Issue #114 of Singletrack Magazine, we reviewed three bikes as part of our Killer Hardtail group test
For those with a few more laps around the sun under their belt, the Nukeproof name will always be associated with trick hyper-light hubs made from carbon fibre and aluminium. The Michigan-based brand enjoyed significant commercial success during the mountain bike boom of the ’90s, though like many other niche component brands at the time, Nukeproof suffered the same fate when the bubble burst not long after.
After it was bought by Chain Reaction Cycles, the Nukeproof brand was reinvigorated and relaunched in 2007, first with titanium shock springs, then 800mm wide riser bars that were relatively uncommon at the time. That range has expanded significantly over the past decade to now include pedals, stems, dropper posts and complete wheelsets – all built tough and priced reasonably too.
Nukeproof still makes all of that stuff, but these days it’s earning more recognition for complete bikes, most notably the Mega – one of the original enduro race bikes to hit the mass market. And thanks to UK mountain biking legend Nigel Page and a rather fast bloke by the name of Sam Hill, Nukeproof’s reputation in the downhill and enduro race scenes has blossomed over the past decade.
As well as the Mega, the brand’s growing bike range now includes downhill bikes, cyclocross bikes, and hardtails. The Scout is Nukeproof’s ‘do it all’ hardtail. Like the Mega, the Scout is available in both 27.5in and 29in versions, both of which are built around chunky alloy frames and heavy-duty components.
The Scout 290 (290 = 29in wheels) is available in two different build options: the Race (£1,099), and the Comp (£1,599). Each model is available in four sizes from Small through to X-Large, and you can also buy it as a frame-only for £349.
The immediate impression you get from looking at the Scout 290 Race is that this bike is ready to take a punishing. Using large-profile hydroformed T6 6061 alloy tubes that are welded together with the addition of flares and braces, the Scout is a tough-looking rig. A fat tapered headtube, big box-section stays and stocky dropouts indicate that weight and compliance has taken a backseat, while brute strength rides shotgun. Combined with the heavily sloping top tube and short seat tube, the Scout certainly won’t feel out of place sat atop the run-in at the dirt jumps.
To match the brawniness of the frame, Nukeproof has specced the Scout with solid WTB SX23 rims that are built with a full complement of 32 spokes and brass nipples per wheel in a 3x lacing pattern. Nice and easy to replace a spoke when you bust one after casing a landing. The rims come pre-taped for tubeless setup, and the Maxxis EXO tyres are tubeless ready, so all you’ll need is a pair of tubeless valves and some sealant to drop 400g of mass out of the wheels off the bat.
Whereas the Scout 275 is designed for 140mm travel forks, the Scout 290 uses a 130mm travel fork. In the case of the Race model, it’s a Manitou Minute that comes colour-matched to the frame. It’s air adjustable with external rebound and compression dials via the Absolute Plus damper, and it uses a 15mm tooled axle.
Geometry on the Scout 290 Race is as progressive as it gets for a hardtail knocking on the £1k door. Drawing from the alpine-capable Mega, the Scout uses a similarly slack 66° head angle to keep the steering steady when pointing the bike down very steep things. The bottom bracket also sits nicely low at 65mm below the hub axle line, so watch out for those pedal-catching moments when spinning through narrow rock gullies.
Elsewhere the numbers are more modest. The reach isn’t massively long at 420mm on our Medium test bike (440mm Large, 455mm XL), and the 73° seat tube angle is pretty relaxed. Likewise, the chainstays sit at a middling 440mm length.
The rest of the Scout 290 frame has been designed to be as versatile as possible to reduce headaches when it comes time for upgrades or repairs. The frame is front derailleur compatible, and there’s the option to fit a chain device via the ISCG 05 tabs. The bottom bracket is the good ol’ threaded type, and Nukeproof has kept all cabling external, except for the option of running a stealth dropper post.
Our test bike arrived at Singletrack Towers already set up tubeless, dropping its complete weight to 12.7kg (27.94 lbs).
With the shortest reach on test, the Scout feels a touch cramped if you’re used to nouveau enduro bikes. On the flipside, the upright riding position is comfortable and gives the Scout a more manageable feel for lifting up the front end – ideal for new riders or those who are making the transition from old-school 26in bikes.
Thanks to the stubby seat tube though, it’s easy to size up if you must have more reach. And at 175cm tall, I could easily ride a Large and still have gobs of standover clearance.
