Andi gets an exclusive first ride review of the latest 120mm travel full-suspension bike from Sonder. Meet the 2020 Sonder Cortex.
Sonder, the bike brand of Alpkit, has been making waves in the British mountain bike world for a couple of seasons now, and with the recent launches of the Signal Ti hardtail, all-new Transmitter and now the 120mm travel Sonder Cortex, they aren’t showing any signs of slowing down.
The Sonder Cortex is a designed from the ground up, 120mm travel full-suspension bike, but while this final production bike we have before us here is new, the Cortex has been spotted before.
The original prototype Sonder Cortex featured a swoopy hydroformed mainframe, but the final model uses straight tubes which we think actually suits the Sonder brand identity a little better.
Neil Sutton, Sonder’s bike designing wizard, has designed the Cortex with 120mm of travel and 29in wheels, but don’t be fooled into thinking this is simply a cross country whippet, the Cortex might be short on travel but it’s full of fun and packed with full-throttle beans.
Like all Sonder bikes the Cortex is available via the Alpkit website, and in Alpkit stores dotted around the country. Customers have a few build options to choose from with prices starting from around just £1500, but as each bike is built to order there are options to tweak the specifications here and there and add a few upgrades to get the bike how you want right out of the box.
Sonder Cortex Review: The Bike
The original prototype Sonder Cortex was first spotted back in January of 2018, and since then it has undergone a major makeover and now sports a tubeset that is more in line with the rest of the Sonder bike family. It’s also had a geometry tweak here and there and the final production bikes will be available in brown, green and a rather natty bone white finish.
After well over a year of development and ride time, Neil finally came to the decision to build the Cortex with a 66° head angle, 74.5° seat tube, and as we’ve witnessed before on Sonder bikes, varying chainstay lengths which increase slightly with each frame size. This makes a lot of sense, as a tall rider won’t have the same central position as a short rider and just as we need to increase reach we should really look at increasing the rear too.
In this case, reach figures range from 420-480mm across the 4 sizes, while the chainstays increase from 442-450mm.
Full geometry details for the Cortex can be found below;
|Seat tube length||400||425||465||485|
|Fork Axle to crown|
Sonder Cortex Review: The Ride
I arrived with Neil at Lady Bower reservoir as this is where I tend to ride in my free time, and it’s also not too far from the local Alpkit store in Hathersage, this was pretty lucky really as I had totally forgotten to bring my pedals with me. Once pedals were rustled up though, we both headed straight-up, and when I mean ‘straight-up’ I mean we took the steepest climb we could find that gained as much altitude as quickly as possible. Of course, it’s a matter of our ultimate fitness and an insatiable appetite for climbing which drove us to hit slippy moss-covered rock climbs and steep root riddled inclines, and nothing to do with the fact that time was ticking on due to my pedal mishap.
Spinning along at a steady pace you soon come to realise that the Sonder Cortex is a pretty nice place to be. The cockpit on my size L brown test bike measures up with a reach of 465mm with a seat-tube angle of 74.5°, not the steepest seating position but an efficient and comfortable place to be none-the-less.
Our test bikes were fitted with Cane Creek rear shocks which have a million and one different settings plus a climb switch, although I found climbing with the switch wide open preferable. Small bumps and light trail taps are transferred from the 29in wheel, through the slender top-tube mounted links and despatched quickly by the rear shock, while all the power you produce from your meat motors is transferred down to the ground with little fuss but plenty of efficiency.
Once at the top we enjoyed the view before heading back down again picking up speed and switching lines as we hopped from rock to drop. Gapped natural grass doubles hit steep technical chutes, and played my most favourite game of all “huck and hope” where you hit a blind jump or drop and hope the bike carries you through.
It’s a pretty standard day of riding for a 150mm travel 29er, except Andi you have forgotten something else, haven’t you? As well as forgetting your pedals you’ve gone and forgotten how much travel this bike actually has! All those gaps, and rocks and games of “huck and hope” weren’t played out on a big travel EWS machine. No, that was all done with ‘just’ 120mm of travel front and rear!
Sure when the going get’s really tough and the speeds reach Tesla Roadster levels of lunacy, 120mm of travel does start to feel a little firmer and you’ll bottom out now and then, but WOW 120mm of travel can do quite a lot really can’t it?
Sonder Cortex Review: Overall
While riding the Sonder it felt just as fast as my big bike but sharper to corner, easier to hop and overall a hell of a lot of fun to ride, and I cannot wait to get on it again.
As we only had 1 day on the Sonder Cortex for this first ride review, we have requested a long-term test bike so that we can really put it through its paces, so keep an eye out for the complete review coming soon.
|Tested:||by Andi Sykes for 1 day|