The Nukeproof Mega 290 Alloy Pro isn’t just the most affordable bike in the test, it’s also the fastest. The bike was developed on the racetrack, for the racetrack. But is it fun on normal trails too if you’re not racing? How versatile is a bike with such a need for speed?
For an overview of the test fleet head to the group test: The best enduro bike 2021 – 13 models in review
It wasn’t easy to get our hands on a Nukeproof Mega 290 for this test. Unfortunately, the size medium Mega 290 RS that we received at the launch was too small to make a fair comparison, but the large was out of stock. Instead, we decided to include the aluminium Mega 290 in the test and it proves once again that you don’t need a high-end bike to have a lot of fun! The new Mega relies on a four-bar rear end and thanks to the new position of the shock, finally has space for a water bottle. Compared to the super sexy carbon model, the aluminium counterpart looks somewhat rudimentary and we would have liked to see a little more attention to detail with the cable routing. As far as the geometry and suspension are concerned, the carbon and aluminium models don’t differ and the weight of 15.46 kg is acceptable given the entry-level spec. The bottle cage bosses on the top tube offer a convenient on-bike storage solution for a spare tube and tools.
The components of the Nukeproof Mega 290 Alloy Pro – Race ready
The Nukeproof Mega 290 Alloy Pro can be yours for € 3,999, specced with inexpensive but functional components. Nukeproof invest money where it makes the most sense: in the RockShox Select+ suspension consisting of a 170 mm Lyrik fork and a Super Deluxe shock controlling 160 mm travel at the rear. Keeping your speed in check are a pair of SRAM Guide RE stoppers. They are a bit older and might not be as sexy, but thanks to the CODE callipers they offer a lot of stopping power and reliability. However, we would upgrade to a 200 mm rotor at the rear. The SRAM GX Eagle drivetrain is proven and the in-house Nukeproof components look good and fit the bike perfectly in terms of functionally. The only problem was the rear wheel: hitting berms hard would simply rip the tire off the rim despite running the correct pressure.
Nukeproof Mega 290 Alloy Pro
Fork RockShox Lyrik Select+ 170 mm
Rear Shock RockShox Super Deluxe Select+ 160 mm
Seatpost Brand X Ascend internal 170 mm
Brakes SRAM Guide RE 200/180 mm
Drivetrain SRAM GX Eagle 30/10-52
Stem Nukeproof Neutron AM 45 mm
Handlebar Nukeproof Horizon V2 800 mm
Wheelset Nukeproof Neutron V2
Tires Michelin Wild Enduro GUM-X TS TLR 2.4"/2.4"
Size S M L XL XXL
Weight 15.46 kg
The geometry of new Mega – Select optimisations
In recent years, the Nukeproof Mega has proven to be one of the most balanced bikes on the market by far. However, this also made the bike a bit sluggish through tight sections. For the new season, Nukeproof have tried to remedy this, optimizing details of the geometry. The reach is well-chosen at 475 mm and the chainstays have become slightly shorter at 440 mm, though they’re still longer than most of the other bikes in the test. The bottom bracket drop is 30 mm and the head angle is a slack 64°. For even better climbing capabilities, the seat tube angle now sits at 78° in size large. At 440 mm, the seat tube isn’t excessively long and offers enough room for a long dropper post.
|Seat tube||380 mm||410 mm||440 mm||470 mm||500 mm|
|Top tube||568 mm||593 mm||639 mm||648 mm||657 mm|
|Head tube||100 mm||100 mm||120 mm||130 mm||140 mm|
|Chainstays||440 mm||440 mm||440 mm||440 mm||440 mm|
|BB Drop||30 mm||30 mm||30 mm||30 mm||30 mm|
|Radstand||1,197 mm||1,222 mm||1,251 mm||1,275 mm||1,300 mm|
|Reach||430 mm||455 mm||475 mm||495 mm||515 mm|
|Stack||621 mm||621 mm||639 mm||648 mm||657 mm|
The Mega 290 Alloy makes relaxed and comfortable work of any climb.
No, we’re not going to be using any superlatives here. Due to its weight, the Nukeproof Mega 290 Alloy isn’t a rocket uphill, but it’s a capable climber, nonetheless, stoically getting up every climb and providing a comfortable ride. The riding position is very central on the bike and the front wheel sticks to the ground no matter how steep the incline. This allows you to save energy as you don’t have to use your upper body to keep the front wheel planted. The chassis is efficient too, doesn’t wallow and we felt happy leaving the compression damping open. At the same time, the Mega 290 Alloy Pro offers an impressive amount of traction and comfort.
The moment you head downhill with the Nukeproof Mega 290, your brain goes into overdrive. This bike is so damn fast that trees and rocks will fly past with so much more speed than you’re used to. Corners come at you quicker and you’ll have to hit the brakes sooner. Left, right, left, right. Your brain whirrs and your body reacts intuitively.
Always in control – That’s the motto of the Mega 290
It’s unbelievable how easy it is to set new personal bests with this bike and pull away from your buddies. This is due, in large part, to the incredible suspension of the Mega. The rear end sensitively absorbs bumps while soaking up the biggest hits with ease. No matter what you throw at it, the Mega always gives you the impression that it can take even more. The bike is incredibly calm and composed, allowing the rider to put all their focus on what lies ahead. In turn, the bike responds to rider input directly and it remains balanced doing so. You don’t have to throw your weight around on the bike and your centre of gravity always remains where it should be. At the same time, the new Nukeproof Mega is more agile than its predecessor in tight sections and does a better job of carrying speed. So what didn’t we like? The Mega is a lot of bike when you’re riding flat trails and feels a bit clumsier than the Rocky Mountain or the Specialized Stumpjumper Evo.
