Nukeproof pushes the boundaries of the enduro bike with its new 180mm travel Giga. Is it a sign of modern excess, or proof you can never have too much of a good thing?
For when mega just isn’t enough, Nukeproof presents the Giga – a 180mm travel ‘super-enduro’ bike. But is it 1,000 times better? We find out.
Need to know
- New ‘super-enduro’ model developed from the Dissent DH bike
- Available with a carbon frame and either 27.5in or 29in wheels
- 27.5in bike boasts 180mm travel, with 10mm less on the 29er
- Adjustable main pivot gives you two progression rates
- Five frame sizes and three spec levels with prices starting from £3,699.99
As consumers, we’re increasingly subscribing to the message that ‘bigger is better’. We’re buying biggers cars with bigger wheels, bigger infotainment screens and bigger cup holders. We want a TV as big as a small cinema, so we need a bigger house to put it in, with a bigger drive for our massive car. And the same is happening with bikes too. 20 years ago, trail bikes had 130mm of travel. Now, in most cases, they have over 150mm. We want bigger wheelbases and longer reaches to cope with faster speeds and bigger jumps. And that means that berms have got taller and trails have got wider. Everything is expanding; we’ve created an unsustainable demand for growth.
It is with this backdrop of excess that I pulled the Nukeproof Giga out of the box – a bike that Nukeproof unashamedly says will satisfy the glutton in all of us. So does this so-called ‘super-enduro’ bike actually offer anything extra? Does it enhance the ride and boost the fun, or is it a step too far? Does it dilute rather than concentrate, with too much travel, too much capability and too much separation between you and the dirt? Considering Nukeproof already has a 160mm travel enduro bike in its line-up – the Mega – my money was firmly on the latter.
From mule to thoroughbred
But before I answer those questions, let’s take a look at the bike itself. It began life as an experiment, a test tube baby if you will, to find out whether the brand’s Dissent downhill bike could be adapted to make a usable enduro bike, for those EWS events that even throw talent like Sam Hill in at the deep end. Venues such as Whistler and La Thuile, where a DH bike with a wide-range drivetrain, a single-crown fork and a dropper post could actually be an advantage – providing it didn’t climb like an overweight basset hound.
And, much to the surprise of the product managers and engineers at Nukeproof, apparently it didn’t. Their mistake, as they described it, turned out to be a success. So having found themselves with a DH bike that could be pedalled uphill, they set about refining the mule to make it a workable enduro race bike – which meant coming up with a more versatile geometry, making room for a bottle cage and getting enough weight out of the frame.
Visually, I think the end result is appealing. Making a bike with such a low-slung shock and kinked down tube look attractive, while allowing clearance for big wheels, massive travel, fat tyres and a bottle cage is no mean feat. It has a dash of Santa Cruz about it, which is quite the compliment. But it also has its own distinct features, such as the masterfully recessed bottle cage mount, where slender carbon wings extend upward to shroud either side.
Sizing and geometry
Nukeproof has not gone wild with the geometry. Sensibly it navigates the slender gap between the Dissent and the Mega. It gets a 63.5º head angle (we measured 63.1º), halfway between the 63º found on the DH bike and the Mega’s 64º. Likewise, there’s a BB height that splits the difference at 348mm.
Nukeproof has cut and paste the sizing across from the new Mega that was launched only a few months ago, and gets a reach range that spans from 430mm up to a generous 515mm on the XXL. However, our size large test bike measured up slightly short of its claimed figure with 470mm.
One of the smartest features introduced on the new Mega and carried across to the Giga is the flared seat tube – that generates more insertion depth – and this is coupled with Nukeproof’s saddle offset concept – that steepens the seat tube angle on larger frame sizes to keep riders centred over the BB, however high their saddles. The end result is fantastic standover height, just the right amount of seatpost adjustment, and a really sorted climbing position, even when you’re loading up the rear suspension and the fork tops out.
If there is one aspect of the Dissent that we would have liked to see replicated on the Giga, it’s the adjustable chainstays. On the DH bike you get 10mm of leeway and three positions thanks to interchangeable dropout inserts, but Nukeproof has chosen not to use them on the Giga. Instead the chainstay length is fixed at 445mm, but when you consider the front centre grows by almost 100mm across the five frame sizes, this will inevitably have an impact on weight distribution depending on your height. Adjustable chainstays would have allowed riders to compensate for this.
