Big wheels, big travel and slack angles mean the Mega 290 certainly looks good on paper. I hit the hills to see just how well those figures translate to the trail.
Nukeproof Mega 290 Pro spec overview
Frame: 6061-T6 aluminium, 150mm (5.9in) travel
Fork: RockShox Lyrik RCT3 Solo Air, 150mm travel
Shock: RockShox Monarch Plus RC3
Drivetrain: Shimano Deore XT M8000 with SLX 11-42t cassette
Wheels: SRAM RAIL 40
Tyres: Schwalbe Magic Mary TrailStar (front) and Schwalbe Nobby Nic TrailStar (rear) 2.35in
Brakes: Shimano Deore XT M8000, 180mm rotors
Bar: Nukeproof Warhead, 760mm
Stem: Nukeproof Warhead, 50mm
Seatpost: RockShox Reverb Stealth dropper
Saddle: Nukeproof Vector AM
Weight: 14.31kg (31.54lb), medium size without pedals
Nukeproof Mega 290 Pro frame and kit
An MRP guide keeps the chain on the 32t ring. Less fit riders may want something smaller Russell Burton
Nukeproof made the switch to a Horst Link rear end when designing the latest iteration of the Mega, and in its 29er guise (there’s also a 650b-wheeled Mega 275) it delivers a hefty 150mm of rear wheel travel.
Unlike some other brands, Nukeproof hasn’t totally slammed the chainstays of its 29er, preferring to leave them at 450mm.
With the shock locked out, the Mega 290 is happy enough grinding uphill
At the tail end of those stays sits a 12x142mm rear axle — not the Boost spacing we’re seeing all the more of. Up front, Nukeproof has kicked the head tube out to a slack 66.2 degrees, while the seat angle sits at 75.5 degrees to keep pedalling and climbing as efficient as possible.
All cables, with the exclusion of the one for the dropper post remote, are routed externally. They make their way neatly down the top of the down tube and tuck through the front shock mount.
The Mega 290 Pro is the first range-topping Mega to use a Shimano rather than SRAM transmission. Thankfully, Nukeproof has ditched the PaceStar compound Schwalbe Nobby Nic rear tyre that it had originally specced across the Mega range in favour of the tackier TrailStar version, which gives a little more purchase on wet rock and root.
Nukeproof’s own bar, stem and seat are all solid bits of kit, though not everyone will appreciate the rather firm feel of the saddle.
Nukeproof Mega 290 Pro ride impression
The 29er Mega combines big wheels with 150mm of rock-munching travel Russell Burton
With the shock locked out, the Mega 290 is happy enough grinding uphill. The relatively steep seat angle comes into play when the gradient starts to steepen, although at this point I began to want a little more stretch in the cockpit — with a 595mm effective top tube length (medium), things feel a little cramped on longer technical climbs.
It’s not a major issue, but I felt the stock 50mm stem was about as short as I could comfortably go. While an 11-42t cassette paired with a 32t ring offers a decent spread of gears, dropping down to a 30t ring would help take the sting out of those heavy-legged final climbs of the day for those not feeling very athletic.
Get up out of the saddle and the Nukeproof feels well-proportioned and nicely balanced front to back, with a neutral riding position that lets you move the bike around without having to throw your weight about too much. Crank the bike over from turn to turn and the nimbleness in ride and traction from the well-considered tyre choice stands out when the conditions start to turn. Slam into exposed roots or clatter through braking bumps and you’ll be surprised with just what you can get away with.
The Mega 290 sits quite deep into its rear travel, but it still takes a solid thump or massive landing to blow the travel O-ring off the shock shaft. When the speed picks up, you do start to feel some twang through the SRAM RAIL wheels when really tanking into tight turns. This doesn’t really impact upon the ride though or the pace, which the Mega 290 is keen to maintain.
Nukeproof Mega 290 Pro early verdict
A fast, fun bike that isn’t afraid to get rowdy despite its big wheels.