NUKEPROOF SCOUT 290 REVIEW

Words by Robert Johnston
Photos by Laurence Crossman-Emms

Nukeproof’s Scout has gained a bit of a cult following around the world, with its riotous hardcore hardtail reputation backed up by their “Scouting about” marketing. The V3 Nukeproof Scout had been enjoyed by many for a few years, including the nearly four thousand member Facebook group devoted to the bike, but hadn’t seen any updates to keep up with the market, so Nukeproof looked to redesign the Scout from the ground-up to make the fourth iteration of their do-it-all hardtail. We got our hands on a Scout V4 a couple of months before the release to get some serious trail time onboard, now it’s release day and we can finally share our thoughts.

QUICK HITS

• Hardtail for 140-160mm fork
• HTA 64.5 (66 sagged)
• STA 74 (75.5 sagged)
• REACH 470 (Large, sagged)

Price: £499.99 (frame) – £2,799 (RS build)
Website: Nukeproof.com

THE LAB

When it comes to the intended purpose of a bike, few can put it into words as well as the manufacturer, so we’ll let Nukeproof give their two cents on what the Scout is and who they reckon it’s for:

“The all-new Scout is a graduate from the school of gravity. Its geometry is on the “aggressive” side of the coin, designed to attack the trail ahead. The new pedal position, developed using Nukeproof’s saddle offset theory, will propel you efficiently up the trail ready for the gnarliest descent you can handle. The new geometry adds to the all-round capability of the Scout. Improved riding position and sizing combined with a low bottom bracket enhances your control in the corners. The Scout is a versatile frame; ready to scout out endless singletrack, session technical enduro trails or just hoon around like you’re auditioning for the latest “Scoutin’ about” video epic. ”

Nukeproof Scout 290 Profile Shot

Nukeproof’s Scout Hardtail frame is available in two separate options to suit a pair of 27.5” (Scout 275) or 29” wheels (Scout 290), and is optimized for a 140mm fork but will accept up to 160mm travel.  Regardless of the wheel size, the Scout frame is built with a fully custom, hydroformed and triple butted 6061-T6 aluminum tubeset, allowing Nukeproof to maximize the strength-to-weight ratio and obtain the desired stiffness and flex balance. With a solid base in their V3 Scout, Nukeproof focussed on the fine details to take the performance of the V4 up a notch and include the latest standards that you’d expect from a frame in 2022.

The 1X specific frame is designed to allow for plentiful tire clearance when using tires up to 2.6” wide, and will fit up to a 34t round or 32t oval chainring. A SRAM UDH gear hanger is fitted to make it easier to source a replacement on the road; there’s a 73mm threaded bottom bracket; 180mm post brake mount and boost 148mm hub spacing. Nukeproof equipped the new Scout with an accessory mount on the underside of the top tube, and there’s a bottle cage mount on the inside of the downtube that’ll fit at least a 750ml bottle on every frame. Nukeproof produced a 3D contoured rubber chainstay and downtube protector to keep damage and noise to a minimum. Gear and brake cable routing is fully external for easy maintenance, and the internal dropper post routing makes use of a foam wrap to prevent any rattling in the downtube without adding excess weight or cost.

Nukeproof Scout 290 Review

Nukeproof assessed the sizes that riders were choosing for their bikes, and tailored their sizing spread to accommodate. There’s a five-size spread in total, with the 275 frame available from sizes S-XL, and the 290 frame covering M-XXL, which should cover riders from 5’3”-6’6”. Geometry has been tweaked to bring the V4 Scout up to date, and now features their Saddle Offset geometry concept, which optimizes the seated weight distribution to retain a similar climbing position as their full suspension bikes. Key geometry highlights include the short seat tube lengths to allow for long travel droppers and a choice of multiple sizes for most riders; size-specific chainstay lengths that grow 2.5mm between each size to maintain similar weight balance between the wheels; and longer head tube lengths to increase the stack height on the frames and avoid the need for colossal spacer stacks.

