Since the resurrection of the Nukeproof brand, the Mega trail bike has undergone quite a transformation. The clue to the big mountain enduro racing intent of the original was always in the name, but in a process similar to cellular division, that original bike split into two models, the AM and the TR. For 2014 they've both evolved further, moving to those on-trend 650b wheels.
Frame and equipment: lighter than the AM, but still pretty much bombproof
The chunky silhouette remains for this linkage-driven single pivot frame, but the two bikes have different intents. The AM is this bike's rough and tumble big brother with 160mm travel, but this model, the shorter travel TR, is supposed to be the overachiever. It sports 150mm travel up front and just 130mm at the rear, for a mix that Nukeproof reckons can handle both hardcore hooning and all-day long-distance hauling.
Its slimmed down tubing reduces the weight over its longer-travel brethren, but that doesn't mean it's a twangy waif. One look at the well-built frame and you get an idea of what this bike's about. Picking up the 31lb heft of this top Pro model, you get a bit more of an idea, especially about the Nukeproof moniker. The cockroaches will at least have something to ride in the event of any nuclear apocalypse.
The 44mm internal diameter head tube can house any fork steerer standard going, while the clamshell two-piece bottom bracket assembly also serves as the lower pivot mounting point for firm, flex-free operation. The seat tube has a neat, removable tab for a direct-mount front mech, and the back end gets interchangeable dropouts - they're set up here for a 142x12mm Maxle through-axle. Up from the braced seatstays, a chunky linkage drives a RockShox Monarch RT3 shock, offering three-position low-speed damping. That rear is matched by the well-damped RockShox Revelation fork.
The Revelation fork is a stiff and impressive performer
The Pro nails its flag to the harder-riding side of the wall straight off with a single ring, 1x10-speed drivetrain and chain device. In place of the left-hand shifter is an under-bar remote for the internally-routed RockShox Reverb Stealth post.
Nukeproof's Generator 275 wheels are a solid, no-nonsense setup, offering strength and stiffness without too much of a weight penalty. The SRAM stop and go gear is excellent too, with the progressive power of the four-pot Elixir Trail 9 brakes being a particular highlight.
Ride and handling: not for all-day rides, but great fun on the trails
Once you've spun the tall 36T ring up to speed, the bike reveals more of its character - and it's a confusing one. At 588mm (23.1in) for the medium size, the effective toptube is 8mm shorter than the longer travel AM, and the 73-degree seat angle only makes it feel shorter still. We're usually fans of steeper seat angles as they help push your weight forwards onto the front tyre, but as the top tube doesn't 'grow' as the saddle is raised, they must be combined with enough top tube reach in the first place.
Mix the stiff gearing (which requires a lot of out-of-the-saddle hauling effort) with the solid weight and the cramped cockpit and the Mega TR is a bike that has you tolerating the ups rather than enjoying them. Moving up a frame size could help, though that may leave you with a bit too much seat tube to be comfortable on steep descents.
It may be tight, but the Nukeproof finishing kit still makes it a comfortable place to be. The supportive saddle, decently wide 760mm bars on a stubby stem and lock-on grips round out the contact points. The Maxxis High Roller 2 tyres are grippy with good shoulder support, while their harder 60a compound gives good rolling resistance - the loss of mechanical grip being neatly offset by the increased contact patch of the 650b wheels.
The own-brand finishing kit makes for a comfortable cockpit
So far, so-so. Then came the moment of revelation. Sometime between the first trail centre berm and the second set of rollers, the Mega TR began to redeem itself. The taut rear suspension and shorter front end combine to give a very playful feel, making it easy to loft the front end and manual through dips and rises, all the while pumping for speed like a fully-suspended, big wheeled BMX.
The stiff frame means you can snap out of corners, while the secure single ring drive means positive engagement every time. With limited space to shift about any rougher or steeper sections are a bit more committing, but boss the bike around, pick it up and flick it and it's entertaining pinball wizardry.
The 'only' 130mm travel rear lets you get away with far more than you feel you ought, thanks to a progressive spring curve that gives great support and resistance to blowing through the travel unless you've done something stupid enough to incite it. Which you will.
130mm rear travel might not seem that much, but you'll be surprised at what it'll let you ride
This isn't a trail bike in the conventional sense. It's a bit cramped and hefty to consider as an all-day bike (ironically we'd look to the AM for that), but as a play bike for taking to the trails, this is a huge bundle of fun. For every frustration there's a compensatory laugh. The Mega TR may be undersized, but there's plenty of life and fight in it.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.