While other manufacturers often don’t have an upper price limit for maximum performance, CUBE take a different approach. With the 2023 Litening AERO C:68X SLT, CUBE promise the optimum in aerodynamics, comfort, and performance for just € 7,599. Is there a catch? We put the 2023 C:68X SLT to the test to find out.
There’s a lot to consider when buying a new bike. For some, a new road bike must be exclusive and prestigious while others prioritise value for money. Those who want to make the most of their money are typically newcomers to the world of drop bar bikes, looking for something versatile like a gravel or endurance bike. They want to check things out with something that can do it all, narrowing things down from there. In the case of more specialised bikes, you get a different set of customers that have specific requirements and demands for a more targeted use. Of course, the brand image must also have an element of exclusivity, or at least fit your own image. While CUBE’s brand image might not quite meet the former criterion, the specs of the 2023 CUBE Litening AERO C:68X SLT do sound very promising: an aero road bike with top-end components at a sensational price. At least that’s what the 2023 CUBE Litening AERO C:68X SLT promises on paper. Looking at the details, you get a high-end carbon frame that meets current UCI regulations, carbon wheels, a top-of-the-line drivetrain, and even an integrated power metre. But what are the compromises?
The design of the 2023 CUBE Litening AERO C:68X SLT.
There are two things that make the 2023 CUBE Litening AERO C:68X SLT stand out: the design language and the funky sparkling paint job. The oversized tubing gives this aero bike a brawny look. However, the combination of thick tubes and large surfaces makes the 2023 CUBE Litening AERO C:68X SLT also seem somewhat… chunky. Added to that is the various contours and lines that are dispersed across the frame. The multitude of different tube shapes and radii make for a rather untidy, restless design. This is underlined by arbitrary protrusions, as you’ll find on the seat post clamp, for example. That said, we really like the metallic paint job with glittering flakes and flip-flop effect. It lends the 2023 CUBE Litening AERO C:68X SLT a sense of levity that the otherwise busy and overloaded design doesn’t have.
Upon closer inspection, the 2023 CUBE Litening AERO C:68X SLT stays true to its unconventional design concept. The fully integrated cockpit is made of one huge piece of carbon and matches the bike’s overall look. Unfortunately, the wing-shaped tops aren’t the most ergonomic, at least they weren’t for our hands. The radii of the curves don’t look quite right either. CUBE probably meant well with the tan wall tires, but, like on the BMC Roadmachine AMP, they don’t match the overall look of the blue aero racer. It’s just too many colours, especially when combined with the sparkly oil slick paint job. The first obvious compromise you must make at this price comes when you look at the axles, the ends of which aren’t covered by the frame and fork. On higher priced bikes, these are usually closed off entirely or at least have an inconspicuous cover.
Features and details of the new 2023 CUBE Litening AERO C:68X SLT
Looks are one thing, but function on an aero road bike is something else entirely. It’s the bike’s features that make it fast. There’s the depth and shape of the carbon rims, for example. On the 2023 Litening AERO C:68X SLT, CUBE combine 50 mm rims up front with 65 mm deep rims at the back. In practice, this results in added speed at the correct angle since the deep rims act as sails. However, it makes the bike susceptible to strong crosswinds. This can cause you to swerve around on the road, which can get dangerous, especially when it’s gusty. The combination of 65 mm deep rims at the back and 50 mm rims at the front aims to produce minimal turbulence while keeping the bike’s handling manageable in cross winds.
The cockpit of the 2023 CUBE Litening AERO C:68X SLT provides clean integration for a Garmin bike computer or the like. However, there isn’t enough clearance between the mount and handlebar for large devices like the Garmin 1040, rubbing against the bar when you attach it. CUBE have found a good, practical solution for the seat post adjustment. The two bolts at the top of the seat post are easy to use and hold everything in place very securely. However, these bolts aren’t that well-hidden either. The groupset on the 2023 CUBE Litening AERO C:68X SLT could be considered the best groupset currently available on the road bike market. Certainly, the Shimano DURA-ACE Di2 sets the bar in terms of performance and ergonomics. With a 52/36 t chainset up front and a 11–30 t cassette at the rear, the gearing is evenly spaced while offering enough range to conquer steep climbs. The included DURA-ACE power metre makes a lot of sense on a performance-oriented aero road bike and is another one of the standout features of the 2023 CUBE Litening AERO C:68X SLT.
As befits a modern aero bike, all cables on the 2023 CUBE Litening AERO C:68X SLT are routed internally. Doing so doesn’t just offer aerodynamic benefits, but also makes for a clean look. The knock-block steering limiter prevents the handlebar from swinging around too far and damaging the frame in the event of a crash. As such, you can turn the handlebar 180 degrees at most, limiting the bike’s turning circle, though this shouldn’t play a role in practice. Rounding off the package is a maximum permissible weight of 115 kg.
Available models and components of the 2023 CUBE Litening AERO C:68X SLT
As with almost all their bikes, CUBE provide a huge variety of builds in the Litening range. Along with the Litening AERO range, which is all about aerodynamic optimisation, CUBE also offer the Litening AIR models, promising minimal weight and relying on a different frame. The 4 different CUBE Litening AERO models differ predominantly in the groupset they come specced with. The most affordable model in the lineup is the CUBE Litening AERO C:68X PRO, which comes specced with a SRAM Force eTap AXS groupset and 50 mm deep carbon rims front and rear for € 4,599. For exactly € 900 more you get the CUBE Litening AERO C:68X RACE, in which case you get a 65 mm deep rim at the back and a Shimano ULTEGRA Di2 groupset. The CUBE Litening AERO C:68X SLX comes equipped with a SRAM RED eTap AXS groupset and is priced at € 7,299.
