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Reviews

Mason BokehTi Off-Road Shakedown

This was my first real outing with the Mason BokehTi off-road and fully loaded; 2 days of the South Downs Way.

I’d swapped out the 42t chainring for a 40t to make the steep, lumpy climbs a bit easier. I would have gone for the 38t had it been in stock. My plan is to have the 42t for the road and a 38t for off-road use.

The SRAM Force 1x groupset was ideal for this application. The gearing was good and the brakes were perfect, I didn’t experience any of the issues that I did on the Dorset Gravel Dash with the Tripster ATR.

The MASONxHUNT 650b Adventure Sport wheels and Schwalbe Rocket Rons were amazing. First off, they dealt with the first noticeable puncture (a sizeable 5mm gash) without any action needing to be taken. Downhill lumpiness was absorbed with ease and I felt no fatigue in the arms or hands.

Looking out over Harting Down

The 2.1″ wide Rocket Rons from Schwalbe are strictly too wide for the Mason’s spec, but on a dry route they performed admirably. I had taken them for a short off-road in Dorset after a week of rain and clearance was a slight issue. I think Mason spec 2″ so the Rons are only 2.5mm over (excuse the mixed units) but when I need new tyres I’ll be going 2″ for those wet, muddy paths. Thanks again for convincing me to go tubeless Cal.

My bum and the Fabric Scoop saddle have made friends, the seat didn’t even cross my mind which, I think, is the best a saddle can do.

Not strictly the bike but the Apidura luggage is a perfect match for the Bokeh and echoes Mason’s form equalling function ethos. Lightweight bike packing is en vogue and the market is rapidly expanding with that said I have no reason to have my head turned by any other brand. A better looking and functioning setup I don’t think you will find.

I’m certainly not technically proficient but the BokehTi gave me the confidence to go at it (whatever ‘it’ was) and more often than not I would come out the other side successful. I was surprised how at home it felt off-road considering how well it inhabits the tarmac – all it takes is a 30 second wheel change. You’d expect to find a compromise somewhere but if it’s there I’m yet to uncover it.

I’m not sensitive enough to tell what makes a bike feel good (or I’m not good enough at lying to pretend I do) but my insensitivity can’t take away from the fact that the BokehTi is brilliant. If my Tripster ATR was a capable jack of all trades then my BokehTi is the consummate master.

Mason BokehTi 214 Mile Shakedown

I took a long time choosing and it took a long time coming but last Thursday my Mason BokehTi arrived, along with an addition set of wheels.

On Saturday I had a 300km Audax (Wonderful Wessex which I have ridden before) and I wouldn’t normally take a new bike on such a long shakedown ride but I didn’t have much choice – I’d already sent off my old bike.

I hadn’t ridden anything over 100 miles since April 2015 so it would be interesting to see how I got along, relatively unfit and on a new bike.

For this I obviously chose the 700c MASONxHUNT 4Season Disc wheelset with tubeless Schwalbe G-One Speed tyres fitted and left the MASONxHUNT 650B AdventureSport Disc wheels with Rocket Rons at home for the South Downs Way at a later date.

The instant I got on the Bokeh it felt a perfect fit, something I had struggled to find the more I rode my previous bike, which was a prime reason for buying a new one.

I have a rule that I don’t like to buy products whose name isn’t 100% intuitive to pronounce; that’s why I’ve never had a Nissan Qashqai. I had to break that rule with the Bokeh – Bow Ke (as in kettle)?? Bocker?? But to quote Shakespeare “A bike by any other name would ride as sweet”.

The quality and detailing of the frame is obvious, with the polished MASON logo on the downtube a clever touch – something that everyone who looked at the bike immediately picked up on. The finish on the titanium has a delicate feel to it, achieved through bead-blasting which also de-stresses the Ti to increase toughness and durability; what Mason calls a ‘Structural Surface Finish’.

Don’t be fooled by its excellent aesthetics, form is certainly not over function. Take a look at the titanium 3D printed dropouts to get an idea what’s going on inside.

About 30 miles into the ride I experienced some knee and hip pain so dropped the seat about 5mm the knee pain went straight away, the hip pain continued for a while but eased quickly over the next few miles. The only other discomfort I experienced was from the seat, not that the Fabric saddle is to blame; that’s what happens if you put unconditioned buttocks on a new saddle for 200 miles. The saddle is attached to a Mason Penta Seatpost that allows for refreshingly accurate adjustment – particularly on the tilt.

