It's not been the best kept secret. Anyone who has followed the Enduro World Series this year will have spotted Sam Hill aboard a new Nukeproof Mega as he battles for the overall title. Along with a new carbon front triangle, Nukeproof has also rolled out a number of other changes to the bike for 2018.
"We didn't want to produce a bike that was just carbon for the sake of being carbon for fashion reasons", says Rob Sherratt, Nukeproof's marketing manager. "It's about trying to get to the point where we produce a carbon bike that's better than the alloy bike", he continues.
In fact, to get to this point, the guys at Nukeproof are now on the fourth generation of carbon front triangle, having altered the layup in a bid to get the feel they were after.
Of course, Nukeproof is under a lot of pressure, and not just from the shops and customers. With Sam Hill's focus for 2017 turning to the Enduro World Series (EWS), it wanted to be sure he had a bike that he felt seriously competitive on.
Luckily the firm had a good foundation to build upon in the shape of the current Mega – launched in 2015 – which had already helped Sam bag a win in the EWS last year. Nukeproof sent Sam two revised bikes during the off-season for testing, though early on, he couldn't get on with the carbon version.
More revisions to the layup were made until, as Rob explains excitedly, Sam got comfortable with the carbon bike. "He has got to the point where he feels really, really happy on it. He feels it goes better around corners. You can feel it accelerate out of turns!"
While Nukeproof was keen to get the new carbon frame finished, the plan was to keep it under wraps for the duration of 2017, though Sam liked the bike so much he convinced the team to let him use it. And it's clearly working for him. With just the final round in the series to go, Sam is currently sitting in the top spot overall.
The switch to carbon front triangle helps to drop the frame weight by 400g over the alloy equivalent, though Rob says the firm could have gone lighter but didn't want to, stating that this bike needs to go the distance and hold up to a serious amount of abuse.
And while it'll be the use of carbon that grabs all of the attention, that's just part of the story here. One potential sticking point of the previous bike, for some at least, was the shock tune. Nukeproof has worked hard with the guys at SRAM to ensure they're making the most of the alloy Horst Link rear end and its 160mm of travel to avoid any of these previous issues.
Nukeproof re-worked the frame to accommodate fitting the latest RockShox Super Deluxe which not only comes with all the claimed benefits that the metric shock brings, but also the additional benefits including the use of a cartridge bearing in the rocker link eyelet to reduce friction as much as possible, improving overall suspension sensitivity.
Actually perfecting the tune of the Super Deluxe took some time, though. After early test sessions with the Nukeproof engineers and SRAM technicians, an initial production shock tune was settled upon though this wasn't necessarily final. It wasn't until Hill's final test session in San Remo where he settled on the very same tune that it was actually signed off. Nukeproof also claims the new bike will work happily with either an air or coil sprung shock.
Unlike the current Mega, all of the 2018 Megas are single ring only. This has enabled the engineers to widen the main pivot, spacing the bearings further apart and add stiffness where it counts. All Megas have also made the switch to Boost axle spacing at the front and rear which further helps increase stiffness and can help improve tyre clearances, too.
Of course, it only made sense to look at the current geometry and see where it could be improved upon during this whole process. While head angles remain at 65-degrees, they're now designed around a longer, 170mm travel fork (though the 29er version sports a 160mm travel fork). The 435mm chainstay (on the 650b wheel bikes) remains the same, too, as does the 10mm of bottom bracket drop across all sizes.
In fact, both the small and medium bikes only see minor tweaks in terms of sizing while the large and extra-large have grown considerably. Both sizes get an increase in head tube length (5mm on both sizes), while the reach on the large extends by 10mm (up to 470mm) and a massive 25mm to 515mm on the extra-large.
But why no drastic changes to the small and medium bikes? Sherratt explains: "We kept medium and smalls the same just because moulds are expensive and Sam wanted to keep the same sizing (on the medium)".
"For us, the EWS results have kinda backed up what we're doing with the bike", says Rob. "We know are bikes aren't going to limit any riders".
We were given the opportunity to ride the latest carbon Mega in the Factory spec. In short, this means it comes adorned with Fox suspension and Shimano brakes and gearing. Alongside the carbon frame, this is also a first for the small brand, having never had the option to spec Fox suspension on any bikes previously.
Up front sits the latest version of Fox's highly acclaimed 36 fork which, in this case, comes equipped with the FIT4 damper, while at the rear sits the formidable Float X2 rear shock which offers a serious amount of tuning potential.
To help keep prices from creeping up too much, Nukeproof opted to run the proven Shimano XT 11-speed transmission and brakes which, thankfully, didn't seem to suffer from a wandering bite point as we've experienced in the past.
All bikes in the line-up now come with whopping 800mm own brand bars (though the 275 RS model uses 780mm Horizon carbon bars) and a 50mm stem. This means it's easy enough to tailor bar width with a hacksaw as opposed to having to shell out for a new set if the originals weren't quite wide enough – as was the case with the previous bike. Nukeproof also takes care of the saddle, headset and grips, too.
There's also a dropper post across all the bikes in the range; the cheapest models in 650b and 29 do use a Brand X post, rather than the RockShox Reverb Stealth seen across the pricier models. The drop varies dependent upon frame size, too, with the small and medium bikes coming with a 125mm travel post while the large and extra-large now get the full 170mm travel treatment.
One thing weíre particularly pleased to see is that Nukeproof hasn't skimped on tyres for 2018, with all bikes across the range getting Maxxis tyres complete with its sturdier Double Down casing which should help keep those pesky punctures at bay.
In the case of this particular bike, it's a set of High Roller II DD 2.3in wrapped around DT Swiss E1700 Spline wheels. While the tyres aren't super-wide, it was the general consensus at Nukeproof to keep things feeling racey and fast, despite the current trend for bigger, higher volume treads.
