Best Hardtail of the Year under £500!

Product Overview

Overall rating:

Score 10

Vitus Nucleus VR


  • Class leading specification with the ride to match.


  • Still no clutch mech to help keep the chain on.


Vitus Nucleus VR (2018) review


Price as reviewed:


By bestowing the same level of detail on the Nucleus VR that most other brands reserve for their flagship models, Vitus has had amazing success with its entry-level hardtail. Every year without fail, Vitus has tweaked the Nucleus VR to ensure that it stays ahead of the competition. And by a couple of steps, it’s often superior to most of the bikes in the sub-£50 class of our Hardtail of the Year test.

Hardtail of the Year two years running, Vitus could have rested on its laurels and the Vitus Nucleus VR would still have bagged a hat trick.

>>> Hardtail of the Year 2018: £500-£1,000 (VIDEO)

But instead of sitting back and watching the sales roll in, Vitus improved upon it’s test winning formula. Starting with the frame, the new Nucleus gets a similar tube set and profile to the Vitus Sentier in the £1,000 category but retains its QR rear dropouts.

vitus nucleus vr

Vitus Nucleus VR review

The geometry has been tweaked too. It’s now longer, lower and slacker, and an XL size has been added to the mix. Internal routing for a dropper seat post is also new, and by internal we mean the cable goes into the downtube just behind the head tube, rather than simply drilling a hole in the back of the seat tube. All positive improvements then.


The new Nucleus frame is a cut above the competition, but it’s the air-sprung, hydraulically damped Suntour XCR suspension fork that gives it a real advantage. Bring air sprung, it’s much lighter than the coil fork on all of the other bikes, and the spring-rate can be matched to rider weight with just a shock pump. It also benefits from an oversized alloy steer tube that maximizes steering precision and stiffness.

vitus nucleus vr


Vitus stretches its lead further with the best finishing kit in test. The 2x drivetrain shifts seamlessly and the Tektro brakes are reliable stoppers. It’s the combination of the meaty WTB Vigilante tyre up front with the faster rolling Trail Boss on the rear that literally lets the Vitus run rings around its rivals though. An added bonus being the addition of wider rims for improved tyres stability at lower pressures.


From the get go the Vitus established a commanding lead in the sub £500 category and never looked back. It’s a proper mountain bike in every sense. You can shred turns, hit jumps and sprint up climbs all with the same ease as bikes costing double the money. There’s simply no better bike at this price point so whether you getting into mountain biking for the first time or retuning after an hiatus, the Vitus Nucleus VR is the bike to get.

vitus nucleus vr

What’s new for 2019?

“For MY19 we didn’t mess with the formula of our multi award-winning Nucleus VR. The one change we did make was a n upgrade to the new WTB ST TCS2.0 rims, offering improved tubeless performance, and improved compatibility with wider tyres, due to the increased 29mm inner rim width.” John Thompson, MTB product manager, Vitus Bikes.


In mountain bike development standing still is akin to going backwards, so it’s great to see Vitus swimming against a tide of average hardtails and progressing. With a brand new frame and some subtle tweaks to the build kit, the 2018 Nucleus VR is better than ever and it’s still the £500 bike to beat. Lighter, faster and more fun than anything else in its class, nothing comes close to matching its performance. In fact, mountain bikers have never had to so good and the Vitus Nucleus VR is the tide that’s lifting all boats in the sub £500 harbour.


Frame:6061-T6 aluminium
Fork:Suntour XCR LO-R Air 120mm travel
Wheels:KT QR hubs, WTB 25mm TCS rims, WTB Vigilante Comp/Trail Boss 27.5x2.3/2.25in tyres
Drivetrain:Suntour XCM 36/22 chainset, Shimano f mech, Shimano Altus r-mech and shifters
Brakes:Tektro HD-M290 160mm
Weight:14.03kg (30.93lb)
Sizes:S, M, L, XL
Size tested:Large