Nukeproof Megawatt 297 RS review
Nukeproof's newly honed Megawatt retains its easy-to-ride character
This competition is now closed
By Alex Evans
Published: June 7, 2023 at 12:00 pm
Nukeproof's Megawatt 297 RS is the brand's range-topping electric mountain bike, built using near-identical components to the Enduro World Cup (EDR) race bikes ridden by the Nukeproof team.
The Megawatt's frame has received some key updates. Notably, Nukeproof has dumped the headset-routed cables in favour of ports on the side of the down tube, eschewing the recent trend.
The rest of the frame remains almost unchanged, however. The Megawatt still runs a mullet wheel setup (29in front, 27.5in rear), 170mm of rear-suspension travel, modern geometry, and Shimano's EP8 electric bike motor and 630Wh battery.
Last year's Factory-spec Megawatt won our eMTB Bike of the Year title, so does this iterative refresh and spec change stand it in good stead for Bike of the Year 2023?
Built from 6061 hydroformed aluminium, the Megawatt's frame has plenty of refined features befitting its price tag.
Inside the front triangle, beneath the shock is a water bottle mount with space for a 500ml bottle (size-large frame).
On the underside of the top tube is an additional mounting point suitable for an onboard tool, pump or other accessory.
This version of the Megawatt has ports on the frame's down tube for Di2 cables, gears, a dropper post and brakes rather than through the headset, like the previous iteration.
Ribbed chain-slap protection is fitted to the driveside chainstay, and SRAM's Universal Derailleur Hanger features at the dropout.
A Horst-link suspension design delivers 170mm of rear-wheel travel. Thanks to a custom-tuned rear shock, it is claimed to be supple but also progressive and supportive.
Nukeproof claims it has given the Megawatt a wide sag window (from 30 to 35 per cent) to offer rider tuneability.
Shimano's biggest 630Wh battery is installed via an opening on the underside of the down tube. It powers Shimano's EP8 85Nm, 250W motor.
Available in five sizes, from small to extra-extra-large, the Megawatt uses Nukeproof's ‘saddle offset’ design.
Its effective seat tube angle steepens as frame sizes increase and is claimed to optimise riding position and pedalling efficiency. Seat angles span from 77.5 (S, M) up to 78 degrees (L, XL, XXL).
A 64-degree head tube angle features across the sizes, as does the 442mm chainstay measurement.
Reach figures start at 435mm and rise to 515mm, with the size large sitting in the middle at 475mm. The bottom bracket height is a relatively low 343mm across the sizes.
While the Megawatt's figures aren't pushing the limits of geometry, they’re close to the numbers the industry is converging on for enduro-ready electric mountain bikes.
Kitted out with components from SRAM, the Megawatt RS is a close replica of Nukeproof's team bikes. This leaves little room for upgrades.
Suspension damping is taken care of by RockShox, with a ZEB Ultimate 170mm fork up front and a Super Deluxe Ultimate RCT Coil out back with a 450lb spring (M and L sizes).
SRAM's Code RSC brakes have a 220mm front and 200mm rear rotor.
Also from the SRAM stable is an X01 Eagle AXS derailleur and cassette, GX Eagle chain and AXS Controller.
Nukeproof's Horizon V2 wheels are wrapped in Michelin DH22 rubber front and rear.
There's a 185mm-travel BikeYoke Revive dropper. Its finishing kit is Nukeproof-branded, including the Horizon Carbon V2 bars, and Horizon stem, saddle, gips and headset.
This large test bike without pedals weighed 25.8kg.
I tested the Nukeproof Megawatt predominantly in Scotland's Tweed Valley, home to the UK's round of the EDR and the 2023 XC World Championships.
Conditions ranged from dry and dusty through to mid-winter bog, with a good measure of rain, snow and ice thrown in.
I inflated the Megawatt's ZEB fork to 65psi and installed two volume-reducer spacers, giving me 15 per cent sag. I set the compression damping fully open and left it like that for the duration of the test period.
The stock 450lb spring gave me 28 per cent sag, slightly less than Nukeproof recommends. However, having ridden the Megawatt before, I knew less sag than recommended felt better.
I decided to leave the 450lb spring installed, rather than making the 50lb jump to a 400lb, the next lightest spring RockShox makes.
Riders wanting to fine-tune the rear shock with smaller spring increments will need to look at aftermarket spring manufacturers, or potentially swap the coil for an air-sprung model.
The Megawatt's steep seat tube angle contributes to its impressive climbing capabilities.
