British bike brand Sonder brings wheel-building to the UK

by 34

UK brand Sonder – the bike arm of AlpKit – are based on the edge of Peak District and design and make a range of bikes and components to suit everything from mountain, to gravel to road. And they’ve now brought their wheelbuilding in-house…

Press Release

Sonder is Europe’s only B-Corp bike brand. They build every bike to order. And they’re bringing wheel building to the UK – Sonder’s new wheel building machine is based in their Nottingham workshop. 

Nobody was making the wheels Sonder wanted. Wide-rim, wide-hub wheels. So, they started developing them themselves. And then they started building them.

Wheels have a huge influence on the character of a bike. When Sonder Product Manager Neil Sutton designs a bike, he conceptualises both the frame and the wheels together. That means the bike rides exactly how he wants it to. And, by building the wheels onsite, Sonder can assure and improve quality and production efficiency. That’s what makes Sonder special.

Sonder’s new wheel-building machine can lace a wheel in just 1-3 minutes! The skilled hands that lace and finish the wheels can put 30 pairs of wheels through the machine in a day.

The wheels are built across two machines: the lacing machine and the truing machine. The lacing machine learns the rim dimensions, spoke count, location of the valve hole and angle of the nipple driver. The result is an evenly tensioned wheel. The truing machine tensions spokes, working towards pre-defined tolerances. 

At Alpkit and Sonder, 30% of products are made in the UK. They’re keeping design, development and careers local as well as keeping sea and air freight down. For over a year, Sonder have had a wheel-building machine in the pipeline.

Building wheels in the UK massively reduces shipping volumes. By not shipping wheel boxes around the world – or, more specifically, boxes full of fresh air – Sonder are reducing their impact on the planet. 

alpkit.com/sonder

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  • This topic has 34 replies, 29 voices, and was last updated 3 weeks ago by IHN.
Viewing 34 posts - 1 through 34 (of 34 total)
  • British bike brand Sonder brings wheel-building to the UK
  • Premier Icon mashr
    Full Member

    Quick, add in something about being “hand finished” before everyone gets upset about machine built wheels!

    Premier Icon colin9
    Full Member

    Are most wheels actually hand finished? I’m thinking of the biggish more premium MTB brands such as Hope, Hunt, Stans, I would imagine they’ll all just be machine trued and sold out the door.

    Premier Icon mashr
    Full Member

    colin9
    Full Member

    Are most wheels actually hand finished? I’m thinking of the biggish more premium MTB brands such as Hope, Hunt, Stans, I would imagine they’ll all just be machine trued and sold out the door.

    This is Hunt:

    “Hand-built | All of our road bike rim brake wheels are built and finished by hand, inclusive of a full quality control inspection.”

    Premier Icon Van Halen
    Full Member

    hopefully QC will be upped as my Sonder wheels lasted 2 rides before they need re-tensioning , re-dishing and truing. all of teh rear wheel spokes became very very loose very fast.

    Premier Icon asbrooks
    Full Member

    Hand finished means.. Remove from machine and put it in a box. No?

    Premier Icon Richard
    Full Member

    I didn’t know Sonder are a B-Corp. That’s really impressive.

    Premier Icon IHN
    Full Member

    hopefully QC will be upped as my Sonder wheels lasted 2 rides before they need re-tensioning , re-dishing and truing. all of teh rear wheel spokes became very very loose very fast.

    Yeah, I’m currently waiting to hear back from them after I got a cracked rim after a fairly innocuous ding.

    Premier Icon finbar
    Free Member

    Wheel building doesn’t need a hyphen.

    If it had a noun afterwards e.g. “wheel-building tool” then it would become a compound adjective and a hyphen should be used.

    Premier Icon pmurden
    Full Member

    This is cool but that’s my sodding mechanic they’ve nicked to build them! Good luck in you new venture Jim Byatt.

    Premier Icon mashr
    Full Member

    asbrooks
    Full Member

    Hand finished means.. Remove from machine and put it in a box. No?

    It means whatever the marketing people want it to mean

    Premier Icon mick_r
    Full Member

    Why are all the pictures showing hand lacing and building but all the blurb is about machine built?

    Premier Icon Matthew Hornby
    Full Member

    This is Hunt:

    “Hand-built | All of our road bike rim brake wheels are built and finished by hand, inclusive of a full quality control inspection…”

    … the other 99% of our output is lashed together by a robot and sent out without any kind of checks.

    (not true I’m sure, but their sentence did seen to leave something hanging 😁).

    edit – as mick_r says, there’s some confusing images and text here – what does this mean?

    Sonder’s new wheel-building machine can lace a wheel in just 1-3 minutes! The skilled hands that lace and finish the wheels can put 30 pairs of wheels through the machine in a day.

    Premier Icon Superficial
    Free Member

    When Sonder Product Manager Neil Sutton designs a bike, he conceptualises both the frame and the wheels together.

    This is one of the more ridiculous examples of marketing speak.

