SETUP | It took me a little while longer to get this Nukeproof Mega 290 Carbon Elite set up to a point where I was comfortable and able to push hard. Partly this was due to my unfamiliarity with components such as the SRAM DB8 brakes and Nukeproof’s somewhat strange looking and therefore Horizon alloy handlebar, but the suspension also took a little longer to dial in, too. This was a result of the light compression tune that Nukeproof opted to use in the Float X2 shock, and so I ended up near the end of the range to deliver the desired support. Given that I’m on the heavier end of typical riders on a size large, it feels quite appropriate for this to be the case, but it’s not usually this way.
With 30% sag at the rear; the low speed compression dialed up and the rebound tweaked to deliver a balanced overall platform, the Mega started to come alive. That was until a little shakedown climb led to just about every piece of linkage hardware coming loose. Following a nip up with a multitool to get me down off the hill, I went through and torqued everything to spec, following which it all stayed put through a few months of abuse. Moral of the story, you should not assume that the fully built Nukeproof Mega arrives actually ready to ride. Take that extra time to check and re-check it’s all good to go before you ride it. Of course, your local bike shop will likely do this if you purchase it from them, but if you buy online then be careful.
CLIMBING | Once I had the setup dialed in, I was still surprised by how open the rear end felt while climbing. The Nukeproof Mega is certainly a bike that benefits from the use of a climb switch on a shock for smoother pedaling stints, as the Anti Squat is on the low side and the plush rear end is therefore keen to enter its travel through every pedal stroke. It makes for a comfortable and traction-rich climber in rough and flatter climbs, but can allow the BB to sink to the danger zone and for its 35.9 lbs weight to really be felt. Thankfully that climb switch is positioned in a spot that makes for relatively easy operation while pedaling, letting you improve climbing performance to an acceptable level for the longer, smoother and steeper climbs. The seated climbing position was comfortable for me but the effective angle ended up slacker than reported due to my longer legs than your typical size Large rider and the slacker Actual Seat Tube Angle. It was manageable even so, since the rear end is not too short, and if you’re more evenly proportioned then you’ll benefit from a more central, upright position.
DESCENDING | A light compression tune combined with a bearing mount at the shock eyelet and low Anti Squat makes for a buttery smooth rear end on the Mega, though I found myself keen to add plenty of low speed compression to the shock to prevent it from being too eager to use its travel. Experimenting with air pressure and compression settings, I found the Mega to work best when setup bang on 30% sag, where it felt nicely balanced with the 170mm front end.
The resulting setup that felt to work best for the Mega produced a very neutral feeling machine. It was never an extremely sharp feeling, poppy and playful bike; sitting closer to the plush and muted side of things but not quite ironing out the trail like the best of them. Instead, it sits right in the middle of the spectrum in a place that’ll likely make a lot of riders content with the bike regardless of the terrain encountered or their riding style. That said, in this way the Mega almost threatens feeling a little boring, without any particularly strong traits. But what is undoubtable is that it makes for a bike that is likely to excel on the race stage, where consistency trumps all, and a “jack of all trades” machine is no bad thing.
The Mega was a safe bet to grab when I was unsure of the trail menu of the day, as well as offering a great tool for some more exploratory missions at some lesser-known spots. It corners predictably; offers plenty of stability and comfort to keep you feeling safe and comfortable; and can take a hit sufficiently well. That said, you’d be best served by a Hydraulic Bottom Out-equipped coil shock if you ditched the air.
FINISH AND VALUE | The overall finish of the Nukeproof Mega 290 Carbon was excellent, with well covered details and a stunning sparkly black paint finish. The frame protection – both the rubber protectors and the clear protection tape – were well executed and held up great; and the Mega ran quietly and smoothly overall…once the frame hardware was torqued correctly.
In terms of value, the Mega 290 Carbon Elite doesn’t scream incredible value for its £4,899 price tag, but the build spec is very well selected and leaves little to be desired in terms of component upgrades. With the high quality Carbon frame too, it doesn’t feel to be outrageously expensive. And at the time of writing there are some significant discounts which take it from okay value to a steal.
COMPONENT REPORT | Aside from some damper tune quirks and the strange appearance of the Nukeproof Horizon bars, there was little to complain about on the Mega 290 Elite build. I’d have loved to have seen the chainring bash guard that’s called out in the spec sheet fitted to my bike for peace of mind, but managed to avoid any damage. Particular kudos goes to the Product Manager for the tire choice – proper casings and tacky MaxxGrip rubber up front were great to see.
SRAM DB8 – The SRAM DB8 brakes certainly have a unique feel in terms of their ergonomics and bite, but after a small adjustment period they proved to offer satisfactory performance. Compared with a CODE, they feel to require a little more lever force to obtain the same maximum stopping power, but squeeze them hard enough and they’ll slow you down amicably. I didn’t manage to fry them at any point, and their feel remained consistent throughout testing.
SRAM GX AXS T-TYPE – I haven’t quite logged the miles on this drivetrain to fully test its long-term durability, but if this first couple of hundred miles are anything to go by then it’s every bit as good as the more expensive T-Type drivetrains, with the only penalty being the extra weight. I’ve grown to really enjoy the tactile feel of the AXS POD shifter, and the shifting has barely skipped a beat.
HOW DOES THE NUKEPROOF MEGA STACK UP?
As a bike that came in at a similar weight; has some overlapping geometry numbers; and generally similar intentions, the RAAW Madonna comes to mind as a direct competitor. Between the two machines, the RAAW would take the cake for the machine I felt most at home on, but the Mega would certainly not struggle to hang. Pedaling the Madonna was more pleasant when unlocked; while the Mega took the edge as the more playful bike. I’d likely opt to go for the RAAW if I was on the hunt for a race bike, but both would make for killer all round enduro machines.
The Wolf’s Last Word
So neutral and well rounded, it’s almost boring…but not quite. The Nukeproof Mega 290 Carbon Elite is a solid all round enduro bike that’s highly capable of hitting the top step of a race podium, with a build kit that’s well selected and performed great across the spectrum of conditions.
Weight: 35.9lbs / 16.3kg