Last year was a big year for Nukeproof, not only launching their new re-vamped range but also making waves in both the Enduro and Downhill scene. Sam Hill came, saw and conquered the EWS with trademark style, and although it wasn't a walk in the park, he reaffirmed himself as the best in the world. Just when you thought he couldn't be any more of a legend, Hill only went and came 6th at the Downhill World Champs in Cairns. Oh, and if that wasn't enough, he did it on his Enduro bike, which just happens to be the one I've been hitting the trails with this winter.Buy Enduro Bikes on
Now Sam's bike was a little different to this one, namely the suspension and a touch more travel in the fork, but essentially the chassis is the same. This is the Factory model and features a 170mm fork and 165mm rear end, all controlled by, you guessed it; Fox Factory suspension. Keeping clear of SRAM, this model uses Shimano for drivetrain duties and braking with XT being the model of choice.
SRAM does creep in to deal with the dropper, and a 170mm Reverb is fitted on the XL to keep the long-legged riders smiling. DT Swiss handle the wheels and provide a wide, strong rim with the ever impressive DT hubs. Tyres are High Rollers from Maxxis, but brilliantly, Nukeproof have specced their Double Down casing to provide a stock set of tyres that will survive a bike like this.
Nukeproof break out the own brand components to finish the build with bars, stem, grips and seat all sporting the Nukeproof logo, but never looking like a cheap add-on, these components are proven and worthwhile additions.
The frame obviously needs a mention as Nukeproof dive into the carbon world. Only the front is carbon, the rear remains aluminium, but the new frame is more than just a new material. Ditching the idea of a front mech, the frame is stiffer than previous models, boosted, lighter, and new geometry brings it to the front of the pack for 2018.
Numbers wise, the reach of the XL has gone from a better than average 485mm to a proper big 515mm. For those well over six foot, we are now getting bikes that fit! Elsewhere numbers haven't been vastly changed, a little slacker on the front with a bigger fork and a taller headtube to get the bars higher.
The rest of the Mega range includes another carbon option in a Rock Shox/SRAM build, and two aluminium versions, which are more wallet-friendly.
Having spent a lot of last year on the 29er Mega, I was really looking forward to swinging a leg over the new version. My first spin on the new models was back in the autumn when they were launched, and I was instantly impressed, mostly by the sizing and geometry, but also by the new shocks which gave a more sensitive and lively ride than previously.
The story of my relationship with this Factory model was one of massive excitement, followed by frustration, which eventually led to real quality performance.
First up, the sizing for the super tall is great, but there is a word of warning for those less lofty, and that is that the jumps in sizing across the range are not even, so the biggest increases in sizes have been on the XL. For me, I'm now in a position where a reach of 500mm or more makes me a very happy rider indeed.
Out and about the bike feels comfortable and effortlessly balanced, I can move my body around the bike without the threat of unbalancing the whole system. I also get to use a short stem without mashing my knees into the bars.
Climbing on the Mega is second in the priorities to descending, and although it is capable of scrambling over the most technical terrain possible, it's not an XC bike. The extra length of the bike helped on technical climbs again as gives more room to move and keep both wheels weighted. The pretty steep seat angle helps most of all, but I'd be happy with it even steeper.
With the base settings on the X2 shock dialled in, I found descending to be a rather numb and ground-hugging affair, where I was stuck to the ground and left with a vague sensation of what the back wheel was doing and where it was in space and time. Loading and unloading in turns or hoping over features were challenging, and the bike only excelled in a straight line, and it did this so fast I almost died on numerous occasions.
My aforementioned frustration was based on the first 2018 Mega I rode, which was a Rock Shox set up that required a quick sag set up and a few clicks of rebound to provide a fantastic ride. I wasn't getting it with the X2 and wanted to replicate that feeling. The short story is that with a myriad of adjustments on the X2 it is possible, and I did finally get the perfect set up, it just took ages. Finally, it was seven clicks across the four rebound and compression adjustments that got it to work just right. The recommended settings didn't work well for me, and needed plenty of trial and error to get it right, but it did get there in the end.
Once sorted, the bike was a different beast, and that huge amount of travel on offer was tamed and controlled into a much more useable package. With a big travel bike, finding the sweet spot is tricky, and for me, I want a playful and lively bike where possible. The moral of the story is that X2 shocks are for those who love knobs and playing with their suspension set up.
After the suspension issues, the Mega became a truly versatile ride, and although still needing to be fed big and gnarly trails, it was possible to find a more playful approach rather than ploughing straight through.
The increased wheelbase length made cornering exceptional, keeping both wheels tracking even in tight hairpins. Some say that a few cms on a bikes reach makes them too hard to handle in the tight corners. I disagree. I feel I can thread the front better and commit without a bike feeling like it will collapse and throw me out the front.
Components on board have all worked well, but the 11 to 42 Shimano cassette is a bit narrow for my legs that have become used to a 50t chainring on the rear. The tyres are great with the Double Down casing, but at 2.3 wide they look a little small, Maxxis Wide Trail tyres would be an ideal choice for the Mega and give more psychological confidence when looking down at the front wheel.
For me, Nukeproof isn't about high-end carbon bikes, and despite the high price tag, it is still highly competitive. Where Nukeproof really excels is in the some of the less expensive models, which although being aluminium, offer exceptional value and come with a simpler suspension set up.
I am still a Mega fan, even more so now. My size and my local trails mean these bikes are ideal for the riding I do. There are few bikes, which are as competent, and also give a lively, playful ride and can pedal uphill in a meaningful way. If I were to buy one, I would however seriously consider the Rock Shox option for simplicity, and the aluminium versions for costs. However, if carbon floats your boat and you enjoy twiddling with knobs and suspension set up then this bike is for you…
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This review was in Issue 52 of IMB.For more information visit Nukeproof
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By Ewen TurnerEwen Turner is a self-confessed bike geek from Kendal in the Lake District of England. He runs a coaching and guiding business up there and has a plethora of knowledge about bikes with an analytical approach to testing. His passion for bicycles is infectious, and he’s a ripper on the trails who prefers to fit his working life around his time on the bike.
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Dan, Joe and Edgar