How does the Nukeproof Mega 290 Alloy compare to the competition?
Despite its low price, the Mega 290 Alloy is one of the best bikes in the test. It can take on any bike on demanding descents where it offers tons of control. It stays even calmer through the roughest terrain than the Rocky Mountain Altitude, though it offers a little less feedback from the ground when you pump it and is a bit more boring on easy trails. That lack of all-round capabilities ultimately cost it the Best in Test badge. In comparison, the Stumpjumper Evo feels much more light-footed, especially on long rides with a lot of pedalling.
Tuning tips: 200 mm brake rotor at the rear | CushCore inserts and an extra layer of tubeless tape for a better fit of the rear tire
Our jaws still drop when we think about how fast we flew down the trails aboard the Nukeproof Mega 290 Alloy Pro! This bike pushes your limits without you even trying. The suspension of the Mega 290 is unrivalled, offering incredible reserves and, together with the balanced geometry, provides full control. Anyone looking for the ultimate race bike will find it here. However, this bike is not made for easy, flat trails.
- the suspension is indescribably good
- balanced, quick and easy to control
- very quiet
- small weaknesses in the components
- too much bike for easy, flat trails
- details of the aluminium frame look rudimentary
You can find out more about at nukeproof.com
The test field
For an overview of the test fleet head to the group test: The best enduro bike 2021 – 13 models in review
All bikes in test: Canyon Strive CFR (Click for review) | COMMENCAL Meta AM 29 Öhlins (Click for review) | GIANT Reign Advanced Pro 0 (Click for review) | Ibis Ripmo V2 (Click for review) | Nukeproof Mega 290 Alloy Pro | Propain Spindrift CF Mix Custom (Click for review) | Rocky Mountain Altitude Carbon 90 Rally Edition (Click for review) | Santa Cruz Megatower CC X01 Coil RSV (Click for review) | Santa Cruz Nomad CC X01 RSV (Click for review) | Specialized Enduro Expert (Click for review) | Specialized S-Works Stumpjumper EVO (Click for review) | Transition Sentinel XT (Click for review) | Trek Slash 9.8 XT (Click for review)
This scale indicates how efficiently the bike climbs. It refers to both simple and technical climbs. Along with the suspension, the riding position and the weight of the bike all play a crucial role.↩
How does the bike ride and descend? How spritely is the bike, how agile is it through corners, how much fun is it in tight sections and how quickly can it change direction?↩
Is the bike stable at high speeds? Is it easy to stay in control in demanding terrain? How composed is it on rough trails? Stability is a combination of balanced geometry, good suspension and the right spec.↩
This is all about how balanced the bike is and particularly about how well it corners. Balanced bikes require little physical effort from the rider and are very predictable. If a bike is unbalanced, the rider has to work hard to weight the front wheel to generate enough grip. However, experienced riders can have a lot of fun even with unbalanced bikes.↩
How sensitive is the suspension over small bumps? Can it absorb hard impacts and does it soak up repeated hits? Plush suspension not only provides comfort and makes a bike more capable, but it also generates traction. The rating includes the fork and the rear suspension.↩
This aspect mainly comes down to the suspension. How much pop does it have, does it suck up the rider’s input or is it supportive, and how agile and direct is the bike?↩
We don’t calculate value for money in an excel spreadsheet or based on how high-end a bike is specced. We are more concerned with how a bike performs on the trail and how the bike benefits the rider. What good are the best components if the bike doesn’t perform well on the trail? Expensive bikes with a lower-end spec can offer very good value for money – provided they excel where it matters. Just as supposedly cheap bikes with good components can get a bad rating if they don’t deliver on the trail.↩
No, it’s not about racing, it’s about efficiency. Fast, fleet-footed and efficient – those who want to speed along flowy singletrack and gravel roads need a defined and spritely bike that accelerates with ease and efficiency. Nevertheless, reliable components are important too. We interpret XC more like the Americans do: big back-country rides instead of a marathon or XC World Cup with the ultimate in lightweight construction! Uphill-downhill ratio: 80:30 (not everything has to be 100%!)↩
...also known as mountain biking. Classic singletrack with roots, rocks and ledges – sometimes flowy, sometimes rough. For this, you need a bike with good all-round qualities, whether climbing or descending. Uphill-downhill ratio: 50:50↩
Even more extreme and challenging compared to Trail riding, riddled with every kind of obstacle: jumps, gaps, nasty rock gardens, ruts and roots. For this, you need (race)proven equipment that forgives mistakes and wouldn’t look out of place on a stage of the Enduro World Series. Climbing is just a means to an end. Uphill-downhill ratio: 30:70↩
Strictly speaking, a 200 mm travel downhill bike is the best choice for merciless tracks with big jumps, drops and the roughest terrain. Those would be the black or double-black-diamond tracks in a bike park. But as some of the EWS pros (including Sam Hill) have proven, it’s the riding skills and not the bike that define what you can ride with it. Climbing? On foot or with a shuttle, please! Uphill-downhill ratio: 10:90↩
Words: Christoph Bayer Photos: Christoph Bayer, Valentin Rühl, Markus Frühmann