Friends of Alpkit, Rich Seipp and Grace Lambert-Smith, share a love of riding bikes for days at a time, so we let them take the new Sonder Santiago bike around Wales for its inaugural tour. The aim was to ride around the Llyn Peninsula coast following various Sustrans routes, followed by a brief stint in Snowdonia National Park. Grace tells us about the trip.
I went to the Hathersage store one drizzly midweek morning to pick up the bike and chat to Rich about our impending trip. I swanned over to the couches in the corner where my new steel sidekick was perched, and noticing raw steel finish with popping orange decals, I knew we’d be the perfect match, though Rich’s black and teal number had me glancing over with envy from time to time.
The damp forecast considered, we packed every layer possible for four days in November. “I probably won’t need that given we’re only riding for a few days, but I’ll pack it anyway since I’ve got the room,” I thought, stuffing a spare jersey into my rear pannier bag at the last minute.
There’s a strategy to packing which can be honed with repetition, and it took a few repacking cycles until I was happy: shoes at the bottom, backpack against the side, down jacket on the forks, tools in the frame bag and valuables right where I could see them. The key is getting a well-balanced bike while having the stuff you need often within easy reach, so I spread the heavier, less used items (tent, sleeping bag etc.) across the rear panniers and kept lighter handy bits (Filoment down jacket, waterproofs, tools etc.) at the top of those bags or up front.
I had close to 60L of storage space - a novelty for me given my history of lightweight bike packing - and I liked it. After we stopped cycling on the first night, I wore casual clothes rather than soggy Lycra to the local curry house in Pwllheli - a relief to many, I can assure you! Packing my Brukit had also been an excellent idea - you can’t beat a cuppa in the campsite before you set off for the day!
If you’ve ever ridden a loaded bike, you’ll know just how twitchy it can feel the minute you remove all your luggage and take the same bike for a spin. I wanted to experience the feeling of an unloaded Santiago so we stashed the bags in some bushes and climbed a small hill just outside Llanberis. It was like a new bike! You’d never have guessed that I’d been carrying everything to be self-sufficient for a number of days just minutes earlier. The Santiago was like your everyday workhorse and your week-long warrior all in the same frame.
Comfort is top of my list for the type of cycling I tend to do and, for the extra weight, this steel frame offers a much smoother ride than any bike I’ve ridden before. When panniers and frame bags were thrown into consideration, I knew I’d have a good time, not a hard time.
The Santiago was built with road touring at the forefront of its design, so we stuck to roads and the Sustrans network for our time in Wales. Predictably, some paths were a little worse for wear, but with 38mm tyres the wheels took everything in their stride. The freshly trimmed hawthorn bushes proved frustrating for Rich and amusing for me as I watched him fix seven consecutive punctures, secretly grateful for the roadside pitstop accompanied by the soundtrack of his mini-pump.
While the hail, headwinds and hills were challenging and the descents, sweeping views and occasional sunshine were thrilling, one thing remained constant: the Sonder Santiago. A reliable friend with its ability to carry me and my luggage as one harmonious unit wherever I pointed my front wheel and, at the same time, accepting of my demands and those of the Welsh elements.
Want to know more? Click here for the Sonder Santiago!