Vitus Nucleus 29 VR (2020) review

Great-value package with a market-leading ride

  The products mentioned in this article are selected or reviewed independently by our journalists. When you buy through links on our site we may earn an affiliate commission, but this never influences our opinion.
Our rating 
4.5 out of 5 star rating 4.5
GBP £550.00 RRP | USD $650.00 | AUD $1,000.00
Pack shot of Vitus Nucleus 29 VR hardtail mountain bike

Our review

Top-value frame and spec that perform brilliantly on the trail, but no local bike shop support
Pros: Excellent tyre combo gives plenty of confidence and control on a wide range of tracks; fork performs well and is easy to set up; geometry has the perfect mix of stability and agility for fun handling
Cons: I’d love to see this bike ready to accept a bolt-thru rear axle for easy wheel upgrading
Skip to view product specifications

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.

Advertisement

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.

Vitus Nucleus 29 VR
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

Vitus Nucleus 29 VR
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).

Pack shot of Vitus Nucleus 29 VR hardtail mountain bike
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.

Advertisement

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

Product Specifications

Product

Price AUD $1000.00GBP £550.00USD $650.00
Weight 14.47kg (L)
Brand Vitus

Features

Available sizes M, L, XL
Handlebar Nukeproof Neutron, 780mm
Tyres WTB Vigilante Comp High Grip 29x2.3in (f), WTB Trail Boss Comp High Grip 29x2.25in (r)
Stem Vitus, 50mm
Shifter Shimano Altus
Seatpost Vitus
Saddle Nukeproof Neutron
Rear derailleur Shimano Altus
Grips/Tape Vitus
Bottom bracket Square taper
Front derailleur microSHIFT
Frame 6061-T6 aluminium alloy
Fork SR Suntour XCR32, 100mm (3.9in) travel
Cranks Suntour XCM 22t/36t
Chain KMC Z9
Cassette Shimano Altus, 11-36
Brakes Tektro M290, 180/160mm rotors
Wheels WTB ST i30 rims, Vitus hubs