Nukeproof’s Digger started as a drunken conversation in a pub but has gained an almost cult-like following amongst those in the know. Described as the ‘mountain bikers gravel bike’ the Digger draws influence from the current trend of lower, longer and slacker bike geometry, while still keeping a comfortable and efficient seated pedalling position. Couple this with plenty of rack and mudguard mounts and the option to run 27.5” (650b) or 700c and the end result is one of the most versatile gravel bikes on the market.
Our Sales Supervisor and Mountain Bike Guide, Tomy, recently bought himself a Digger and has put together his initial thoughts below.
Nukeproof Digger Comp Features
An aluminium frame and carbon fork are at the heart of the Nukeproof Digger. Making use of slacker geometry than most gravel bikes, the Digger has been described as the mountain biker’s gravel bike.
Shimano’s gravel specific GRX groupset takes care of stopping and shifting duties. The 1x11 drivetrain uses a clutch rear mech to keep the chain silent and secure and shifts smoothly across a wide range 11-42t cassette, coupled with a 40t narrow wide chainring, there is enough range for fast flat sections as well as sustained steep climbs where you need a crawler gear. The GRX hydraulic disc brakes have plenty of power and deal with heat build up on long descents well thanks to the Ice-Tech pads fitted as standard. Tool adjusted lever reach means they can be set up for different hand sizes easily.
Nukeproof have specced this Comp model with their own brand Neutron V2 hubs laced onto 650b WTB STi25 rims. By using a marginally wider rim, the tyre volume is slightly increased, in theory giving better vibration damping, traction and puncture resistance. High volume WTB Sendero 650b tyres are fitted to maximise these benefits as much as possible. To up the level of versatility, Nukeproof say the Digger is capable of fitting 700c wheels with up to 42c tyres as well as the 650b wheels that come as standard.
Nukeproof's own brand finishing kit rounds off the build. A wide bar gives plenty of control when the going gets rough with a good degree of flare, meaning your forearms shouldn’t make contact with the upper section of the bar when moving the bike around on the drops.
The build on the comp model is focussed around providing an excellent riding experience at a more affordable price point. By not compromising too much on the main components like wheels, brakes and drivetrain while being more conservative with components that are more likely to be replaced such as the bar, stem and saddle, Nukeproof has managed to keep the Digger Comp very affordably priced without sacrificing on the ride quality.
Riding the Digger
Over the few months I’ve been riding the Digger I’ve ridden it on some fairly mixed terrain. From road riding, gravel fire roads, singletrack ridgelines and even some trail centre riding thrown in, the Digger has taken it all in its stride and hasn’t needed so much as a gear cable adjustment in that time.
Climbing the Digger is a rewarding experience, the cockpit feels nice and compact for very comfortable seated climbing, but stand up on the pedals and you’re rewarded with a feeling that all the effort you put through the pedals going into pushing you up the hill. The high volume tyres help here, allowing the rear wheel to track across rough terrain and not skip out from under you while on the gas.
I found the 40t chainring, paired with the 11-42t 11 speed cassette to give enough range to get up everything that looked rideable, admittedly with more effort than on an MTB with a lower gearing. However, the Digger can sit and spin on flatter sections at a much higher speed than any MTB thanks, in part, to this gear ratio.
Once you’ve reached the top of the climb and the trail starts to point downhill you begin to understand why the Digger has become known as the mountain biker’s gravel bike. The slacker geometry and big tyres give the Digger a surefootedness at speed that gives you the confidence to keep the brakes wide open on descents. The GRX brakes have plenty of power to keep things in check when the going gets rough and the low standover height allows you plenty of room to move around on the bike and keep it on track.
Another big factor in how this bike descends, is the tyre choice. The WTBs high volume lets them roll smoothly over washboard gravel which gives you confidence in the bike to really enjoy the ride. I’ve ridden gravel bikes with narrower 700c tyres and while these work well on smoother surfaces, for me, the higher volume of the 650b tyres works really well on a gravel bike with no suspension.
When descending on the bike I found the stock bar a touch wide for my liking. I have since swapped the bar for a slightly narrower one and have found this to have given me a more comfortable descending position as well as opening up some extra range of motion for my upper body while on the drops.
Performance & Reliability
Shimano’s GRX drivetrain has been fantastic, shifting smoothly even when caked in mud after unsuccessful attempts to ride through bogs and the brakes have worked well and given ample power at all times. The lever action of the brakes has remained light with no hint of wandering bite point that has been noted on other Shimano brakes.
The wheels have remained true and the hubs still spin freely without any play. The fact that Nukeproof Neutron hubs use a common and easy to find bearing size is good to know for when they do need a service, but for now everything is running very well.
The WTB Sendero tyres have been a standout of the bike for me, the grip they offer on technical climbs is fantastic and has allowed me to easily clean climbs I used to struggle with. This traction also inspires a lot of confidence on descents and might end up getting you into more trouble than if you had a less grippy tyre. The rolling speed on the road might not match a semi slick 700c tyre, but given the tyres intentions I think they perform admirably.
As far as finishing kit goes, it’s a bit utilitarian looking but that's fine by me. By using their own brand kit in place of more expensive parts, Nukeproof have managed to keep the core riding experience feeling like a premium bike, without having the price tag to match.
The Bottom Line
The Digger is a hugely capable and versatile modern gravel bike, progressive geometry means it’s hugely rewarding to push on descents and a comfortable cockpit make it suitable for longer, multi day, bikepacking excursions.
A sensible spec list gives excellent on trail performance without breaking the bank. Couple the standard build and wheelset with a less aggressive set of 700c wheels and tyres for a gravel bike that can tame surprisingly ferocious terrain in standard setup, and with a simple wheel swap, go all day on roads and forest tracks.