New Sonder Transmitter: Q&A with Neil Sutton
Tell me a bit about the Transmitter
Transmitter was one of Sonder’s first bikes, launched in February 2016. We were early to the 650b+ party, so it was also one of the first plus tyred hardtail trail bikes on the market. The reception was amazing: rave reviews, multiple award nominations and the customer feedback was really positive.
Why did it get such good reviews?
It’s just an incredibly fun bike to ride, and it really exceeds expectations of what can be done on hardtail with just a 130 mm travel fork.
So why change it?
Transmitter has remained relatively unchanged since we launched it. We made minor updates around 2 years ago, adjusting the sizing and introducing an XL, but other than that it’s still the same bike.
It was always intended to be run as a full plus bike - 2.8” tyre out back, 3” up front. The 3” front tyre restricted the bike to using a 29er spec 130 mm travel fork forclearance.
Plus bikes are great (we really love them) but we've seen a trend towards more 2.8 and 2.6 tyresrecently, with more people going with 2.8” up front and 2.8” or 2.6” out back. This opens up more tyre choices and by dropping the front tyre size to 2.8”;you can run a 150 mm 27.5 spec fork - the axle-to-crown measurement is the same but with slightly shorter offset and usually a little more sag. I ran my personal Transmitter with this setup for around 8 months and, although it worked well, it wasn’t quite perfect: the wheelbase was a touch too short and the bike felt twitchy on really quick stuff, it lost the stability the standard 51mm offset fork gave it. So we made the decision to update the Transmitter to make the most of a 27.5” 150 mm fork.
What have you changed and why?
To make the bike work with this 27.5” 150mm fork, we’ve corrected the head angle to sit at 65 degrees with 25% sag. The original frame, although spec’d at 65 degrees, would usually end up sagged at around 66.5 degrees.
We’ve also pushed the reach out quite a bit to give the bike that extra bit of wheelbase it needs, we’ve steepened the seat angle to compensate for this, so the seated reach is still sensible.
Following on from the success of the Signal Ti, we’ve also gone for size specific chainstay lengths: the bigger the bike, the longer the chainstay. This means taller riders are going to get a bit more room to move on the bike without the front becoming too light.
The BB is also a touch lower, again this is to give it that bit more stability and to make you feel more in the bike than on the bike.
Other than the fork the other big change to specs is the tyres. The Transmitter will still work well with the 2.8” Rangers we’ve always specced (and these may be the best option for smoother, drier conditions), but our standard builds will feature more aggressive and durable setup that suits the usual UK conditions and the type of riding we have on our doorstep…
The WTB Vigilante has long been one of my favourite tyres to run on the front of my bike. Up until recently it was only available in 2.3”, but you can now get it in 2.5, 2.6 and 2.8! This, coupled with the 2.6” Trail Boss out back, is the perfect setup. We’ve been running it on the Sonder Evol for a while and been loving it, so we’re excited to get the same setup (albeit in much bigger sizes) on the Transmitter!
How will this affect performance?
Performance-wise the updates have increased the Transmitter’s (already vast) breadth of ability.
There are a lot of lift assist bike parks popping up at the minute and a lot of people ride these spots more than anything else. The V1 Transmitter could definitely hold its own, but if you tried hard enough you'd begin to seeits limits. V2 will still do the fun trail bike thing it’s always done, and it can still be ridden on multi-day epics or short and fast trail centre blasts, but the changes we’ve made have raised the Transmitter’s limits, so you’ll be able to push the bike harder than ever before!