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Track, downhill, enduro, xc, dirt jump, fat, road and gravel. All recognisable genres in the bubbling, melting pot of cycling. Simply add the word ‘bike’ at the end of every one and your brain will instantly generate an image of what each looks like … but it can’t do that with the word bikepacking. Aside from a few anomalies, there is no such thing as a bikepacking bike. If you discount such things as the Salsa Cutthroat which was designed from day one as a bike with a sole and very specific objective, then you won’t find a single ‘bikepacking bike’ in the shops. Some manufacturers might go as far as saying, ‘suitable for’ but none will proclaim their products to be 100%, bonafide bikepacking bikes.

Doesn’t make sense does it? Cycling’s latest golden child left without its own toys. Seems hard to fathom but on reflection, it’s little surprise. Bikepacking’s a complicated soul, its DNA is a jumble, a tangled muddle that no one can quite fully figure out. To me it’s one thing, to you it might be something else. We’re both right but without a definitive definition of what ‘bikepacking’ is or what it means, there can never be a ‘bikepacking bike’, there can only ever be bikes that lend themselves well to the task.


The Sonder Frontier isn’t a bikepacking bike but it is a bike that will likely tick many boxes for anyone planning multi-day rides, without first returning home for their tea. The Frontier is available in four different guises – rigid 29er, rigid B+, hardtail 29er and unsurprisingly, hardtail B+. Those with a shed / garage / loft full of spares might also be interested to know the it’s available as a frame only or frame and fork too … however, a word of caution here, the hub spacing is ‘Boost’, so make sure your present wheels are adaptable. Aside from the obvious change of wheels, forks and appropriate tyres, all four models share the same frame and components.

If you’re anything like me and be grateful if you’re not, your idea of a bikepacking bike will look very much like the rigid 29er version as pictured here. I’m a long suffering fan of rigid bikes, I like the simplicity, the lack of maintenance, the lines and if I’m honest, the cost – both initially and over the long term. Something else I like, is 29″ wheels. Please don’t read anything into that last sentence – I like B+ too, I like it a lot but if I had to choose between the two, my personal preferences would sway me towards 29″. I appreciate that might sound like sacrilege in todays plus sized world but it’s a view based on personal experience and circumstance – so you might think differently and make other choices.

Oversize head-tube and fork provide an almost seamless front end.

By all accounts, steel is real but it doesn’t lend itself quite so well to making mass produced, affordable bicycles as aluminium does. Both the frame and fork on the Frontier are aluminium – a very common material to build a frame from but less so, a fork. Generally, rigid aluminium forks have a reputation for being particularly rigid. It’s not the fault of the material, the unforgiving nature of aluminium forks is usually a bi-product of design … just how rigid the Frontier fork proves to be, is something I’ll be discovering shortly but I haven’t condemned it yet. In its defence, it does feature 3 bolt cage mounts on each leg and a very nice post mount to bolt the brake caliper to.

Plate style chainstay offers plenty of clearance.

Although I may have nailed my colours to the 29er mast, I can still appreciate the benefits of a large volume tyre and suitable rim. The tubeless compatible Hobo rims have an internal width of 29mm and measure a generous, 35mm outside edge to outside edge. They really do work to get the best from the 2.4″ WTB Trail Boss tyres – it’s not ‘plus’ territory but the combination should provide a good balance between weight, comfort, rolling resistance and grip.

If you’re struggling on the hills – perhaps it’s not the bike.

The drive-train is all SRAM in the form of an 11 speed NX1 group-set. There’s a 32 tooth ring up front, which when coupled with the 11 – 42 cassette out back, should provide enough forward motion for most situations. When you’ve finished going up hills you might want to come down the other side. To make sure you do it in a reasonably controlled manner, there’s a 180mm front and 160mm rear disc, both gripped by SRAM Level calipers. With SRAM taking care of both the stop and go departments, it’s an equally full house when it comes to contact points and finishing kit. Bars, seatpost, stem, etc are Sonder’s own ‘Love Mud’ components. There’s no surprises, nothing out of the ordinary or unusual, just decent quality kit that no one should struggle to get along with. I shall continue to ride, push and carry the Frontier over the next couple of weeks and let you know how closely Sonder’s idea of a suitable bike and mine tally.