    Premier Icon dirkpitt74
    Full Member

    I assume it’s something like this:

    Hub is pre-spoked and the ‘Hooman’ feeds the spoke in to the rim for the machine to do it’s stuff.

    Premier Icon Stu S
    Free Member

    Not the best PR copy. Let me rewrite it;

    “Hey you, mountain biker! You know that crappy stock wheelset that comes with every low to mid-range bike you’ve ever bought? The one that weighs as much as a baby elephant, with rims made of soft cheese, built around generic Novatec hubs forged from the finest porcelain? The one that you can’t wait to upgrade to something worthwhile from DT Swiss the second your work bonus or tax refund comes in? Yeah, that’s the one! Well good news! They’re now hand-made* in the UK!”

    (*disclaimer – not actually made by human hands)

    Premier Icon Jim Trailrider
    Full Member

    What is a B-corp? Think their awful outsourced build quality has forced their hand on this. A couple of mates ride Sonders and I’ve had to help keep keep their wheels running while they sort out warranty replacements.

    Premier Icon paton
    Free Member

    Raleigh

    Premier Icon rocketdog
    Full Member

    You know that crappy stock wheelset that comes with every low to mid-range bike you’ve ever bought? The one that weighs as much as a baby elephant, with rims made of soft cheese, built around generic Novatec hubs forged from the finest porcelain?

    Hunt’s mission statement surely?

    Premier Icon stumason10
    Full Member

    Hope machine lace and hand finish in UK. Final tension true and inspection. Superstar lace in UK too for themselves and many others.
    So not big news. But great to see more insourcing and reduced shipping. The price of shipping right now probably more than justified the salary.

    Premier Icon Aidy
    Free Member

    Yeah. Poor headline. Lots of UK wheel builders. Needed a qualifying “their”.

    Premier Icon spdnik2
    Full Member

    My Sonder wheels have been fine for 2 years on my gravel bike. And my dealings with the company have also been good. I applaud their environmental stance but mourn plain English that marketing has butchered.

    Premier Icon bowglie
    Full Member

    My experience of their early wheelsets was not good, but I gather they’ve improved in the last 12 months. Although the marketing blurb is a bit cringe, it’s good to hear of another company bringing manufacturing (or at least assembly) back to the UK.

    Premier Icon Hatter
    Full Member

    I didn’t know Sonder are a B-Corp. That’s really impressive.

    It’d be a lot more impressive if they actually fabricated anything in house. It’s a lot harder to be a B-corp when you’re not just assembling warehousing and shipping stuff made elsewhere.

    If someone like Continental, Hope or DT Swiss, who all have serious in house manufacturing capacity goes for B-corp status that would be seriously hard to do and require massive investment.

    Still, it’s better they did it than didn’t do it so it’s still a positive move on Sonders part.

    Premier Icon whatyadoin sucka
    Free Member

    i can rate the alpha 650b wheels they do. sound good run smooth, no complaints.
    and if you’ve bought a sonder recently check your alpkit account, nice 10% dividend of vouchers on my account.. wasnt expecting that

    Premier Icon cheers_drive
    Full Member

    Superstar lace in UK too for themselves and many others.

    I believe Superstar has sold their wheel building machines. Perhaps Sonder purchased the machines?

    Premier Icon Longman
    Full Member

    I have on good knowledge they have bought the wheel building machine from Superstar, but looking at the photos it looks like they have just employed some mechanics to build the wheels. Why not show some photos of the actual machine ?

    Premier Icon I_Am_Sparticus
    Free Member

    “When Sonder Product Manager Neil Sutton designs a bike, he conceptualises both the frame and the wheels together.”

    Give over.

    Premier Icon finbar
    Free Member

    Are Superstar stopping doing wheels then? I hope not.

    Premier Icon footflaps
    Full Member

    It’d be a lot more impressive if they actually fabricated anything in house.

    My Alpkit luggage was hand made in the UK….

    Premier Icon thisisnotaspoon
    Full Member

    “When Sonder Product Manager Neil Sutton designs a bike, he conceptualises both the frame and the wheels together.”

    Revolutionary, have any other bike designers ever considered the wheels as part of the bike?

    Does at @Brant just imagine people bouncing their frames allong the ground?

    Premier Icon Hatter
    Full Member

    My Alpkit luggage was hand made in the UK….
    Posted 2 hours

    Sewing bags is hardly an energy intensive industrial process, I doubt Alpkit make the fabric, zips and webbing themselves, that will be where most of the environmental impact is.

    Premier Icon unovolo
    Free Member

    “I think it needs just a little something else”

    Premier Icon IHN
    Full Member

    I think they must be too busy setting up their new machine to respond to my email about the cracked rim such is currently rather curtailing my riding.

    Premier Icon IHN
    Full Member

    Just to follow this up in case anyone stumbles across it in future – I got a call from Alpkit/Sonder yesterday, and they’ve sorted me out with a replacement wheel at a very fair cost. Fair play to them (although I did need to chase them a bit)

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