Dropbar steel touring bike loaded with panniers

Sonder Santiago Grand Tourer underscores the timeless value of steel in cycle touring

By Kenny Stocker

Simon Withers tests the Sonder Santiago and Surly Disc Trucker, showcasing the enduring appeal of steel dropbar tourers with modern features.

In this wonderfully detailed review, Simon Withers explores the distinct qualities of two modern steel tourers: our own Sonder Santiago and the Surly Disc Trucker. Published in Cycle Magazine, the article highlights how these bikes blend traditional materials with contemporary standards, focusing on their design, components, and overall performance.

They say

Simon opens his review with There's more than one way to build a drop-bar steel tourer - how true that is. We know this well offering the Santiago as a custom build to our customers, it is rare that two bikes go out the same, even if they have started off as one of our predefined builds.

Cycle touring is a personal journey and these bikes reflect an aspect of that journey, how many of us give our bikes names, or talk to it in moments of joy or desperation?

In the review the Surly Disc Trucker and Sonder Santiago represent two nuanced approaches to crafting drop-bar steel tourers. Simon notes the presence of disc brakes across both models and the variation in tyre widths and diameters, indicating a tailored experience for touring enthusiasts. Despite differences, both bikes maintain a strong foundation in steel construction, promising durability and a reduced environmental impact due to the recyclability of steel over materials such as carbon, aluminium and titanium.

Simon praises the external cable routing for keeping maintenance tasks simple on the road, the versatile fitting options across the frames, advocating for practicality and adaptability for the cycle tourer.

Simon's Santiago build (we don't know if he has a name for it) had a 2x11 SRAM Rival drivetrain with a sub-compact double chainset (48-32). This set up with narrow 700c tubeless tyres caters well to a more traditional touring feel. Simon appreciated the crisp and accurate shifting of the SRAM Double Tap levers, but shared a preference for a lower bottom gear to aid challenging inclines.

Simon also appreciates the inclusion of cable-actuated disc brakes for both models, underlining a reliability and ease of maintenance ideal for touring. Finally, Simon ends with discussion on the bikes' handlebars and saddles and racking options, emphasising comfort and control.

Both the Surly and Sonder offer a remarkably smooth ride, courtesy of their steel frames and thoughtful tyre choices, underscoring the timeless value of steel in the touring domain.

We say

Simon's review covers a lot of ground and shows just how personal choosing a touring bike can be. Each area of the bike is worth an article itself, and even then we wouldn't have covered all the options. For hilly terrain the Santiago Grand Tourer comes with a 11-36 cassette on the back instead of the 11-32 on Simons build.

We think the best way to choose a touring bike is to try it, which is why we offer demos from all of our stores. Get in a few miles, hills, country lanes, a bit of gravel. Stop in a cafe, waffle on about how you got on with the flared drop bars, how you think you might need another 5 mm of reach on the head tube. Order a waffle and cappuccino because you still have a lot to say on gear ratios and thoughts on how you are going to load it up for your next adventure...

Read the full review by Simon in the April/May edition of Cycling Magazine from Cycling UK.

Sonder Santiago

  • SRAM Apex 12-speed groupset
  • Sonder Alpha EX UK Made wheelset

£1,149.00 £1,249.00 or from £20 /month
Buy Now. Be Riding Next Week.
  • Shimano Tiagra R4700 10-speed groupset
  • Sonder Alpha EX UK Made wheelset

£1,349.00 £1,449.00 or from £24 /month
Buy Now. Be Riding Next Week.
  • Shimano GRX 610 12-speed groupset
  • Sonder Alpha EX UK Made wheelset

£1,599.00 £1,749.00 or from £28 /month
Buy Now. Be Riding Next Week.
  • Shimano GRX 610 12-speed groupset
  • Sonder Alpha EX UK Made wheelset

£1,649.00 £1,799.00 or from £29 /month
Buy Now. Be Riding Next Week.
  • Shimano 105 R7120 12-speed groupset
  • Sonder Alpha EX UK Made wheelset

£1,699.00 £1,849.00 or from £30 /month
Buy Now. Be Riding Next Week.
  • SRAM Apex 12-speed groupset
  • Sonder Alpha EX UK Made wheelset

£1,399.00 £1,549.00 or from £24 /month
Buy Now. Be Riding Next Week.
  • SRAM Rival 1 11-speed groupset
  • Sonder Alpha EX UK Made wheelset

£1,349.00 £1,449.00 or from £24 /month
Buy Now. Be Riding Next Week.
  • SRAM Apex 1 11-speed groupset
  • Sonder Alpha EX UK Made wheelset

£1,249.00 £1,349.00 or from £22 /month
Buy Now. Be Riding Next Week.
  • SRAM Rival 22 11-speed groupset
  • Sonder Alpha EX UK Made wheelset

£1,499.00 £1,649.00 or from £26 /month
Buy Now. Be Riding Next Week.
  • SRAM Rival 22 11-speed groupset
  • Sonder Alpha EX UK Made wheelset

£1,699.00 £1,849.00 or from £30 /month
Buy Now. Deliveries from 19 August.
Build your own steel tourer with a Reynolds 631 frame and fork
£899.00 £999.00 or from £16 /month
Buy Now. In stock for same day despatch.

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