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Nukeproof Giga Vs Mega Comparison 21

We pit the Nukeproof Mega 290 against the Giga 275 to see which one our Vital testers prefer.

Nukeproof Giga Vs Mega Comparison

In the not-so-distant past, riding a six- or seven-inch travel mountain bike meant you were taking a truck or lift to the top of the hill — or you were that lonely freerider damned to a life of pedaling your 41-pound bike up the nearest logging road.

 

This helps explain why the almost-a-DH-bike category languished for a few years, trapped between its huck-tastic past and its Enduro World Series future. But in the past few years, heavy hitting bikes have struck back, led by models like the Santa Cruz Megatower, the Specialized Enduro and the Canyon Torque. The segment remains a niche of the overall enduro market — not everyone’s local trails require nearly seven inches of wheel travel, after all — but the options are still abundant in the “hard enduro” grouping.

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To wit: The Nukeproof line today features multiple flavors in the category, including the two bikes in this comparison: the Giga 275 Factory, a 180mm-travel 27.5-wheeled machine, and the Mega 290 RS, a 170mm front- and 160mm rear-travel 29er.

How do you make sense of two machines that target the same narrow category with distinctly different formulas? Well, it has a lot to do with what you value in your rides, and maybe a little bit to do with how you perceive yourself. Let us explain.

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What’s new?

Before we tell you which bike is for you, here’s a bit on the latest evolutions of these two machines.

The Mega has been a staple of the Nukeproof line for years now, and the Mega 290 is the marquee’s flagship enduro race bike. How do we know that? Because Sam Hill races it. There is also the Mega 275 in Nukeproof’s line — more on that bike later — and this 27.5-inch wheeled machine used to be Nukeproof’s flagship race bike before Sam parked it for the 290.

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The 2021 Mega 290 received a significant redesign. It is predictably a touch slacker and roomier than its predecessor in places, with a 63.5-degree head angle and 475mm reach on our large test bike. (The 2020 model had a 64.5-degree head angle and 470mm reach.) The effective seat tube angle was also steepened for 2021 by 1.25 degrees, bringing it to a very contemporary 78 degrees on our size large.

While the suspension design bears similarities to the Mega before it, some tidying in the front triangle allowed Nukeproof to fit a water-bottle mount inside of it — something the previous Mega lacked. It also received the full-carbon treatment via a carbon rear triangle. Previous Megas ran an aluminum rear triangle.

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The Giga 275 is an all-new model for Nukeproof, and the big news is that the familiar suspension design of the Giga has been replaced with a design that removes the pivot nearest the rear axle and replaces it with an additional pivot in the shock linkage. The design is similar to that of Nukeproof’s Dissent DH bike. Elsewhere it mirrors much of the Mega 290’s geometry (63.5-degree head angle, 78-degree effective seat tube angle), though it does add 5mm to reach (480mm).

The Giga also comes with a flip chip in the main pivot that allows you to choose between two geometry modes, and an eccentric axle system that allows you to alter the rear suspension’s progressiveness. To keep things simple, we tested the bike in the stock settings.

Perhaps inspired by their ability to fit a water bottle in the Mega frame, Nukeproof practically designed the Giga’s frame around its water bottle mount. The downtube of the frame cradles your bottle as a mother would her child, and comes complete with a carbon-fiber, side-access bottle cage.

And yes, there is a Giga 290, too. It gives up 10mm of suspension travel in exchange for its 29-inch wheels.

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Build Kits

Nukeproof’s builds tend to offer excellent value, and these bikes are no exception. Though each model represents the higher end of Nukeproof’s pricing model — the Mega retails for $5,999.99 and the Giga checks in at $5,499.99 — the builds you get here would cost a lot more with a boutique frame attached to them.

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That’s not to say the builds are similar: The Mega comes with a complete SRAM X01 Eagle build, including a RockShox ZEB Ultimate fork, a Super Deluxe Ultimate rear shock and SRAM Code RSC brakes. The Giga comes with FOX suspension, specifically a 38 Float Factory fork and Float X2 Factory shock, and a Shimano XT drivetrain and brakes.

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Other differences include the wheelsets, with the Mega rolling on a special Sam Hill-edition Mavic Deemax Pro wheelset, while the Giga uses DT Swiss E1700 wheels. The seatposts also differ, as the Mega sticks with SRAM and its Reverb Stealth (175mm drop on the large frame), and our large Giga comes with a BikeYoke dropper that moves 185mm. Both bikes come with Michelin 2.4 Wild Enduro rubber front and rear.

