If you’re a mountain biker looking for your first drop bar bike for some sneaky training on a variety of surfaces, the Nukeproof Digger Pro could be for you. The chunky WTB Sendero tyres, dropper post, wide handlebar and short stem ensure it really shines on the dirt with great handling poise that’ll have you ripping, popping and sending in no time.
As you probably know, Nukeproof is a mountain bike company and has brought this experience into its all-new second-generation Digger Pro, with a lot of influence from the mountain bike world evident in its design and specification.
For razzing about in the woods, linking up bridleways, commuting to the office or just plain old road riding, the Digger Pro is very capable. You could easily chuck it into the lactic acid hell of a cyclocross race or eye up one of the growing number of adventure events like Dirty Reiver say. It’s also an excellent option for commuting especially if you want to take the more interesting route. And if you had a second set of wheels and tyres you’d have all the bases easily covered.
If you want to see what this bike is really capable off you only need watch this awesome video.
Clearly having fun is what the Digger Pro is all about and the design and equipment sees to it that it’s hugely entertaining. It's easy handling is largely down to the very wide handlebars and short stem which give you maximum control when pinning down a fast trail or just cruising along a bit of singletrack wiggling through the trees.
The slightly flared drops give you an advantage in controlling the bike when it’s getting a bit rowdy, and it’s so much easier and more fun than most road bike biased gravel bikes which can feel at their limits on anything approaching a mountain bike trail.
The geometry works well too for tackling gravel roads and steep woodsy singletrack, with a laid-back 71.3-degree head angle and 1,039mm on the size large giving good stability at all speeds. Despite the short stem, the position wasn’t overly cramped on longer less technical jaunts, and toiling along the road was as comfortable as it gets.
The potential ace up its sleeve is the Brand X Ascend 120mm dropper post. If you dare to take the Digger Pro onto steep and technical mountain bike trails the ability to slam the saddle out of the way is a huge benefit. However, the remote control lever is far from conveniently placed, located as it is at the centre of the bars. I’d much rather see Nukeproof swallowing the extra cost of utilising the redundant SRAM left-hand shifter paddle for more easily deploying the dropper post. Having to change hand position is far from ideal. [Ed's note: SRAM aren't keen on people converting their shifters for this purpose, aftermarket or not]
Personally, I’m not 100% sold on dropper posts on gravel bikes. Sure, on a mountain bike they are essential, I wouldn’t ride a mountain bike without a dropper post these days. The challenge facing gravel bikes is the simple fact that when you’re in chundery terrain where a dropper post can be used there are much bigger limitations to your progress from the geometry, tyres and lack of suspension.
The 6061 triple-butted aluminium frame and colour matched carbon fork are nicely made and I love the appearance of the blue and bronze colours and nicely set off by the WTB tanwall tyres. It definitely helps to give the bike an expensive feel. The frame is 1x specific and there’s internal cable routing for the shifters, brakes and seatpost, a 12x142mm rear end and 15x100 up front, and joy of joys, a threaded bottom bracket. You could even fit mudguards and a rack if you wanted.
Tyre clearance is ample for the 47mm wide WTB Sendero tyres, and officially the bike will take these combinations: 700c x 45C, 27.5 x 2.3" or 29 x 2.1”. The Sendero, a new tyre from WTB, proved to be the perfect choice for winter testing, with ample grip in the mud whilst still providing lowish rolling resistance on hard pack surfaces. They also weren’t too sluggish or noisy on the road either, but you might want to have a spare set of wheels and slick tyres if you have your eye on the Digger Pro as a daily commuter, unless you can ride off-road from front door to office.
SRAM’s Rival 1 groupset is a familiar choice on gravel bikes and there’s nothing to really fault, apart from the usual grumble about the size of the hoods… which are actually a benefit on steep descents as something to brace your hands against. Shifting performance is workhorse reliable and the brakes are powerful enough to keep you out of trouble.
Nukeproof has fitted its own spangly coloured hubs mated to mountain bike WTB ST i-23 aluminium tubeless rims with the 23mm internal width providing a good stable base for the 47mm tyres. The wheelset proved to be plenty tough enough for the sort of riding the Digger Pro will be used for, while the hubs have sealed cartridge bearings and a fast engaging freehub.
The saddle is also Nukeproof branded and proved comfortable, and I’ve already talked about the non-series 480/500mm aluminium handlebar. It’s clamped to the bike via a Zipp Service Course stem, which being such a roadie brand does seem out of place but it worked fine and is size-specific.
The Digger Pro is an alarmingly capable gravel and adventure bike that can shred mountain bike trails but also handle tamer gravel paths, bridleways and join it all up with solid performance on the road.
I found it perfectly suited to knitting together local sections of farm tracks, byways, bridleways and woodland singletrack with quiet country lanes, which takes me right back to my earliest experience of mountain biking before trail centres and man-made trails really became an essential component of modern mountain biking.
But for just getting out there and exploring and riding everything that comes your way, the Digger Pro shines. I’m not sold on the dropper post personally, but the rest of the equipment is solid and works well, and it’s damn good value for money too.
There aren’t many other bikes you can really compare the Digger Pro to, but the one that does spring to mind is the Merida Silex. That bike also takes the mountain bike rulebook to a gravel bike with a long top tube and short stem/wide handlebar approach. For £1,700 the Silex 600 features an aluminium frame and carbon fork equipped with lower end SRAM Apex, which makes the Rival specced Digger Pro look really good value for money.
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