Sonder Evol: Q&A with Bike Guru Neil

By Rob Savin

“A reyt good bike”

Bike Guru Neil’s been raving about the Evol, Sonder’s new 140 mm travel bike, since before the first prototype even arrived. We figured it was about time we let him tell us all about it, so we dragged him away from the workshop for half an hour to tell us Evol’s story.

Let’s start simple… tell us about the Evol.

The Evol is the full suspension trail bike I’ve always wanted. I like to think of it a trail bike that's dipped its toes into the waters of Enduro. Sensible weight, enough travel, tough and fast. Really fast.

A few people are probably wondering, why did you go for just 140mm travel?

140mm of travel is enough for this style of bike. We’ve got it set up nice and progressive so it ramps up nicely towards the end of its stroke to give it that bottomless feel.

You’ve gone for 29" wheels on the new Evol, why?

I wanted to make the Evol fast. 29" wheels give the Evol the speed I was looking for in spades. On top of that, 29" wheels are now becoming such a standard that the range of tyres available is huge, which opens up so many possibilities for people who want to take this bike to different places.

I've been a bit obsessive over the geometry on the Evol too so I could make sure that even with 29" tyres it stays fun in the tight, twisty sections while really, really quick and stable at speed. It's really versatile.

We’ve heard you raving about the Evol’s rear suspension after testing a few times , so you’re probably raring to tell us why you went for Metric Shock Standards…

Metric is a massive performance upgrade over the old shock sizing standards, the increased bushing overlap makes a huge difference to how supple the shock is. The Deluxe RT fitted to this bike is the most plush shock I’ve felt since my old TF Tuned 5th element coil shock back in 2003!

We’re also future-proofing. Support for standard shocks won’t be around much longer, putting plenty of frames out of commission if shocks fail… I want the Evol to be around longer than just a few years!

 

You’ve gone for internally routed cabling for the Evol, what was the thinking behind it?

There’s plenty of suspension bits and bobs hanging off this frame without cluttering up the look of it even more with external routing! We've made the internal routing on the Evol really simple and there are generous-sized removable ports so there's no faffing when it comes to maintenance jobs.

 

We’ve heard rumours that this is your dream bike… when you were designing it, where did you picture riding it?

This is actually an evolution of my dream bike. The original 27.5" bike was something I always wanted - a bike that can descend like a DH bike, play around on the jumps like a slopestyle bike and pedal to the top too. What I really missed in the end though was the pace. With the 29" wheels on this Evol, that pace is certainly there. It's rapid! And in terms of agility, the geometry means this can do everything the 27.5" Evol did and a whole more on top.

I tested the bike pretty thoroughly at Fort William. It pedalled really well round the Red Route and then I took it up the lift ride down Top Chief. I hit 58kph on the boardwalk section at the top, which is going some on something that's less than 2 foot wide! As I say, this bike's really fast - I love it! Next trip is Bike Park Wales. Looking forward to that one.

We know you’re always planning something… what have you got in the pipeline?

Something a bit different actually. Keep your eyes out for a new XC bike. I was out testing it at the weekend actually with a mate who was on a gravel bike. It was easy keep up, which is a good sign for yet another bike I've specifically designed to go fast!

We can’t wait… nice one Neil!

Sonder Evol is now available. Frame and rear shock at £999; full builds from £1699.

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