Nukeproof Mega 290 Comp first ride review£2,600.00

Can this budget big wheeler live up to its enduro pedigree?

When 29ers first rolled over the horizon on their wagon wheels, people got it into their heads that they needed much steeper head angles than regular mountain bikes, which were then exacerbated by twitchier, longer-offset forks. As a result, the breed was prevented from achieving its full potential — away from World Cup cross country, at least — and 650b looked set to dominate across most of the board. Happily though, the Mega is one of a handful of 29ers that are now breaking the shackles of that cross-country heritage, with relatively long, low and slack geometry, teamed with the fast-rolling benefits of those 29in hoops.

Nukeproof Mega 290 Comp spec overview

  • Fork: Rockshox Pike RC, 29", Solo Air, Black, 150mm
  • Stem: Nukeproof Warhead, 31.8mm
  • Cassette: SRAM XG-1150, 10-42T
  • Shifters and rear derailleur: SRAM GX-1 11spd,
  • Brakes: SRAM DB5
  • Seatpost: Nukeproof OKLO AIr
  • Tyres: WTB Trail Boss and Viglante, 2.3 x 29", light, high grip
  • Wheels: SRAM Roam 30, 29"

Nukeproof Mega 290 Comp frame and equipment

The Mega 290 Comp's big wheels and superb geometry make it remarkably capable for the price
The Mega 290 Comp's big wheels and superb geometry make it remarkably capable for the price

Nukeproof records the Mega’s head angle as 66 degrees, but we measured ours at 65.5 — that’s properly slack! Combined with a low 339mm bottom bracket, this makes for a bike that feels incredibly calm when braking hard through rocky straights, and can carve through a corner with stable authority.

Our only quibble with the geometry on our XL bike was the short (110mm) head tube, which makes the reach feel far shorter than the quoted 480mm figure

At 455mm, the chainstays are unfashionably long, but this fact complements the relaxed front end by making the rear similarly stable in the rough and through corners, while keeping the weight balance further towards the front axle for better cornering grip.

Despite the long chainstays and slack head angle, we never felt the Mega was lumpen or hard to manoeuvre in the bends. In fact, the slack fork and good weight distribution meant we could stick it into tight, flat corners with real aggression.

Our only quibble with the geometry on our XL (51cm) bike was the short (110mm) head tube, which makes the reach feel far shorter than the quoted 480mm figure — bringing the cockpit up to our desired height also moves it back because of the slack head angle. For our 6ft 3in tester, this made the cockpit feel slightly more cramped than hoped for, though shorter riders who size up will be rewarded with a geometry configuration that’s exceptionally confidence inspiring.

Either way, we’d swap to a slightly shorter stem and wider bar than the 50mm / 760mm cockpit that comes stock, because we found they undermined the bike’s inherent ‘point it down anything’ infallibility, especially when we presented it with some suicidally steep rocky descents in the Lake District.

We suggest fitting a shorter stem/wider bar to unlock that slack front end’s potential
We suggest fitting a shorter stem/wider bar to unlock that slack front end’s potential

Nukeproof Mega 290 Comp ride impression

While we’re fans of the Mega’s most important aspect, the geometry, the second most important — the suspension — leaves a little to be desired. The linkage makes for a relatively firm start to the stroke, before allowing the mid-stroke to wallow and crash through the travel too readily after sag. We ended up running less sag than we’d have liked to compensate, but this stiffens the start of the stroke further, reducing traction.

Adding more volume spacers added support, but we were rarely using full travel as it was, and could already feel the harsh ramp-up as the shock got close to the end of its travel in compressions. A DebonAir shock would help by softening the initial stroke for more traction, while adding support in the mid-stroke for better chassis-stability. A firmer compression tune would act as a sticking-plaster for the problem too, but it’s the frame’s leverage curve that’s the root issue.

The wallow is felt most when riding aggressively through compressions and corners; or climbing, where the bike wants to slouch back too much. A steepish 75-degree effective seat angle helps compensate, but with mushy suspension and a 14.8kg (32.6lb) weight (size XL), the Mega is a bike that endures rather than relishes climbs.

SRAM’s Roam 30 wheels are narrow, flexy and rattly
SRAM’s Roam 30 wheels are narrow, flexy and rattly

That weight figure is not bad considering the 1,050g WTB Tough Casing tyres at each end, which have proven impressively puncture resistant. They roll quite fast thanks to the Trail Boss at the rear, with the Vigilante up front biting well in most conditions for a rear-slides-first pairing.

SRAM’s Roam 30 wheels aren’t an ideal match though. The 21mm rim width allows the tyres to roll around the rim at lower pressures. They’re also flexy, and the bladed spokes rattle together like a bag of spanners when railing turns hard. At times, the wheelset’s compliance genuinely seemed to improve traction through chattery turns, but they also make the bike feel disconnected from the trail, and they undermine confidence for aggressive riding.

SRAM’s budget DB5 brakes perform surprisingly well
SRAM’s budget DB5 brakes perform surprisingly well

Otherwise, the Pike RC fork, SRAM GX drivetrain and Nukeproof OKLO seatpost performed superbly for the cash. Even the SRAM DB5 brakes were remarkably consistent (if slightly underpowered) on steep, prolonged descents.

While we have a bit of a downer on the mushy suspension, Nukeproof is way ahead on the most important point — geometry. Alongside some well-chosen kit, this bike offers a really confidence inspiring, stable and rapid ride. It’ll serve well any mid-level rider who isn’t one to smash the wheels or suspension into the ground, but still wants a capable descender on a budget.

Nukeproof Mega 290 Comp early verdict

Not perfect for really aggressive riders, but big wheels and superb geometry make it remarkably capable for the price.

This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

Seb Stott

Technical writer, Tech hub, UK
Seb is a geeky technical writer for BikeRadar, as well as MBUK and What Mountain Bike magazines. Seb's background in experimental physics allows him to pick apart what's really going on with mountain bike components. Years of racing downhill, cross-country and enduro have honed a fast and aggressive riding style, so he can really put gear to the test on the trails, too.
  • Age: 23
  • Height: 192cm/6'3"
  • Weight: 85Kg/187 lbs
  • Waist: 86cm / 34in
  • Chest: 107cm / 44in
  • Discipline: Mountain
  • Preferred Terrain: Steep!
  • Current Bikes: Focus Sam 3.0, Kona Process 111, Specialized Enduro 29 Elite
  • Dream Bike: Mondraker Crafty with Boost 29" wheels, a 160mm fork and offset bushings for maximum slackness.
  • Beer of Choice: Buckfast ('Bucky' for short)
  • Location: Bristol, UK

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