Nukeproof Mega 290 Review
Putting the Able in Affordable
Words by Nic Hall & Drew Rohde // Photos by Dennis Yuroshek & Drew Rohde
Nukeproof doesn’t always follow industry trends. From all aluminum frames to longer chain stays and budget-friendly price tags, these guys tailor their designs to a particular crowd. We’ve been riding the Mega 290 for several months now and have been equally impressed as we were with its 27.5 brother last year. The Mega line borrows its name from the Megavalanche, the race it was designed to win, but in the hunt to save seconds the Nukeproof team has thrown 29” wheels on their iconic Mega to produce an all-terrain ripper. The Mega 290 was sent to us with the Pro level build; trimmed out with Shimano XT components and a Lyrik up front. The rest of the spec mirrors Nukeproof’s quest to blend durability and performance.
After a major redesign in 2016 including the addition of 29” wheels, the Mega 290 is squarely aimed at the big mountain enduro bike category. Yet, Nukeproof has their own idea of long and low geometry. The top tube on the large we rode was 24.45-inch (621mm), which is fairly long but felt more like a medium. Everyone that jumped on the bike commented on how short the top tube felt. Out back is where things get longer as it packs some monumental 17.72in (450mm) chainstays. A bottom bracket drop of 1.18in (30mm) felt spot on and a head angle of 66 degrees initially sounded slack for a 29er but led to a very planted feel when coupled with the long rear end. Nukeproof chose to forego keeping up with the Joneses and kept a tried and true 10x100mm front spacing and 12×142 rear. The bike was plenty rigid and the spec undoubtedly leads to greater savings, which we certainly don’t mind.
Suspension is focused around a Horst link design that is fairly progressive and sits nicely in the mid stroke. The rear end is damped by a Rock Shox Monarch Debonair Plus with a high volume can, but I felt it needed two volume spacers to add a little more end stroke ramp when set at 30% sag. A 150mm Lyrik RCT3 keeps the front end on track and feels as good as anything on the market right now.
For the price, you cannot beat the performance of Shimano XT components. The driveline shifts well and is as reliable as they get. The XT stoppers are solid but I am personally not a big fan of the lever feel and modulation. With newer and stronger designs on the market, I would prefer a quad piston caliper on a bike designed for this kind of riding. The only low point on this build is the in-house 760mm bars; they are a bit narrow for my liking and are overly stiff.
The SRAM Rail 40 wheelset is respectable at 1,900g and is surprisingly stiff for a 24 spoke count wheel. They are still rolling strong after pounding them on the rockiest trails around. We are always happy to see a Magic Mary up front, and the Nobby Nic out back rolls pretty quick while maintaining some predictable traction in the corners.
First off, the climbing was good but not amazing. The seat angle keeps the rider on top of the pedals for seated efforts, while out of the saddle climbs left me on top of the bars and feeling a bit cramped. On steep slow climbs the front end has a tendency to wander due to the slack head angle, but that is a small price to pay for the descending prowess of this bike. Keeping momentum up was key, as it would just roll up anything in front of it with enough speed. For a full aluminum build coming in right over 30lbs, the bike does not feel overly heavy or sluggish when putting the power down.
This bike goes fast in the steep and straight. The long rear end lends loads of high-speed confidence, while the big wheels add to the terrain eating capabilities. That aggressive DNA has a down side though, since turns at slower speeds take more body English. If you live in an area with lots of slower speed or techy terrain be prepared to give a little extra effort, like Happy Gilmore’s golf coach Chubbs said, “It’s all in the hips, baby.” Get the Mega up to speed however, and she’ll reward you with traction and confidence. The bike is a lot of fun to ride once you open it up.
The combo of the short stem and top tube left the cockpit cramped when in a neutral descending position but that wasn’t always bad. Taking to the air felt natural on the 290, but it lacked some pop of lighter more agile bikes with shorter stays. Once the bike was back on the ground, it picked up speed and carried momentum as good as any bike I have been on this year. Even the gnarliest of chutes and steeps felt tame aboard the Mega.
The Wolf’s Last Word
Aluminum doesn’t carry the same illustrious appeal as carbon, but this bike proves it can still go head to head with the plastic bikes. Aggressive riders that aren’t afraid to open up and let a bike run will only benefit from the long and stable ride of the Mega 290. Once up to speed, it can run corners down all day but on tight and technical trails, it will require some extra input. With such a solid build and top shelf suspension, this would be my budget pick for 2017. Performance doesn’t have to come with a price and Nukeproof proves that with their Mega 290 Pro.
Sizes: S, M, L, XL
Stability at Speed
Chainstay Length at Slower Speeds
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