Nukeproof updates its sucessful Mega race bike - revised geometry and extra sizes all with space for a bottle, but is the new Nukeproof Mega 290 better?
Nukeproof overhauls the Nukeproof Mega 290 platform, from suspension kinematics to frame geometry and design, including a novel approach to help riders get the correct fit and sizing
2021 Nukeproof Mega 290 Factory need to know
- The new Mega V4 frame comes in full carbon or alloy options and all models are available with 27.5in or 29in wheels
- Travel on the the 27.5in frame is 165mm travel, so 5mm more than the 29er, and both options have 170mm suspension forks
- Revised suspension layout increases anti-squat and mid-stroke support
- The kinked downtube design and higher shock position make the Mega V4 water bottle compatible
- Carbon frames have tube in tube internal cable routing
- Size specific seat angles and greater dropper post insertion improve fit
- Prices start at £2,699 for the alloy Mega Comp in 27.5in or 29in
Nukeproof overhauls the Mega platform, from suspension kinematics to frame geometry and design, including a novel approach to help riders get the correct fit and sizing.
For riders like Sam Hill, 2020 will go down in racing history as the season that never was. And while the global pandemic continues to impact everyone’s life, it doesn’t seem to have thwarted the never ending pursuit of speed. For Nukeproof, that translates to a complete overhaul of the Mega platform, from suspension kinematics to frame geometry and design, including a novel approach to help riders get the correct fit and sizing.
Two wheel sizes and frame materials
For a bike with such racing pedigree, it’s taken Hill to three EWS series tiles, Nukeproof has been careful not to throw the baby out with the bath water. As such, the Mega is still available with 29in or 27.5in wheels, with bespoke frames, geometry and travel for both platforms. And while we’re looking at the Mega 290 Factory here, Nukepoof also offers frame only options: Mega carbon £2,499.99 w/Fox Factory X2, Mega alloy £1799.99 w/Rockshox Super Deluxe Ultimate RCT.
New frame layout takes a water bottle
So what’s changed? At the top-end the introduction of a full carbon frame is the most obvious move. But Nukeproof hasn’t simply bolted on a carbon rear end to last year’s Mega 290, it’s completely redesigned the frame. The most obvious difference is in the suspension layout, where the shock has moved further up the down tube and the upper link has increased in length. Dig deeper, however, and this isn’t simply about creating space in the front triangle for a water bottle, although that’s a welcome feature. To understand the reason for the updated suspension layout we need to compare the leverage rates of the old Mega V3 with the new Mega V4.
Increased anti-squat improves pedalling efficiency
From the curves we can see that Nukeproof has increased the leverage ratio, and ditched the regressive hump at the beginning of the curve. The idea being that higher lever ratio improves the sensitivity of the rear suspension, while making it more progressive earlier in the travel adds support. The final tweak to the curve is to reduce end-stroke progression slightly, so you can still use all of travel or tune in more progression with volume spacers. The old Mega had a wheels glued to ground ride, so these changes should make the bike more dynamic, while still allowing you to charge hard though the roughest terrain.
More size options offer the perfect fit
Frame geometry has also shifted subtly. But before we get into that, let’s take a look at sizing. With the addition of size S and XXL options, the new Mega is available in five frame sizes. On the old Mega the jump in reach from L to XL was 45mm, almost two frame sizes. So while the genuinely long XL with its 520mm reach was great for riders around 6ft 4in tall, it left a lot of riders stuck between sizes. In the geometry chart below we can see that the 520mm reach of the new XXL size still caters for the tallest riders, but now the XL bridges the gap nicely with a 500mm reach.
Size-specific seat angles
To improve the fit of all five frame sizes, Nukeproof uses different seat tube angles. As you move up the size range the seat tube angle steepens so that taller riders with higher saddle heights don’t end up sitting over the rear axle. Nukeproof has even tried to standardise this, choosing specific saddle heights and saddle offsets for each frame size, so getting the right fit has never been easier.
Zero geometry adjustment
Other updates to the geometry include shorter chain stays, I measured them at 442mm down from 450mm. Interestingly, the Mega has no geometry adjustment, the idea being that it has a really narrow design focus, so unlike a trail bike that has to cover the widest possible range of riding situations, the demands of enduro racing at the highest level are pretty well defined.
Increased seat post insertion
One really neat feature on the new frame design is the improved dropper insertion and standover clearance. It’s so good in fact, that even with a 160mm dropper post, I still had 50mm of post sticking out above the seat collar while retaining the option to fully slam the post in the frame. Not only does this give you the option to fit, say, a 210mm post, it also allows shorter riders to up size, without the usual concerns about saddle height and available drop.
Nukeproof Mega 290: how it rides
Less than eight months have passed since I rode the 2020 Nukeproof Mega 290c Factory. And while it’s never a good idea to trust your memory 100% when testing, the latest Mega felt very familiar, the Sam Hill signature grips and alloy Nukeproof handlebars making it easy to settle in. And with furniture like the XT disc brakes, DT Swiss EX 1700 wheels, Michelin tyres and Shimano XT drivetrain also making the move over from last year’s bike, I could really focus on the changes Nukeproof made to the frame and suspension.
But before we get into that, there are a couple of things I want to mention about the build kit. I’m still not a big fan of the Shimano XT brakes, because if the variable bite-point doesn’t drive you crazy then the constant rattle of the cooling-fin brake pads certainly will. Then there’s the Michelin Wild Enduro tyres – the draggy Magi-X compound up front certainly elevates your heart rate when pedalling, but doesn’t seem to lower it again on the descents. Those are the only two niggles on an otherwise flawless specification though, so let’s get back to the ride.
Even pedalling out of the car park, it was clear that the new Mega had more of a spring in its step – the increased support, more forward seated riding position and extra anti-squat giving it a turn of speed the old bike lacked. And testament to the Mega’s new found climbing ability, not once did I feel the need to reach for the climb switch on the Fox Float X2 shock. Which got me thinking about how traditional trail bikes fit into the bigger picture, when 160mm travel 29er enduro bikes like the Mega pedal so darn well.
It wasn’t long before I realised that there’s no such thing as a free lunch though. On slower, wet trails, the rear suspension on the Nukeproof Mega 290 feels less sensitive than before and combined with the all together stiffer chassis, it is not as good at finding grip when it’s in short supply. As such, I ended up running the high and low speed compression damping on the X2 shock fully open. Same for the high-speed rebound adjuster. So on this 4-way adjustable shock I was only using two clicks of low-speed rebound damping.
Has Nukeproof moved too far in the opposite direction from last year’s design? That certainly was my first impression, then an unexpected detour caused by a trail closer had me on a dry, fast trail that burned through the forest like a wildfire. Suddenly the Nukeproof made complete sense. As the g-forces increased the extra stiffness of the frame and increased support in the rear suspension gave me the confidence to release my grip on the brakes and really let it run. Launch a drop or slam a turn and the Mega remains steadfast, always moving forward, alway building momentum.
At speed, the new Nukeproof Mega 290 Factory has the uncanny ability to focus the mind without being difficult to ride, so even niggles with the Shimano brakes and Michelin tyres quickly fade away. I could never shake the thought that it would be even faster with a lighter tune on the X2 shock though, and at the very least, it would mean that I wouldn’t be at the end range of adjustment.