Sonder Evol NX1 Recon review

Excellent frame makes the Evol a big-fun investment

BikeRadar score4/5

Compared with similarly priced bikes, Sonder's Evol NX1 Recon has a tight-riding trail frame that's a class above when it comes to flat-out trail fun.

The Evol’s big, round tubes look simple, but neat reinforcing webs, a single-piece rocker link, broad main pivot, chunky asymmetric chainstays and bolt-through Boost rear axle create a very stiff chassis.

Geometry is on point for lively but confident trail riding. The metric RockShox Deluxe shock is a big upgrade over older Monarch units, and there’s porting for an internally-routed dropper post.

Frame quality comes at a cost, but it gets a complete SRAM NX1 transmission and top-spec WTB tyres, however the fork and wheel spec is similar to that of the £600 cheaper Calibre Bossnut Evo and it doesn’t come with a dropper.

The own-brand Love Mud kit is all well-shaped and functional, though, and compared to big-brand bikes, it’s still good value.

The ‘2.5in’ front tyre is nearer to a 2.3in in size (particularly height) but you’ll soon be able to choose 2.6in versions when ordering at no extra cost
The ‘2.5in’ front tyre is nearer to a 2.3in in size (particularly height) but you’ll soon be able to choose 2.6in versions when ordering at no extra cost

Sonder Evol NX1 Recon ride impressions

While the kit’s nothing to write home about, the sorted chassis makes a difference to the ride that becomes clearer the harder you push.

The relatively slack 66.5-degree head angle means the 150mm-travel Recon fork wants to re-centre and keep you on track if you get knocked off-line. You get a decent-width bar too (780mm), which lets you work the soft-compound WTB Convict tyres to the max.

The 35mm stem is about as short as you can get, so steering stays light and easily tweakable at the edge of traction.

Not only is the mainframe conspicuously stiff but, despite the lack of a bridge between the seatstays, the back end is impressively solid too. Add the sturdy, wide-rimmed wheels, and the Evol has a locked-down frame.

The four-bar suspension naturally pedals and grips very evenly, and the Deluxe shock is better-damped and suppler off the top than the older Monarch, thanks to internal upgrades.

The ‘Tough’-carcass rear tyre undermines that sensitivity, though, so the Sonder tends to thump and chatter off flat impacts harder than the Vitus Escarpe, which was also on test, despite having 10mm more travel.

Sonder’s tight-tracking, hard-driving Evol frame gives a quality feel at a reasonable price
Sonder’s tight-tracking, hard-driving Evol frame gives a quality feel at a reasonable price

Although the front tyre is labelled as a 2.5in, it’s only 1mm wider (58mm vs 57mm) than the ‘2.3in’ WTB tyres in this test and it’s 3mm lower. That keeps it more stable under high loads at low pressures than WTB’s ‘Light’ carcass typically feels. But, again, it means that if you slap big blocks you can feel it through the bar more than on other bikes using the same fork with less travel.

There’s room in the frame and fork, plus enough rim width, to run a true 2.6in tyre if you want more cushioning. Sonder will be offering WTBs in that size as a no-cost switch when you order, as soon as they’re available, or you can pay a bit more for Schwalbe or Maxxis rubber. Stick with the supplied tyres, and the upside of a firmer ride on rocky sections is the way you can drive the stiff frame through berms and pump extra explosive speed out of rollers and landings.

That’s enhanced by the relatively short rear end, which is as keen to chop and change direction as the stubby stem. The fact it’s relatively light accentuates the agile feel and gives the Sonder a proactive ‘playbike’ feel.

While it’s not long by the latest standards (455mm reach, large), it has enough length to feel stable at speed, whether you’re railing or drifting, without blunting that hop-and-pop enthusiasm.

That addictive need to charge into every challenge flat out means you’re soon going to get sick of whipping out the Allen key to lower the saddle, so budget for a dropper post upgrade as soon as possible.

Apart from a tyre swap, that’s the only thing the Sonder is gagging for. The frame is good enough to upgrade significantly, making the Evol a shrewd long-term investment.

Guy Kesteven

Freelance Writer, UK
Guy started filling his brain with cycle stats and steaming up bike shop windows back in 1980. He worked the other side of those windows from '89 while getting a degree in “describing broken things covered in mud" (archaeology). Dug historical holes in the ground through the early '90s, then became a pro bike tester in '97. Guy has ridden thousands of bikes and even more components the world over since then and can remember them all in vivid, haunting detail. Can't remember where the car keys are, though.
  • Age: 45
  • Height: 180cm / 5' 11"
  • Weight: 68kg / 150lb
  • Waist: 76cm / 30in
  • Chest: 91cm / 36in
  • Discipline: Strict sadomasochist
  • Preferred Terrain: Technical off-piste singletrack and twisted back roads. Up, down, along — so long as it's faster than the last time he did it he's happy.
  • Current Bikes: An ever changing herd of test machines from Tri bikes to fat bikes and everything in between.
  • Dream Bike: His Nicolai Helius AM custom tandem
  • Beer of Choice: Theakston's Old Peculier (not Peculiar)
  • Location: Yorkshire, UK

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