Bringing the Nukeproof Scout 290 elite bang up to date makes this hardtail a seriously accomplished trail bike.
The Nukeproof Scout started life as a burly, dirt jump/4-cross bike. But over the years the Scout has broadened its horizons, maturing into a capable trail bike, without ever losing sight of its more playful past. And with the latest round of frame revisions in 2022, the Scout is more capable than ever before. It’s also bang up-to-date.
Need to know:
- Bolt-thru axles front and rear mean you’ll need to carry a multi-tool
- Tool strap mounts under the top tube are handy for carrying a tube and a multi-tool
- Available in 27.5in or 29in versions, but currently no 297 option
- Wheel size specific sizing: 290 comes in M, L, XL, XXL, 270 in S, M, L, XL
The new alloy Scout frame gets a tapered zero stack head tube and an equally low slung top tube. There’s a bottle mount on the slender downtube for hydration and a second set of bottle bosses under the top tube for attaching a tool wrap, or whatever you need close to hand on your regular rides.
With bridgeless stays the rear end of the Scout is every bit as streamlined as the front triangle – the 3D rear dropouts that are sculpted out from the inside adding to the overall soft, elegant look of the frame. And with a addition of the SRAM UDH (universal derailleur hanger), the Scout frame is fully compatible with SRAM’s recently released T-Type direct mount derailleurs. More importantly though, finding a replacement derailleur hanger has never been easier.
But Nukeproof hasn’t just smoothed out the hard edges of the Scout or added expensive drivetrain compatibility, the geometry and sizing have been updated too. There are still two unique versions of the Scout frame, where the 290 tested here is designed around 29in wheels.
There’s also a parallel Scout 275 range, which, you guessed it, rolls on 27.5in wheels. And Nukeproof couldn’t be more inclusive, with a sizing split that’s right down the middle; four for each wheel size. There’s a ton of overlap too, the sizing on the 275 ranging from S to XL and the 290 from M to XXL. Which means, all but the shortest and tallest riders can choose whichever wheel size they prefer.
Best of all, Nukeproof has introduced size specific chainstay lengths on both platforms, to help ensure that riders big and small get a similar ride experience. On the 290 that means the chainstay lengths start at 432.5mm on the size medium and increase in 2.5mm increments to 440mm on the XXL to help maintain a more consistent weight distribution across all four frame sizes.
Up front, the Scout 290 Elite gets a Fox 36 Rhythm fork. Travel on the Elite, Comp and Race builds is 140mm, while the range topping RS model rocks a 150mm fork. Now, we’ve never been convinced that more travel is better, especially on a hardtail, but the taller fork on the RS build could be advantageous on the Scout, as we found the front end a little low on the 140mm Elite, even when running the fork firmer and the stem at max height.
We should point out that our test bike had the fork steerer chopped down, so you shouldn’t have any problems achieving your desired handlebar height on the stock bike.
The downside of running the fork firmer for more support is that we never used the final 30mm of travel. Firmer didn’t mean a harsher ride though, and even though the basic Fox Rhythm does not get the newer 36 lower legs that feature lubrication channels, bleed ports and the self-aligning 15mm axle, the action of the fork was still pitter patter smooth.
Would a more sophisticated damper cartridge offer the support we craved without limiting travel? Yes, most definitely, but then we’d have bigger swings in the dynamic geometry to contend with, which isn’t ideal either. It’s the reason why we believe that 120 – 130mm travel is optimum on a hardtail.
One final note on the Fox Rhythm fork is that the first 14-16 clicks of rebound damping feel very similar and fast, then within a couple of clicks the rebound damping overwhelms the spring rate. So in reality, you have about 3-5 clicks of usable rebound adjustment.
With a full Shimano SLX build kit, the Scout Elite wants for nothing. You get the exact same 10-51t gear range as the XT equipped Identiti, and because the four-piston SLX brakes don’t get the cooling-fin pads, but are still specced with the metallic compound, you have all the stopping power you need without the brake pads constantly rattling in the callipers. Bonus!
We’ve moaned about the heavy lever action of the Brand X Ascend dropper post in the past, but on the Nukeproof Scout it felt just fine, the action light and smooth.
The reason? We suspect it’s because the dropper post cable routing on the Scout isn’t fully internal. Instead, the full length outer cable pops out of the down tube in front of the BB and takes a much smoother arc before entering the seat tube than if it had been routed through the BB shell.
Also, with 170mm drop on the size L Scout 290 it’s easy to get off the back of the bike when navigating steep, sketchy chutes. And with the relatively short 440mm seat tube, we could easily have run a 200mm post.
The DT Swiss M1900 wheels are solid performers and while the freehub engagement of the DT 370 rear hub isn’t as snappy as we’d like, upgrade kits are available aftermarket that will instantly double the number of pickup points. There’s simply no faulting Nukeproof’s choice of rubber though, the Schwalbe ADDIX Soft Magic Mary front tyre is great for mixed conditions, while the Performance series Nobby Nic on the rear has the DD (double defence) with SnakeSkin to keep the pace high and puncture count low.
There’s a reason why nearly all XC racers, regardless of their height, ride 29in wheels. On average, they are faster. Plane and simple. Yes, they are slower to accelerate than 27.5in wheels, but once up to speed the bigger wheels maintain their momentum better, and you don’t even have to be going fast to notice the difference.
On slow techy climbs, the bigger rear wheel on the Nukeproof acts like a flywheel to help smooth out your pedal strokes, and combined with the improved rollover the Scout 290 Elite makes light work of even the steepest climbs, even though it is the heaviest bike in test.
When we matched tyre treads, compounds and casings though, traction and comfort weren’t anything like as good as with the Plus size tyres on the Whyte 909 X. And if we go back to your XC analogy, most racers have made the switch to full suspension bikes, so traction, comfort and control are also a priority of the fittest of the fit.
So while you can still ride the Nukeproof every bit as hard and as fast as the Whyte, you pay a pretty price in terms of both fatigue and discomfort for doing so. There’s enough clearance between the stays on the Scout though, so you could probably squeeze in a 2.6in Nobby Nic rear tyre for a best of both worlds approach.
We’d also fit a saddle with a little more padding and, if possible, upgrade the damper in the Fox 36 fork.
- Best mountain bike helmets: a bunch of brilliant brain savers
- Torque wrenches for mountain bike maintenance: our pick of the best
- The best new trails YOU should ride in 2023
With the latest round of revisions, the Nukeproof Scout 290 Elite is a seriously accomplished trail bike. And even though it was the cheapest bike in this test by quite some margin, it still managed to hold its own on the descents while nudging ahead on the climbs. So in that respect it makes for a seriously good allrounder, especially if you’re looking to cover some serious ground with minimum effort. We think it could be even better though. Adding a 2.6in rear tyre would increase both comfort and control, without robbing it of pace, and we’d like more support from the fork, to help prop the front end up on steeper, techy terrain. Small improvements then, but enough to prevent the Scout taking the win in this test.