Since many companies are still only publishing static geometry figures, we’ll stick to them for consistency and comparability sake. The 275 and 290 frames are close in their geometry figures, sharing the same 64.5° head tube angle and 74° static seat tube angle, and the same seat tube lengths for each size. Reach values begin at 428mm for the small 275 and stretch to 493mm on the XXL 290. The stack heights are larger on the 290 thanks to the increased bottom bracket drop (70mm on the 290 vs 50mm for the 275), beginning at 642mm and hitting 670mm on the XXL, while the 275 frame stack ranges from 616mm-643mm. Chainstays are 7.5mm shorter per size on the 275, ranging from 422.5 through to 430mm compared with the 432.5-440mm of the 290. The large size 290 tested had a 440mm seat tube length, with an overall wheelbase of 1211mm. These figures are generally in the middle of the spectrum for aggressive hardtails, and were selected by Nukeproof to produce a well rounded ride that should handle the full spectrum of all mountain riding.

Build Options

Nukeproof is offering the Scout in a choice of four complete builds with either wheel size from £1,299 to £2,799, or as a frame with headset and seat clamp in a choice of black/brushed or yellow/black colorways for £499. The complete builds all feature the same Schwalbe Magic Mary Soft/Hans Dampf Speedgrip tire combination to ensure every budget retains the same reliable grip on the trail.

Nukeproof Scout 290 Custom Action

Scout Race

The entry level artichoke green Scout Race retails for £1,299, and is offered for riders on a budget, or perhaps those looking for their first foray into the mountain bike world. The build consists of solid and dependable components, with a 140mm RockShox Recon Silver RL; Shimano Deore 10spd drivetrain and MT4100 brakes; WTB ST i30 rims, and a full Nukeproof Neutron finishing kit including a static seat post.

Scout Comp

Moving up to the grey/yellow Scout Comp at £1,799, you get a 140mm Marzocchi Bomber Z2 fork; Shimano Deore 12spd drivetrain and 4 pot brakes; size-specific Brand X Ascend dropper; WTB KOM Trail i30 rims, and the same Nukeproof Neutron finishing kit. This should provide a more capable and refined build for those with the budget to allow it.

Scout Elite

On to the factory yellow Scout Elite at £2,399, the spec jumps up another level with a Fox 36 float rhythm; Shimano SLX 12spd drivetrain and 4-pot brakes; DT Swiss XM1900 Spline 30 wheelset; the same Brand X Ascend dropper, and Nukeproof Horizon finishing kit. Along with the SRAM-focused RS build, this is a highly capable build for aggressive and discerning shredders.

Scout RS

The black/grey Scout RS retails for £2,799, and is equipped with a SRAM build that should offer the highest level of performance. A 150mm RockShox Lyrik Select+ fork leads the charge; there’s a full SRAM GX Eagle 12spd drivetrain and Guide RE brakeset; DT Swiss XM1700 Spline 30 wheelset and the same Nukeproof Horizon finishing kit and Brand X Ascend dropper post.

Nukeproof Scout 290 Custom Action

THE DIRT

To showcase the new Scout hardtail, Nukeproof put on a glamorous event in the south of Wales for a small selection of UK journalists. We were provided with a frame in the size of our choosing, a workstand and a selection of parts from various brands to turn the bare frame into a dialed custom bike to ride on the trails the following day. The intimate process of building the bike from the bare frame would offer the chance to experience the finish quality and fine details up close and personal.

Discussion with Nukeproof prior to the event led to me receiving a 290 frame in size large. Though I’d typically be an XL on a sizing chart, I wanted to retain a bit of the playful nature that every good aggressive hardtail should have in my mind, so the 25mm shorter wheelbase was desirable. With its 470mm reach falling at the lower extremity of what I’d typically consider comfortable, I was excited to get the bike built and hit the trails.

My build was to be supplied primarily by Nukeproof and the Hayes group. Nukeproof provided a fresh set of their Horizon V2 Wheels and ARD Inserts, Horizon stem, saddle and Trail Ti clipless pedals, and Sam Hill alloy handlebar. The Hayes group supplied their Dominion A4 brakes, a Manitou Mezzer Expert fork, and an interesting Microshift Advent X 10spd drivetrain. Rounding out the build was a pair of Michelin Wild Enduro tires; a Race Face Aeffect R crank, and a Brand X Ascend XL dropper post. This reasonably priced but feature-packed spec tips the scales at 31.6lbs fully loaded. During the build day, I discussed with Nukeproof’s Marketing Manager, Rob Sherratt, about the fork travel that would likely be best for me. Designed for 140mm, but rated for up to 160mm, we agreed that my intended riding would likely warrant the longest of the allowable travels, so we left my fork at the 160mm setting it was delivered in. The build went relatively smoothly, and the build quality and finish seemed excellent up-close with everything threading together nicely.

