2019 sonder transmitter first ride review

First Ride Review: 2019 Sonder Transmitter First Impressions

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Sonder’s popular Transmitter alloy hardtail returns for 2019 with a fresh lick of paint and updated geometry, but how does it ride? We sent Andi to the woods to find out.

Just over a week ago we reported that Sonder had refreshed the popular Sonder Transmitter hardtail to bring the hardcore hooligan up to date and in line with similar models on the market.

2019 sonder transmitter first ride review
The 2019 Transmitter gets 3 new glossy colours.

Visually, the new 2019 Sonder Transmitter looks very similar to the previous frame. They’re both made of aluminium, they share a similar tube set and they both have that signature slim top tube, but actually, there’s lots new here.

2019 sonder transmitter geo
New Sonder Transmitter geometry gets tweaked.

For starters, the updated Sonder Transmitter boasts a geometry tweak here and there to give the alloy hardtail a true 65° head tube angle when fitted with a 150mm travel fork. What Sonder means by ‘true’ is that the head angle is measured when the fork has sagged, making this slightly slacker than the outgoing frame.

2019 sonder transmitter first ride review
The new Transmitter is longer, lower and slacker. The frame still costs £300.

The current formula for bike designers usually follows that if the front end gets slacker the reach should get longer and the seat tube steeper, and that’s exactly the recipe Sonder has followed with the Transmitter. Reach now is up, and ranges from 422mm on a small frame, to 482.5mm on the XL, while the seat tube steepens up to 75°.

2019 sonder transmitter first ride review
Chainstay lengths increase on larger frames for a more balanced ride.

Sonder also redesigned the rear end of the Transmitter so that the chainstay length is size specific, longer for a larger frame, and while they were at it also beefed up the dropouts.

If you’re a numbers nerd or geometry geek you’ll recognise that while these are significant changes, they aren’t all that extreme and should result in a well rounded riding machine rather than something that only rides in one direction.

2019 sonder transmitter first ride review
Each frame gets the same orange decals.
2019 sonder transmitter first ride review
Internal cable routing and glossy paint is new for 2019

The changes aren’t limited to the geometry though, as the new frame also gets internal cable and hose routing for a cleaner look and the new frames are finished in a choice of 3 glossy paint jobs.

Being a hardtail there are only 2 places your rear suspension is coming from: your legs and the rear tyre. To give you as much cushioning as possible, chain and seat stay clearances are good for large volume 2.8in tyres and the frame is designed to run 650b wheels.

2019 sonder transmitter first ride review
We’re always happy to see a threaded BB.
2019 sonder transmitter first ride review
Internal calliper mount keeps the rear brake away from rocks.
2019 sonder transmitter first ride review
Plenty of tyre clearance even with wide tyres.

Other nice frame touches include a threaded bottom bracket shell, Boost hub spacing, an inboard rear brake calliper mount, and ISCG 05 compatible chain guide mounts.

2019 Sonder Transmitter First Ride Impressions

2019 sonder transmitter first ride review
Neil Sutton designed the new Transmitter.

So how does the new Sonder Transmitter ride? Well, I managed to escape the office last week and met with Neil Sutton from Sonder at Grenoside Woods in Sheffield to give this hardcore hardtail a shakedown on the trails there.

I had been to Gren Woods in the past, but over the past year or so a lot of work has gone into the trails. Berms have been reworked, jumps added, and gaps have grown. So although I had been before, I was riding these updated trails blind and to make things more interesting I hadn’t ridden a hardtail for a while.

2019 sonder transmitter first ride review
There isn’t anything else like riding a playful hardtail.

At 178cm I decided to test the large frame which has a reach of 462.5mm. I find anything between 450-460mm pretty comfortable for general riding, but if I was intending to only ride jumps and sculpted trails like these at Grenoside I might be tempted to go for a medium for even more chuck-ability.