Initial ride impressions
For this first ride, I opted to ride a size large. Having ridden both a medium and large previously, at 5ft 8in, I had always felt that the medium could be a touch longer while the former size large fitted me really quite well, thanks to its 460mm reach and 611mm effective top tube.
The 2018 size large, especially with the 800mm bars, does feel significantly bigger, though. OK, if I'd have had the chance I'd have cut the bars down which would have helped, but regardless, this does leave me feeling between sizes somewhat.
While the Mega is designed to be a beast going downhill, it still needs to get you to the top as efficiently as possible. When seated, the Mega pedals reasonably well, though when you do need to stand up on the pedals, itís worth reaching for the low-speed compression lever on the shock to neutralise any of the energy sapping bob.
Tackling mellower trails where the emphasis is more on maintaining momentum, the Mega responds well to rapid bursts of power through the cranks and picks up speed rapidly. It's nimble, too, and happy to skip from obstacle to obstacle as you weave your way down the hill.
Hitting successive turns at pace reveals that while it's not got quite as much bottom bracket drop and sits a little higher than the likes of the Radon Swoop or Whyte G-170, it still feels confident and surefooted.
Fast rocky chutes reveal that it'll use every millimetre of suspension travel in a balanced, well-measured way. It's composed when it needs to be, supple enough to spit out traction when tackling loose terrain and isn't afraid of taking a thumping.
If I had more time I'd be keen to spend more time playing around with volume spacers in the Fox fork and shock. This is simply because it felt like I could have pushed the Mega harder in the really chewed up terrain and I'd have liked to see the difference adding a little more progression would have had.
That said, it still feels like the Mega 275 Factory is in a great place from the off. Our Fox 36 fork did top out in certain scenarios though but this is something Fox already have a remedy for.
There's a nice amount of flex through the chassis that, alongside the supple suspension, help with holding a line through tricky root spreads or awkward cambered sections. And things feel sprightly when slapping through corners where you really need to work the bike to maintain your pace. While it's not as stiff as the likes of the Identiti Mettle or Whyte G-170, it's certainly stiff enough when it counts and in no way harsh when things get rough.
Nukeproof Mega early verdict
.The new Nukeproof Mega feels lively and agile, yet isn't afraid to get stuck into the roughest of terrain when it counts
The short amount of time together has by no means given me a full insight into the Mega's full capabilities; it simply allowed me to get to grips with some of the changes that have been made for 2018.
I was certainly impressed with the ride and overall package of the bike, though. When I do get my hands on a full production bike soon, I'll be sure to properly put it through the ringer so check back soon for a full review.
Nukeproof Mega range overview
For 2018, Nukeproof is offering four bikes with 650b wheels, and three bikes with 29in wheels. Only the top two of the 650b wheeled bikes get a carbon frame though. Here's how they line-up:
Nukeproof Mega 275 RS - £4,599.99
Alongside the carbon main-frame, the RS (Race Spec) comes shod with a RockShox Lyrik RCT3 fork and Super Deluxe RC3 rear shock, SRAM's 12-speed X01 Eagle gearing and SRAM Code R brakes. DT Swiss XM1501 Spine wheels and an array of Nukeproof parts (including a carbon Horizon bar) finish things off nicely.
Nukeproof Mega 275 Factory £4,199.99
As seen here, this is the only other carbon main-frame in the line-up and comes with Fox dampers, Shimano XT gearing and brakes as well as the highly acclaimed Maxxis High Roller II with Double Down casing.
Nukeproof Mega 275 Pro £3,349.99
If you don't want to fork out for a carbon frame, the Pro still offers a lot of great kit for the cash. A RockShox Lyrik RCT3 fork and Super Deluxe RC3 take care of bump eating duties and it's the only other 650b offering to get 12-speed gearing, though this time in the shape of SRAM's GX Eagle.
Nukeproof Mega 275 Comp £2,399.99
Considering the price, the Comp looks more competitive than ever for 2018. The RockShox Yari fork and Super Deluxe R shock might not be quite as sophisticated as the pricier options but they'll still cut it when it counts. Shimano SLX 11-speed gearing and Deore brakes are dependable options, too.
As with all the other bikes here, even this, the cheapest in the line-up, comes with Maxxis tyres with Double Down casing. OK, they might not be super light, but they'll help stave off those all annoying flat tyres better than cheaper, flimsier options.
Nukeproof Mega 290 Factory £3,799.99
Though the top end 29er doesn't get a carbon frame, it still gets a solid spec. Here, a Fox 36 FIT4 sits up front while the highly tunable Float X2 takes care of things at the rear. Shimano XT gearing and brakes should be a decent bed for longterm use, too. Again, all the 29ers will come with Maxxis tyres using their Double Down casing.
Nukeproof Mega 290 Pro £3,349.99
For just over £400 less you can get the Pro which is the first full SRAM equipped bike in the 29er range. Gearing comes courtesy of their 12-speed GX Eagle, Guide RE brakes take care of stopping while a RockShox Lyrik RCT3 fork and Super Deluxe RC3 shock handle all things bump related.
Nukeproof Mega 290 Comp £2,399.99
Just like the 650b version with the same name, the 29er Comp uses a RockShox Yari and Super Deluxe R shock, along with Shimanoís 11-speed SLX gearing and Deore brakes. This bike also comes with the sturdier, traction rich Maxxis tyres with Double Down casing.
International pricing to be announced.
Nukeproof Mega 275 Geometry (size large)
- Stack: 599.58mm
- Reach: 470mm
- Wheelbase: 1226
- Head Angle: 65 degrees
- Seat Angle: 75.75 degrees