Developed to give their pro Wanty Group team an aerodynamic advantage throughout the race season, Cube has given their lightweight Litening all-rounder road race bike a complete aero overhaul. Neatly tucking every bit cabling inside aero foil shapes, the new bike is as sleek & integrated as they come, while hiding a surprisingly comfortable ride under the deep frame profiles thanks to a new C:68X mix of carbon fibers…
2020 Cube Litening C:68X aero road bike
Looking at the profile of the new bike you would be excused for thinking this is Cube’s aero model, not their lightweight all-rounder race bike. But while the outgoing Litening is a mostly thin, round tubed bike, this new version takes plenty of wind-cheating inspiration from Cube’s Aerium TT & tri bike.
Much of Cube’s secret to adding all of that aero benefit while still hitting a claimed <980g frame weight for a 56cm (including derailleur hangers & seat clamp) was a new, more advanced C:68X carbon construction. Still using the same high 68% carbon fiber content vs. resin as their previous top-end construction, this vaguely-named C:68X is a more advanced hi-mod mixture of fibers that allowed Cube to drop around 100g over the frame with added benefits of both increased rider comfort and increased handling & drivetrain stiffness.
Besides the now aero tube shaping throughout, the most obvious change from the perspective of the rider is a newly developed one-piece aero bar & stem that integrates with the frame to hide all wires (or cables) and brake hoses completely out of the wind.
Cube set out to turn the Litening into a faster aero bike, putting more development time into it than ever before for one of their road bikes. The goal was drag reduction, and after more than 1,000 hours of CFD flow simulation and 100 hours testing in the wind tunnel, this design resulted with 30W saved, or 30% drag reduction vs. the previous generation.
Cube described how the computer simulation time was critical for refining the aero design, as we see more aero bikes looking more of the same. The reason for that is the UCI technical guidelines that define a strict 18cm wide set of boundaries around traditional frame tube positions, where all new tube shapes and transitions must stay inside.
Using CFD allowed Cube to get the most out of drag reduction, while at the same time limiting side force on the bike in a crosswind, and allowing them to maintain (or even boost) frame stiffness. Basically every webbed edge from one tube to the next was pushed to the UCI’s corner boundary to maximize performance, while using horizontally optimized aero profiles to get each lower drag out of each frame tube.
Looking into the small detail of the new bike, we find those smooth tubing transitions that pushed the UCI boundaries. But they often hide some other technical solutions as well. The lower fork transition includes a built-in, breakaway steering stop to allow for the internal cable routing. And the seat cluster provides an easily accessible wedge-style seatpost clamp, and a small tail to smooth airflow over the rear wheel.
Surprisingly enough, that deep, truncated aero seatpost also engineers in fore-aft flex to provide similar comfort like you normally get only with a small diameter round post. To be honest I was quite skeptical as the post does not flex in your hand or even visually noticeably while riding. But riding the bike over rougher sections of road, pavement stones & even relatively smooth gravel, and there was none of the signature harshness that most deep section aero seatposts exhibit.
At the bottom end of the bike are sharp angles that move from the narrow aero downtube to more widely set, boxy chainstays. While it looks closer here with the 25mm tires spec’d on the bikes as the bottom of the seattube wraps around the rear wheel a bit, Cube has designed space for up to 28mm road tires. In fact, there is actually plenty of room for real 30mm wide tires, but Cube were being conservative with the max size rating because of the wide variety of rim widths on the market.
All of the complete bikes that Cube is offering with the new Litening include electronic drivetrains (eTap or Di2). But the new bike is mechanical shift compatible with its full internal routing channels.
Continuing aero details, frontal area is reduced with an hourglass-shaped headtube, and that super integrated cockpit with cables behind the headset inside through the large stem to behind the steerer tube.
Integrated aero cockpit
The secret to a new aero road bike these days certainly seems to be in integrated cockpits. Curse the poor bike mechanics that have to build these bikes up or adjust rider fit (remember to bring your local Cube mechanic beer or homemade cookies when you pick up your new Litening). But everything does fit neatly inside, through a channel behind the steerer tube in the larger stem clamp area.
The one-piece bar+stem also includes a small routing port on the underside, which also serves as the mounting point for the included universal fit out-front GPS mount. Cube includes mounting plates to work with Garmin, Wahoo & Sigma, but the mount uses a standard bolt pattern, so any K-edge inserts will fit as well.
The complete bikes come with one of only four standard bar width + stem length combinations. But Cube explains that the bar construction uses a modular mold that will allow them to mix and match many more combinations based of rider demand (and include the possibility for more narrow bar widths.)
The new Litening is available in six stock frame sizes, and geometry developed with their Wanty pro team riders. That results in quick, race-ready handling for the bike. But it still maintains a reasonable bar position as the tall head tubes allow either a simple stack of spacers or more of a slammed stem setup with the dropped bar.
Pricing & availability
The new Litening will be available in four complete bike builds, with
the top 3 ALL sharing the same C:68X carbon, about 100g lighter that a standard C:68 carbon construction would be.
The top-level Litening SLT C:68X gets a complete SRAM Red eTap AXS double groupset and DT Swiss ARC 1100 62mm deep tubeless carbon clinchers with ceramic bearings for £7500 / 7500€.
The Litening Race C:68X in Cube’s team-edition style paint job gets a SRAM Force eTap AXS groupset and Newmen SL R.38 wheels for £4500 / 4500€.
Lastly, the Litening Pro uses
the slightly heavier C:68 the same C:68X carbon together with a Shimano Ultegra Di2 groupset and Newmen SL R.32 wheels for a price of £4000 / 4000€.
Cube dealers are accepting pre-orders now for the bike that is set to debut later this week at the Tour de France. Consumer availability for the new bikes is slated for October 2019 delivery. We had the chance to ride the bike in some hot & windy Dutch weather last week, and will share more thoughts on the surprisingly comfortable bike soon.