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Sonder Camino gear upgrade

Let's face it, there's a certain smug satisfaction that comes with powering up a steep climb and staying firmly in the saddle while your mates grind away on foot. That was the feeling I craved, and what sparked my recent upgrade to my beloved Sonder AL Camino.

On a recent group ride, I found myself watching in awe as the mountain bike crew effortlessly scaled climbs that had me red-lining. Sure, their descents might not have been quite as exhilarating, but there's something undeniably rewarding about conquering a tough climb without ever having to dismount.

So, I decided to give my trusty Sonder a little more climbing oomph. My weapon of choice? A Hope Retainer Ring 34t, replacing the stock 40-tooth SRAM Rival. This might sound like a small change, but it's all about gearing.

Thanks to the magic of online gear ratio calculators, I knew this swap was essentially like gaining two easier gears on the left side of my cassette, while sacrificing two on the right. In the real world, that translates to a slight trade-off. My top speed on flat roads now sits around 37 km/h – not ideal for a dedicated road cyclist, but perfectly acceptable for a gravel and adventure bike like the Camino.

The real win, however, is on those leg-sapping climbs. Those gradients that once had me white-knuckling it in granny gear now feel manageable. The difference is incredible, and the newfound ability to conquer climbs with a smile on my face is absolutely worth the slight reduction in top speed.

So, if you're finding yourself yearning for a little more climbing power on your gravel or adventure bike, consider a smaller chainring. It might just be the upgrade that turns you into a mountain goat – well, maybe not a real mountain goat, but you get the idea!