Latest version of the 29er Mega, with revised geometry, sizing and a carbon front end
The new Nukeproof Mega 290C Factory is part of range that gets a travel boost, carbon models and Sam Hill-honed geometry.
Originally designed to tackle the infamous Megavalanche, Nukeproof’s Mega has grown up through two generations of wheel size and morphed into one of the most successful enduro race machines. And with EWS champion, Sam Hill, making the full transition to 29in wheels last season, the carbon Mega 290c frame represents all the intensive development that helped this Aussie legend to the top of the rankings.
Nukeproof Mega 290C Factory review
As such, the chassis has really come of age this year, with a slacker head angle, increased travel (155mm to 160mm) and an improved seated climbing position. The latest Mega 290c frame uses uni-directional carbon for the front triangle and custom, triple-butted, hydroformed aluminium rear stays that are relatively long at 450mm. The whole package is slick, low-slung and well thought out, but there’s a sense of more compliance and, dare we say it, flex in the rear end when really ragging the Mega on the roughest tracks. In fairness, though, this trait may well calm the ride, add off-camber grip and contribute to Nukeproof’s really planted and composed ride feel.
Up front, the Mega 290c Factory gets a 170mm-travel Fox 36 suspension fork equipped with the brand’s best Grip2 damper. It delivers brilliant control and works great – assuming you can wrap your head round the sophisticated four-way damping adjustment. It also gets a short fork offset, which keeps the steering less hectic at speed and on steeper terrain.
The Factory theme continues at the rear, with a Fox Float X2 shock pumping out 160mm travel, and damping adjustment that mirrors the fork. And even with all of those adjusters, it’s hard to go wildly wrong as the newly-tweaked leverage curve is well matched to the shock, offering a glued-to-the-floor sensation that tracks bumps and smooths out even really beaten-up terrain, despite having the least travel in test.
It’s hard to argue with kit like a DT Swiss wheelset, with its tough rims and tight reactive ride, or the latest Shimano XT 12-speed Microspline drivetrain with its 10-51t cassette. The extra-low gear saves your legs on longer liaisons, even if there’s a sense that shifting isn’t quite as crisp as SRAM Eagle.
Yes, the 50mm stem seems excessively long, but Nukeproof’s 800mm handlebars are a good shape and uses Sam Hill grips with a sticky compound and pattern that works even with sweaty palms – the outer lock rings are a bit sharp though. One thing all our test riders were grateful for was the switch to our Maxxis control tyres, as the Michelin Wild Enduros can feel a bit undamped on bone-dry trails – particularly up front.
At over 15kg, the Mega 290c Factory isn’t that light, but it’s hard to detect any reluctance to get going or keep on trucking. Pedal input is transferred in a very uniform manner, so there’s no wasted effort when climbing. Cranking hard, energy output is softer and less zippy than either the Whyte G-170 or Specialized Enduro Elite though, so it’s better to spin, rather than stomp on the pedals.
As the slackest bike in test, the Nukeproof feels surefooted downhill, with rider weight well centred between the axles. In part, this is down to the performance of the Factory-level Fox kit; especially the X2 shock absorbing bumps and repeated hits without ever being fazed. This suppleness, together with the softer chassis, means flat-corner grip is stellar too.
The Nukeproof Mega 290C is less of a slice-and-go machine for riders wanting to Scandi-flick every turn, boost off lips, or constantly pump compressions and berms. Instead, the Mega gets you high on raw speed, an attitude that obviously appeals to a clock-watcher like Sam Hill. Staying safe at warp speeds is a ton of fun though, and the Mega is a very potent package with no unwelcome habits.
Composed, buttoned-down and business-like, the Nukeproof Mega 290c Factory specialises in downhill efficiency and raw speed where the Factory-level Fox suspension perfectly matches the bike’s ambitions. The rest of the parts package is great value, plus the Mega is easy to adapt to and ride fast immediately. It’s slightly less playful than some of its rivals; unsurprising seeing as it’s tuned by a champion who doesn’t exactly play around in the pursuit of titles. Still it offers extra reaction time at high speeds on tricky terrain, so the latest generation Mega should bring out the ‘Sam Hill’ spirit in everyone.