The Hunt wheels and tubeless tyres in conjunction with the BokehTi frame are a revelation. I’ve always used 700×28 or 32cc Schwalbe Marathon Pluses because I valued puncture resistance over weight or control. Tubeless seemed to offer puncture resistance along with better grip and less weight, they didn’t disappoint. I genuinely didn’t know you could corner so fast without sliding or twitching about. I was encouraged to go for the G-One Speeds by Cal at Mason Cycles and I’m glad I did. The wheels and tyres coupled with the ability to stop with no effort using the SRAM Force HRD hydraulic brakes could make for some dangerously fast descents. The wheel\tyre combo also makes the feedback from the road nicer, rather than shouting what’s going they reassuringly whisper it to you. Less Brian Blessed, more Joanna Lumley.

The SRAM XG-1180 wide range cassette gives me 10-42, paired with a 42t chainring it provides a 1:1 ratio which was more than enough for the hills, on this ride at least. I can swap the front ring for a 40t if need be when venturing off-road. I think I only slipped onto the 42 on a few occasions.

Moving to a 1x groupset wasn’t much of a change as I never really moved the front once the tone of the ride was set, but the SRAM DoubleTap took a bit of getting used to. I was often too heavy handed for the upwards gearing and end up going down. Having the brake operate separately from the shifter was nice, having come from Shimano where braking and shifting could occasionally interfere with each other.

For the handlebars I took inspiration from Josh Ibbett’s round the world rig (he’s also using a Bokeh) and went for Ritchey WCS VentureMax, they have a flared drop which feels so much more natural to hold.

Other than not being able to pronounce Bokeh, this is my only small niggle: There is no bridge on the chainstays and thus no mudguard mount down there, however there is one on the seat tube. Mason being Mason though there is undoubtedly a good reason for this. Having spoken to Dom about this there is a good reason, Dom says ‘reason for this is to give maximum mud clearance and remove the ‘shelf’ that is caused by a bridge. That bridge is actually quite redundant, it doesn’t do much for rigidity and also it can lead to cracking on the inside of the stays where the welds are. So, especially for Ti frames, it’s best to leave it off!’.

I love the BokehTi, it instils a sense of adventurous confidence that allows you to take it that little bit faster and further: It’s never going to be the Bokeh that limits me. It wouldn’t be the first time that I’d been let down by what’s between my legs.

Being a whole, complete new rig it is difficult to attribute appropriate praise to the deserving parts so it has to go to Mason as a company; for designing the frame, their collaborations, their suggestions and the people (Dom, Cal and the others behind the scenes) who have brought it all together.

I look forward to giving it a good test off-road in July on the South Downs Way.

Choosing a New Bike

It’s a learning curve buying the right bike. I thought the Tripster ATR was going to be my bike for life but I’m clearly still on the curve. I’m on the hunt for a replacement bike for life. Here is why:

Sizing: Despite initially feeling fine I now feel overstretched and that the frame is a little long. Having had a bike fit, it shows my arms are short in relation to my legs which makes sense of my overstretched feeling; I bought the 60cm frame soley based on my height.

Gearing: I struggle on loose terrain ascents. I needed to stand to put the power down which then took the weight on the rear wheel and it would slip and spin, I need lower gearing so I can sit spin the pedals.

Braking: The TRP HY-RD cable actuated hydraulic caliper brakes are great when fresh and perfectly setup, but after a while they can lose their fully hydraulic feel and wont have a graduated application; they will start to grab like a mechanical set.

New bike: Everybody loves a new bike.


