2023 EMTB SHOOTOUT
NUKEPROOF MEGAWATT 297 REVIEW
SOLID ALL ROUNDER ENDURO EBIKE
Photos by Max Rhulen & Dusten Ryen
Video by Brian Niles / Treeline Cinematic
The MegaWatt 297 is Nukeproof’s first foray into the world of eMTB, electrifying their classic Mega enduro bike with a Shimano EP8 system. With a mixed wheel setup (29” front, 27.5” rear) only, 170mm travel on both ends and E-Enduro ready geometry, the MegaWatt looks ready to rip on paper, so we were excited to finally get one to test against 13 of the best eBikes on the market in our 2023 eMTB Shootout. Read on to find out how the Nukeproof MegaWatt 297 Elite performed and how it stacks up against the competition.
2023 EMTB SHOOTOUT SERIES – This bike was one of 13 that our staff thoroughly tested with absolute objectivity in mind. From different types of riders to terrain, our goal is to present the best and most honest information possible to help you make your best decision. Of course, we’d love to thank Fox Racing and Schwalbe Tires for being invaluable partners to this series and making it happen.
• 170mm Horst Link Suspension
• MX Wheels
• Shimano EP8 Motor
• 630Wh Battery
• Fixed Geometry
• HTA 64
• STA 78 (effective)
• REACH 475 (Large)
Price: $6,099 (Comp) – $9,599 (RS)
FRAME AND FEATURES
Featuring a Shimano STEPS EP8 motor and 630Wh battery, the Nukeproof MegaWatt 297 is available in four spec levels, which all share the same triple butted 6061-T6 frame with a cast motor mount. The MegaWatt frame has internally routed cables in the downtube, entering through the top cup of the Block Lock headset (or in the side of the downtube in the case of our test bike), which prevents the steerer from turning enough to damage the cables. The suspension pivots run on Enduro bearings to provide a longer lifespan. Reducing the effects of chain slap are 3D contoured rubber frame protectors on the chainstay and seatstay. Around the motor is a 3D contoured protector to prevent damage to the casing, and the battery has an integrated downtube protector built in. The rear mech mounts to SRAM’s universal derailleur hanger (UDH) to make sourcing spares easier. Nukeproof includes a five-year warranty for the original owner in case something unfortunate happens.
DRIVE UNIT AND ELECTRONICS
All of Nukeproof’s MegaWatt 297 models use the Shimano STEPS EP8 motor, with the entry level Comp spec featuring a 504Wh Shimano battery, and the three higher spec levels coming equipped with a 630Wh battery. These batteries are of the removable integrated type, and the battery sizes can be interchanged thanks to the easy to switch battery mount. The STEPS EP8 motor is one of the most common on the market, and featured on seven of our 13 bikes in this year’s shootout. Producing 85Nm of torque for its 5.7lbs (2.6kg) weight, the Shimano motor has proved to be a solid offering. Mounted to the bars is the EM800 display and the fairly compact EM-800L assist switch to control the different modes. These modes are ECO, TRAIL and BOOST; and their assistance can be adjusted using the Shimano E-TUBE PROJECT app with two customizable profiles.
The geometry of the Nukeproof MegaWatt is very well rounded, with no stand-out figures aside from a fairly low bottom bracket and an overall handling that was comfortable and intuitive across the spectrum of conditions.
The MegaWatt 297 shares a lot of similarities in the geometry to their analogue Mega enduro bike, including their “saddle offset” philosophy, which gives different seat tube angles to each size to optimize the seating position of the typical height rider on each of the sizes – the effective seat tube angle is either 77.5 or 78 degrees. There is a wide S-XXL size range, which should fit riders from 159cm-201cm (5’2”-6’7”). The reach on these increases by 20mm for each size, with the size Large tested coming in at the Drew-favorite 475mm figure which is paired to a 645mm stack height. Consistent across sizes are the 64-degree head tube angle, 442mm chainstay length and 20mm BB drop (average). The wheelbase on the size large totals 1,264mm, in line with many of the other enduro eBikes in the shootout. Rift Zone E shares a lot of the geometry concepts from the analog Marin Rift Zone trail bike. There’s a 65-degree head tube angle; 77-degree effective seat tube angle; 32mm BB drop and 440mm chainstays across the S-XL size range. The size large tested had a 485mm reach, fairly low 625mm stack, and wheelbase totaling 1,246mm.
The Nukeproof MegaWatt 297 Elite is the second most affordable spec in the MegaWatt lineup, with a price tag of $7,799 and weight of 54.9bs. Other models in the range go from the $6,099 Comp, to the $9,599 RS. The Elite is spec’d with a Fox suspension package, with the 170mm travel 38 Float Performance Elite paired with a custom tuned Float X2 Performance series shock with 2-position lever. There’s a full Shimano SLX groupset, with their 4-pot M7120 brakes with 220mm/200mm rotors, and the HYPERGLIDE+ 12spd groupset with 10-51T cassette. A 165mm Shimano EM600 crank drives the EP8 motor with a 34t chainring. Brand X supplies an Ascend dropper, with size-specific lengths from 125mm to 200mm. Nukeproof uses their in-house components for most of the remainder, with a Horizon V2 handlebar and Horizon stem, Nukeproof Saddle and a Horizon V2 wheelset.
