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The Sonder Alpha Aero wheelset certainly looks the business with a shiny black finish and bold white graphics that make the wheels appear much more expensive than they actually are. That bling finish isn't there to hide a sub-par wheelset either, as the Alpha Aeros are robust, stiff and smooth rolling. That durability comes with some added weight, though.
Online and high street outdoor gear company Alpkit is the brand behind Sonder, offering framesets, full bikes and components like the Alpha Aeros which join quite a large line-up of wheels.
Based around 31mm-deep KLM14 (6061 grade) aluminium alloy rims, the Aero wheelset is aimed primarily at the road, although considering the 28-spoke front and 32-spoke rear builds, you don't have to worry about how well or badly surfaced those roads happen to be.
I hate using the word 'bombproof', but I can't really think of any other way to describe the Sonders. With a 28mm tyre pumped up hard, I've been smashing them through the broken back lanes, and I even fitted some 38mm (a bit outside of Sonder's recommended range) Panaracer GravelKing tyres to really push the wheels on some of the harsher tracks that I have locally.
The Alpha Aeros haven't missed a beat. They started off true and tight from the box and this is exactly how they have remained after about 450 miles.
With this amount of robustness comes some weight, though, with this set tipping the scales at 2,019g, including the pre-fitted tubeless rim tape, which tallies with Sonder's claim of 1,950g naked.
That's 229g heavier than the similarly built (rim depth, spoke count) Scribe Duty-D wheelset, for instance. That said, while the Sonders can feel a touch sluggish off the line, they don't exactly feel like they are slowing you down once rolling, unless you are tackling a very steep climb.
For the type of abuse these can take, it wouldn't be a reason for me not to buy them.
On the flat, where weight is largely irrelevant, they sing along nicely, and on rolling terrain they carry plenty of speed from the downhills into the next incline.
If you're type of person who likes to load their bike up, then the Alphas will bring plenty of confidence. Sonder makes no mention of a weight limit and I'd have no qualms taking these out into the back of beyond. As I've already said, they'll take plenty of abuse and they are stiff too, so even when you are out of the saddle climbing when loaded up with kit, you aren't going to feel any lateral movement.
Build-wise, the 31mm-deep rims have an internal width of 19mm and 24mm external, which Sonder reckons is best paired with tyres from 25mm to 35mm wide.
As you'd expect, in this day and age, the wheels are both tubeless and tubed compatible, with the rim retaining a hooked design.
I tried them with both setups without issue, and various tyres went on without too much manhandling. Basically, if I had to remove a tyre at the side of the road I wouldn't be swearing.
For the spokes and nipples Sonder has gone down the Pillar route, with bladed spokes arranged in a two-cross lacing pattern on both sides of the front and rear wheel.
The large flanged, aluminium-bodied hubs are Sonder branded and run very smoothly straight out of the box. Sometimes you can get a bit of drag when hubs are new, but there is none of that here.
The freehub body uses a six-pawl design which Sonder says has just 3 degrees of movement before engagement. As a fan of trackstanding at the lights I don't like a lot of slop in a freehub, so this suits me just fine.
When freewheeling there is a bit of a click, but it's pretty standard I'd say – not too loud or buzzy, so it shouldn't become irritating.
You are limited to a Shimano HG freehub, though (which is also compatible with standard SRAM cassettes). If you use Campagnolo or SRAM's XDR then you are out of luck.
When it comes to value, the Sonders are very well priced at £299.99.
That's about £90 cheaper than the aforementioned Scribe Duty-Ds, and 50 quid less than the highly rated but not currently available Prime Baroudeur wheelset.
The Mason x Hunt 4 Season Disc wheels, which perform well as a set of general road wheels that'll take plenty of abuse, aren't quite as deep at 26mm and are currently £379 a set.
Overall, I rate the Alpha Aero wheelset for a real mix of riding. While they are on the weighty side, it doesn't affect the actual ride that much, especially when you take in the kind of terrain their durability allows you to explore.
Well-priced, stiff and durable set of road wheels ideal for the adventurer, commuter or weekend warrior
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Sonder Alpha 700C Aero wheelset
Size tested: 700C
Tell us what the wheel is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Sonder says, "With their lightweight rims, 6 pawl hubs and low drag design, the Alpha Aero wheelset balances flat road speed with climbing performance."
Considering their weight, they are a quick-rolling set of wheels that'll take plenty of abuse.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the wheel?
25mm – 35mm, tubeless compatible
Internal width: 19mm
External width: 24mm
Tubeless compatible and pre-taped
Gloss finish KLM41 premium alloy
6-Pawl ratchet system with fully sealed cartridge bearings
15mm internal rear axle
6061 Alloy Body
6 Bolt Disc Mount
Pillar bladed alloy spokes
28 front, 32 rear
Front:100mm bolt-through / 12mm or 15mm QR
Rear:142mm x 12mm bolt through / 135mm QR
Stiffness and lateral rigidity are both highly impressive.
Did the wheels stay true? Any issues with spoke tension?
The wheels stayed totally true.
How easy did you find it to fit tyres?
Straightforward with both narrow and wide tyres.
How did the wheel extras (eg skewers and rim tape) perform?
The tubeless tape sealed the rim well without any signs of leakage.
Tell us how the wheel performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Worked well for plenty of road applications, while strong enough to cope with some light gravel.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the wheel
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the wheel
Limited freehub options.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
They are very well priced, cheaper than many others in the marketplace like those mentioned in the review.
Did you enjoy using the wheel? Yes
Would you consider buying the wheel? Yes
Would you recommend the wheel to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
They're very good: a solid set of wheels that didn't put a spoke wrong throughout testing. Well put together and well finished, for not a lot of money.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: B'Twin Ultra CF draped in the latest bling test components
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed,
With 20 years of road cycling and over 150,000 miles in his legs it's safe to say Stu is happiest when on the bike whatever the weather. Since writing his first review for road.cc back in 2009 he has also had a career in engineering including 3D-CAD design and product development, so has a real passion for all of the latest technology coming through in the industry but is also a sucker for a classic steel frame, skinny tyres, rim brakes and a damn good paintjob.
His fascination with gravel bikes is getting out of control too!