CUBE Litening AERO C:68X SLT 2023
Brakes Shimano DURA-ACE BR-R9270 160/160 mm
Drivetrain Shimano DURA-ACE Di2 RD-R9250-D 12-Speed
Stem ICR Aero Cockpit System
Handlebar ICR Aero Cockpit System
Wheelset Newmen Advanced SL R.50/65 Streem
Tires Schwalbe Pro One 28 mm
Cassette Shimano DURA-ACE CS-R9200 11–30T
Size 50 52 54 56 58 60
The geometry of the 2023 CUBE Litening AERO C:68X SLT
On paper, the geometry of the 2023 CUBE Litening AERO C:68X SLT looks aggressive. With a stack-to-reach ratio of 1.44, however, the riding position is comparatively relaxed for a performance road bike. The beginner friendly geometry of the 2023 CUBE Litening AERO C:68X SLT even makes it suitable for longer rides. None of the other figures are extreme either, though the head tube is rather short.
|Seat tube||460 mm||480 mm||500 mm||520 mm||540 mm||560 mm|
|Top tube||527 mm||537 mm||550 mm||565 mm||580 mm||592 mm|
|Head tube||95 mm||105 mm||125 mm||145 mm||165 mm||180 mm|
|Chainstays||410 mm||410 mm||410 mm||410 mm||410 mm||410 mm|
|Wheelbase||981 mm||981 mm||994 mm||995 mm||1005 mm||1011 mm|
|Reach||389 mm||389 mm||389 mm||398 mm||403 mm||405 mm|
|Stack||514 mm||524 mm||542 mm||563 mm||580 mm||594 mm|
The 2023 CUBE Litening AERO C:68X SLT in review
We don’t expect to climb aboard an aero race bike and immediately feel comfortable. However, with the 2023 CUBE Litening AERO C:68X SLT, that’s precisely what we experienced. The riding position feels very pleasant and balanced. It almost feels like an endurance bike, which is partly due to the 3 spacers under the stem. Once you get into the drops, the riding position feels a lot more aggressive. That said, this position is relatively moderate, nonetheless, allowing you to stay in the drops without risking a stiff neck, back pain, or knotting your guts. That’s a good thing because what use of the race position on a bike if you can’t hold it for more than 30 minutes, especially for hobby riders who don’t have a professional training plan and on-call physiotherapist. If desired, and you’ve got the necessary fitness and flexibility, the spacers are relatively easy to remove, allowing you to make the riding position on the 2023 CUBE Litening AERO C:68X SLT more aggressive.
Of course, when riding the 2023 CUBE Litening AERO C:68X SLT, you must wear close-fitting kit. What would be the use of an aerodynamically-optimised frame and deep carbon rims when your shirt flutters in the wind and destroys any of the gains you might have made. And so, the test rides flew by. Like the riding position, the handling is perfectly suited for the masses. In other words, it’s both agile and predictable. The bike’s intuitive performance through hairpin bends and fast descents requires no time to get used to. As such, you don’t encounter any surprises or anything unexpected on a fast chase, which leads to increased safety and confidence. Certainly, the 2023 CUBE Litening AERO C:68X SLT loves going fast! It sprints forward when you put the power down and doesn’t hold back in terms of speed. Not even the heavy rims make it feel sluggish. The 28 mm Schwalbe Pro One tires further underline the bike’s feeling of speed and stability.
In terms of compliance, the 2023 CUBE Litening AERO C:68X SLT can “merely” be considered good. However, it provides an acceptable level of comfort for an aero race bike. The 2023 CUBE Litening AERO C:68X SLT offers a smooth ride, particularly when you’re in the drops. When riding on rough asphalt with your hands on the hoods, you can definitely feel the bumps. The tops aren’t the most comfortable either due to their width and therefore lack of ergonomics. Unfortunately, the seat post doesn’t mitigate the impacts from the rear wheel either since it isn’t offset. A final note on the weight: at 7.4 kg in size 54, it’s on par with significantly more expensive aero machines, making it perfectly capable of taking on the competition.
Who is the 2023 CUBE Litening AERO C:68X SLT for?
Is the 2023 CUBE Litening AERO C:68X SLT reserved for dedicated racers who are all about marginal gains and getting on the podium? It is, too, but not only. It can be an equally good choice for newcomers to the sport who want a lot of aero for little money. While the intended use might seem limited at first glance, it’s capable of more than you expect. The 2023 CUBE Litening AERO C:68X SLT will fare just as well at the occasional triathlon as on post-work or group rides with your buddies. Only those who want an uncompromising race position and exclusive bike won’t find what they’re looking for here.
The 2023 CUBE Litening AERO C:68X SLT isn’t an ultra-stiff aero bike with a stretched-out riding position that you can only ride on race day. Instead, it provides a beginner-friendly package, offering performance, functionality and glittery paint without a fancy image and at a fair price. While it has some compromises – especially regarding the restless design language – it’s nothing you can’t learn to live with. Considering the overall package, we don’t mind the lack of street cred it gets at the ice cream parlour.
- excellent value for money
- brilliant spec
- high level of comfort thanks to the relaxed riding position
- sparkly paint job
- exposed axle ends
- internally routed cables rattle
- the tops of the handlebar aren’t ergonomic
Did you enjoy this article? If so, we would be stoked if you decide to support us with a monthly contribution. By becoming a supporter of GRAN FONDO, you will help secure a sustainable future for high-quality cycling journalism. Click here to learn more.
Words: Martin Staffa Photos: Jan Richter