UK outdoor brand Alpkit made its name with high-value, top-performing down jackets and sleeping bags designed to keep you warm in the mountains, so it’s ironic that its first trail bike leaves the competition out in the cold.
- Sonder: a new bike brand from British outdoors experts Alpkit
- Which is faster: hardtail or full-suspension?
Sonder Transmitter SRAM NX1 Sektor spec overview
- Frame: Hand welded, triple butted 6061-T6 aluminium
- Fork: RockShox Sektor Silver RL Boost, 130mm (5.1in) travel
- Drivetrain: SRAM NX1 (1x11)
- Wheelset: Love Mud Rumpus Boost wheels, WTB Trail Boss 27.5x3.0 (f) and Trailblazer 27.5x2.8in (r) tyres
- Brakes: SRAM Level TL
- Bar/stem: Love Mud Aspect, 740mm/Love Mud Piskie, 40mm
- Seatpost/saddle: Love Mud Membar/ Love Mud
- Weight: 13.63kg (30.05lb), large size, without pedals
Sonder Transmitter SRAM NX1 Sektor frame
To co-create its new Sonder range, Alpkit hired infamously innovative bike designer (and ex MBUK test editor) Brant Richards. Cue the use of geometry that he was pioneering years before it became trendy; a super-slack head angle (65 degrees), short stem (40mm), long top tube (630mm, size large) and low belly.
The Transmitter frame isn’t light at 1,930g for a large, but the triple-butted tubes are extensively shaped. It’s also loaded with neat features such as hollow-backed, Boost-width dropout sections and a plated driveside chainstay that gives plus-size tyre clearance despite its short (425mm) length.
Sonder Transmitter SRAM NX1 Sektor kit
Because ‘plus’ bikes require more expensive wheels and forks, most come at an extra cost. But, as you’re buying direct from Alpkit’s Derbyshire, UK HQ rather than your local bike shop, the Transmitter boasts a killer spec, even by regular 650b/29er standards.
The 11-speed SRAM NX drivetrain, Level brakes and RockShox Sektor fork are the obvious highlights, but the own-brand Love Mud finishing kit is mostly decent, although some riders might want a wider bar than 740mm and the double-clamped silicone grips are grim.
Sonder also offers a menu of upgrades, including various WTB tyre options, a RockShox Reverb dropper post or Yari fork, plus, if you ask nicely, kit from Hope and others.
Sonder Transmitter SRAM NX1 Sektor ride impression
Even with conventional 29er wheels and tyres — and we tried it, just to check — the Transmitter would be a great bike. The geometry gives a great blend of swaggering, speed-breeding stability sharpened up by instantly reactive, traction-chasing, short stem steering.
The tube shaping and internal butting produce a noticeably forgiving ride — which is rare on affordable alloy bikes. Up front, the RockShox Sektor has a 15mm axle, an easily adjustable air spring and consistent damping, all of which adds up to much better control than most budget forks.
The clutch rear mech and steel narrow/wide-toothed single chainring of the SRAM NX group keep things secure and quiet, with a full sequential shifting gear range. And all at a price where untamed links and heavier, chain and brain-straining multiple-ring transmissions are almost universal.
Once you’ve got the pressure right — we settled for 10-12psi front and 12-15psi rear — the plus tyres take the Transmitter to another level in terms of hooligan fun. They make the Sektor fork feel as sensitive to small bumps as a Pike, and the back end suddenly gains significant speed-sustaining, traction-increasing suspension.
While the chunky Rumpus wheels take some grunting to get up to speed, the Transmitter’s overall weight is totally competitive for its cost. The end result is a bike that steamrollers smoothly through all the rattling, clattering, speed-killing and confidence-sapping harshness that we’ve always accepted as unavoidable on an affordable hardtail. It takes technical trail speed and control deep into full-suspension territory at a fraction of the cost.
Sonder Transmitter SRAM NX1 Sektor early verdict
A new benchmark for how fast and fun an affordable trail hardtail can be.