Vitus’s Nucleus range of keenly priced hardtails is designed with trail centre riding in mind. Kicking off with a 26in-wheeled option (the 260) and including a 29er (yep, it’s called the 290), the range tops out with the 650b-wheeled 275VR. A pared-down 275 is also available with a coil-sprung fork and eight-speed transmission, but the VR brings an extra sprocket and an air spring into the mix.
Frame and equipment: a mostly solid utility setup
Entry-level hardtails aren’t about winning awards for design, they’re about making sure everything you need is in the right place. On that basis, Vitus’s designers have got the Nucleus sussed.
A tapered head tube and big box sections at the head of the top and down tubes make for a rigid front end – good news for enthusiastic and clumsy riders alike. Out back the mud clearance is miserly, but when was the last time you encountered claggy mud at a trail centre? There are even ISCG mounts, in case you ever fancy running a single chainring and chain guide up front.
The beefy front end has been built to take some serious abuse:Russell Burton / Immediate Media
The beefy front end has been built to take some serious abuse
The only obvious omission is the lack of a set of rack mounts at the rear, which means the Nucleus might not be the bike of choice if you’re looking for a double duty commuter hack and weekend warrior.
The Nucleus’s 2.4in front/2.2in rear tread combo is a great one for hard riding. It’s a shame, then, that Vitus couldn’t find room in the budget to spec a 180mm brake rotor up front for better cooling. The star of the show is the air-sprung Suntour XCR fork. With easy set-up, rebound damping adjustment and 32mm stanchions, it stands head and shoulders above the coil-sprung forks on the cheaper Nucleus models.
Ride and handling: spot-on geometry and a fork
The Nucleus’s ride position is all about control. A rangy top tube combines with a stubby 60mm stem and wide, low-rise bar to bring the rider’s weight forward, giving better front wheel grip and a stance that’s just as good for stomping up steep climbs as it is for dodging trees on fast, flowing singletrack.
Vitus’s designers deserve a shout out for getting the geometry spot on. The Nucleus is up there with the best trail-storming hardtails we’ve ridden – stable at speed when you need it, but flickably precise when you want it.
The nucleus 275 vr is equally happy clambering up slopes and blasting singletrack:Russell Burton / Immediate Media
The Nucleus 275 VR is as happy clambering up slopes as it is blasting singletrack
We often criticise budget hardtails for their fork performance. The 275 VR is proof that it’s worth finding the extra cash for an air fork over the heavier and less adjustable coil alternative. If you’ve had your eye on the Nucleus range, save your pennies for this one – the sorted handling will be shared by all the Nuclei, but only the 275 VR has a fork that does the frame justice.
Nucleus 275 VR (15)
Tektro HD-M290, 160/160mm
SRAM 306 hubs on Jalco XCD rims, Continental Mountain King 27.5x2.4in (F) and X-King 27.5x2.2in (R) tyres