Sonder Colibri Force 22 review£2,199.00

Brand-new direct-sell UK all-roadster

BikeRadar score3/5

If you’re looking for a light, easy gliding distance racer the Colibri Force 22 from Sonder is a potential bargain. Lack of rough-road comfort, no mudguard fixtures and tight 28mm tyre clearance mean it’s not as versatile as it could be though.

Sonder is the bike brand of high value, no nonsense, direct-sell Peak District-based outdoor equipment brand Alpkit, and the Colibri is its first proper road bike.

While fork and head tube are stout enough, the rest of the frame is distinctively skinny and the seatstays scarily so. Despite that, chainstay and fork crown clearance is tight even with 28mm rubber.

There are no mudguard fixtures as designer Neil Sutton explains: “While it’s not an out-and-out race bike, it is a bike for covering big distance quickly, be it as part of a multi-day race or personal challenge. We reckon that the rider who’s going to do that isn’t going to fit full ’guards, but may use a clip-on out back to keep their arse dry!”

It definitely limits the winter/commuter bike appeal of a bike that would otherwise be great for fast blasts into work and back. Sonder’s big mileage intent is backed up by the fact it’s used a traditional screw-in bottom bracket.

The chainstays and seatstays are definitely on the skinny side
The chainstays and seatstays are definitely on the skinny side

To keep costs down the Colibri is only available in four frame sizes and it’s £330 more if you buy it in one of Alpkit’s three shops, rather than online.

SRAM’s Force 22 has been around for a while, but we rarely see this lightweight, carbon-cranked Shimano Ultegra-level groupset on complete bikes. Once you’re used to the way Double Tap works, shifting is concise and accurate right through the range.

The tall, extended hoods give a very secure hand position if you don’t want to go into the drops when braking, but 140mm rotors mean anchoring is adequate rather than excessive anyway. The own brand Love Mud cockpit on my sample came with a short 70mm stem but that can be changed when you order your bike.

Orbit wheels use a tubeless-ready, 19mm internal width rim, with 32 sturdy plain gauge spokes per wheel and brass nipples for easy readjustment. The tyres are Vittoria’s latest Rubino Pro Control G+ triple compound rubber complete with graphene.

The skinny tubes sap power despite the bike being relatively lightweight
The skinny tubes sap power despite the bike being relatively lightweight

They’re designed for durability and grip rather than speed, and that’s obvious in the Colibri’s ride. The skinny tubes sap power though, particularly if you’re trudging a big gear round rather than spinning it. Tarmac speed fades faster than you’d expect too, and it’s not as sparky as you’d think for its weight.

Tyres and frame silence the worst of the buzz and vibrations before they reach the rider, and on smooth to middling road surfaces it’s got a damped, quiet feel. The skinny tubes are surprisingly unforgiving of larger impacts though, which means a jarring ride on rougher bike path/gravel tracks.

While Sonder says it’s got long chainstays they’re actually relatively short and the ‘longer’ wheelbase is only slightly rangier than average. Add the short stem and it’s twitchy rather than surefooted, especially if a rougher surface is rattling its road holding.

Factor in that even leaves can bung up the minimal fork clearance and you’ll definitely want the Sonder Camino alloy for more challenging surfaces and routes.

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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