Mountain biking is no stranger to confounding categorisations. Remember SuperXC or Overmountain from back in the day? Or maybe a more recent example of ebike specific tools
? In fact, we've got our own sordid past here and made one of our own that unfortunately caught on in Downcountry
. Well, another category has now popped its head above the parapet thanks to Sonder's Dial hardtail - Aggro Gravel.
Sonder describes the Dial as an "Aggro-gravel bike, built for speed and efficiency. Beat your best time, cover big miles on a long day out, race to the podium. With its lightweight aluminium tubeset and 100mm travel up front, the Dial gives maximum pedalling efficiency whether you're riding 200kms at Dirty Reiver or racing flat out." It is apparently "designed for riding cross-country trails without compromise. It gives more confidence than a gravel bike and a more direct feel than a trail bike."
Take a look over the spec and geometry charts though and it looks like a fairly regular, entry-level XC hardtail. A 69° head tube angle, 74° seat tube angle and a reach of 455mm in size large makes the geometry so regular it's barely worth mentioning. On top of this, the spec consists of a 100mm fork with a mix of own-brand parts, a rigid seatpost and solid kit from RockShox and Shimano at a competitive price. Basically, this is equivalent to the bike most of us probably started off riding that took us from bimbling down local trails to many misguided adventures as we grew into the hobby. But if it looks like a mountain bike and it quacks like a mountain bike, why isn't it called a mountain bike?
When we reached out to Alpkit, the parent company of Sonder, they told us that the term originates from a Singletrackworld podcast
and is a bit of a tongue in cheek reference to phrases like "groad" rather than an attempt to create a new category. Sonder describes its Camino gravel bike as the mountain biker's gravel bike and there have apparently been a number of enquiries about a flat bar version of it. Sonder took that a step further with a suspension fork and the Dial was born.
While XC race bikes are getting more progressive (check out the 67.5 degree head angle on new Scalpel HT for evidence of that
), and trail bikes are getting more enduro
, Sonder wanted the Dial to fill the gap left behind. It purposefully bucks the longer, lower, slacker trend and is more aimed for "wheels on the ground" riding with narrow bars and a nimble feel. They want this to be a bike that helps you learn skills while not getting you too far out of your depth. Think about the kind of fast, smooth riding you get at British trail centres and you're probably picturing the intended terrain for this bike.
The Sonder Dial range can be bought as a frame only for £399 with build options starting from £1,099 for the SX Eagle model up to £1,749 for a Shimano XT spec. The bikes are available to order now with delivery expected around the start of April, just in time for the aggro gravel season to kick off. More info can be found here
But anyway, isn't this all semantics? What is a gravel bike? What is a mountain bike for that matter? Isn't this all just marketing? And aren't we all playing into their hands by talking about it? Is it even going to catch on? Does anyone care? Probably not even worth commenting on... right?