Four frame sizes, three colour ways and with prices ranging from £1,599 to £3,299, Sonder has all the bases covered
Regardless of the price point all Sonder Evol models share the same butted aluminium frame, with its four-bar suspension design delivering 140mm of travel.
Sonder arrived on the MTB scene just over three years ago with its Sonder Transmitter trail hardtail – available exclusively through Alpkit stores, it’s still a relatively unknown brand.
Sonder Evol review
The new 140mm travel Sonder Evol full susser looks set to change that though. Not least because you get flagship Cane Creek suspension components and a SRAM GX Eagle groupset on a bike for under £3k.
And the Evol GX Eagle Helm DB-IL isn’t even the top-end bike; that honour goes to the Evol XX1 Eagle Pike for £3,299. There are also four models below our test bike, and with prices starting at £1,599, Sonder has an Evol for every pocket.
It’s available in four frame sizes and the size L has a 455mm reach measurement, so like the Trek Remedy 8, it’s not long by modern standards. It also has a relatively long seat tube, so we had to slam the 150mm RockShox Reverb dropper post in the frame to achieve our desired saddle height.
While the Sonder Evol frame is something of an unknown entity, the 150mm travel Cane Creek Helm Air fork is a proven performer; matching the very best that RockShox and Fox have to offer. Setup isn’t quite as straightforward though, as you have to manually balance the positive and negative spring pressures with the reset button at the base of the left leg. Once dialled in, you won’t need to touch it again until you change the air pressure or spring volume, the latter is adjusted using an 8-position internal index system that does away with volume spacers. Damping-wise, the Helm Air has independent low-speed rebound and compression adjustment, and high-speed compression.
It’s a similar story with the DBair IL shock, but you also get high-speed rebound and a climb switch that ramps up the low-speed compression and rebound damping for a super-stable platform. And if just reading about all of the adjustments is enough to make your head spin, wait until you try to set the suspension up.
As an inhouse brand, Sonder can dress a bike to the nines without blowing the budget. As such, you get a full SRAM GX Eagle drivetrain and RockShox Reverb post with the 1x underbar remote.
The LoveMud contact points on the Evol aren’t quite as standout though. The lock-on grips are way too thin to provide ample cushioning, and the 35mm stem is a touch short, given that the frame isn’t super long. We’re nit picking though, as even the LoveMud wheels have a great rim profile for fatter tyres, the freehub offering rapid engagement without a deafening click.
Out of the box, we were less than impressed by the rear suspension response on the Sonder. The bike felt harsh, dead and lacked grip. It also squatted into its travel on the climbs, so even though it was the lightest bike in the 27.5in category, it was the most laboured on the ascents.
Something simply didn’t add up. Was the harshness and lack of grip we were experiencing due to the frame being too stiff? It certainly didn’t look it with its narrow main pivot stance. We even considered swapping the wheels. Then, it dawned on us. What if Sonder’s baseline damping settings on the Cane Creek shock were off? Run by run we removed HSC damping and every lap the bike improved. It still felt lifeless though, so we started to wind off the rebound damping too, first the HSR, then the LSR. The final touch was to add more low speed compression so we could be less dependent on the climb switch. The front end would still lift on the steepest climbs, but now we could at least shred the descents.
It’s still not perfect though, the frame a tad short and high, and if you’re not suspension savvy we suggest getting the RockShox equipped version for £2,699 and just go ride.
You can have too much of a good thing. And that seems to be the case with the Cane Creek DBair IL shock on the Sonder. In the right hands, the 4-way adjustable damping can be manipulated to make the 140mm rear end spring to life. Alternatively, the stock setting provide a bike that squats down when climbing and rattles your eyeballs out on every descent. And for the rider that’s looking for the level control the Cane Creek shock and fork provide, they will also be looking at the geometry and thinking the size L Sonder Evol needs to be longer and lower.