2020 Nukeproof Reactor First Ride Review

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Ross throws a leg over the 2020 Nukeproor Reactor then throws it down the nearest rut infested trail to see how it rides.

Today sees the launch of the brand spanking new Nukeproof Reactor, a mid-travel, do-it-all, trail bike that fills the gap in the Nukeproof range that has been there since the demise of the Mega TR.   The Reactor takes its name from the 1996 hardtail trail frame – but that’s where the similarities end.

While the Nukeproof Reactor has been designed as a one-bike-to-do-it-all trail bike, when you look at the angles and build there’s definitely an underlying intention there 

nukeproof reactor first ride review
The all new Reactor

The Reactor is Nukeproof’s first full carbon frame, i.e both the front and rear of the bike are made of the black wonder material and is available in both 27.5, and 29inwheel options. Nukeproof are also offering an aluminum frame option, again available with 27.5 or 29in wheels, and featuring carbon seat stays to help reduce unsprung weight.

Nukeproof has spent a lot of R&D time on the suspension of the Reactor, its  aim to create a trail bike that can be easily – and happily – pedalled all day, while still being more than capable enough to point it down any trail you like, or chuck it on a trailer for a day of uplift and bike park ripping. 

nukeproof reactor first ride review

Nukeproof reactor Frame

Available from mid-October, there will be two alloy full build options along with four carbon models to choose from, plus frame only options in both carbon and alloy. Full bike pricing will range from £2,749.99 up to £5,399.99 for the top end RS model that we’ve had on test. Frame only price is going to be £1,899.99 and £2,499.99 for the alloy and carbon respectively.

As you’d imagine from a top-end model, the RS features a full carbon UD frame. This bike being the 27.5 wheeled version, rear travel is 140mm delivered via a swinglink driven four-bar Horst suspension system. 

nukeproof reactor first ride review
Swinglink driven 4 bar Horst link

The frame features molded rubber protectors on the downtube, chainstays and seat stays to protect the frame from chain slap and from rock strikes while keeping it quiet too.

Cable routing on the Reactor is a fully internal affair with hoses entering through neatly molded ports by the head tube and exiting through a bolt-on port cover just in front of the BB shell. Look under the top tube, you’ll even find Nukeproof has included routing for a remote shock too.

Other key points on the frame include a threaded bottom bracket and downtube bottle mounts with enough room for a full-size 750mm bottle.

The Nukeproof Reactor’s suspension has been designed to give a high amount of anti-squat in lower gears to give good pedaling characteristics, yet lower anti-squat in lower gears to increase suspension performance when descending and increase small bump sensitivity. The suspension has also been designed to have an overall progressive rate to give good mid stroke support for hard cornering and pumping the trail with a progressive ramp at the end of the stroke for aggressive riding and bottom out resistance.

Nukeproof Reactor Geometry

Geometry for the Reactor is pretty much on trend for what you’d expect from a modern, fun trail bike. Our size large test bike features a roomy 482.5mm reach coupled with short 430mm chainstays keeping things nice and nimble.

With our bike being the RS model, it comes fitted with a 160mm fork which is 10mm more than lower equipped models in the range. This additional 10mm pushes the head angle out to 65.5°, while the seat angle is at a decently steep 75.1° degrees. The 27.5in wheeled version will be available in sizes small through to X-large, while the 29in model will be available in medium through to X-large.  

nukeproof reactor first ride review
Nukeproof Reactor RS geometry

Nukeproof’s goal with the Reactor was to design a bike that was happy to be ridden anywhere and everywhere – up and down – a real UK aggro trail bike.

To aid the ‘jack of all trades with aggro intentions’ ethos, the Reactor comes with two settings – trail and rail – adjusted by swapping round a flip chip with a 6mm Allen.  Trail mode, as the name suggests, is for day to day trail riding, where you’ll be climbing as much as descending.

Flip the chip though and you’re in rail mode. Designed for additional descending capabilities, trail mode gets you an extra 0.5° off the head angle and drops the BB an additional 6mm, making it ideal for those days where playing in the woods and smashing turns and ruts is more important than big days out, or bike park uplifting where pedal clearance isn’t top of the list of priorities.  

nukeproof reactor first ride review
Fun or funner…

Components

As you’d expect from the flagship model, the RS comes dripping with top drawer components that leave little to be desired. Upfront is a stout chassis RockShox Lyrik Ultimate delivering 160mm of controlled travel while keeping things in check outback is a matching metric sized 210 x 55mm custom-tuned RockShox Super Deluxe Ultimate shock.

RockShox is also on board for the seatpost with the large Reactor RS coming fitted with a 170mm drop, internally routed Reverb 1x. 

SRAM is in charge of stop and go with a full X01 Eagle drivetrain giving a massive 500% gear range for big days out, paired with an X1 Carbon DUB crankset for putting the power down.  Once gravity takes over and things start pointing down there’s a set of powerful 4 piston Code RSC brakes to reign things in when they start to get a bit lairy.

The Reactor rolls on a set of tough Mavic Deemax DH wheels, shod with aggressive rubber from Maxxis – an Assegai 27.5 x 2.5 WT upfront and a Minion DHR II WT outback, further showing the bike’s intentions a burly little trail bruiser.

