The Sonder Camino gravel bike range from Alpkit has a reputation that precedes it among bikepackers and gravel riders as one of the best all-round gravel bikes. In fact, I first came across the Camino while cycling on a gravel group ride and noticing how many Caminos were out on the road.
Sonder claims the Camino is for “bikepackers, thrill-seekers and challenges big and small”, and the bike certainly looks the part. With its wide tyre clearance, mountain-bike inspired geometry, heaps of mounts and internal routing for a dropper post, the Camino seems set for adventure.
I have been on the lookout for a bikepacking bike for a while. My prerequisites were the bike had to have enough mounts to attach lots of bikepacking bags, capable off-road abilities and hardy enough components to weather a UK winter.
The Camino range has the option of aluminium or titanium frames, with both Shimano GRX and SRAM mechanical groupsets on offer. The top of the range comes with the top-flight SRAM Rival XPLR eTap AXS edition.
For full bikes, prices start at £899 for the Camino AL and £1,999 for the Camino Ti.
The titanium-framed Sonder Camino I have chosen is near the top of the range, boasting a carbon fork, SRAM Rival 1 gearing and hydraulic disc brakes, but still costs a reasonable £2,449. The new version has even more space for large tyres and enough mounts to keep the kitchen-sink lovers happy.
Sonder Camino Ti Rival 1 specifications
The Sonder Camino’s frame is built with aeronautical-grade titanium, and it looks very smart with clean welds and internal routing.
Alpkit suggests titanium is an excellent choice for a gravel bike; it’s lighter than steel, but has a pleasingly twangy ride that helps absorb some of the trail chatter.
The frame is paired with a carbon monocoque fork with a stealthy-looking matt black finish.
As you might expect from a self-styled bikepacking bike, the Camino comes with a range of mounts to attach luggage.
There are mudguard mounts, rear and front rack mounts, cargo cage fork mounts, top tube mounts and the down tube has triple mounts on the top and bottom for expedition-style bottle cages.
There is ample room for wide tyres – up to 700c x 50mm or 650b x 2.2in, which is well into mountain bike territory.
There is also routing for a dropper post, should you want to head down the mountain bike route, although dropper posts on gravel bikes are becoming more and more common. The Camino gets a BSA threaded bottom bracket, which Sonder says is for durability and ease of mechanics.
It’s fitted with SRAM’s Rival 1 1×11 groupset, with a SRAM Rival 1 GPX chainset. The 11-42t cassette should be low enough to spin up most hills, without losing too much speed at the other end.
Also fitted are SRAM’s Rival 1 hydraulic brakes, paired with large 160mm CenterLine rotors for off-road stopping power.
The Sonder Camino comes with aluminium Sonder Alpha 700c wheels, shod in Schwalbe CX Comp tyres. My bike, however, came with different wheels and tyres due to parts shortages.
I had lower-spec Sonder Nova 700c wheels and Goodyear Connector tyres in 700x40mm. These are tubeless-ready, but they come with tubes in the box.
The finishing kit is almost universally own-brand, with a Sonder seatpost and Sonder Abode saddle, and the wonderfully flared Sonder Bomber handlebars.
The full build, without pedals, weighs in at 9.6kg for a medium.
Sonder Camino Ti Rival 1
- Sizes (*tested): S, M*, L, XL
- Weight: S: 9.5kg; M: 9.6kg; L: 9.7kg; XL: 9.9kg (all without pedals)
- Frame: Titanium
- Fork: Camino Carbon, Monocoque
- Shifters: SRAM Rival 1, 1x, 11-speed
- Derailleurs: SRAM Rival 1, long-cage, 11-speed
- Wheelset: Sonder Alpha 700c UK-made (my bike came with the Sonder Nova wheels instead)
- Tyres: Schwalbe CX Comp, 700 x 35c (not mine)
- Brakes: SRAM Rival hydraulic, flat mount
- Bar: Sonder Bomber, 56cm
- Stem: Deda Zero, 70mm
- Seatpost: Sonder seatpost, 31.6mm
- Saddle: Sonder Abode, 158mm, black
Sonder Camino Ti Rival 1 geometry
The Sonder Camino draws on trends in mountain bike geometry, with a longer, slacker shape.
