2020 Nukeproof Mega 290 First Ride
Updated: Apr 23, 2020
So after a bit of waiting and some compromise on a fork we finally got our Mega 290 built up. The Mega has been a bike I have been eyeing for a few years but as a bigger bike the pro reviews had me shy away from previous versions. I read a bit about the bike not being as stable at speed and not as plush as other bikes in the category. Well for 2020 the Nukeproof company did some tweaks to the rear suspension to make it more supple as well as stretched it out a bit. All good news to me as I was ready to move on from my Ibis HD4 and wanted something that could handle some rowdy trails where my 2020 Orbea Occam was struggling.
We decided on building from the frame only version for a couple reasons. The RS carbon build was out of stock as were all the other carbon models across the 290 range. That and I have had great luck building up bikes saving money by researching parts as well as getting a build that I wanted. We were lucky enough to snag a one of the last large frames in stock and away we went.....to wait for parts to roll in.
We set the rear sag to 30% and front to around 24%. Still dialing in the front and rear suspension but to be honest I am not super finicky with my setups. At 5'11.5" with 31.5" inseam the large felt pretty good. Compared to the 2020 large Occam the Mega felt more roomy but not too big.
It had just rained pretty hard the day before so trails were a bit muddy on the climbing sections. Most of the climbs on this loop are mostly straight up with rocks and small streams when wet. Mud doesn't get very deep but enough to keep things interesting.
Climbing up the steeper sections was no issue and the Mega had no problem finding traction. The steep seat angle was amazing when climbing and I didn't feel much more effort aside from being a big enduro bike. Being so long with 1256mm wheelbase does not make it a bike that is easy to put in it's place on the climbs. I felt more like "hey, I'm going up this way so watch out". Again, on this loop the climbs don't require much traversing so this was not much issue. There is a 3/4 mile paved road climb out of the bottom of our loop that is as steep as you ever want to ride and is a real chore to get out of. I am not a climber but I paced a rider that was on a hard-tail out of the trail. This climb of loop is something I usually only do once as this steep climb is taxing......I did it twice and was attempting a third only to lose out to a tire failure.
I will say that on the climbs this bike surprised me just on how well it was able to get up without being a sag fest of pedal bob.
Our test loop has a bit of everything which is why I love it so much. The first trail consists of mostly smooth, berms, a little air time, and a couple drops. This trail is where I felt I was on too much bike. The Mega is long slack and plush so changing directions quickly and trying to pop around the trails is where I felt like I had to push it around with more commitment. This is a trial where the Occam really loved to play and zip through the turns and pop of the small jumps. I wouldn't knock the Mega for this as I don't think this is what it was designed for.
The second trail on this loop has some loose steep hair pin turns and you can pick up so good speed and find some chunky turns. The Mega was great here aside from the sharp turns. Some of the steeper chute sections I found my self hoping off the top where normally I would pump down to get more speed. The Mega felt very stable at speed and with the long wheel base I feet like I was safe in it's clutches.
The last trail has become my favorite....but not so long ago I would only ride it if I was with someone else as it is very rough. This trail is a black diamond trial in OHV (dirt bike) park. I liken it to an old creek bed with rocks, boulders, and scary stuff. I had previously had my best time on this trail aboard the Occam smashing my record by 14 seconds (this trail is just over 1/4 of a mile). On my second trip down this trail the Mega bested this time by 4 seconds. This is what the Mega was built for....going fast with it's middle finger up hitting the gnarliest trails you can find. The bike absorbed all the boulders and fast hits with no issue. I felt as if this trail had been groomed a bit since the Mega gobbled the hits up. At the end of the trail each time I was sure that I made the right choice.
Drive train was one of the main reasons that I wanted to do a custom build. With the new Shimano XT 12 speed drive train out what better time than to try it on a new build. I've been a SRAM drive train loyalist but the great reviews on the new Shimano 12 speed was enough to try Shimano again. My last Shimano experience was with a 11 speed drive train with E13 cassette. I will say that the new Shimano group is amazing with crisp shifts and quiet rear derailleur. The shifting under load is one of the highlights and I would say that it was nice but not overly noticeable.
Our custom built wheel set performed flawlessly without any damage. The rear Bitex hub is quite a bit quieter than previous hubs in the same model but may get louder with time.
I had forgotten how powerful the Magura MT5 brakes are as we usually run MT Trail Sports. The MT5s are amazing and never experienced fade or bite point wonder. The rear lever cracked and broke which is something that has never happened in the 10 sets of Magura brakes I've owned which was surprising. Reaching out to Magura with the issue they sent out a replacement without any fuss. I would bet that this is a very rare case and I will continue to use Magura.
The E13 tires were something I had not run before. The MoPo Trail front tire and LG1 Enduro Race rear tire weren't something I thought about on the ride which is a good thing. That was until I suffered a tear in the rear which wouldn't seal. When inspecting after the ride there was a large tear on the inside of the tire but a small hole on the exterior. Being a tougher tire and suffering this tear on a section of trail that is pretty smooth had me concerned for the durability of this tire. Also when washing the bike I found a small thorn in the front MoPo tire that also seemed like it wouldn't seal. I reached out to E13 and they took care of the issue. I will give them a go again and report back any issues.
The Suntour Durolux 36 RC2 fork was another item I had no experience with. Aside from seeing their forks on WalMart bikes I knew little about them nor would I have ever considered them if it wasn't for their demo program. Again, I am not super picky when it comes to front suspension. That said I have ridden the likes of BOS DeVille, MRP Ribbon Air, Manitou Mattoc, and most recently the Fox 34 Performance on our Occam. All that said I found the Durolux to perform quite well on the first ride. The fork absorbed all the chunk and felt good with successive hits. I was achieving around 85% of travel which was around where I usually am on these trails but I do run my suspension on the plush side. I had the HSC at 1 and LSC at 4 from fully closed. I started with the rebound at half way open then moved to 9 clicks from fully closed. On the more closed end of the rebound setting this fork is by far the loudest I've ever heard.
So for a first ride I came away pretty pleased and anticipate that growing into impressed. The bike climbed well and went down like a champ. I am excited to get this thing back on the trail and report back with a long term review before I sell it. Check out our YouTube video as well HERE.