Bike test editor Muldoon heads to Italy to test the new SRAM Powertrain equipped Nukeproof Megawatt e-MTB
When I tested the alloy Megawatt Factory 297 in our 2023 best E-bikes of the Year test, I loved the handling, fit, suspension performance and top-end specification. The stumbling block for me then was the limited range of the Shimano 630Wh battery that powered the Shimano EP8 motor.
Well, the brand new Megawatt Carbon addresses my single concern with a 720Wh battery, and then some. Designed from the ground up around SRAM’s new Powertrain e-bike ecosystem, that combines the Brose-made motor, the Eagle T-Type transmission and AXS wireless shifting, it’s a brand new beast.
Need to know
- Full carbon frame designed around MX wheels
- RockShox Vivid Ultimate shock and 170mm travel
- RockShox Zeb Ultimate fork with 170mm travel
- SRAM Eagle Powertrain motor, 90Nm torque, 680W Peak power
- SRAM Powertrain 720Wh removable battery
- Auto Shift and Coast Shift functionality
- SRAM XO AXS drivetrain
- Nukeproof Horizon Wheels
- DH casing Continental Kryptotal tyres
- Storage under the motor cover
- Available in 5 frame sizes S to XXL
- Two models: Starting with Pro build at £8,799.99
Reimagined in carbon, the latest Megawatt 297 is altogether sleeker and lighter than the old alloy frame. The system weight is not that much lighter though, due to the bigger, heavier battery – my test bike weighed just over 24kg. Not bad given that it’s a 170mm travel bike with DH casing tyres, designed to be ridden on the most challenging terrain.
Motor and battery
But what about the new SRAM motor? With 90Nm torque and whopping 680W peak power the Brose made SRAM motor clearly has benchmark numbers, and from the first pedal stroke it felt punchy and purposeful, but with smooth composed delivery of power.
Six magnets on the rear hub-mounted speed sensor ensure that the motor gets a really accurate speed signal, and combined with pedal speed, the SRAM motor can figure out if you’re climbing or descending, without needing a motion sensor. That, combined with a lot of clever electronics is what enabled SRAM to offer Auto Shift and Coast Shift. That’s just the tip of the iceberg though and if you haven’t seen it already, Danny did a deep dive on the Auto-Shift and Coast Shift features of the new Powertrain, so I won’t cover that again.
Geometry and sizing
In terms of geometry, the new Megawatt isn’t a major departure from the original. The bigger motor and slide out battery pack have forced the chainstay length to grow by 5mm to 447mm. So Nukeproof also slackened the head angle by a hair to 63.5º to maintain a similar weight distribution. And while brands like Specialized are offering an increasing array of geometry adjustment on the Turbo Levo and Levo SL, the Nukeproof has none. Not even a flip chip on the shock mount.
Nukeproof hasn’t gone down the size specific chainstay route either, but the seat tube angles on the bikes do steepen up as you go up the size range, which means long-legged riders, running taller saddle heights, don’t end up too far behind the BB when seated.
I’ve not had a test bike to run through the MBR workshop just yet, so the geometry listed here is straight from the manufacturer. Claimed travel on the new Megawatt is 170mm at both ends, just like the original. But when I measured the alloy bike it was 7mm shy of the listed figure. So I won’t know what travel the new bike really has until I get one in the workshop.
How it rides
When I rocked up to the Nukeproof stand at the launch of the Megawatt at Paganella Bike Park in the Dolomites, Italy, I hadn’t been indoctrinated by SRAM on the inner workings of the new Powertrain e-bike ecosystem. In fact, it was the first time I’d set eyes on it. So I quickly grabbed the bike, set the suspension sag and headed for the hills. After all, there’s no better way to see if a new e-bike interface is intuitive, than trying to finger it out yourself, right?
I quickly figured out how to toggle between the two power modes; Rally and Range. Also the top tube mounted display indicated that Auto Shift was on, but I never heard a single automatic shift. Not even the distinctive electronic buzz the small motor in the SRAM XO AXS derailleur emits. The gears were clearly working, but only when I pushed the buttons on the shifter pod.