The cockpit itself is good, with the 760mm riser bars feeling spot on. The SRAM shifter offers positive action, but doesn’t mate well with the Shimano brake lever. The paddles end up too far away for my little thumbs, and flipping the shifter inboard puts the brake lever waaay out of reach. It isn’t a huge deal, but more adjustability would be nice.
We did have issues with the rear thru-axle perpetually loosening throughout testing, and no amount of excessive force was enough to get it to stay put, so keep an eye on that. The curved seat tube also limits how far you can slam the saddle down, so a hacksaw may be required to reappropriate the seatpost. I eventually caved in and fitted a dropper post halfway through the test period, which made a world of difference for getting the most out of the bike.
With sag set at 30%, the fork delivers a supple feel that’s impressive at this price point. However, even with the rebound set to the slowest position, return speed is still too quick, with an audible ‘clunk’ as the fork extends to full travel, emulating a loose-headset feel. Once on the trail, the Minute fork performs well under regular trail scenarios, though as speed and gradient increases, it becomes apparent that the fork chassis just isn’t stiff enough. Torsional stiffness is alright, but front-to-back it suffers from excessive flex due to lanky 32mm stanchions. Hit the front brake, and the Minute feels like a string of al dente pasta, tucking hard underneath the frame. It results in a vague feeling to the steering on rocky descents, and one that is at odds with the otherwise solid chassis.
We experimented by fitting a set of Fox 34s, and the difference was night and day. The Scout had more control, more steering precision and far greater composure under heavy braking and when approaching rollable features.
The frame itself gives you the impression that it’ll survive WWIII. Being so stiff, the alloy tubing delivers feedback straight through the pedals and grips, so you’ll know exactly what’s going on underneath each tyre – for good or bad. The high volume 29er tyres do well to absorb smaller trail debris though, and the versatile Maxxis treads deliver a good combo that’ll handle mixed conditions. There’s oodles of mud clearance, and room for up to 2.5in tyres.
Like other slack 29er hardtails, the Scout builds momentum the moment the trail turns downwards. It’s a surprisingly stable ride for a bike at this price point, with the big wheels rolling efficiently over rough terrain, giving you an edge over smaller-wheeled bikes the nastier the trail surface becomes. It also handles technical climbs surprisingly well, and while its weight means it’s more of a plugger than a sprinter, the snappy frame responds well under power.
Cornering is good, though the longer back-end and weighty wheelset does require a more vigorous approach on tight singletrack. Riding on overgrown natural trails with lots of surprise corners had me working the Scout hard to make each turn. When visibility improves, it’s much easier to prepare for each corner and get the wheels where you need them. Conversely, the Scout’s steady nature gives it great confidence when bombing at speed, with the low BB and long wheelbase offering loads of hard-charging stability.
The Scout 290 Race is a durable and well-built hardtail that that is well-specced for the price. The frame is upgrade ready, and it provides a solid starting point for new riders looking to build skills and increase confidence.
However, it’s so capable at gaining speed that the frame quickly outdoes the flexy Manitou forks and soft resin-pad-only Shimano brakes, which just aren’t equipped to deal with the rapid and violent impacts that the bike is so ready to take on. If you’ve got the budget, then step up to the Scout 290 Comp, where you’ll not only get a dropper seatpost, you’ll also get the excellent Yari fork too – two upgrades that the capable Scout 290 frame is gagging for.
2017 Nukeproof Scout 290 Race Specifications
- Frame // Custom Hydroformed T6 6061 Alloy
- Fork // Manitou Minute Comp, 130mm Travel
- Hubs // Novatec Alloy Disc, 100x15mm Front & 142x12mm Rear
- Rims // WTB SX23, Tubeless Ready
- Tyres // Maxxis High Roller II EXO 2.3in Front & Minion DHF EXO 2.3in Rear
- Chainset // SRAM NX 30t X-Sync
- Front Mech // N/A
- Rear Mech // SRAM NX 11-Speed
- Shifters // SRAM NX 11-Speed
- Cassette // SRAM PG-1130, 11-42t, 11-Speed
- Brakes // Shimano M447, 180mm Front & Rear
- Stem // Nukeproof Warhead Alloy, 50mm Long
- Bars // Nukeproof Warhead Alloy, 760mm Wide, 20mm Rise
- Grips // Nukeproof Element Lock-On
- Seatpost // Nukeproof Warhead, 31.6mm Diameter
- Saddle // Nukeproof Trail
- Size Tested // Medium
- Sizes available // Small, Medium, Large, X-Large
- Weight // 12.7kg (27.94 lbs)
|Product:||Scout 290 Race|
|Tested:||by Wil Barrett for 3 months|