It places your hips directly above the bottom bracket, boosting comfort and pedalling efficiency compared to bikes with slacker angles.
The relatively compact top tube length (612mm) combines with the seat angle to create an upright seated pedalling position where rider weight is biased through the saddle, making long seated stints comfortable.
Shoulder, back and neck pain is reduced compared to bikes with longer top tubes or slacker seat tubes because your shoulders aren't lowered towards the bars.
The Megawatt's centralised rider position is also beneficial on steep climbs because it evenly distributes your weight on the bike.
This makes balancing rear-wheel grip and reducing front-wheel lift much easier compared to bikes where your weight is further rearward.
Its supple coil-sprung rear shock is so adept at eating up high-frequency bumps that traction and comfort are excellent on all trail surfaces.
The suspension kinematics’ progression stops the Megawatt from dipping too deep into its travel on steeper ascents when rider weight is canted rearward. This preserves its spot-on geometry.
Michelin's DH22 tyres amplify traction; their chunky, squishy and slow-rebounding blocks bite into soft ground and deform impressively to cling on to harder surfaces.
Thanks to their sturdy carcasses, lower pressures can be run without the sidewalls folding at higher speeds. This enhances grip and comfort even more.
Rolling resistance is high, however.
That chunky rubber takes its toll on the range of Shimano's 630Wh battery.
On a single charge, I’m used to hitting 2,000m of ascent in the EP8's Eco mode. On the Megawatt, this was reduced by roughly 10 per cent to between 1,700m and 1,900m, depending on trail conditions.
Bosch's Performance Line CX software updates improved its battery life, exceeding the range of the EP8. This makes the EP8 a less compelling proposition where it used to be the most frugal.
The EP8's natural assistance still makes good use of its battery's capacity, but it's less punchy than Bosch or Brose units, relying more on rider strength than outright motor power.
Like the Megawatt 297 Factory I reviewed for last year's Bike of the Year, this RockShox-equipped model feels just as natural to get on and ride quickly, with no unpredictable quirks you need to compensate for.
Its relatively tall stack height and low bottom bracket create a confidence-inspiring relationship between hands and feet.
Although the front end can feel tall in the car park, as soon as you hit the trails it makes total sense.
There is plenty of support to push against when weighting the front wheel to create grip or control on steeper trails.
It feels as though going over the bars is highly unlikely, even when you’re on the limit, riding near-vertical sections of gnarly trail.
When things do go wrong and your weight unexpectedly shifts dramatically fore or aft, the Megawatt has plenty left in the tank to help you regain control.
On flatter, faster or rougher trails its neutral riding position adds to its overall composure.
Leaning over into turns is effortless, smooth and predictable. It needs no coercive weight shifts to switch direction; simply loading the bike up compresses the suspension into the supportive mid-stroke, generating ample pop and helping it go light between turns.
Louder, more exaggerated movements will get it to break traction, but these needs to be deliberate.
Maintaining a turn is addictive and fun, the Megawatt squatting into its travel to deliver predictable, constant grip.
It's pretty stable, and the rear end doesn't want to fishtail or swap from one side of the trail to the other. That's despite its mixed-wheel setup, a combination usually associated with faster, more agile handling.
Its low bottom bracket height adds to how planted the bike feels.
It's almost glued the ground; the bars and bottom bracket barely deviating from their level and controlled path. Its front and rear suspension do the heavy lifting, ironing out the trail's undulations, insulating the rider.
Rider movements are naturally muted because the bike works overtime to create stability. This can help you focus on increasing speed and makes the ride feel more controlled.
As on the climbs, the coil-sprung shock offers up bucket loads of grip and comfort, helping the rear wheel conform to the ground's profile.
Although the coil spring is linear rather than progressive (like most air springs), it's well balanced with the ZEB.
Harsh bottom-outs are irregular, but more common compared to the air-sprung Megawatt.
The shock's large bottom-out bumper does a good job of cushioning those impacts, but upgrading to RockShox's MY23 Super Deluxe Coil Ultimate with hydraulic bottom-out would only improve performance.
In warmer weather, I found the Michelin DH22 tyres had plenty of grip on both soft and hard terrain, their knobs sticking to and deforming around the terrain impressively. Despite that, they had enough stability to dig into softer ground.
Rolling speeds are low, however, and you’ll have to work hard to keep the pace up on flat trails.
However, when temperatures dropped below 5°C, grip on angled roots and embedded rocks became unpredictable, making it hard to ride confidently at speed.