Nukeproof Scout 290 Custom Action

Once we’d built up the bikes and sampled a beer or two, we hit the hay eager to wake up the next day and get out onto the trails. The morning started off well, with sunshine peering through some light cloud cover and everyone eager to get on a bike. We were to ride Wye MTB’s shuttle-assisted enduro loop, which covered a wide expanse of open terrain in the South Welsh countryside. As we made our way up the hill for the first shuttle, thick clouds began to close in, and raindrops started battering down on the roof of the van. Undeterred, we got out and climbed our way out of a forest onto the open moor atop the first hill. With one steep pitch on the climb and immeasurable energy to burn, I cranked up a rain rut hard and was met with a swift “snap” of the chain. After being that guy (don’t be that guy) and making everyone in the group wait out in the cold, I was back up and running and ready to give the Scout the shakedown it deserved.

Over the course of the first day testing, we rode a great variety of terrain – both up and down the hill – which proved to be a huge amount of fun. Even though the rain was getting progressively worse, drenching even the most waterproof of jackets and chilling everyone to the bone, the wild party trains slipping and sliding down some slick Welsh hillside was entertainment enough to keep everyone’s mind off it, and the Scout proved to be quite the tool to tackle the terrain. Although we weren’t too short of ride time over this day, it was more of a test of character than it was an opportunity to figure out the personality of the bike.

Following the event I took the Scout away to sample a wider variety of trails in (thankfully) drier weather, to get an actual appreciation of the handling with hands and feet that I could feel. After over a month of thrashing around the UK, my knees and ankles are ready to tell the tale. Nukeproof’s geometry concept for the Scout produces a natural feeling bike when coming off of full suspension rigs, with the slightly slack seat angle on paper actually translating to a nicely centered position out on the trail that limits the need to get out the saddle to weight the front wheel. The relatively compact wheelbase, especially when sagged, gives an agile response that allows for quick direction changes on the climb, making short work of uphill switchbacks without washing the front wheel when under power. The crank clearance with 170mm cranks fitted is okay when seated, but you have to be careful when pedaling tech standing up, as the increased front sag that will result can begin to leave your pedals in the danger zone. Unlike a full suspension where you can effectively raise the bottom bracket by weighting the front end heavily, the opposite is true and you are best to keep your weight back to a reasonable degree.

Nukeproof Scout 290 Custom Action

When it comes to descending on a hardtail, for me there’s always going to be a different riding approach compared with a fully suspended bike. Sure, you could grip on for dear life and ride the same lines at similar speeds as a full sus, but in doing so I feel like you miss out on the best parts of hardtail riding and simply subject your body (and bike) to extra punishment. The Scout certainly does a good job at tackling rowdy descents, with its serious “in the bike” feeling producing a surprisingly composed ride, and a hint of flex in the rear end to keep the wheel tracking nicely on the off cambers. But for me there’s only so many square edged shockwaves I can tolerate before the novelty wears off. Instead, a slower, smoother and more creative approach to riding the trail is what makes an aggressive hardtail really come alive for me. The direct connection to the rear wheel means you can be more precise and enjoy absolute predictability in the response of the rear end when you load it up for a hop or a pump through a compression. And this is where the low slung (even when 20mm over-forked) nature of the Scout can become a slight hindrance.

The low bb pushes the natural weight bias of the Scout towards the front wheel, which lets the rider hang further back with dipped heels and take the impacts more effectively. What also results from this weight bias though is a front end that is relatively heavy feeling, so manuals require a good pull to initiate and the low-speed maneuverability is reduced some. The low stack height contributed to this, so I tested the Scout with a higher 50mm rise bar towards the end of the test, which improved things slightly. There’s a lot of give and take with mountain bike geometry, and the capability of the Scout for rough and rugged natural mountain biking unfortunately detracts from the playfulness in its character. The 27.5” version may help in this respect, but I wouldn’t say either version of the Scout is going to be the ideal rig to use as a “play bike” as such. Of course a pure play bike is not the intended use case, it’s a do-it-all mountain bike, and it absolutely thrives on technical trails.