As standard, these bikes come with a pair of Maxxis Assegai DD tires, but for the fifth shootout running we equipped all of the bikes with a pair of Schwalbe tires to give a fair comparison across of the bikes: a Schwalbe Magic Mary Soft Super Gravity up front, with a Big Betty Soft Super Gravity in the rear.
SETUP | Getting the Nukeproof Megawatt dialed in proved to be easy, with the rear shock very easy to see to view the sag setting within the 30-35% recommended sag window. The only item that presented some issues in getting set up correctly were the Nukeproof handlebars, which have a strange sweep that needs to be rolled much further forward visually to obtain the correct hand position and looks a little strange when mounted appropriately. That said, we were able to obtain a comfortable position after we allowed our brain to accept the strange looks.
ELECTRONICS & INTEGRATION | As another Shimano EP8-equipped bike, motor power is satisfactory and the integration is reasonable, but not quite as refined as the new Bosch smart system or the Specialized or Rocky Mountain offerings with their integrated top tube displays, however the size and location of the Shimano display are hardly worth criticizing.
CLIMBING | The climbing platform on the Megawatt 297 is strongly pushed towards the sensitive and traction-rich end of the spectrum, opposed to some of the firmer, sportier and more efficient feeling pedalers in the category. This keeps things comfortable when pedaling through rough terrain, but can make dynamic movements a little trickier on the climb and doesn’t conjure up the same notions of speed on the way up as the likes of the Pivot or Orbea. The bottom bracket is low, allowing the 165mm crank arms to get close to the ground and making for frequent pedal strikes in the chunky desert terrain. We’d definitely opt for 160mm cranks on this bike.
DESCENDING | The low BB comes into its own when gravity is on your side, giving a secure and stable “in the bike” feeling, which encourages you to charge hard. The Megawatt is composed and generates good traction, carves a mean turn, and has a nicely damped feeling overall that keeps comfort levels high. Big hits were dispatched without complaint, and agility was reasonable for the tighter sections of trail on the descents. It never felt like the most poppy and playful bike on test but struck a middle ground that would allow it to perform fairly well across a wide range of terrain and uses.
FINISH AND VALUE | In terms of value, the Nukeproof doesn’t seem like a great deal when compared with the likes of the equal-priced, carbon fiber-framed Fezzari, or the similarly spec’d Marin at $1,500 less. That said, the Nukeproof finishing kit is of aftermarket level quality and everything proved to perform solidly. With a good neutral performance, it’s not a terrible buy either.
The Wolf’s Last Word
The Nukeproof MegaWatt 297 is a solid machine, with capable descending performance and a nice element of agility and playfulness retained. The climbing performance is satisfactory until ground clearance begins to factor into the equation, where its low bottom bracket height can lead to frequent pedal strikes. Overall, it’s a solid offering and a fun ride, but was pipped by some of the other bikes such as the Orbea, Pivot and Fezzari in either overall performance and/or value. Nevertheless, it is a ton of fun to ride, has a supple and lively suspension platform that offers all day comfort and big hit composure on-par with the best of them.
WHO’S IT FOR?
The MegaWatt is a solid E-enduro all-rounder and will likely suit a wide range of riders who aren’t looking for a more pointed machine. Riders who live in chunky terrain should consider crank clearance but will love the supple, comfortable suspension platform and speed this bike encourages. If you prioritize downhills or seated comfort for big pedal days, the Nukeproof MegaWatt 297 is worth a closer look.
NUKEPROOF MEGAWATT 297 ELITE SPECS
Frame: 6061-T6 Alloy | 170mm
Fork: Fox 38 Float Performance Elite | 170mm
Shock: Fox Float X2 Performance | 2-pos | Custom tune
Motor: Shimano EP8 | 85 Nm
Battery: Shimano E8036 | 630Wh
Display: Shimano EM800
Brakes: Shimano SLX M7120 | 220F/200R Brakco rotors
Bar: Nukeproof Horizon V2 Alloy 31.8mm | S/M: 20mm rise, 780mm W | L-XXL: 25mm rise, 800mm W
Stem: Nukeproof Horizon alloy | length: 45mm
Seatpost: Brand X Ascend dropper | S:125mm | M: 150mm | L:170mm | XL/XXL: 200mm
Wheelset: Nukeproof Horizon V2 alloy |
Front Tire: Maxxis Assegai 29×2.5″WT | MaxxGrip | DD Casing
Rear Tire: Maxxis Assegai 27.5×2.5″WT | MaxxGrip | DD Casing
Cassette: Shimano SLX M7100 | 10-51T | 12spd
Cranks: Shimano EM600 | 165mm | 34t
Shifter: Shimano SLX M7100 | 12spd
Derailleur: Shimano SLX M7100 | 12spd
Climbing traction and comfort
Fast and capable descender
Handles big hits and chatter smoothly
Limited pedal clearance
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