Up or down, the Transmitter sets a blistering pace
Alpkit is an outdoor specialist making inroads into mountain biking. Its range of bikes fly includes this Sonder Transmitter as its do-it-all Plus hardtail.
Sonder Transmitter NX Revelation review
It’s available in five distinct flavours, all seasoned with SRAM drivetrains and RockShox forks. And with prices starting at £999.99 for the entry-level Transmitter NX Recon, and going all the way up to the Transmitter XX1 Eagle Pike at £2,799, there’s a Sonder to suit every budget.
The bike were testing here is second from the bottom, not that you’d know by looking at the specification. Like the other bike in test it gets as alloy frame but the head angle on the Transmitter is much slacker than its rivals. In fact, at 64.3° it wouldn’t look out of place on one of the hardcore hardtails we tested in the December issue. The 1,196mm wheelbase is also the longest here, even though the Sonder has the shortest chainstays, so you know it’s going to be stable at speed.
And it’s not just the head angle on the Sonder Transmitter that’s similar to the bikes in the December issue, it also gets the new RockShox Revelation fork with 130mm travel. Impressive, given that the Sonder is £400 cheaper than any of those bikes. But how does the new Revelation stack up against the other forks in this test? Well, it has a similar level of stiffness to the Suntour fork on the Merida Big Trail, without the annoying knocking sound, and it’s every bit as good at ironing out the chatter as the more spindly RockShox forks on the Norco Fluid and Trek Roscoe.
That said, the damping isn’t a light as the either of the other RockShox units, so riders that weigh under 70kg may struggle to get a rebound setting that is fast enough. For everyone else though, it’s the easily the best fork in test and combined with the slacker head angle on the Transmitter frame it gives the Sonder a distinct advantage on trails that are steep or challenging.
The obvious omission on the Sonder’s specification is a dropper seat post. And while we appreciate that something has to give to make way for the top-notch RockShox Revelation fork, at the very least Sonder could have fitted a quick release seat collar to make adjusting the saddle height a little less painful.
We’ve got no complaints about the rest of the finishing kit, though. The 780mm handlebar and stubby 40mm stem complement the modern geometry perfectly and as we’ve mentioned elsewhere in this test, the SRAM NX gears shift seamlessly, with very intuitive ergonomics. There’s no faulting the SRAM Level brakes either; nice solid lever feel with stacks of power.
From the get go, the Transmitter established its dominance in this test and never looked back. With the most progressive geometry and the best fork and drivetrain, even the lack of creature comforts like a dropper post and fatter grips won’t hold you back. It’s rapid, spins along effortlessly, but it’s always primed and ready for action once the tempo, gradient or trail changes.
Leading the charge is the RockShox Revelation fork. The obvious benefit of the increased damping and stiffness being that there’s way more support when diving into steep rough descents. Less apparent but equally beneficial, is that the fork doesn’t cycle through its travel mid-corner, so front end grip is also more predictable.
The Transmitter isn’t just about the parts adorning it however; the frame is also first rate. It’s not jarring like the Merida and the riding position is more engaging than either the Trek or Norco. In fact, the only thing that stops the Sonder Transmitter getting a perfect 10 rating is that the BB is 15mm too high for experienced riders who know when to pump for speed rather than getting on the gas. That said, if you’re getting into mountain biking and want a bike that will give you the confidence to attack every trail and still let you pedal to maintain speed, we can’t recommend this bike highly enough. It’s simply blinding and the only real hardcore hardtail in this test.
Within the first few pedal strokes we knew that the Sonder Transmitter NX Revelation was the bike to beat. It instantly felt faster and more agile than its rivals. Maybe it’s the slacker head angle putting the fork in a better position to absorb the hits, or it could simply be that the Sonder’s riding position meant we instinctively knew that any effort would be returned with interest. Either way, it just felt right. And over the course of the test nothing presented itself to make us think otherwise. Even the taller BB height and lack of a dropper post weren’t enough to detract from the Sonder’s standout ride.