Choose your own progression
You shouldn’t be too disappointed if you like fiddling with stuff though, as Nukeproof has added something pretty unique to the Giga; an adjustable main pivot. Behind its complex looking linkage, the Giga is just a single-pivot, and that pivot point can be moved up or down by rotating a small tab mounted to the eccentric axle. Loosen the 8mm bolt, take the weight of the bike and swing the tab through 180º and you’ve changed the kinematics. The bike ships in the low position, which is the less progressive of the two settings (25.5 per cent progression), and has a touch more support in the early stages of the travel, but slightly more leverage at the end of the stroke. There’s less anti-squat too, particularly when down the block in the higher gears. In the progressive setting (29 per cent progression) you get a bit more small bump compliance, and more force is required to bottom out, making it the optimal position for a coil shock, but also a sensible choice for the stock air unit if you’re searching for more grip in wet, treacherous conditions. The switch is incredibly quick and simple to do, even with a multi-tool by the side of the trail.
Run your eye across the Giga and you’ll notice that Nukeproof has really worked hard on getting the details dialled. There’s a gear strap mount beneath the top tube, the cables are carefully routed through the frame using internal sleeves, comprehensive integrated rubber guards protect the frame from knocks and dampen chain rattle, a mudguard keeps crap away from the linkage and there’s even a clear tape kit fitted to the frame as standard. Less obvious are the Enduro Max bearings, threaded BB shell and SRAM Universal Derailleur Hanger. It’s an impressive list of user-friendly features, and one we’re sure plenty of owners will appreciate. Our only complaint is that the split ferrules holding the cables into the frame can push out, allowing them to rattle, but it’s no deal breaker.
How it rides
I was pretty sceptical when the Giga turned up. Lockdown was in force, decent terrain seemed further away than ever, bike parks were closed and the weather was appalling, leaving trails sluggish and laboured on an XC bike, let alone a 180mm behemoth.
How wrong I was. The Giga has proven to be a bike that transcends its lofty remit, that rewrites the rulebooks and redefines your expectations of how an enduro bike – let alone a ‘super-enduro’ bike – should ride. Certainly it pedals better than it has any right to; that upright riding position coupled with lots of mid-stroke support let me stay seated and spin up fireroads without any dreaded nodding dog syndrome. I found I didn’t need to flick the climb switch on the Fox Float X2 shock either, as long as I was sitting down and using the wide range cassette to my advantage. Get up to sprint and the Giga does pull into its travel, the relatively low anti-squat showing up, but this is never a sensible way to ascend if you want to conserve energy anyway. I could also feel my pedal strokes compressing the suspension when I went to wheelie, or crank out of a turn in a low gear, but again, this is more an observation that a criticism.
So it climbs then, better even than some trail bikes I’ve ridden recently, but it also dances like it’s on tip toes. Take some enduro bikes onto typical UK terrain and it feels like you are making a cake with a cement mixer. Yet the Giga moves like an egg whisk in a meringue. It has a wonderfully light, delicate touch; the steering responding to a mere fingertip force.
Plenty of mid-stroke support means lots to push against, and this let me pump the bike along flat, undulating trails without having to resort to clumsy pedal strokes. It brought mundane terrain to life, where other enduro bikes might have left me numb. Pop is off the charts too, which I’m crediting to that mid-stroke support, and this let me take liberties with accessing different lines and opening up new opportunities on the trail. This trait in particular makes the Giga such a diverse talent, and ensured there was a massive smile regularly plastered across my face on every ride.
The other trick that the Giga manages to pull off, is to use only the exact amount of travel that it needs in any given situation. This is how it never feels like too much bike when the terrain is on the tamer side, but always seems to have a little extra in reserve. Indeed the freedom of the suspension when thumping into bigger hits is a highlight, where the benefits of the reduced anti-squat and pedal kick-back really start to shine.
I really thought I was going to endure, rather than enjoy, my time on the Giga, but that proved to be a huge mistake. In fact I absolutely loved it. I couldn’t get enough of the way it could be chucked about with careles abandon, yet exhibited a depth to its talents that meant I could plow into anything knowing I’d emerge safely out the otherside. I loved how I could load up the suspension like a video game power up and launch over almost anything in my path. I thought I was going to be overbiked on the Giga, but I never was. It’s an extraordinarily good bike; no, it’s a giggaty-giggaty good bike.