The Pulse has World Cup winning credentials, so how does this budget version of Nukeproof's world-beating design compare?
- So Good: Low centre of mass means it rails turns; solid build will take a hammering; rear end swallows bumps with ease
- No Good: Not particularly nimble due to high weight; fork isn’t the best, considering price
Frame and equipment
Although many race fans expected the production Pulse to get 650b wheels for 2015, it didn’t, and still sports the 26in size. It does come in an XL option though.
There’s no getting away from just how burly this beast is. The big box-section tubing, beefy single-pivot rear end, slammed three-stage Fallout Linkage and 210mm (8.3in) of rear wheel travel give a clear indication of the Pulse’s intentions – outright annihilation of even the toughest tracks on the world circuit.
Schwalbe’s Magic Marys will grip in just about every condition but aren’t the fastest rolling tyres out there
Ovalised dropout chips allow you to adjust the chainstay length by 10mm, so you can stick with the more flickable 435mm setting or stretch things out for maximum stability at 445mm. This is easy to do and great if you like to fettle with set-up. The head angle is a slack 63.6-degrees but the Pulse has a high BB, at 350mm, and a short wheelbase, even in the longest chainstay setting, at just over 1,205mm.
Although the Pulse isn't cheap, its spec list – though pretty solid – isn’t quite as dialled as some of its rivals’. This helps contribute to its 18.46kg (40.7lb) overall weight, making it fairly hefty for the price. Up front sits a RockShox Boxxer RC – by no means a bad fork – while the Kage RC shock dealt with everything we could throw at it in a composed fashion.
SRAM supplys the DB5 brakes, which offer a decent amount of power, as well as the 10-speed X7 transmission, which doesn’t get a Type 2 clutch mech. The VertStar compound Schwalbe Magic Mary tyres are a definite positive, especially mixed conditions – these suckers will find grip in just about anything. The Nukeproof finishing kit is quality stuff too, though not everyone will dig the lofty 38mm rise on the handlebar.
Ride and handling
It took a little experimentation to get things feeling just right at the rear. We initially opted to run a lighter spring and a little more sag, which left us with a super-supple ‘point and plough’ machine that was great in a straight line through the rough stuff but lacked the liveliness needed on jumps and smoother, mellower trails. Shifting up a spring rate (unfortunately the stock springs only come in 50lb increments, not 25lb as sold by some aftermarket companies) and running a little less sag gave us back some of the pop needed to chuck the bike around on tamer trails, yet the rear end retained much of its supple, planted feel, which was great when things got ugly – this is where this bike comes to life.
While the transmission and heavy crankset are a little disappointing for the money, they get on with the job just fine. The same can’t be said for the Boxxer RC fork up front though. On smaller hits it’s smooth and supple enough to keep the front wheel planted and it tracks the terrain well enough to maintain traction through loose turns, but when the going gets rowdy, the fork gets out of its depth.
With most of the frame’s weight positioned nice and low, the Pulse feels really confident through the turns
With minimal low-speed compression damping wound on it deals with the bigger hits in a reasonable manner but lacks support. Add more low-speed compression and there’s a marked improvement in support but things can feel pretty harsh through your hands on fast stutter bumps and you have to work to keep the front wheel on track. Fitting a Charger damper would solve this, but cost you an extra £290.
The Pulse’s bulk and big, slow-rolling tyres mean it hasn’t got the most ‘get up and go’ off the line, but as the gradient steepens this bike quickly finds its stride and you get an insight into its real potential. With most of the frame’s weight slung down between your feet, cornering is ridiculously confident and it doesn’t take long before you’re carving through fast, awkward sections at a fair old lick. That weight does mean the Pulse prefers to be steered on to a line and then left to deal with the consequences, rather than finessed through in a more calculated way. If you’re happy to muscle this beast around, you’ll be rewarded when you let it rip. The Nukeproof's World Cup winning frame can go very fast in the right rider’s hands – especially if you afford to upgrade the fork damper.