Compared to Maxxis tyres, which also become less grippy in cold weather, the Michelins are significantly worse.
If you ride regularly in cold conditions, swapping the tyres out is highly recommended.
The Megawatt and Bullit share head angles and front and rear-travel figures, and both also use Shimano's EP8 motor and 630Wh battery.
The Nukeproof certainly trumps the Santa Cruz in terms of value for money. Its Ultimate-level RockShox suspension is more tuneable and adjustable than the Fox 38 Performance fork and RockShox Super Deluxe Select+ rear shock on the Bullit.
The 38's GRIP damper is one of the better options currently on the market, at least rivalling the performance of RockShox's Charger 2.1.
Elsewhere, the Megawatt's X01 Eagle AXS electronic drivetrain is way more bougie and will require less maintenance than the cable-operated GX Eagle found on Santa Cruz's bike. Functionally, the AXS kit suffers from more chain slap than its cable-shifting stablemate, which is important for some riders.
The Bullit's Maxxis tyres provide more grip more of the time, and roll faster than the Michelin DH22s, sliding the scales in the Bullit's favour.
There's little to separate these two bikes out on the trail, but the Bullit is more forgiving and the carbon fibre frame might be attractive to some.
Nukeproof's Megawatt has received an iterative update for 2023, most notably losing the headset cable routing. While this doesn't affect performance on the trail, some mechanics will be grateful for the change.
The coil-sprung rear shock might make setting it up for your weight or preferences trickier than an air-sprung model, especially if you’re at the more extreme ends of the bell curve, but it adds grip and suppleness to the ride.
Its Michelin tyres have a narrower performance window than Maxxis equivalents, struggling for grip in cold weather while having significant rolling resistance. Some might not be bothered by this, others will need to make a costly upgrade to other mountain bike tyres.
This RockShox-equipped version shares its easy-going, fun and capable ride with the Fox-suspension Factory bike I reviewed in 2022.
This makes it one of the best electric mountain bikes you can buy, and the £7,599.99 asking price offers good value for money when you factor in the spec.
The Megawatt 297 Factory is still for sale, its spec addressing many of the criticisms of the RS version, while costing £600 less.
If your heart is set on the RS model, it's a great bike and you won't regret buying it, but if it was my cash, I’d opt for the slightly cheaper and more adaptable Factory.
Full-power, high-performance, gravity-focused ebikes need to behave like mini-DH bikes on the descents, but provide a comfortable, brisk and efficient means to climb back up.
A gutsy motor will do the heavy lifting when ascending, but little can mitigate poor geometry, bad spec choices and sub-standard suspension.
When searching for your perfect full-power ebike, we recommend going big on travel (150mm plus), battery capacity (630Wh or more) and motor power (85Nm or above).
Spot-on geometry will improve both uphill and downhill performance; steep seat tube angles, mid-length chainstays and slack head angles are all desirable.
Senior technical editor Alex tested eight full-power eMTBs on his home trails in Scotland's Tweed Valley, home to the UK's round of the Enduro World Cup and the 2023 XC Olympic and Marathon World Championships.
Testing happened from November to late March, subjecting the bikes to some of the harshest weather conditions known.
The pedigree and scope of the terrain on his doorstep is second to none, helping Alex push our eight bikes to their limits. Riding them back-to-back separated the strong from the weak and finally, a winner was chosen.
Thanks to our sponsors Crankbrothers, MET helmets, Bluegrass Protection, Supernatural Dolceacqua, Le Shuttle and BikePark Wales for their support of Bike of the Year.
Senior technical editor
Alex Evans is BikeRadar's senior mountain bike technical editor. He started racing downhill at the tender age of 11 before going on to compete across Europe. Alex moved to Morzine in the French Alps at 19 to pursue a career as a bike bum and clocked up an enormous amount of riding. Hitting those famous tracks day in, day out for eight years, he broke more bikes than he can remember. Alex then moved back to the UK and put his vast knowledge of mountain biking to good use by landing a job working for MBUK magazine as features editor. Since working for MBUK, Alex's focus has moved to bike tech. He's one of BikeRadar's lead testers and knows how to push bikes and products to the limit, searching out the equipment that represents the best value for money. Alex is also a dedicated eMTB rider, and still dabbles in racing of a sort, doing his best to top the Strava leaderboard on the steepest, gnarliest and twistiest trails the Tweed Valley has to offer – just for fun, of course. Alex is also a regular on the BikeRadar YouTube channel and BikeRadar podcast.❚