Nukeproof Mega 290 Long Term Test
January 6th, 2017
Nukeproof Mega 290 – Adam’s choice ripper down under
About 10 months ago, Doddy and I had an idea to create some sort of Frankenbike – a bike we planned to change angles and components whilst using it as a general test mule.
We messed with a Mondraker Crafty r+ for a while before I concluded that whilst I enjoyed the plus tyres, I loved the bike more with 29er wheels installed (read more on that here).
Following from there, Nukeproof sent us a Mega 290 frame to test and this is where everything changed!
Personally I find most bikes too short in length, and too steep in the head angle for the trails I tend to ride. Link this with the obsession of shorter chain stays, especially when talking about 29ers – and you find that bikes are somewhat held back both descending and ascending.
Tweaking the Numbers
Whilst Nukeproof aren’t at the Geometron end of the spectrum, its still one of the most progressive 29ers around.
I went for a large as although i’m only 5ft 7 (170cm), I wanted it as long as I could get it. With the seat tube nice and short at 458mm, I can still fit a 150mm Fox Transfer post with room to spare – perfect!
The chainstays are nice and long at 450mm and the seat-tube steepish at 75.5 degrees, meaning the effective top tube is far more similar to the reach figure. Ultimately it results in the centre pivot point being further forward in its overall wheelbase and my weight can be transferred to the front wheel far easier.
I like a slack head angle on a bike and whilst the 66 degree offering on the Nukeproof is pretty slack – I wanted slacker and experienced with an Angleset. I’m now running a 160mm fork (10mm longer than the Nukeproof comes with) and a 1.5degree cup in the frame – resulting in a far more confidence inspiring 63.5 degrees.
The seat angle isn’t really affected as the cups almost offset the increase in fork length. Overall, the wheelbase is increased to approximately 1270mm and the reach sits at 460mm. What all of this results in is a bike that climbs effortlessly and descends with absolute bullet precision. Cornering through the tight stuff requires different rider input but it handles any tight turn well.
How it Feels
Everything is a compromise with bikes and Nukeproof have genuinely stepped up with the Mega. Having ridden many other 29ers, the 290 is genuinely one of the most progressive options currently available on the market. And doesn’t require re-mortgaging the house to achieve it.
One thing 29ers do benefit from is a stiff wheelset and with the slightly longer chain stays of the Nukeproof, rear end flex can be felt at times.
The Sixth Element carbon wheels (review here) keep things on track, surpassing any level of awesomeness from any other products I’ve ever tested. These hoops have been simply sublime in performance and reliability, and give the Mega 290 that added tautness it needs.
I should just add, flex isn’t always a bad thing – you get grip from flex and whilst in many instances its undesirable, don’t always shy away from it. Some pro racers purposely lace their wheels looser to increase flex – go figure!
It’s so far stood the test of abuse too – living in NZ now and riding nearly every day on some of the roughest and gnarliest tracks I’ve ever ridden, its not missed a beat.
I’ve genuinely hammered it, from 30ft gas to flats to 30 minute downhills with all sorts of sideways landings, cross rutted roughness and the obligatory manic dismounts.
I’ve changed the rear end bearings once in the past 6 months – which is perfectly acceptable considering the mileage its seen – and now its back to feeling tight and taught.
Even simple things that other brands get wrong, such as cable routing, is dealt with with minimal fuss – not a single rub mark can be found on the frame despite absolutely no frame protection being applied from day one. Other manufacturers could learn a thing or two from Nukeproof’s practical and good value creation.
The Nukeproof Mega 290 is a great bike, but does have a few minor niggles.
The rear linkage design is somewhat lacking in support. It’s super linear throughout meaning running the proposed level of 25-30% sag is impossible without some sort of volume reduction in the shock, or by running a larger chainring (not an option in NZ unfortunately, due to every hill feeling near on vertical to climb!).
Once I’d filled the stock Rock Shox Monarch shock with 7 reducer bands, all was well with the world, providing ample ramp-up towards the end of the stroke and allowing me to run 30% sag for small bump sensitivity.
Replacing the bearings in the back end did prove to be a little bit of a test. Not all of the recesses that the bearings fit into were consistent in terms of friction, meaning some were tighter than others. Fortunately tighter is better than looser. However, it did make re-installing new bearings harder than it possibly should be.
I’m currently working as a mechanic for a bike shop meaning I had the correct tools to hand and prevented any issues developing – be sure to use your local bike shop to swap these out when the time arises.
The Bottom Line
The Nukeproof Mega 290 is a truly progressive, and an excellent real-world bike for people who want something not driven by marketing or fashion.
It’s well thought out, rides excellently and handles the abuse.
Sorry Nukeproof, mine rips – you’re not having it back any time soon!