The Sonder Transmitter in this NX1 Revelation spec is an aluminium trail hardtail with impressive geometry and some good looks, with some obvious thought put into the frame. It is beaten by other bigger brands when it comes to value though, leaving us to make a decision between aggressive geometry or better parts.
The Transmitter is an all mountain trail hardtail designed in the UK from the guys at Sonder and Alpkit. They have a huge array of bikes to choose from and although this is aimed at harder hitting, gravity fed riders, you won’t be disappointed if you are just starting out on your mountain bike journey or if you happen to want to dabble in a spot of bike packing.
You have the added satisfaction that all bikes are built to order in their UK workshop and, as such, you can alter the build to suit your needs and your wallet. Further reading the small print, you’ll find that there is a 123-day return policy, a crash replacement scheme and a five-year warranty on alloy frames. And if funds are tight, you can get a bike on finance too.
Earlier in the year, Sonder released this new version of the Transmitter, featuring a longer travel fork, a slacker head angle, a lower bottom bracket and a steeper seat angle. The team have also refined the frame; they have added internal cable routing (but there are no internal cable guides) they have refined the dropouts too.
The Transmitter has a flattened top tube to help give the frame more vertical compliance, though, it's hard to make a comparison to other bikes without a bit of back to back testing on identical spec models. The bike is similar in terms of ride feel to other alloy hardtails I’ve ridden at this price point and I’d struggle to differentiate this one. I can say though, that the flattened top tube flowing into the seat stays does look rather sleek, especially in this grey/orange colourway.
The bike we tested is the Transmitter NX1 Revelation, as the name gives away, this bike comes with a 150mm Rockshox Revelation RC fork and an NX drivetrain (that’s an 11 speed one). Added to this are SRAM Level brakes, a mostly Sonder own brand finishing kit and some relatively new WTB plus tyres.
The stoppers are the lowest spec SRAM Level brakes and the first thing you’ll notice is the chunky bar clamp that is nothing short of ugly. These brakes are underpowered for a trail hardtail such as this, it's faff to alter the reach (you’ll need to take them off the bars to access the tooled reach adjust) and given the places you’ll want to ride this bike I expect you will soon be looking for a more powerful upgrade. Our bike came specced with an X-Fusion Manic 150mm dropper post which is a £100 upgrade and well worth the extra spend, taking the bike to £1399 all in.
Sonder’s in house brand is called Love Mud (as many of us do), they provide the bar, the 40mm stem, grips, saddle, seat post and seat clamp. The wheels are also an all ‘Love Mud’ affair with the bike specced with a Rumpus 650b+ wheelset, comprising of 40mm (internal) width rims and a Love Mud 3 pawl hub with 30 tooth engagement.
Together the wheels weigh a claimed 2,180 grams – not light. In fact, I weighed the whole bike, without pedals but with an added dropper post, at 30.5lbs (13.8kg), that's 3lbs heavier than the competitor, the Vitus Sentier 27 VRS, quite a chunk.
Add to this a WTB 2.8” Vigilante TCS Light/High Grip at 1126g and a 2.6” Trailboss TCS Tough/Fast Rolling at 1197g, this is a heavy department. The tyres are grippy though and as far as suitability for this bike goes, I’d say they were pretty good. The carcass of the Vigilante provides more support than I expected in a 2.8” tyre and the grip from both ends is high. The Trailboss in a 2.6” size offers much more braking traction than the narrower tyres in the same model and doesn’t offer too many penalties in terms of rolling speeds.
I tested the Transmitter in a size medium, this gives the bike a 442mm reach, a 603mm top tube, a 115mm head tube, a 440mm seat tube and a 1169mm wheelbase. The chainstays on our size are 425mm long, the small also gets the same length stays, whereas the large and XL models grow by 2.5mm increments.
I’d say this wouldn’t be enough to notice on the trail, nice to see the brand think about balance but I’m not sure the extra length is going to benefit many. The chainstays are short across the range, so if you like an agile bike with a penchant to slide the back end around, you’ll like the Transmitter. If, however, you value a more fairly balanced ride with more downhill stability the short chainstays might disappoint you.
This is all coupled with a 65° head angle and a 75° seat angle on all bikes. The nice steep seat angle is immediately noticeable, giving the bike a relatively shorter top tube and putting the rider closer to the bars when seated. It enabled me to sit happily on the medium sized bike where on other hardtails with slacker effective seat tube angles I might feel rather stretched out.
Ride a larger bike than the brand might suggest allows me to take advantage of a reach figure more to my personal liking. The 75° seat angle does put more weight on the hands when riding on the flat but turn this bike uphill and the position is immediately more comfortable. Given this bike’s aggressive geometry, it’s built for winching and plummeting, the seat angle might affect comfort if you do fancy a bit of bikepacking though, just ensure it’s a hilly route!
As I have alluded to, the Transmitter is an agile bike, there has been some thought into the spec of the wheels and tyres and I reckon they suit this hardtail pretty well, wider rims and tyres providing suspension, grip and comfort where it’s needed and otherwise absent! The steep seat angle is a welcome surprise and I certainly appreciated the more efficient seated position when climbing.
The Transmitter is a playful, all-mountain rig with some hooligan tendencies. It suits all manners of riding from trail centres to more natural riding to exploring wild bridleways. If you want a ‘one-hardtail-does-it-all’ then the Transmitter will do that in spades.
However, you will have to make some choices with regards to specification vs geometry compared to rivals, however. You can buy this Transmitter for £1,299 plus an extra £100 for a dropper upgrade but for just a pound more than all that you can get a Vitus Sentier 27 VRS with NX Eagle, a dropper and four-piston brakes. That Vitus does have more conservative geometry and I certainly felt more at home on steeper terrain on the Sonder. For other tamer trails though, the two provide a similar ride feel, with the Vitus pulling the spec trump card.
Excuse the gratuitous traildog photo - we thought you might like it!
If £1,299 or £1,399 still seems a bit steep, Sonder has the NX1 Recon spec priced at £999, whilst Dan at the brand has just told me they are due to release a SRAM SX equipped bike with a dropper to at £999 too. If you have more cash to burn then check out the other Eagle quipped bikes where you can choose a Revelation, a Pike or a Cane Creek Helm fork.
You might also like: