2020 Nukeproof Mega 290 Long Term Review
The Mega has been on my radar for the last few years due to it's ample travel and great silhouette. It is offered in both aluminum builds as well as carbon/aluminum complete builds and frame only. The Mega comes in either 27.5 or 29er models. You can check out the various offerings here.
Nukeproof is a brand mainly sold through Chain Reaction Cycles over seas and seems to be gaining some popularity here in the States. Their cost to value is good although I have noticed the prices creeping up as their popularity increases. I finally went with the Mega after reading that Nukeproof tweaked the geometry and more importantly for me increased small bump sensitivity on 2020 models. I read in a few reviews in the past the the Mega wasn't as supple at speed as other bikes in this category. Wanting a bike that I will be hitting chunk at speed as well as taking it out to the DH park I was ready to give it a go.
At 5'11.5" with 31.5" inseam I went with a size Large per the usual and fit feels right. This is a long and slack bike so you sit comfortably "in" the bike likely due to the long wheelbase. I bought the frame and you can see HERE on our build kit for this bike. Rear sag is just over 25% and front is around the same. I have 1 volume spacer in the rear and currently riding close to the recommended setting for the Manitou Mezzer we have on the front.
For being such a big bike I wasn't expecting much in the climbing department. Unlike 10 years ago where a big bike like this would be a shuttle only rig, bike companies are focusing on climbing ability a lot more. I feel like Nukeproof did a great job in this area. My most recent bikes I have owned were the Ibis HD4 and 2020 Orbea Occam H20, the latter being one of the best climbing bikes I have ridden. My local trails consist of some long fire road, steep paved road, and short punchy semi-techy climbs. The Mega surprised me with how well it climbed for a big bike. Now it doesn't have the snappiness of the Occam when you mash on the pedals but it is happy to just grind up any climb it put in front of it. I am a seated climber and didn't notice much bob when grinding up in the open setting on the rear shock. The more I rode the bike the more it surprised my that this big bike climbs great. The steep seat tube angle felt good and kept me upright even though it is a touch slacker than the Occam's 77°. I also rarely felt the front end wonder on the climbs even when grunting up steep rocky sections. Yes it is going to wonder more so than a bike with a steeper head tube angle but it never really occurred to me on climbs so that's a big plus. Going from a 170mm to 180mm fork I did notice a tiny bit "flop" in the front but again nothing that was much of an issue. With such a long wheelbase I also had no issue with the traction, in fact this bike rarely if ever got loose on climbs. I did find that when locking out the rear shock on anything that wasn't a smooth road climb made the rear feel notchy or even a springy feeling from the rear. I suspect that the lockout quickens the rebound a bit too much. It was an odd feeling that I have never experienced before so I have been leaving the rear open anywhere that I am on dirt and have been happy. Again, a testament to how this bike climbs as if there is a switch to flip on the climbs I go for it. The Mega is happy to grind up in open mode without much fuss.
So obviously this bike is mad to smash the downs so how does it fair? Like a rottweiler being walked by a 5 year old. It wants to go and go fast now. The slack head tube and long wheel base really inspires confidence and I felt like the bike was pushing me to go much faster than sometimes I was comfortable with. I initially thought the bike was slower than my Orbea Occam on the smooth, bermed, poppy trails. Well after getting antiquated with the Mega I ended up beating my fastest time on that trial which was previously held by the Occam. Now it is not a poppy or energetic trail bike that you can just throw around easily but it will get going in a hurry. When corners get tight is where it takes a bit more work to get around them with that long wheel base. On trails with steep fast sections it again just wants to go fast and gobble up any little hit in it's way. Drops? YUP! Hit them fast and hard and the rear will smile proudly with plenty of support and several milometers from bottom out.
So who is this bike for? The more I ride this bike the more I feel the broader the field gets. It doesn't out climb our Occam but it has seemed to shame our 2020 Marin Rift Zone 3 in this subject. Most experienced riders could rock this as a one bike and not give up much on the lighter side of riding (if poppy twisty isn't high priority). It will destroy any rock in your way and take pretty much whatever you throw at it with the sacrifice being that it will mute the smoother trails. All in all the Mega 290c has been impressive.