It has a noticeably long wheelbase at 1,073cm for a size medium. When it’s paired with the head angle, which is reasonably slack at 69 degrees, the steering should feel confident and stable off-road, especially when descending.
The stack and reach figures – 582cm and 395cm respectively – give quite an upright, central seating position, making for a comfortable and confident ride.
Sonder says the bike is made for agile handling. There are four sizes, from small to extra large, but they all have relatively short stems of 50mm or 80mm. This will keep the handling feeling responsive and direct.
|Seat angle (degrees)||74.5||74||74||73|
|Head angle (degrees)||69||69||69||69|
|Seat tube (mm)||460||490||520||550|
|Top tube (mm)||536||562||592||629|
|Head tube (mm)||150||170||190||210|
|Fork offset (mm)||50||50||50||50|
|Bottom bracket drop (mm)||73||73||73||73|
Why did I choose this bike?
I have done a lot of gravel riding in the last few years, and over that time I’ve found myself becoming more interested in doing rides that are longer, slower and more silly.
I was therefore on the lookout for a bike that could handle lots of terrain types, from tarmac to trail, be loaded with bags, and wasn’t built with overly complicated tech.
I noticed how many people were riding Caminos during a gravel group ride. I was interested in the extreme flared bars that come with the bike, and how differently all the iterations of the Camino were built up; some had styled their Camino as rigid mountain bikes with butterfly bars, while others were paired down with thin tyres and racks into a do-it-all commuter bike.
I was also, I admit, swayed by the Camino owners’ enthusiastic praise for their bikes.
The Sonder Camino already has a well-established reputation as a great bikepacking rig. This year’s version comes with even more mounts and wider tyre clearance, so I was keen to get my hands on one and start riding.
I liked the flared handlebars too, which are aesthetically very interesting and certainly start conversations.
Sonder Camino Ti Rival 1 initial setup
The Sonder Camino was easy to set up out of the box, and is provided with some Sonder-branded tools to help you put it together – a nice touch.
All that was required was to turn the bars, put on some pedals, fiddle with the exact height of the seatpost and pump up the tyres – all straightforward to do. Then I was free to jump on and pedal it home that very evening.
My next move was to attach a water bottle cage and some fork mounts for an upcoming bikepacking trip. This was a slightly less fun experience.
I found the bolts very short – far too short to go through the bottle cage mounts and secure into the frame, so I had to dig out some bog-standard black steel bolts to use instead.
This isn’t a huge problem, but if you want your bolts to match your frame, you’ll have to get additional longer titanium bolts to fit.
I adjusted the brake levers’ reach so I could comfortably use them, which when they were set further from the bar posed problems for using the drops.
The bike’s effective top tube is quite long, and I ended up fitting a shorter 50mm stem to bring the bars closer to me when seated.
Sonder Camino Ti Rival 1 ride impressions
The Camino represents a number of firsts for me. It’s my first titanium bike, my first time using SRAM on a drop-bar bike, and my first time using those very flared handlebars.
The bike arrived right at the start of a week’s holiday, so for its first ride, I took the Camino 250km across Wales.
It was a good test; there were plenty of hills, a mix of terrain and extra weight on the bike. The trip got off to a bit of a false start when I decided – half an hour before we needed to leave for the train – to fiddle with the headset, only to drop all the parts inside the head tube.
It took half an hour to fish everything out and rebuild, so I wouldn’t recommend doing this in a hurry.
Once we’d started, the bike rode with genuine confidence. The titanium frame has so far been impressive – lightweight, responsive and pleasingly shiny.
For someone as accident-prone as me, I’m delighted by how shiny and clean it looks, even after the wear of bike bags, being carried through a patch of brambles and having a small crash into a bog.
Thankfully, I have so far resisted talking obsessively about how great titanium is, avoiding becoming one of those titanium bike owners you get stuck with on a group bike ride. There are still many months left, though…
The Camino’s ride is very comfortable, with an upright position given by the wide, short handlebars and built-up stem. This makes it genuinely comfortable on long days out.
