Exclusive to UK-based online outdoor clothing specialists Alpkit, Sonder has an interesting range of British-designed bikes covering a wide range of mainly off-road models in steel, titanium and carbon, and even tandems.
The Santiago is Sonder’s take on a traditional tourer and can be found in both 650b and 700c wheel sizes and various 1x and 2x drivetrain options.
I’ve opted for the 1x option (although you’ll see the 2x version pictured here) with a very touring-friendly 40 x 11-42 gearing setup, rough-stuff ready 650b wheels and big volume 47c WTB tyres, though the star of the show here is the Santiago’s chassis.
The main frame is constructed using Reynolds’s ever-reliable, cold-worked and air-hardened 631 grade steel for the front half of the frame (head tube, seat tube and down tube) with the back end using a narrower gauge chromoly steel.
The fork is also constructed with chromoly. That’s only part of the story, though, as the Santiago features myriad bosses and guides so you’ll be able to carry water like a camel, and enough luggage and supplies to conquer continents.
Sonder has chosen large 160mm rotors for the brakes. Robert Smith
The fork alone has four bosses per fork leg, plus eyelets for a mudguard and a front rack, porter rack bosses on the crown, hydraulic hose routing down the left leg and dynamo cable routing on the right.
The frame itself has cable routing for brake hoses and front and rear gear cables, plus a front-mech mount, rack mounts and mudguard mounts, plus three bottle cage mounts.
I also like that it comes with a proven and hardily threaded BSA bottom bracket shell. It’s an exhausting array of fittings but shows a chassis that’s had some serious thought put into it.
The only downside of the frame is that the disc mounts are the older post-mount, rather than flat-mount standard (though there are plenty of post-mount brakes and adaptors around) and the wheels fit with quick-releases and not thru-axles.
The geometry is all classic, road-touring stuff, with a slightly relaxed 71-degree head angle matched to a more traditional 72.5-degree seat. The wheelbase is long at 1,085mm, the stack is a comfortable 604mm and the reach an equally comfortable 395mm.
Sonder Santiago Rival 1 ride impressions
Out on the road the Santiago has a lot going for it, the ride position is excellent and the combination of an accomplished chassis and big volume slicks make it a super-smooth ride on tarmac and a vibration-killing off roader.
The handling maxes on stability, rather than swiftness, and that’s exactly how I like this type of bike to ride.
If you’re after a more traditional touring experience the bike also comes as an option with 700c wheels and slimmer (though still pretty big) 37mm WTB rubber and, as pictured, there are options for 2x drivetrains, too.
The Santiago is finished with Sonder’s own Love Mud parts. Robert Smith
The 1x gear range is pretty much spot on and the security afforded by SRAM’s unique chainring tooth profile and the clutch mech mean you won’t drop your chain on even the roughest of rutted terrain.
The low gearing means you’ll get up steep inclines with the bike riding lighter than its 12.3kg heft would suggest.
I like that Sonder has chosen large 160mm rotors for the brakes, but the Avid cable brakes are under powered for the bike leading to grabbing big fistfuls of brake at the bottom of a descent to try and scrub speed.
I can see that for out-in-the-wild maintenance repair cables are easier to deal with than hydraulics, but I’d like a bit more power than I have here.
Despite a few issues with the brakes and a couple of the frame fittings I’m a big fan of the Santiago. If you’re looking for a bike to take you on an epic adventure, weekend tour or just to load up for the daily ride to work, you’ll be hard pushed to find a better value bike than this anywhere.
The combination of an accomplished chassis and big-volume slicks make it a super-smooth ride on tarmac. Robert Smith
Sonder Santiago Rival 1 geometry
Seat angle: 72.5 degrees
Head angle: 71 degrees
Seat tube: 53cm
Top tube: 58.4cm
Head tube: 16cm
Fork offset: 5.5cm
Bottom bracket drop: 7.3cm