Dropping in on the first trail the Megawatt felt fast and composed. Too fast even as this was a brand new bike and the SRAM Code RSC brakes were not bedded in. I was having too much fun to care though, and having spent quite a bit of time on DH bikes recently for an upcoming bike test, my first impression was that the Megawatt felt even safer at speed.
Nukeproof hasn’t built a DH sled though. And when riding more techy off-piste trails it was clear that the free flowing suspension action that offers an almost magic carpet ride in the bike bark, also makes it relatively easy to preload the suspension to manoeuvre the bike or change to a better line at lower speeds too.
And a lot of that suspension performance can be attributed to Nukeproof not overdoing it on the anti-squat values combined with the standout performance of new RockShox Vivid Ultimate shock. Yes, it has stacks of adjustment, but never has there been such a complex damper that’s so simple to navigate. From the sag gradients, to the hydraulic bottom out adjuster, RockShox has made it as easy, tool free, and as intuitive as possible. It helps too, that all of the adjustments can be felt on the trail in real time.
So one morning I snuck away from the media circus for a spot of shock testing on my own. The idea was to do a full low speed compression sweep to see how it affects the handling. On the wet, muddy root section at the start of my chosen test track minimum low speed compression felt best, offering increased grip and reduced deflection on the slippery roots. Get the Megawatt on the more bike park style trails though and the firmest low speed compression setting felt better, offered increased support for big G-outs while keeping the front end loaded better.
Best of all, the full sweep of low-speed compression is only five tool-free clicks away, so I ended up reaching down and swapping between both extremes depending on the style of trail. And it got me thinking, would the Nukeproof Megawatt be even better with Flight Attendant? Possibly. It would definitely be more expensive and combined with Auto Shift it could be electronic overload on one bike.
As for my Auto Shift experience. It turned out that while the lights were clearly on, Auto-Shift had passed out on the sofa. A quick firmware update fixed that though and after tying all the different pedal speed settings, I ended up on Plus 2. Which meant that Auto Shift would be working away in the background largely unnoticed then I could just jump in and override it when needed.
With more time on the bike, Auto Shift is definitely something I could learn to trust. And even with only two days on it, I’d already found it useful. In one instance I was pedalling across some really techy, rooty, rocky, no-flow section of trail, concentrating hard on holding my line, while trying not to get my feet bounced off the pedals. Much to my amazement, Auto Shift kicked in and changed gear just when I was thinking that the last thing I wanted to do was uncurl my thumb from the grip to change gear. Genius.
What it’s not going to do is crank the chain rapidly up the cassette after a long fast descent when you brake hard into a tight corner and come out in a gear that’s still too high. So you still need to think ahead.
Also I think SRAM missed a trick by only having two power modes, Yes, they are fully customisable in the AXS app, but sometimes for techy climbs you definitely do not want the full power Rally mode, and Range mode clearly isn’t going to cut it. Well at least if it has been set up for increased range. Which is why I’d like a Tweener mode. I suppose the true test for Auto Shift will be if you can live without a shifter altogether. So as soon as I get a Nukeproof Megawatt Carbon for a long term test, that’s the very first thing I’ll try.
In producing the new Megawatt, Nukeproof has taken a good e-bike and turned it into a great one. Battery capacity and range have been extended and the suspension feels sublime. And while clearly not cheap, the Megawatt Carbon RS is competitively priced when you look at what’s on offer from other shop bought brands. The addition of the SRAM’s Powertrain with Auto Shift is really cool, but I expect the big draw here will be the overall ride quality of the Megawatt combined with the increased power and blissfully clatter-free motor when costing. Built on the shoulders of giants? You bet, but not just SRAM, this bike is basically a Specialized Turbo Levo on steroids, albeit with a higher IQ and better suspension. Brains and brawn make the Nukeproof Megawatt Carbon RS 297 an unstoppable force.