At A Glance
A year ago the new Mega 290 started making a powerful statement that Nukeproof were once again ahead of the curve and producing fresh and exciting bikes. Although available in the 650b version, rumours were flying that the 29er version was an absolute monster, and was converting riders hand over fist to the bigger wheels.Buy Enduro Bikes on
When my pre-production tester came through, I had a joyous few weeks getting acquainted with the latest incarnation of the now thoroughly modern Mega. Being a tall chap, I know that 29ers work well for me, so I was already half way there, but the performance backed up the claims, and I was sold. Twelve months later and the Mega 290 is here to stay for a while, and I'll be running it for the season with some component tweaks and longer term testing.
For now, however, let's look at what has changed and how the 'off the peg' Mega stacks up. The frame remains unchanged from 2016, which means the back end is still non-boost, and it still has a threaded bottom bracket for those who like to know these things. The components have shifted across the range, and we now see Shimano options in all models. This Pro model has XT covering the propulsion and deceleration duties, and SRAM takes on the rolling with the ROAM 40 wheelset.
Suspension sees a 150mm Lyric up front and is matched by a Monarch RC3 damping the 150mm of rear travel. This even suspension set-up is balanced between a 66degree head angle and unfashionably long 450mm chainstays. The bottom bracket is a 30mm drop, and the wheelbase on my XL comes in at a whopping 1246mm.
Other stand out components are the 170mm drop Reverb, and the great tyre combo of Schwalbe Magic Mary and Nobby Nic to round it all off. Cockpit set-up features a 50mm stem and 760mm bars, which is a bit on the narrow side for a big 29er but, as always, cockpit preference is very personal.
I was slightly disappointed to see my ride was the blacked out version having seen such a bold colour scheme for 2017, but the top model only comes in stealth. I'll add some colour in time.
On The Trail
I knew what I was getting with Mega, although a year of riding some great bikes had me worried that things may have moved on and my rose-tinted view of the past may not be the case. For want of a better cliche, I swung a leg over and started to get reacquainted with the monster truck.
The first bone of contention was the cockpit, and with a short headtube and narrow (for me) bars, it felt a little off. A few spacers later and the increased height was much appreciated, however, there is little one can do to widen a set of bars. Next up was a bit of bounce in the Reverb, which is a shame, as this is an ongoing problem for these posts, and really should be sorted by now.
Set-up sorted, the first ride was like a carbon copy of my first experience 12 months previous, with a trip to some high speed, high tech uplift trails in the form of Descend Hamsterley (Danny Harts new set-up). Once again I was immediately at home, with a depth of travel and stability that felt like I was cheating. The Lyric, rather than the Pike from last year is a huge improvement giving a super stiff and precise front end to point at whatever you wish to do battle with. The rear finds itself at a great ride height at speed, giving an incredibly supple and compliant rear end, and I needed a little more pressure to keep it popping and lively.
Now the long rear end on these bikes is not on trend, but having ridden some very, very short back end bikes recently, I think I am currently sold on a longer rear end. This I feel is particularly important on larger sized bikes, as I feel far more balanced between front and rear wheels with a longer chainstay. Obviously, this might be working well for me on an XL, but as the chainstays stay the same down the sizes, it could end up being an issue for smaller riders. I'd love to see a couple of different rear lengths in a range, but only a few brands offer this currently.
Balance and poise are what this bike is all about. I feel more secure at speed, and through corners, I have more control of which wheel needs more or less pressure for traction. I no longer think much about wheel size, and the Mega is plenty manoeuvrable and playful in the turns, and I'm spending more time feet-up and committed than ever before.
The component choice is pretty good, but I would swap out the bars for something larger, and even a bit more rise to get the front end up. The SRAM wheels have been ok, but not as stiff as I would hope, and when they came a little loose in the spokes, the bladed spokes twisted dramatically when tightening. Judicious use of pliers to hold spokes while tightening seized nipples was not a pleasant experience.
Gearing is set up with a 32t chainring and an 11-42t cassette, which is crisp and smooth in the shifting, but my legs are calling for a 30t on those long days in the saddle, and I often find a smaller chainring works well on 29ers.
The Mega 290 is still one of the best long travel big-wheeled machines you can buy, and when you're buying it, you might not need to break the bank compared to some of the competition. This is a bike that eats trails for breakfast, lunch and dinner, so you need to find speeds and terrain suitable to keep it fed. A diet of buff smooth trail centres will not suffice. The lack of boost and the long back end could well entice and repel riders in equal measure, but you'll be hard-pressed to find much wrong with any of the Mega range if you like your riding fast, furious and gravity assisted.
This review was in Issue 46 of IMB.For more information visit Nukeproof
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.