As a warm up we rode a trail called Pub Run. Its a flow trail with rocky straights linking up berm after berm. On a full-suspension bike, I probably wouldn’t have even mentioned the ‘rocky straights’ as they aren’t really that rough, but I’ve not been on a hardtail for a long time and the terrain was feeling pretty rough at the speeds Neil towed me in at.

This is partly to be expected from an alloy frame. The slightly harsher rear end means that trail shock can make its way through to the rider, but also means instant acceleration and efficient pedalling.

2019 sonder transmitter first ride review
Andi railing berms.

However, the harshness I felt was mostly due to being used to riding full-suspension frames and the fact I had put far too much pressure in my rear tyre. With room for up to 2.8in tyres in the backend of the Transmitter there’s plenty of cushioning available and once you get your pressures right it’s surprising how supple this alloy hardtail can feel.

There are no big climbs in Greno Woods, well we didn’t ride any, but on our spin back to the top of the trail I certainly appreciated the position that steeper seat tube puts you in.

2019 sonder transmitter first ride review
Show off!

The next trail we rode is the one that I have the most experience with and is the trail that Peaty uses for his Steel City Mini Downhill race each year. This is a longer trail, a little smoother, but there are more doubles, berms and even a few gaps to clear. On the first few runs down I lazy full-suspension body lost me a lot of speed in the berms, but as I loosened up and got my hardtail legs back I soon got back up to pace – not Neil’s pace, he was flying – but I was hitting the trails faster and harder after each run.

2019 sonder transmitter first ride review
The Transmitter loves collecting air miles.

It’s clear from watching Neil ride that he wanted the Transmitter to be a capable and playful ride, and he’s done an amazing job. The alloy frame means stomping on the pedals gets you up to speed quickly while the sorted geometry makes the Transmitter a joy to pump through berms, and over doubles.

The confidence inspiring nature of the Transmitter soon had me hitting the gap jumps and even jumping off the bomb hole at the end of the trail, something I’ve only ever done before on a full-suspension bike. As well as being fast and playful, the Transmitter is also a quiet bike. I didn’t notice any knocks or rattles from the internally routed cables and as we all know, a quiet bike is a fast bike.

Sonder Transmitter First Ride Final Thoughts

When I started at Singletrack I was a firm hardtail fan and I do own a couple of steel hardtails even now, but I’m so spoiled by all the sexy full-suspension bikes that come through our doors that I’ve not really thought about riding one for ages.

2019 sonder transmitter first ride review
We plan a full review of the new Sonder Transmitter soon.

Riding the Sonder Transmitter reminded me of just how good a well-sorted hardtail can ride, and in fact, reminded me that for most of my local riding a hardtail is probably more than enough bike. Sure I’ll be quicker on my full-suspension bike, but I’d probably smiling way more on the Transmitter.

We hope to get a Sonder Transmitter in for a long-term review soon, but if you have any questions about the bike now let us know in the comments section below.

New 2019 Sonder Transmitter Features

  • Designed for a 150mm travel fork.
  • 65°  true head angle.
  • 75°  seat tube angle.
  • Lower BB height.
  • Longer reach 422-482.5mm.
  • Short offset ready.
  • Internal cable/hose routing.
  • Updated dropouts.
  • 3 new glossy colours: Chilli, Tarmac, Teal
  • Boost spacing.
  • Size-specific chainstay lengths.
  • Size: S, M, L, XL
  • £300 frame only

Review Info

Brand: Sonder
Product: Transmitter
From: Alpkit
Price: £300 frame only
Tested: by Andi Sykes for 1 day

Andi is a gadget guru and mountain biker who has lived and ridden bikes in China and Spain before settling down in the Peak District to become Singletrack's social media expert. He is definitely more big travel fun than XC sufferer but his bike collection does include some rare hardtails - He's a collector and curator as well as a rider. Theory and practice in perfect balance with his inner chi, or something. As well as living life based on what he last read in a fortune cookie Andi likes nothing better than riding big travel bikes.

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