I’m not going to suggest my legs are well enough calibrated to feel the difference between the rear tire and frame flexing – I don’t spend enough time on a hardtail for that – but the Nukeproof felt to give a little more trail feedback than the steel framed Stif Squatch I reviewed last year. Both were running similar sized tires at the same pressure, though the Stif has a cushier Rimpact insert compared with the Nukeproof ARD, and a slightly thicker DH casing Maxxis tire instead of the lighter weight Michelin, which may have done enough to produce this comfort difference. What I’m trying to say is that the Nukeproof works no magic on straight-on, square edged impacts, and riders in rocky terrain are going to be well served by a tire insert. For off-axis impacts though, such as when charging through root and rock infested chutes, there’s a notable level of compliance that was present with both the Nukeproof wheelset and a stiffer carbon-rimmed wheelset. This gives a boost to the comfort and grip that’s much appreciated, especially when the trails are slick, though it’ll still bite you long before a full suspension equivalent.

Nukeproof Scout 290 Custom Action

Over the testing period, the Scout handled all the abuse without flinching, resisting stone chips and top tube rub well. The deep seatpost insertion was appreciated, with the 200mm dropper able to be slammed for the more playful times on the large frame tested. The tool mount on the underside of the top tube is an appreciated detail, too, but the narrow diameter of the tube meant that certain loads could protrude either side, leading to a few instances where I knocked my knees. The bike ran quietly, with the external cable routing not giving a single peep, and the chainstay protection keeping the chain noise to a minimum. The generous mud clearance around the 2.4” rubber ensured that there were no issues with blockage, even on day 1 when the mud was as thick as it could be at times. All in all, Nukeproof did a great job with the details on the new Scout.

To touch on the parts spec which features a few obscure items including the Microshift Advent X drivetrain (review coming soon), Manitou Mezzer , Brand X dropper and Hayes Dominion brakes, the result was a smooth running and trouble free bike throughout the test. The Microshift drivetrain provided impressively reliable shifting, though the larger jumps in ratio were noticed on some constant-speed climbs, where you could be stuck either side of the ideal gear ratio. The Manitou fork offered a supportive and controlled response, if not the most sensitive nor tuneable, with a chassis that was up for the challenge on the front of the bike. The Brand X dropper, with a retail of just $135, proved to be dependable throughout the test, however required notably more force to actuate than the best of them. The lever feel and reliability on the Hayes Dominion brakes still stacks up well in the field, though they don’t have the most absolute power out there. All of the Nukeproof componentry was dependable and went about the job quietly – the Sam Hill grips were a particular highlight, with incredible soft and tacky rubber that managed to retain a reasonable level of damping considering their thin diameter. This gave some great trail feel, though they wore quicker than anything I’ve used in quite some time – a price worth paying (literally) in my eyes.

Nukeproof Scout 290 Custom Action

The Wolf’s Last Word

As an aggressive hardtail for riding all mountains, the Nukeproof Scout 290 is a dialed rig that offers a nice blend of handling and a comfortable climbing position. Riders looking for the ultimate play bike may be better served by the Scout 275, or a less aggressive model by another brand. But as a general trail hardtail, there’s little to dislike with the updated Nukeproof for “Scoutin’ about”.

Price: £499,99 (Frame, seatclamp, headset, rear axle)
Weight: 31.6lbs
Website: Nukeproof.com

VISIT NUKEPROOF TO GET YOURS!

NUKEPROOF SCOUT 290 CUSTOM SPECS

CHASSIS
Frame: Alloy | Hardtail
Fork: Manitou Mezzer Expert | 160mm

COCKPIT
Brakes: Hayes Dominion A4, 200F/R D-Series rotors
Handlebar: Nukeproof Sam Hill 31.8mm| 800mm| 20mm Rise
Stem: Nukeproof Horizon 31.8mm | 50mm Length
Headset: Nukeproof IS44/IS56
Seatpost: Brand X Ascend XL 200mm
Saddle: Nukeproof Horizon Enduro

WHEELS
Wheelset: Nukeproof Horizon V2
Front tire: Michelin Wild Enduro Front Competition | Magi-X | 29″ x 2.4″
Rear tire: Michelin Wild Enduro Rear Competition | Gum-X | 29″ x 2.4″

DRIVETRAIN
Bottom Bracket: Raceface Threaded
Cassette: Microshift Advent X H Series | 10spd | 11-48t
Cranks: Raceface Aeffect R | 32T | 170mm
Shifter: Microshift Advent X Trail Trigger Pro | 10spd
Derailleur: Microshift Advent X | 10spd

Nukeproof Scout 290 Review

We Dig

Comfortable climbing position
Build quality
Details well covered
Descending composure

We Don’t

Not the most playful
BB slightly low for tech

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