CALIBRE TWO CUBED
£399.99 (with £5 card) One hell of a bike for £400
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 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.
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.
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)