That said, I found the wide bars and upright position make this a bike more suited to slower days, especially if you’re going into a head wind.
The Camino handles beautifully with bike bags on, the steering made confident by the low bottom bracket and slack head angle. It sails across bumps in a stately way, feeling planted and sure of itself.
The Sonder Bomber handlebars definitely took a bit of time to get used to. They are very short and have a quite extreme flare to them, which Sonder says is for off-road comfort and control.
I was excited to use them – I rarely use my drops, and I was hoping the Bombers would offer more hand placements with as much control as the hoods.
They’re comfortable to ride off-road, with the angle of the flares taking off some pressure in the wrists. They offer heaps of control and allow for multiple hand placements.
I did find myself missing straighter bars on longer road sections though – I’ll have to see how they feel over the next few months. The Bomber handlebars are also great for carrying extra load, because they’re wide enough to allow for large and long front bags.
I really liked the SRAM Rival 1 gearing that comes with the Camino. The single-lever shifting was initially slightly confusing for me after years of using Shimano, but I quickly got used to it, and was pretty happy with the clean shifting performance, even under load.
Though the Sonder Nova wheels rolled smoothly, I was less impressed by the Goodyear Connector tyres. During the four-day trip, I got a puncture every single day, which wasn’t amazing considering how dry it was. They aren’t set up tubeless yet, and this will be one of my first upgrades.
While they might not be the most puncture-proof, I found they rolled fast on the road and had a reliable grip on dry gravel.
The Camino did a great job on the trip, handling off-road sections and luggage-carrying with confidence and comfort. This is in no way the last trip of the season, so you’ll have to come back and see how it fares with different wheels and tyres in a month or so.
Sonder Camino Ti Rival 1 upgrades
There are a number of changes I made to the bike straight off. Firstly, I changed the saddle. I prefer a saddle with a central cut-out, so I opted to fit a Prologo gravel AGX. I also put on some Ortlieb fork cages for front panniers, but eventually I’d like a front rack instead.
I changed the stem straight-off too. This is because I found the effective top tube too long to reach the brakes comfortably, even after fiddling with the reach adjustment on the brakes.
I am at the very lower end of the medium size, and like many women, have a shorter reach than what is standard on unisex bikes. I swapped out the stock stem for a 50mm Giant one, which gave a better position for reaching the brakes comfortably.
The main change I’d like to make in the next month or so is to switch the wheels and tyres to something a bit wider. A 700cx50mm tyre sounds perfect.
These will definitely be tubeless too, because like everyone else I don’t love getting punctures.
BikeRadar‘s long-term test bikes
BikeRadar’s long-term test bikes give our team the opportunity to truly get to grips with these machines, so we can tell you how they perform through different seasons and on ever-changing terrain, through a year of riding.
Some choose a bike from their favoured discipline and ride it hard for a year, others opt for a bike that takes them outside of their comfort zone.
We also use our long-term bikes as test beds for the latest kit, chopping and changing parts to see what really makes the difference – and help you decide which upgrades are worth spending your money on.
These bikes also provide an insight into the team’s riding through the year – how they like to ride and where life on two wheels takes them, from group rides on local lanes and trails, to adventures further afield.
To see all of the BikeRadar team’s long-term test bikes – and to stay up-to-date with the latest updates – visit our long-term review hub.
|Available sizes||S, M, L, XL|
|Brakes||SRAM Rival Hydraulic, Flat mount|
|Fork||Camino Carbon, Monocoque|
|Handlebar||Sonder Bomber, 56cm|
|Rear derailleur||SRAM Rival 1, Long cage, 11-speed|
|Saddle||Sonder Abode, 158mm, Black|
|Seatpost||Sonder Seatpost, 31.6mm|
|Shifter||SRAM Rival 1, 1x, 11-speed|
|Stem||Deda Zero, 70mm|
|Tyres||Schwalbe CX Comp, 700 x 35c|
|Wheels||Sonder Alpha 700c UK Made|