It’s taken Nukeproof a while to enter the eMTB fray and, despite a few years of claiming it wasn’t on their to-do list, they’ve appeared out of nowhere with a guns-blazing, big travel eBike.
We’ve had the Nukeproof MegaWatt 297 Elite for a few weeks now and had a bit of time to get our heads around the post-apocalyptic powerhouse.
Photos by Dave Price
170mm rear travel
Full alloy frame
Shimano EP8 motor with 630wh battery
27.5″ rear wheel / 29″ front wheel
The Nukeproof MegaWatt297 Elite is the middle bike in the new Nukeproof MegaWatt family, sitting neatly between the lower-spec 297 Comp (Deore) and top-spec 297 Factory (XT).
I’m really impressed by the choice of components on the 297 Elite – the Fox 38 Float, 29” fork and Fox Float X2 Performance are a perfect match and crush rough terrain.
The SLX drive train and brakes are, for me, ideal eBike stuff and work exactly as well as I need them to without costing a fortune to replace or pushing the price tag of the bike through the roof.
Nukeproof have answered many riders prayers with sticky, heavy-duty tyres and a Maxxis Assegai/High Roller II combo, both in MaxxGrip/DD/TR. Crap tyres mean crap bikes, so bonus points for spending the money where it matters.
At £5999 the Nukeproof 297 Elite isn’t chump change by any means but in a world where eBikes can easily soak up £10k, this feels like a solid bike for a solid price.
You shouldn’t ignore some of the killer value eMTB’s out there, for example the Vitus E-Sommet VRX but in our book the 297 Elite adds up to a really solid package. For more modest budgets, the lower-spec 297 Comp Deore shaves a grand off the price at £4999.
On the trails is where this all matters thought right?
The Nukeproof MegaWatt 297 absolutely crushes trails and with 170mm travel, mullet wheels, a hefty 630wh battery and sticky tyres it’s obvious what the designers had in mind.
The MegaWatt is a big bike, for big terrain and is hungry for anything rough, fast and technical. I’d have no hesitation hurtling this bike down the blacks at Bike Park Wales, the dankest of South Wales Secret DH tracks and taking it to the Megavalanche for a week of blown-out, braking bumps. Jumping from a shorter travel bike I immediately felt a surge of confidence and plenty of enthusiasm for landing in choppy, nasty terrain and getting off the brakes.
I’m not saying you won’t enjoy it on more sedate trails but ride it around your mellow local lap and, frankly, you’re taking a bazooka to a knife fight.
Something I noticed, in particular, was how calm and composed the bike feels. Test rides so far have been on heavily ridden trails with lots of holes and braking bumps. The bike soaks up the impacts, giving the impression that there’s very little going on underneath you, allowing you to focus on the trail ahead and going fast.
It’s a surprisingly sedate experience and my first runs felt like a lot more relaxed than on other bikes. I’ve felt a surge of confidence since riding the bike and I’m surprised to find that I’m leaning towards riding it more due to added gusto than added motor.
Like many eBikes, Nukeproof have gone for a mullet setup with a 27.5″ wheel out back and a 29″ upfront. The smaller rear wheel allows designers to fit a motor and sensibly sized chainstays (442mm in the MegWatt’s case), something that’s not quite so straightforward with 29″ rear wheels.
On the trails, this really boosts how nimble the bike feels, making tight turns and quick changes of direction easy and back wheel fun easier than it perhaps would be on twin big wheels. This does a good job of balancing out that ‘big bike’ feel keeping the bike fun through tight turns, slower terrain and anything that needs a bit more steering than ploughing.
Once again, I’m going to praise the 2.5″ MaxxGrip/DD/TR Maxxis tyres combo here. eBikes encourage, for me at least, a lot of riding up, along and down. There’s a lot of changing direction on odd angles and lots of powering up off-cambers and trying to see what sort of stupidity you can get away with. So far, the tyres have been faultless and have added loads of confidence to my riding. Thank you bike industry for binning those crap 2.8″ tyres that eBikes originally showed up with and going to proper rubber.
I’d say that the weight of the MegaWatt is worth considering and adds to the ‘big bike for big terrain’ feel. The MegaWatt is by no means heavy by eBike standards but at 25kg and with sticky tyres and a big battery it’s not a featherweight. Big, draggy climbs will often see me reaching for Boost mode to keep up with fitter riders, where other eBikes might see me in trail or eco.
That said, in all of those situations so far, the 630WH battery has seen me back to the van with capacity to spare whilst fitter, lighter riders on 500WH setups have been dragging dead bikes. The new Shimano Steps EP8 motor is, compared to the older E8000 version, a joy to ride. It feels punchy without feeling unnatural and seems to be much more efficient with battery life.
My older E8000 bike would almost always require a spare battery in the van to complete big days, whereas the Nukeproof with EP8 hasn’t run out on me once, so far. At around 85kg in my riding kit, it will easily get me 1000m of climbing with plenty of Boost mode. We’ll see how that changes as the trails turn wetter, slower and draggier in the winter but so far, it feels like a huge step up.
Looking at the geometry of the MegaWatt, it feels like the Nukeproof designers have made a careful effort not to make a crazy big, long, slack barge of a bike. Like most of Nukeproof’s bikes, the numbers are modern, but not game-changing. That’s a good thing, in my book.
At 5ft11″-ish, Nukeproof supplied me with a medium bike which comes with a 455mm reach, 64° head angle and effective top tube of 597.5mm. Jumping up to a large would see reach go up to 475mm with only a very small difference in standover.
Personally, I like my eBike rides to be quite varied with lots of ups, alongs and downs and lots of tight corners, technical climbs and trials-style challenges. A bike that isn’t purely designed to go very fast down the hill works well and, for me, the MegaWatt’s angles feel like a great mix that keeps the bike playful and manageable.
Mix this up with loads of travel and decent, capable tyres and the bike really feels like it does a lot of things, very well. Go up a size if you feel like you need a roomier bike.
It’s a thumbs up so far for the Nukeproof MegaWatt 297 Elite.
The spec is great, the price is very competitive and on the trails, the bike is bags of fun and adds loads of confidence on technical, challenging terrain. The bike will potter round mellow, surfaced trails but that feels like a waste, the MegaWatt is built to go fast. Perhaps the biggest benefit of the bike is that it’s in stock and available to buy… Something that can’t be said for many eBikes right now.
Confidence-inspiring on technical terrain
Loads of travel and great tyres
A very settled, stable and planted ride, even in rough stuff
Great all-round geometry
Big battery and EP8 motor is a big step up on older Shimano tech
Could do better
It’s a lot of bike for mellower trails, at least in the supplied spec.