Best Hardtail of the Year under £500!
Last year, the Vitus Nucleus 275 VR made its debut in this very test, and what a first impression it made. Not only did it walked away with a perfect 10 rating, but it was the only bike in the sub £500 category to really break free from the shackles of XC race geometry that’s kept most entry-level hardtails in the dark ages.
Vitus Nucleus 275 VR (2017)
This year, it’s is back for another shot of at our Hardtail of the Year title an looks set to deliver a knockout blow in the first round. Vitus hasn’t messed with the winning numbers that make the Nucleus frame so capable, but it has upgraded the tyres, so you now get a soft compound WTB Vigilante up front for railing turns, while the closer tread Trail Boss out back keeps the tempo high even when the gradient is low.
It’s £5.01 cheaper too. And while that’s not much of a saving, it will get you a spare inner tube or go towards as Neoprene chainsay protector, which is the only thing that’s missing from an otherwise standout specification.
Suspension fork performance can really make or break a bike, and Vitus has insured that it’s the former. The 120mm travel Suntour XCR unit is easily best in test, and because it’s air sprung the sag can be matched to rider weight with nothing more than a shock pump. It’s also the only fork in this category where you can adjust the rebound damping to match the spring rate, which really gives it an edge in terms of control.
With the widest handlebar and shortest stem on test, the cockpit on the Vitus is every bit as commanding as the frame geometry. It’s also the only bike to get a 2x chainset, but Vitus still hasn’t been able to stretch to a clutch rear mech. So your biggest headache is still going to be chain slap and keeping the chain on.
One year on and the Vitus Nucleus VR 275 is still streets ahead of its rivals. No bike in the sub £500 category even came close to matching its ride quality or specification. Vitus has done wonders for the humble hardtail, now everyone else needs to raise their game.
After only the few pedal strokes on the 2017 Vitus Nucleus, it was obvious that all of the other bikes in the sub £500 category would be competing for second place. The superior geometry of the Vitus frame, combined with the air sprung fork and the best tyres in test, means that the only limiting factors here are your skill level and fitness. It really is in a class of its own and its easily deserving of its second mbr Hardtail of the Year award. Can anyone step into the ring and break its winning streak or even get beyond the first round? We very much doubt it.