Vitus’s Nucleus 29 is trail-ready straight out of the box and wants for nothing when you head off-road. On-point geometry and a great spec – especially the tyres – mean it’s ready to roll down whatever you throw in its path.
Vitus is Chain Reaction Cycles’ in-house brand, which means you benefit from its massive buying power and get a bike that, for the money, is arguably unmatched.
The ‘cost’ is that you have to buy it unseen, and any warranty issues can’t be sorted out with a quick trip to your local shop.
Powerful brakes make going fast even easier, and Tektro’s M290s are just that. Russell Burton
Vitus Nucleus 29 VR frame
While not quite as long as the other bikes that were on test, with a reach of 450mm on the large size, the Nucleus’s alloy frame is a great shape.
The bottom bracket drops low below the wheel axles for a stable ride, and the head angle is a fairly slack (for a trail 29er) 67 degrees.
Cable routing is external, which aids servicing, and there’s provision for a dropper post cable or hose, should you wish to upgrade to one later. The back end is quick-release with no option to switch to a stiffer bolt-thru axle.
Vitus Nucleus 29 VR kit
Vitus has specced the Nucleus VR well, with a sorted drivetrain, wheelset and front suspension. It’s also got an air-sprung fork – a Suntour XCR32 with 100mm of travel – which makes it easy to set up for a wide range of rider weights.
The 29in wheels boast wide (30mm internal) WTB rims shod with 2.3in tyres from the same brand: a grippy Vigilante up front and a faster-rolling Trail Boss at the back.
Instead of being made from the hard, plasticky rubber often found on budget bikes, these use WTB’s premium High Grip compound.
The 2×9 drivetrain is mostly Shimano Altus, with a Suntour crankset and microSHIFT front mech. Tektro M290s provide decent stopping power. The finishing kit is from Vitus’s sibling brand Nukeproof.
Vitus Nucleus 29 VR ride impressions
WTB’s tyres are great performers, with the rear Trail Boss rolling fast, and the Vigilante on the front giving unparalleled grip. Russell Burton
The Nucleus just feels ‘right’ when you get it out on the trail, with a capable and composed feel on pretty much any terrain that inspires confidence.
While the Marin Bobcat Trail 3 that was also on test rolled faster uphill, getting to the top was hardly a chore on the Vitus. On the way down, it was the top of the crop of the bikes on test.
With a decent carcass and soft-compound rubber, the WTB Vigilante front tyre digs confidently into a wide range of trail surfaces. Add the volume and sidewall support provided by the wide rim, and no matter how hard I pushed the front wheel through corners, the tyre never rolled on the rim (something which can feel unnerving).
The Suntour XCM fork has a stiff bolt-thru chassis, along with an air spring for easy set-up. Russell Burton
The fork feels plush and controlled, boosting grip and control over wet roots, in rock gardens and through corners. While it only has 100mm of travel, it uses it incredibly well, and the bike is never held back. It also has an easy-to-use bolt-thru axle, which gives a sturdier feel to the 32mm chassis, while still allowing quick wheel removal.
Encouraging you to ride fast and hard, the Vitus confidently tackled all the trail features on my test loops. Whether scything between corners or hitting loose, flat-out sections, it was very capable.
While the tyres aren’t the lightest, they have a well-damped feel, which makes rocks and roots feel less harsh. On many hardtails, you have to balance tyre pressure carefully, to resist pinch punctures but avoid a ‘pingy’ ride feel. Here, the damping deadens any ‘pingyness’ and the tyres’ sturdiness means you can run them at lower pressures for added traction and comfort.
Of course, the Nucleus isn’t perfect. In an ideal world I’d love to see something akin to Saracen’s Chip Slot dropouts on it, which would make things a lot easier should you ever want to upgrade the wheels. That said, the rims are already decently wide, so there’s no rush to swap them out.
Vitus Nucleus 29 VR (2020) geometry
Seat angle: 73 degrees
Head angle: 67 degrees
Chainstay: 43.9cm / 17.28in
Seat tube: 48.3cm / 19.02in
Top tube: 64cm / 25.2in
Head tube: 12cm / 4.72in
Fork offset: 5.1cm / 2in
Bottom bracket drop: 6.15cm / 2.42in
Bottom bracket height: 31.9cm / 12.56in
Wheelbase: 1,175mm / 46.26in
Stack: 62.3cm / 24.53in
Reach: 45cm / 17.72in