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Sonder Camino TI Rival touring bike review

9 Nov 2018
Verdict:

A great-value titanium bike with a serious adventurous streak

Cyclist Rating: 
Price: 
£1,799

‘Quick, light and definitely not afraid to leave the asphalt’ is how Sonder describe the Camino.

Like a cyclocross bike but with a more relaxed riding position and extended wheelbase, it’s designed for fast, comfortable all-day riding.

Dirt roads, gravel racing, Land’s End to John O’Groats on bridleways and tracks, or just commuting, the Camino is up for most things.

By the Sonder Camino Ti SRAM Rival1 from Alpkit

It’s also cheap for a titanium bike, with its frame material and carbon fork both keeping weight low.

A new brand for us, will Sonder score a hit with its first swing?

The frame

Considering the amount of money that must have been spent on its raw materials, the Camino’s frame doesn’t want for features.

With a tapered head tube up front, to create clearance for the front chainring a large flat plate interrupts the chainstay before it reaches the bottom bracket junction.

The way the seat stays overhang slightly as they meet at the seat cluster also make us purr contentedly, while an enclosed brake calliper mount located next to the dropout is similarly aesthetically pleasing.

All considered, the Sonder is prettier looking than it has any right to be given its minimal cost.

So what don’t you get? Thru-axle fittings would have been nice, although the bike is stiff enough that we didn’t specifically miss them.

Also with no rack mounts on the carbon fork you’ll be constrained to using a bar bag or roll to carry luggage on the front end of the bike.

Happily, elsewhere you won’t want for fixing points, with twin rear mounts and an extra set of bottle bosses set low on the underside of the down tube.

Left raw with selectively etched logos, the whole assembly should last decades and can always be polished back to a high shine.

Groupset

The cheapest of the three Camino builds available, our bike employed Sram’s Rival 1 mechanical groupset.

Using a clutched rear mech and a single front chainring, it’s just the sort of thing you want on a bike like this.

Simplifying both maintenance and gear selection, its wide-ratio cassette gives all the range you’re likely to need while swapping the front chainring makes it easy to customise too.

Stopping the bike, its cable brakes are decent enough. Another £200 will get you the more powerful hydraulic models, which we’d be inclined to spend, budget allowing.

Finishing kit

The truly massive bars mean the Camino is unlikely to get away from you even when carrying extra weight or cutting across loose ground.

Allowing a relaxed wrist angle when holding the drops, their narrower tops mean the position on the hoods is slightly more conventional, while still providing plenty of space to accommodate a bar bag or similar.

Held in place by a stubby stem, like all the rest of the kit, these come from Sonder’s own parts line.

A twin-bolt seatpost is of the type you’d like to see on a bike of this style and ensures the saddle isn’t going to snap off any time soon.

Without layback, it helps keep the rider’s weight centred between the wheels and the overall stretch to the bars short. 

Wheels

Again taken from Sonder’s line-up these feature wide rims. Nicely supporting the broad 40mm tyres, they’ll make fitting anything narrower than 28mm a gamble.

Not that there would be much benefit to doing so anyway. Both them and the tyres are a squirt of sealant away from being set up tubeless.

Made to fit the bike’s 9mm dropouts, if you find yourself wanting to swap them elsewhere, a set of adaptors renders them compatible with most common configurations.

First impressions

The Camino loves mud and employs a titanium and carbon construction instead of the steel typically used elsewhere.

Jumping aboard, this different lilt is instantly made obvious by the compact frame reach, massively wide handlebar, and tendency to swoop rather than dart through turns.

The difference in its frame material is also noticeable. Even when muffled by the squishy tyres, its forgiving flex and low weight mark it out.

Not a bike in a massive hurry to get going, we got the suspicion the more you push the Camino the better it’ll get.

On the road

Thanks to its titanium frame and relaxed geometry the Camino feels as if it has run ahead to fill in the potholes and cracks that might trip up other bikes.

Burly in its intentions, but light in its execution, it’s an adventure bike rather than a classic tourer. As such it’s never going to be the out-and-out fastest.

Unloaded and on the road, it’s perhaps just a bit too much bike even with the tyres swapped. However, once laden with panniers or bikepacking bags, its confident if slightly ponderous handling make it a great sledge on which to pass the miles.

It also packs in serious off-road ability. The second the road breaks up it streaks ahead. The WTB Nano tyres and light wheelset combine to make it fast over loose terrain, while the frame soaks up chatter from bumpy surfaces.

Easily capable of taking on a cyclocross race, or mucking about in the woods, if you push it to the absolute limits a smidgen of flex is detectable at both the front and back, but never enough to be alarming. 

Handling

Slack and stable, the head angle on the Sonder can make its slight front-end flip-flop at slow speed.

However, once up to pace, this trait makes for stable manners, good both for getting rad and when hauling weighty gear.

With a definite feeling of having been designed with a predisposition towards the gnarly, this is furthered by the aggressive WTB Nano tyres.

Appropriately, our first trip out was around some off-road trails. With its super-wide bars, forgiving frame, and plentiful grip the Sonder excelled, ploughing through bumpy sections with a patent titanium zing.

Loaded down with panniers and front roll it did similarly well, although you’ll want to swap the tyres for something slicker if you’re sticking to the tarmac.

Upright and quite short across the top its geometry provides plenty of control and is easy on the back.

Thanks to an upright seat tube, no matter how high you stick the saddle the reach remains compact.

Very comfortable, the one downside of this easy-going manner is that it makes the Sonder a little less adept at pure road duties or commuting. 

RATINGS

Frame: Great value for a titanium frame and carbon fork. 9/10 
Components: Sram's Rival 1 groupset suits the bike well. 8/10 
Wheels: Wide own-brand rims support fat 40mm tyres. 8/10 
The ride: Light but sturdy, more adventure bike than tourer. 9/10 

Verdict: A great-value titanium bike with a serious adventurous streak.  

By the Sonder Camino Ti SRAM Rival1 from Alpkit

Geometry

                                     
Size M
Weight 10.4kg
Top Tube (TT) 554mm
Seat Tube (ST) 497mm
Stack (S) 587mm
Reach (R) 385mm
Chainstays (C) 435mm
Head Angle (HA) 71 degrees
Seat Angle (SA) 74 degrees
Wheelbase (WB) 1030mm
BB drop (BB) 73mm

Spec

Sonder Camino TI Rival
Frame Titanium frame, Monocoque carbon fork
Groupset Sram Rival 1x11-speed
Brakes Sram Rival mechanical disc
Chainset Sram S350GXP
Cassette Sram PG-1130, 11-42t
Bars Love Mud Bomber
Stem Love Mud Storc
Seatpost Love Mud Membar
Wheels Love Mud Orbit, WTB Nano TCS Light 40c
Saddle Love Mud Kush
Contact alpkit.com