With roots in Michigan, and reimagined in Northern Ireland in 2004 under the influence of downhill racer Michael Cowan, Nukeproof has always been associated with the more extreme side of competitive mountain biking.
That’s what first drew us to the Digger RS V3 – just how would a gravity-focused mountain bike race brand approach the gravel discipline?
The Digger RS V3 is just what you’d expect from a gravel bike made by mountain bikers, but the result is a bike that might appeal even more to gravel fans.
Nukeproof Digger RS V3 frame
At first glance, you can tell the Digger RS V3 is something different.
This third-generation model stems from the original Digger requested by, and co-developed with, mountain bike legend Sam Hill as a bike to train on.
The original long wheelbase and slack geometry remains, but it’s been pushed further with a 2-degree slacker head angle and a longer reach (20mm in all sizes).
In addition, there’s a huge increase in tyre clearance to 700x45c, with 7mm of space either side to spare, or up to 47mm should you choose to run 650b wheels.
The V3 retains some of the key aspects of the first-generation Digger – a steep seat angle for pedalling efficiency and a slack head angle to handle steep descents and seriously technical surfaces.
|Seat angle (degrees)||74||74||74||74|
|Head angle (degrees)||69||69||69||69|
|Seat tube (mm)||460||480||500||520|
|Top tube (mm)||560||580||610||630|
|Head tube (mm)||130||150||170||190|
|Fork offset (mm)||40||40||40||40|
|Trail with 650b (mm)||82.84||82.84||82.84||82.84|
|Trail with 700c (mm)||86.2||86.2||86.2||86.2|
|Bottom bracket drop (mm)||70||70||70||70|
|Standover with 650b (mm)||729.66||748.79||767.46||786.34|
|Standover with 700c (mm)||738.41||757.54||776.21||795.09|
It’s gained many more fitting points, though – mudguard mounts and multiple mounts on the forks, plus proper pannier mounts.
It seems the new Digger isn’t just a gravity-optimised bike, but one you could use for all-day gravel riding adventures.
The frame’s 6061-T6 aluminium tubing is triple butted. The welds are finished nicely and evenly executed, with the gloss all-black finish and contrasting chrome graphics adding an understated touch of class to the overall look.
A threaded BSA bottom bracket will appeal to home mechanics, as will the simplicity of a standard headset (as opposed to one with complex internal routing).
Nukeproof Digger RS V3 build
Plugged in up-front is the RockShox Rudy Ultimate XPLR fork. While it may only have 30mm of travel, its smooth action and progressive feel mean it smoothes your way impressively and never gets overwhelmed on bigger hits.
The Digger RS V3 is driven by SRAM’s Rival 1 groupset, with a 40-tooth chainring matched to an 11-speed, 11-42t cassette.
It’s an ample range for a gravel bike and the super-low 40/42-tooth bottom gear is perfect for steep ramps on loose surfaces.
The arrival of the latest Apex 1x 12-speed mechanical groupset this year shows up Rival 1’s age, though – its hoods are relatively oversized and the ergonomics don’t feel as ‘good’ in the hand.
Up-front, the Digger shows off its mountain bike roots with a very different cockpit.
The frame’s extended reach has enabled Nukeproof to fit a short 60mm stem borrowed from its Horizon mountain bike range.
This is attached to a huge 50cm-wide bar. There’s no flare to the drops, unlike most gravel-esque cockpits, perhaps partly due to the sheer width.
At the back, more mountain bike influence comes in the form of a Brand-X Ascend gravel bike dropper post.
Nukeproof Digger RS V3 ride impressions
The Digger RS V3 is a bike that defied my expectations. I expected it to excel when the terrain turned downwards and got tight and twisty, but to struggle on tarmac or less demanding rolling gravel terrain.
Firstly, it’s an absolute stunner when you take it well and truly off-road.
I took the Digger onto local natural singletrack trails that are usually the reserve of full-blooded mountain bikes and had an absolute blast.
Of course, it’s never going to match a long-travel enduro mountain bike for covering choppy, lumpy demanding terrain at pace, but I assure you you’ll have just as much fun.
When off-road descents hit double-digit angled slopes, the long front centre – combined with the short stem and massively wide bar – bring huge amounts of confidence-giving stability.
The RockShox Rudy feels controlled and compliant, belying the modest 30mm of travel. Not once, even on a steady slew of rocky steps, did it bottom out – quite an achievement for such a short-travel fork.
The Rival 1 drivetrain is good, the double-tap shift performing well, as long as you have a firm hand.
The first click of the throw drops the chain down a cog quickly and efficiently, but if you hesitate rather than push through to the second click (in order to move up the cassette), the chain can chatter and sputter before settling.
Cleverly, Nukeproof has used the 2x Rival mechanical shifters here, but instead of the left-hand shifter controlling the front derailleur (because it doesn’t have one), it’s wired up to the Brand-X dropper post. This works superbly.
Holding onto the hoods and flicking the left-hand lever to drop the saddle out of the way enabled me to shift my weight effectively and manoeuvre the bike easily through tight and technical terrain.
It’s in the same league as our 2023 gravel bike of the year, the Giant Revolt X, in that respect.
On easier terrain, the Digger RS V3 doesn’t have the ponderous nature I expected.
The steep seat angle keeps the pedalling position efficient, and the sensible gear range helps keep speed quick on smooth surfaces.
The Digger RS V3 is certainly more of a sit-down-and-spin bike than an out-of-the-saddle stomper, though.
The combination of the slack head angle and wide bar made it a little ungainly when I stood up.
The same goes for road descents, where it has a natural (and understandable) tendency to understeer.
The 11.28kg weight for my XL test bike sounds hefty, but the Digger never felt overly weighty under me, ably assisted by the good-quality wheels and tubeless tyres.
Nukeproof Digger RS V3 bottom line
The Nukeproof Digger RS V3 is the antithesis of the latest aero-optimised racing gravel bikes, such as the BMC Kauis or Factor Ostro Gravel. It’ll be left for dust by bikes like that on wide gravel roads.
That said, it rides quickly and smoothly on less challenging gravel terrain, and really excels on trails, double-track farm roads and technical singletrack. It’s a bike to ride steadily on rough unmetalled roads and then unleash when the going gets tricky.
On the right terrain, you won’t ride anything quicker or more fun this side of a good full-suspension mountain bike.
|Price||br_price, 5, 3, Price, EUR €3145.00GBP £3000.00USD $2400.00|
|Weight||br_weight, 5, 6, Weight, 11.28kg (XL), Array, kg|
|Brand||br_brand, 5, 10, Brand, Nukeproof|
|Available sizes||br_availableSizes, 11, 0, Available sizes, S, M, L, XL|
|Brakes||br_brakes, 11, 0, Brakes, Sram Rival Flatmount hydraulics with Sram Paceline 160mm rotors|
|Cassette||br_cassette, 11, 0, Cassette, Sram PG1130 11 speed 11-42|
|Chain||br_chain, 11, 0, Chain, Sram PC1110 with Power lock|
|Cranks||br_cranks, 11, 0, Cranks, Sram Rival 1, 40 tooth chainring, 170mm cranks|
|Fork||br_fork, 11, 0, Fork, Rock Shox Rudy Ultimate 30mm travel fork|
|Frame||br_frame, 11, 0, Frame, Aluminium|
|Handlebar||br_handlebar, 11, 0, Handlebar, AL-6061 500mm bar|
|Headset||br_headset, 11, 0, Headset, Nukeproof Warhead|
|Saddle||br_saddle, 11, 0, Saddle, Nukeproof saddle|
|Seatpost||br_seatpost, 11, 0, Seatpost, Brand X Ascend 125mm drop 31.6 dropper post|
|Shifter||br_shifter, 11, 0, Shifter, Sram Rival (2x)|
|Stem||br_stem, 11, 0, Stem, Nukeproof Horizon 60mm stem|
|Tyres||br_tyres, 11, 0, Tyres, Schwalbe G-One UltraBite TLE ADDIX 40c tyres|
|Wheels||br_wheels, 11, 0, Wheels, DT Swiss GR1600 Spline|