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.
Nukeproof Mega 290C Factory need to know
- Latest version of the Mega 29, with revised geometry, sizing and a carbon front end
- Travel has been pumped up to 160mm on the rear
- Revised kinematics give increased anti-squat, with a softer initial touch and improved mid-stroke support to the suspension
- Fork travel is 170mm, bar the top-end RS version, which gets a 180mm RockShox Lyrik
Since it first launched in 2016, the Nukeproof Mega 29 has been slowly evolving. Initially it was a simple revision to the shock tune to add mid-stroke support to the 150mm rear suspension. Then, in 2018, the bike received some major revisions, updates that included a Boost rear end and wider main pivot for increased stiffness. At the same time Nukeproof made the switch to a metric rear shock. For 2020, the Mega 29 changes again. The latest round of revisions ushers in a steeper seat angle, slacker head angle, new sizing and a carbon option. Travel has also been pumped up to 160mm on the rear, bringing it much closer to the 27.5in version in terms of raw firepower.
And it’s not just travel and frame materials that have been aligned more closely across both wheel sizes. The latest Mega model range sees parity too, with four carbon models and two alloy options in both wheel sizes, with pricing also held constant.
Where the bikes diverge is sizing. The Nukeproof Mega 290C is available in three sizes – M to XL – while the addition of a new ‘tweener ML with a 452.5mm reach brings the total of 27.5in options to five, ranging from S to XL.
Why such a snail’s pace of product development? When you have Sam Hill successfully bucking the trend for longer frames and bigger wheels, it’s hard to argue that either will make you faster.
So what changed? Well, there’s nothing quite like a rider’s winning margin being slashed to make them take a closer look at their set-up. Also, with more riders on the EWS circuit making the switch to 29in wheels, the holes in the tracks were getting deeper and Hill was finding it increasingly difficult to avoid them.
Hill’s first major race on 29in was last year at the EWS in Madeira, where he rode a stock alloy 29er. And that’s when the development of the current bike started in earnest. If you ride a 29er you’ll already know that bigger wheels will only get you so far, so the next step was to build an alloy prototype with revised geometry and 160mm travel, so it handled more like the 27.5in bike. Hill raced that bike at round four of the EWS in Val di Fassa, Italy, where he rode to second place behind Richie Rude. The first carbon Mega 29 proto was rolled out for EWS Whistler, where he placed second again before going on to win his third consecutive EWS overall title on the same bike.
During the development process, Hill experimented with shorter rear ends on the Mega 29, but kept coming back the stability of the relatively long 450mm stays that still feature on the current bike. Well, Hill never has been one to follow. He’s still the only rider in the top 20 on flat pedals. And while that makes it easy to rule him out as an outlier, to do so would be for all of the wrong reasons. It’s Hill’s talent on the bike and his ability to find and ride the fastest lines that really set him apart. The longer 450mm stays on the 29er may also be the reason that Hill has been able to upsize and retain balanced weight distribution, especially with the heels-down, more- rearward riding stance that flat pedals naturally induce.
How it rides
I only had two rides on the Nukeproof Mega 290c Factory on the trails around Massa Marittima, Italy, but in that time I covered a lot of ground, and not once did it occur to me that the chainstays felt overly long. If anything, they made it easier to load the front end on flatter trails, while offering a very neutral riding position with the slacker head angle and longer front end.
That’s not to say that I had a ton of confidence in the front end, though.
The square profile and oddly spaced side knobs of the Michelin Wild Enduro front tyre made for unpredictable traction on the hard-packed trails. On more than one occasion, I found that the front wheel on the Mega would lose traction completely, get airborne then thankfully hook up again on terra firma. So while it probably performs better in loose, soft conditions, the increase in rolling resistance that the softer Magi-X compound brings isn’t matched by an associated increase in grip or confidence.
That one glitch aside, the specification on the Mega 290c Factory is first rate; while most brands reserve Fox Factory-level suspension for their flagship products, Nukeproof has gone all-in on its second-tier bike. And while this choice is probably influenced by team sponsors, in back-to-back tests it’s nigh on impossible to separate the top-tier Fox and RockShox kit. Yes, the Fox 36 offers more support, but the RockShox Lyrik gives a plusher ride.
On the rear, Fox offers more adjustment, RockShox more tunes, so you don’t have to figure out what’s best yourself. So if you’re not the type of rider who’s going to do repeated runs on the same trail, making two clicks of adjustment at a time to a single adjuster, don’t fall for the shimmer of the Kashima fork and shock.
In fact, I didn’t have enough time on the bike to get the set-up just so. Yes, the 160mm rear end felt super-plush and planted, but given more time, I would have liked to make the suspension feel more lively, to make the bike easier to get off the ground. And with the Fox Float X2 shock that’s certainly possible, but it takes time and the desire to experiment with the four-way adjustable damping.
By far the biggest surprise with the specification though, were the XT brakes. To get them UK-style, front brake on the right, I did a car park hose swap with nothing more than a pair of pliers. And, much to my amazement, the Shimano brakes worked perfectly. None of the bite-point variation I was anticipating, just powerful and consistent stopping every time.
Nukepoof has definitely followed its own path to arrive at a capable 29er enduro bike. And while the Mega 290c Factory feels like a bit of a brawler, if you’re riding rowdy trails, that’s exactly what you want. And given Hill’s race results, it was definitely the right move. With the EWS on hold, it remains to be seen if Hill sticks with 29in wheels, but one thing is certain, the 2020 Mega 290c just made that choice so much harder to make.