It's not the most hardcore trail hardtail out there, but it's a great value machine that'll happily deal with most riding
Apr 10 2018
Really well made hydroformed frame with space for fat, grippy rubber
Fox 34 fork offers great grip and plenty of precision
Great value build with store-bought support backup
More radical riders will crave more frame reach to make the most
Nobby Nic tyres do not inspire confidence in the wet
you want a high-value trail machine and aren't too fussed about getting really radical
Cube's Reaction TM is a harder hitting version of their high-value aluminium Reaction hardtail range, pairing a sturdy 130mm fork up front with fat 2.6" tyres on 27.5" wheels. It's cracking value and much more capable in the rough than the rest of the range if you like hacking about in the woods, but there are harder edged weapons out there if you want to go full gonzo.
While the rest of the Reaction range has a 100mm travel fork up front and either 650b or larger 29" wheels depending on the frame size, the Reaction TM - that stands for Trail Motion if you're wondering - only comes with the smaller wheels shod in aggressive 2.6" wide rubber. The hydroformed aluminium frame shares the same shapely outlines, but it uses totally different geometry with a slacker head angle and a bit more reach proportional to the seat tube length, though they don't have directly comparable sizes.
Despite being sold through bike shops with all the in-person pre and post-sales support that gets you, the Reaction TM offers really very impressive value. The Fox 34 fork is a good case in point. It might be the entry level Rhythm model, but the chassis is decently stiff when it's only stretched to 130mm of travel and the GRIP damper is much more supple and well-controlled than most rivals at this money.
More aggressive riders will still want to pop some volume spacers in to increase support at the end of the stroke, as the high-speed compression circuit can sometimes open up for big bumps with a little too much gusto and gobble through the remaining travel accordingly.
Great value kit
It's also very good to see a dropper post with bar mounted remote at this price too. The Cube-branded post is a slender 27.2mm which might make upgrading to anything posher a little tricky, but it's been impressively reliable for as long as I've had the bike and though both the remote and action is a touch sticky, the 125mm of drop is extremely welcome. The rest of the finishing kit is high-rent too, with a stiff 760mm wide RaceFace Aeffect 35 bar and matching 50mm long stem.
The Shimano SLX 11spd drivetrain gets the 11-46T cassette paired with a RaceFace Aeffect SL crankset and 32T ring up front. There's loads of gear range even if the upper end of the block has some gappy jumps between gears, but the shifts are buttery smooth and Shimano's reputation for reliability is hard to beat.
There are some slightly leftfield choices elsewhere, with the brakes coming from fellow countrymen Magura. With a four-piston calliper up front and a two-piston unit at the back, they provide oodles of stopping power, though the lever shape and feel won't suit everyone, with a softer feeling bite than the likes of SRAM or Shimano.
At the heart of the Reaction TM are the fat Schwalbe Nobby Nic tyres. At 2.6" wide and mounted to the 35mm internal width Rodi Blackjack rims, they give plenty of volume and cushion, so it's a surprisingly comfy ride for an aluminium frame - which is helped by the slender unbraced seat and chain stays that also offer great mud clearance. Keep to hardpacked trail centre style terrain and they're fast rolling, though the Addix Blue compound doesn't shine in the wet and the angled edge tread doesn't inspire much cornering confidence.
Head off-piste and they're pretty respectable if you can find some loam for them to dig into. If it's wet then they're terrifying, with little bite or edging grip even when run at really low pressures, which is when carcass roll starts to become an issue. Either way, I'd suggest you get them set up tubeless as soon as you can to fend off punctures, especially at the rear. Happily, both tyres and rim are tubeless ready and while they took a fair bit more sealant than usual to be airtight, they've been good as good at holding pressure ever since.
Keeping it sensible
While this might be the hardest-hitting hardtail in the Reaction range, at 415mm reach for the 18" frame I tested, it's not the most spacious compared to rivals in the field. For example, the Whyte 905 in large has a 7mm longer seat tube but a significantly longer 460mm reach, though Trek's much tamer Roscoe measures in at 422mm for a 18.5" bike. The same goes for head angle, with the Reaction coming in 67º and the Whyte a full 2º slacker at 65º.
That can mean that with the respectably steep 73.5º seat angle, it can feel a little cramped when you're climbing sat down, though it definitely helps you weight the front wheel and that grippy fork on steep sections.
If you find the low and long stance of the likes of Whyte's benchmark hard-riding hardtails too much of mind-bending experience, then the Reaction is a much more mellow affair. It's a pina colada rather than peyote, a strong coffee, not crack. Keep it to the sensible side of things and it won't disappoint but if you're looking to hit the hardest trails you can ride - and those that you're not sure you can - then it's unlikely to inspire any sort of mystical, out of body experience. There's a reason those other hardtails are fluoro colours and this is battleship grey.
That's not to damn it with faint praise. It's fleet of foot uphill thanks to a respectable 13.7kg weight, comfy enough to go all day and the major components are all absolutely solid, as is the frame. It'll happily carve swooping singletrack all day and dispatch all but the most tech sections quite happily, tyres notwithstanding.
Yes, upping the ante with slacker and more stretched frame geometry would make it much more capable and those tyres really don't agree with steep and sloppy trails, but it's still a well-sorted bike for anyone that doesn't want to push their boundaries to the (potentially) bleeding edge to have fun.
If you want a bike that offers really good value paired up with shop support and just want something a little more relaxed to ride than a full-on cross-country hardtail with going fully hardcore, then it'll be right up your street.
Jon is the editor here at off.road.cc. Whether it's big days out on the gravel bike or hurtling down technical singletracks, if it's got two wheels and can be ridden on dirt, then he's into it. He's previously been technical editor at BikeRadar.com, editor at What Mountain Bike Magazine and also web editor at Singletrackworld.co.uk. Yes, he's been around the houses.