The Stevens Sonora is a top quality, carbon framed German 29er hardtail that delivers powerfully direct speed and masses of upgrade potential in an affordable package. New tyres should be first on the swap list for UK riding, though.
Video: Stevens Sonora 29er– first ride
Ride & handling: Race ready, swapping comfort for power
Big tubes combine with a steep 72-degree head angle and 74-degree seat angle to tuck everything in tight to create a proper little knot of muscle. Press on the pedals and you can feel the rear tyre growl and the bike lunge forward.
Turn the narrow bar on a slow or tight turn and the Stevens nips right in on the apex. In fact, it’s one of the few 29er bikes we’ve never drifted wide on, and we actually had to change our approach to climbing corners because it’s so aggressively accurate. While the wheels are fairly heavy, the semi-slick rear tyre is fast to accelerate, and overall it runs a similar 26in hardtail pretty close in terms of responsiveness.
The low-slung frame means you’re likely to have a large amount of skinny 27.2mm seatpost showing for any given size. This helps soften blows in the saddle but the Stevens definitely prioritises power delivery over comfort.
Even with the generously sized tyres, any serious jolt comes jarring straight through the soles of your shoes, and there’s a hell of a lot of chainslap even with the dropped chainstays.
Flat-out descending isn’t the Stevens’ strong point anyway. As balanced as it is at slow speeds, the short, steep geometry and narrow bar make it more nervous than most 29er bikes at speed or when braking – particularly in loose or slippery situations.
The original plasticky compound tyres also undermine the normal increase in traction from 29in wheels too, making a rubber upgrade vital to access the full potential of the Stevens Sonora.
Stevens Sonora 29er hardtail
Frame & equipment: Superbike frame, upgradable spec
The Sonora uses the same high-modulus carbon fibre SL monocoque as the fully rigid more expensive, 7.5kg (16.5lb) Sonora SL-R, which immediately gives it more legs than most comparably priced bikes in terms of upgrading.
The tapered head tube keeps the cockpit head-down enough for racers, while the massive down tube and shelved top tube connect shoulder effort to crank input. Internal cable and brake routing keeps things neat, and there’s an anti-chainsuck plate if you derail your chain on a descent.
The mixed Shimano spec has an XT rear mech with an SLX front mech and a wide-range cassette, but the rest of the stop and go setup is Deore. This includes a triple chainset to keep you spinning up the steepest hills, but overall weight is still comparable with obvious race mates from Scott and Giant.
Even in its relatively basic Evolution format, the 15mm screw-axled Fox fork gives more control and smoothness than you’d normally expect for 100mm (3.9in) of travel.