done a great job with the Two Cubed. Its con­tem­po­rary geom­e­try and im­pres­sive kit for the cash make it a great buy for £400.

The frame

The Two Cubed re­places the Two Two. It runs on 650b (rather than 26in) wheels and gets a new frame with im­pres­sively up-to-date trail geom­e­try. That in­cludes a 465mm reach on the large size, which makes it longer than the Voodoo and Vi­tus, and a lot length­ier than most bikes at this price. The wheel­base is also the long­est on test, by 15mm. At 67.5 de­grees, the head an­gle is re­laxed enough to add sta­bil­ity with­out be­ing too stub­born at low speeds. The 44mm head tube means you can up­grade to a tapered fork at a later date. While the high bot­tom bracket im­proves pedal clear­ance, it can give a slightly pre­car­i­ous feel in cor­ners.

There are no up­per rack mounts to match those on the dropouts and no rout­ing for a stealth drop­per. The lack of bot­tle bosses on the seat tube means you can slam the fixed post right down though, and it’s a ride-smooth­ing 27.2mm num­ber. If you’re not wor­ried about lift­ing the BB even higher, there’s room for big­ger tyres too. To min­imise costs, Cal­i­bre don’t do XS or XL sizes, but there’s a choice of two colours.

The kit

Cal­i­bre have man­aged to fit kit that would shame most big-brand bikes cost­ing well over £500. You get a 3x9 Shi­mano crankset, gears and hy­draulic brakes. It’s the only bike here with a Rock­Shox fork too, even if the 30mm legs and coil spring with fixed re­bound make it the skin­ni­est and least ad­justable unit on test. The Sch­walbe Tough Tom front tyre is a re­mould of the clas­sic Nobby Nic tread and gives ac­cept­able dry-con­di­tions grip de­spite its hard-com­pound rub­ber. While the Smart Sam rear tyre is tough and fast-rolling, it’s got def­i­nite slip is­sues off-road. The rims are drilled for car­type Schrader valves, not the Presta style found on most MTBs. Although the 60mm stem is longer than we’d choose, the same 760mm flat bar as on the Pin­na­cle gives am­ple steer­ing lever­age. You even get lock-on grips.

The ride

While there are in­evitably as­pects of the Two Cubed that need to be worked around, its geom­e­try and over­all shape re­ally stand out for the money. Not least be­cause that’s the one part of a bike you can’t up­grade or sig­nif­i­cantly mod­ify. Yes, it lacks the tapered head tube, wide ‘Boost’

back end and other fu­ture-proof­ing fea­tures of the pricier bikes here. But its ride qual­ity is sur­pris­ingly good, with a smoother rear wheel feel than the Pin­na­cle or Vi­tus.

The gen­er­ous reach/wheel­base and 67.5-de­gree head an­gle mean it puts its wheels in the right place and keeps them there far bet­ter than any other £400 bike we’ve rid­den – and many more ex­pen­sive mod­els. Even the pla­s­ticky front tyre has a bet­ter chance of stay­ing hooked up in such a sorted chas­sis. Given that clat­ter­ing pedals and twitchy steer­ing can be dis­tract­ing for new­bie riders, we’ll even for­give Cal­i­bre the slightly-too­long stem (cheap and easy to swap) and higher-than-needed BB.

Even the best £400 bike comes with com­pro­mises though. The al­most con­tin­ual cen­tre-line tread of the rear tyre gives it easy speed on the road but means it spins out on any vaguely damp, loose or lumpy ter­rain. While it man­ages a ve­neer of smooth con­trol on lightly-rip­pled bri­dle­ways and flow trails, the XC 30 fork soon gets pan­icked and jar­ring on row­dier sur­faces too. The Shi­mano brakes could also do with a big­ger ro­tor for hack­ing off speed faster. That said, it’s im­por­tant to re­mem­ber that most of the Cal­i­bre’s price peers still use spongy, ad­just­ment-needy cable disc brakes. De­spite its chain slap, the mostly Shi­mano Al­tus gearset is also a def­i­nite win at this price. In other words, while it’s not per­fect, we’ve never tested a more trail-ready bike for un­der £400 than the Two Cubed.

In­evitable cost com­pro­mises, but its geom­e­try and spec make it a great deal at £400 (if it its)

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