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Build Process and Initial Impressions

Assembling a Nukeproof from its shipping box is a simple affair: If you can attach a set of handlebars and a set of wheels to your bike, you should be ready to ride within 20 minutes of the DHL driver dropping the box from Glasgow on your doorstep.

In person, both the Mega and Giga are beautifully built machines. Thoughtful touches like robust chain-slap guards, extensive clear frame protection and torque specifications printed directly on the pivots add to the elegance.

There was at least one out-of-the-box bug on these builds, however: The front XT brake on the Giga began exhibiting a spongy feel during its first two rides, and a closer inspection revealed a small amount of fluid leaking from the junction between the line and the lever body. A quick tightening of the nut (which was indeed slightly loose) and a bleed remedied the problem.

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Another possible build flaw appeared on the Mega early in the test when its Reverb seatpost stopped moving, and in one instance left me descending a tricky section of trail with my seat much too close for comfort. This was the second time the Reverb had failed in Vital’s time with it, and the remote bleed applied to fix the first failure was no match for this particular Reverb’s shortcomings.

But this seemed less an indictment of the Nukeproof build process than of this particular post itself. It was subsequently retired, and SRAM supplied us with a warranty Reverb to complete the test, just as they would with any customer.

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Ride impressions: Strengths

Enough about the parts. How do these bikes behave on the trail?

To begin, these are both excellent bicycles for their intended purpose. I rode these throughout the winter in the Sierra Nevada foothills and found them to be absolutely stellar machines relative to the formidable competition in this category. I struggled to find their limits on the steep, loose DH shuttles in our area, but also found them well-behaved enough for routes with considerable climbing and mellower descents.

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Based on pricing alone, it would be easy to be tricked into thinking that Nukeproof is a “value” brand whose frames lack the performance and refinement of the brands favored by dentists. Don’t believe it. The Enduro World Series results of the Nukeproof race team speak for themselves, and these bikes deliver on their race pedigree when you swing a leg over them.

Here are some of the positive traits these bikes share:

Geometry. Both bikes do an excellent job of embracing modern geometry (slack head angles, steep seat tube angles, generous amounts of reach) without crossing ever over into the “experimental” category and its inevitable compromises. Consequently, the handling here is crisp and predictable from the first run. If you’re looking for something akin to a van, look elsewhere.

Ergonomics. The bars and seat on both bikes are Nukeproof-branded — something spec snobs sometimes frown upon. It doesn’t matter; they all felt comfortable to me from the start.

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Suspension. Nukeproof has clearly invested in recent years in matching its suspension design to the valving on the shocks it specs, and it shows. The rear wheel tracks the ground very well on both bikes, and I couldn’t find fault with either the RockShox ZEB or the FOX 38 forks. Even some wild twisting of the dials on these components (don’t ask how it happened) wasn’t enough to truly upset either bike.

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Tires. The Michelin Wild Enduro tires worked just fine on the hard-over-loose dirt in this test. I did, however, find myself checking PSI before every ride, as pressures below 26 PSI seemed to invite some instability under hard cornering.

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Drivetrains. It doesn’t matter whether you like Coke or Pepsi, Apple or Android. The SRAM X01 Eagle and Shimano XT drivetrains are workhorses that you don’t need to think about, lest you’re looking for a fight with a brand loyalist from the other side.

Climbing ability. This category came to a draw in the end — both bikes climb well for the category — but it’s worth noting that the Giga scored points for its virtually nonexistent suspension movement on smooth climbs, which helped close the gap to the Mega when the terrain became rolling. The Mega climbs well too, and its 29-inch wheels preserve precious forward momentum in lots of climbing situations, but the FOX shock on the Giga seemed to provide a slightly firmer platform for pedaling relative to the Mega’s Super Deluxe.

Overall build thoughtfulness. Outside of a couple parts noted below, it’s hard to fault the builds on these bikes, and it’s very hard to fault them at these price points. It’s pretty clear that the people who spec these bikes have put in some hours in the saddle.

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Ride impressions: Weaknesses

The annoyances we suffered while riding these bikes were few and far between overall. But here are some shortcomings that were specific to one of the bikes:

RockShox Reverb seatpost (Mega). No one likes dropper post failures, and the two failures we suffered within months on the Mega is unacceptable considering the number of trouble-free dropper posts available today. In contrast, the Giga’s BikeYoke post didn’t miss a beat in this test.

SRAM Code RSC brakes (Mega). It’s not truly fair to put these brakes on the weaknesses list, as they performed fine during the test. But it’s hard not to notice their lack of power relative to the XTs on the Mega, particularly when you need to stop in a hurry.