A rigid Frontier with your choice of wheels is £879. It comes in 4 sizes and 3 colours. The same bike but fitted with a Recon fork will cost you £120 more – the choice is yours because we’re not all the same. SONDER

13 Comments

  1. Unknown says:

    Really interested to hear your opinions on this. Seriously considering this Build and would like to know how you feel it compares to The Pinnacle Ramin.
    I m currently on a Giant Anthem X29er or my Kinesis GF TI disc road bike. My conundrum is whether the Frontier would be more or a compromise as a Trail bike than The Anthem is proving as a " Bike packing" bike. So off to Alpkit to hire one for the Weekend.

  2. Hi Tim, did you cone to any conclusions? I also have the Giant Anthem 29er so have the same dilemma.

  3. Unknown says:

    At the moment I ve got a couple of trips to bike park wales booked , so the Anthem is staying in thIe stable for now. I got a run out on a Frontier but it wasn't necessarily the spec I d go for , It was 650b with rigid, Think I would go for a 29er with a lock out fork. The frontier strikes me as a great bike for Bike Packing but a little limited for trail riding. I think eventually I ll go for the Frameset and build something up specific for the task, I m just beginning to love the Anthem again, really versatile and great Trail bike , and theres always a good excuse to have another bike in the fleet. I only get 1 in 6 weekends off at the moment so multi day tours are difficult. I m more Camping somewhere decent as a base and riding out and returning to there which the GF ti and Anthem are ideal for.

  4. Unknown says:

    How about sizing ? I'm 5.6 with a 31 inseam. Should i get a small or medium ? Just asking.

  5. I'm 5'7" with a 29" inside leg. I rode a medium and never felt overstretched. If you have long legs / short torso I probably go with a small and a medium if you're proportions are the other way round. Also, consider that a small should offer additional clearance for a seatpack if you use one.

  6. Always room for one more bike Tim ;o) I found the rigid 29er a very capable descender but in fairness, I've not ridden anything other than rigid for a lot of years … something you simply get used to perhaps?

  7. Unknown says:

    I ve probably lost a lot of technical ability from the years were I was riding rigid stumpjumpers and orange P7s the Anthem is a real steam roller that flatters and flattens . Sticking to the Bike Packing scheme, to be fair I couldn't fault the Frontier on that, The concern was more to do with my lack of Free Time and therefore tendency to base camp and ride out rather than Tour. so you cant really call what I do bike packing, and therefore the bikes I currently own are better suited. Aspirationally I want to move more towards multi day trips and will definitely at some point in the future be looking at either the Frontier/ Ramin or even swapping the GF ti for a Tripster.

  8. Unknown says:

    Looking forward to the follow-up! Any idea when that will be roughly?

  9. Won't be long now Stuart … anything specific you'd like to know?

  10. Unknown says:

    Ally front fork, Harsh? Boost hub spacing, Restrictive or an advantage? Would your Money go here , or a Pinnacle Ramin?

  11. They're both quite similar Tim but the Ramin+ would still get my vote. The aluminium fork on the Frontier isn't anywhere near as harsh other alloy forks I've ridden, so doesn't really enter into the decision process. The industry seems to be going boost, so while it may be a (very) slight hindrance at present, it's likely not to be as time goes on … so again, maybe less of an issue than you might think. The Frontier behaves and rides pretty much as you'd expect it to but there's something about the Ramin+ that makes it feel greater than the sum of its parts … very hard to quantify.

  12. Unknown says:

    Thanks, Evans still have some Ramin 2 Framesets on sale which all the Standard parts from my Giant Anthem x29er will switch across from , so I think I ll go this route. I ve ridden a Frontier but it was 650b , I want to keep the option of 29er and Front suss which locks out so I ve still go a Trail riding tool for trips to centres with the daughter.

  13. Unknown says:

    Hi,
    My ramin 3 got destroyed in a fire at work.I really enjoyed Riding it,but would get pins and needles in my hands on longish descents.I have money coming for a replacement soon and was wondering if the frontier in 29er might be a better option.Any thoughts?

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