Contact points are all taken care of by Nukeproofs own brand components.  While speccing own brand parts might be seen as a cost-cutting exercise on some bikes, Nukeproof have steadily grown their component range and they’re now a common sight out on trails as aftermarket upgrades.  The RS comes built up with a Horizon saddle, Horizon 50mm stem and a set of Horizon 780mm carbon bars. Contact points are rounded out with a set of Sam Hill signature grips.  

Nukeproor Reactor: The Ride

Getting the Reactor set up and ready to ride and was nice and simple.  Using the RockShox Trailhead app, you just enter the serial number off your fork / shock and it gives you suggested settings to work from, and then just adjust as required.  The fork and shock aren’t overly complicated either, with just rebound to set on the shock, and rebound and low-speed compression on fork.  

nukeproof reactor first ride review
The reactor climbs well

Jumping on the Reactor and getting riding, the reasonably steep seat angle and roomy top tube give a comfortable position for sitting and spinning along. I started the test off with the bike in trail mode which is designed for all-round, day to day riding.

In trail setting, the bike pedals and climbs well, with the high anti-squat in lower gears being quite noticeable and keeping the suspension nice and firm for winching up climbs.

When things start to get steeper and techier, the Reactor does a good job of clawing its way up climbs.  The long front centre helps you keep weight over the front to stop it wandering or lifting and the Eagle groupset, combined with the grippy Maxxis tyres, let you winch your way up steep nasty climbs. The firm pedaling platform and stiff carbon cranks help to get power down when needed, with just shifts in body weight to keep the back end gripping and the front end planted.

nukeproof reactor first ride review
The poppy suspension encourages you to look for trail features

Descending

Once the trail starts to flow a bit more the Reactor comes alive. Drop down the block, get a couple of cranks in and the Reactor quickly gets up to speed. The suspension has a supple feel to it and does a great job of smoothing out smaller frequency trail chatter, while still feeling supportive in the mid-stroke for pumping the trail. The short back end and supportive suspension encourage you to hop over rocks and roots in the trail and look for gaps and jumps. 

Gentler, more flowing trails are fun and engaging, a feeling that can become lost on some of the new breed of ‘long, low, slack’ bikes. With the Reactor though, contouring singletrack feels fun and engaging, aided by the responsiveness of the steering and poppy suspension. 

nukeproof reactor first ride review
The Reactor is a proper fun trail bike

On fast rough trails the combination of big chunky fork and sorted rear suspension, coupled with the stiff wheels and aggressive tyres let you pick a line and stick with it. The fork tracks superbly over rough ground with no flex and holds a line through chunky rough tracks. And while it’s certainly no big travel plough machine, the Reactor is more than competent on fast and rough tracks while still feeling engaging and playful. The rear end delivers the 140mm of travel in a measured way and gives plenty of support on fast rough hits, with no harsh bottom outs. And when you do get yourself into a situation, the Code brakes offer next-level stopping to bring things back under control.

nukeproof reactor first ride review
Composed on steep, rutty, trails

The Reactor really shines on natural, rutty, woodland fun trails – think Joe Barnes muddy ruts, and off-piste goodness.  It feels really well balanced, with the long reach allowing you to stay centered on the bike when slapping into greasy turns, yet the short chainstays keep the bike nimble allowing you hit corners and shift your weight to snap the bike around.

Swap the flip-chip to rail mode and the Reactor becomes even more of trail hooligan.  The additional half-degree off the head angle combined with the lower bottom bracket really allows you to push the bike into fast and rutted turns. It gives an added an element of feeling more ‘in’ the bike and allows you let the bike move around and drift into corners. The slacker and lower feeling also help on steeper rougher tracks and just give an extra element of confidence to let the bike run. While the benefits of Rail mode are clear for descending, it does knock half a degree off the seat angle, which while not too detrimental to climbing is worth noting, but that’s not really what that setting is about.

nukeproof reactor first ride review
Sweet wall

Overall

While this has only been a short term review I’ve ridden the bike on a pretty mixed bag of trails. From fast, rocky, eroded, sunken paths, twisting moorland Singletrack, sketched in drifty woodland turns, and the odd near-vertical hand-cut rut thrown in for good measure. 

nukeproof reactor first ride review
So much fun in turns

The Reactor has handled everything I’ve thrown at it and is an amazingly fun bike to ride. The suspension is great and enables the bike to climb well, while still being supple yet supportive for descending. As you’d expect from the ‘top end’ model, the components have all worked faultlessly for the test period and are well up to the job at hand. 

The geometry and sizing is spot on for the bikes intended purposes. Yes, it’s still a pretty slack and long bike, but it doesn’t feel like a big bruiser on the trail, it feels more agile than that and is an engaging ride.

nukeproof reactor first ride review
There’s landing down there somewhere

Nukeproof describe the Reactor as an ‘aggressive trail bike’ and it’s quite a fitting description. It’s definitely a trail bike and can easily be pedaled all day, but it’s an absolute blast on fun descents. If I was currently in the market for a fast, fun, 27.5 do it all trail bike, then the Reactor would be right at the top of the list.

Review Info

Brand:Nukeproof
Product:Reactor
From:Nukeproof
Price:£5399.99
Tested:by Ross Demain for 1 Week

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