Rear hub weirdness (Giga). This happened only on the last test ride, but the DT Swiss rear hub exhibited some odd behavior under hard pedaling that was difficult to replicate, but a little unsettling regardless. We aren’t convinced we’ve seen the last of it. The wheelset performed well otherwise, but the Mega’s Mavic set-up was completely trouble-free.

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Suspension noise while climbing (Giga). Yes, the FOX shock did its core job (soaking up bumps) pretty flawlessly in this test. But when climbing it also sometimes made an odd squishing/sucking sound that was hard to pinpoint and slightly irritating.

A lack of playfulness (Mega). While the Giga responds well to requests for pop, especially considering how much travel it has on tap, the Mega’s nature is slightly more akin to that of a hunting dog: It has a job to do, and that job is aided by keeping its nose to the ground. Sure, it will loft just fine if you ask nicely, but it doesn’t spring from the earth as other bikes will, including the Giga. This trait was particularly noticeable on flatter descents, which is where playfulness can come in handy to prevent boredom.

In terms of shared shortcomings, I had to be a little imaginative to come up with things here. I don’t think either of them aspires to be the lightest in category, despite their new full-carbon frames. I didn’t find their weight burdensome in any situation, but there’s no hiding the fact that there are lighter builds out there, even in this category, that will appeal to those who fetishize being first to the top.

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Final thoughts/how to choose

But none of this necessarily tells you which bikes you should pick, does it? The good news here is that you can only go so wrong: When it came time to pick one of these bikes for a given ride, I was often at a loss: They both offer an incredibly composed and enjoyable ride experience, and I sometimes picked simply by choosing the bike opposite the one I’d ridden last. While the bikes do have differences, they share many strains of the same Nukeproof DNA, and it is a very good DNA.

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Speaking of Nukeproof DNA, it’s worth noting here that if you own a previous generation of Mega, as I do — a 2019 Mega 275 Carbon — it is unlikely that these new Nukeproofs will render your current ride obsolete. While I liked the new angles and the increased bottle capacity the 2021s bring, the previous Megas are great bikes in their own right, and these latest models represent more in the way of refinement than revolution. Unless your current Nukeproof is truly clapped, there’s a case to be made for simply throwing a new set of rubber on it and charging into the spring.

But if you decide a new Nukeproof is for you, which bike you choose here should ultimately come down to what you value in your rides. If you want a bike that turns down the volume at speed and travels in a straight line like none other, there’s a case to be made for the Mega 290. I often found myself turning good times on segments of trail without really noticing it while on the Mega. Riding the Mega at speed is like drinking one and a half beers at a party where you don’t know anyone: You won’t be immune to discomfort, but it takes the edge off in a way that makes life more enjoyable.

In other words, you should consider a Mega if you are among any of these personas:

  • Your only MTB goals are climbing atop podiums or becoming a GPS-racing legend. 
  • Your friends are much faster than you and you need every extra bit of security you can get to ride at their pace.
  • You don’t have time for whips and schralps and you never intend to, but you still want to ride heavy terrain.

Conversely, if you find delight in scrubs, schralps and whips, but also appreciate the ability to go very fast when the situation calls for it, the Giga 275 is unlikely to let you down. I compared times between the two bikes on different segments and found the times were virtually equal in most situations. The Giga might have felt ever-so-slightly more on edge when pushing, but it was a negligible difference, one that’s probably proportionate to the percentage difference between 29 and 27.5 (5.1724%, but who’s counting).

And you should consider a Giga if you see yourself in any of these descriptions:

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You appreciate the ability to cut inside of your friends in corners at a moment’s notice.
  • You wish to protest the unblinking march the mountain bike industry is making toward 29-inch wheels today.
  • You enjoy fast, but it’s not the only marker of riding prowess you subscribe to.

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Where the Giga shined was everywhere else. That 5% reduction in wheel size makes the Giga a joy to flip around turns, throw sideways in the air and chase sneaky, surgical lines that you might miss on the Mega 290. On certain types of tracks, those freedoms might even make you faster as well.

We know where we stand here, but it’s up to you to decide on your place. In the meantime, watch out for us on those insides.


About The Reviewer

Robert Beaupre - Age: 39 // Years Riding MTB: 12 // Height: 5'11" (1.8m) // Weight: 158 pounds (71.6kg)

Robert began riding motocross bikes when he was 5, and raced for several years as a local pro in Nevada and California. He mostly avoided mountain bikes until he was 27, because long stems and skinny tires made these machines unattractive relative to a CRF450R. He jumped on the bandwagon once these bugs were worked out, however, and later achieved modest success as a Category 1 and Vet Pro downhill racer. Today he most enjoys attempting novel lines on fast and loose Sierra Nevada trails, sneaking in moto sessions when the ground is wet and dirt jumping with his many daughters.   

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