Best Hardtail of the Year under £500!

Product Overview

Overall rating:

Score 10

Vitus Nucleus 275 VR (2017)

Pros:

  • Best fork, best tyres, best geometry, best ride quality.

Cons:

  • Limited to three frame sizes.

Product:

Vitus Nucleus 275 VR (2017) review

Manufacturer:

Price as reviewed:

£489.99

In association with Sombrio

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.

Buy now: 2017 model Vitus Nucleus 275 VR from Chain Reaction Cycles for £439.99

 

vitus nucleus 275 vr

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.

>>> The best cheap road bikes: ridden and rated

Suspension

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.

>>> Hardtail of the Year 2016: £500-£1,000 (VIDEO)

Components

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.

Performance

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.

Buy now: 2017 model Vitus Nucleus 275 VR from Chain Reaction Cycles for £439.99

vitus nucleus 275 vr

Verdict

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.

Details

Frame:6061-T6 aluminium
Fork:Suntour XCR LO-R 120mm travel
Wheels:KT hubs, WTB ST i19 TCS rims, WTB Vigilante Comp/Trail Boss 27.5x2.3/2.25in tyres
Drivetrain:Suntour XCM 36/22 chainset, Microshift f mech, Shimano Altus r-mech and shifters
Brakes:Tektro HD-M290 160mm
Weight:13.99kg (30.84lb)
Sizes:S, M, L
Size tested:Large
  • Paul H

    Thanks, I’ll have a look at one. The Giant Talon 27.5 4 was suggested to me as the 2015 model came in an extra large size – any views on that bike?

  • Danny Milner

    Hi Paul, the large is going to be too small for you i’m afraid. The Trek Marlin 7 did well in our hard tail test last year and is available in a wider range of sizes right up to 23in. Definitely worth a look.

  • Paul H

    I’m 6 foot 5 inches tall – will the ‘Large’ be big enough for me or can you recommend another bike in this price range comes in a larger size.

  • JammyBam

    I picked up one last week to commute to work on via particularly rough dirt tracks, it is a total blast! Love it.

  • Chris Mason

    I’ve got the 2015 275 VR which is pretty much the same as 2016 except for a different wheelset.
    Awesome bike for the money!