Frame/fork must haves:

  • Titanium – I love the ‘can do’ attitude of titanium
  • 3rd bottle boss set – I want space for a 3rd bottle, or a single bottle if the other 2 are obstructed by a frame bag
  • Disc specific – Rim brakes have no interest to me
  • Mounts for rack and mudguards – I will definetly want mudguards at some point
  • Cleareance for wide 650b tyres – Along with lower gearing I hope wider 650b tyres will give better performance on loose terrain
  • Better sizing than current 60cm – The main reason for going for a new frame rather than just upgrading the ATR

Frame/fork would likes:

  • Internal routing (almost in the ‘must haves’) – I want to clear the top tube of the clutter and bib tight snagging opportunities
  • Thru axle – They seem like a good idea but not a deal breaker
  • Flat mount for calipers – Again the seem like a good idea but not that important
  • Toptube bar mount

Component must haves:

  • Lower gearing than 50/34 11-32 can give – For the loose terrain ascents mentioned above
  • Hydraulic disc brakes – Now they are widely available on drop shifters why wouldn’t you, plus the HY-RD performance above

Component would likes:

  • Hub dynamos – Expensive but would be so nice not to worry about batteries on long rides
  • Thinking about tubeless – They seem like a good idea but I’m a bit scared about being stranded if the worst happens.

Component Contenders:

Starting a little back to front, there is only one real option for my gearing and braking at the moment but luckily it seems ideal; SRAM Force 1x. A 10-42 cassette and a choice of easily changed chain rings from 38 to 50 (in increments of 2) will give ample range. And they are available with hydraulic braking so that’s a desicion made.

SRAM Force 1 Groupset

SRAM Force 1 Groupset – this but with the wide range Mini Cluster cassette.

Frame/Fork Contenders:

There is only one frame (that I can find) that meets all my ‘must have’ criteria, but first, here are some near misses:

OPEN U.P.
I really lust for this bike but it’s missing 1 thing…titanium.

Kinesis Tripster ATR v2
I love my current ATR v1, but their sizing is too restrictive and they followed this lead with the v2.

Sonder Camino Ti
Sizing again is the issue for me here, that and the ‘would like’ of internal routing missing. A great little well priced bike.

Going Custom
I did contact a couple of places about producing a frame with everything I wanted but no one was very forth coming; I guess they were busy with easier jobs and not that interested.

Other contenders – dismissed for one reason or another but may be helpful if you’re looking for a similar bike: Curve GMX and CXR, Litespeed T5 Gravel, and Moots Routt 45.


And the winner is…

The ‘winner’ by meeting all must-have and would-like criteria (bar the toptube bag mounts) is, the as yet, unavailable Mason BokehTi. So unavailable, it doesn’t currently have it’s own webpage – most of what you’ll see on the link is about the aluminium version. Now all I need to do is beg, borrow or steal some cash…quite a lot of cash.

 

The Search for Winter Bib Tights 2 – Morvelo Stealth Stormshield

Morvelo Stealth Stormshield Bib Tights

I’ve finally found a pair of Winter Bib Tights, it’s taken about 12 years but I now have a pair I’m 95 percent happy with.

To read about my struggle with bib tights have a look here.

I think I came across them when browsing the Morvelo site and was impressed with their sizing information; it gives you confidence you’re going to end up with the right size first time. If you consider buying from Morvelo then be sure not to bypass the real world sizing guide.

I went for the understated Stealth Stormshield version (more vibrant versions are available for the less introverted) in large (34″ waist, 34″ leg) – they are a great fit all round.

I’ve used them down to temperatures of -5°C without feeling cold and up to 7°C without feeling too warm. I wouldn’t want to wear them in temperatures much more than that though.

The only downside so far is that the stitching on the seams is easily ‘fluffed’. My top tube has minimal area for rubbing but the seams have been caught and are fluffy. In the short term this isn’t a problem beyond the aesthetics, in the long term it must comprimise the stitching’s strength to some degree.

They aren’t cheap either but when its taken 12 years to find your bib tight soulmate I was ‘happy’ to pay the £115 (cuurently £103.50).

Because I use them on my daily commute I would like there to be more (some) reflective panels or detailing.

Update 06\04\2017: Now completed a season in the tights and they performed well. The fluffing hasn’t developed beyond the aesthetic. The water resistant coating isn’t as effective as it once was but that’s my fault – I tumble dried them a few times – don’t tumble dry them.

Ned Boulting’s Bikeology Tour

***Ned has a new Bikeology tour for 2017***

First off, just in case you’re using this review to decide if to attend the Bikeology tour, then do, it’s good.

I’ve been a big fan of Ned’s since listening to his On the Road Bike: The Search For a Nation’s Cycling Soul book on a free trial of Aubible. His relaxed and sometimes irreverant style struck a chord with me and from then on we were going to be (unrequited) friends. It was probably Ned’s books that made me take the time to try and appreciate the Tour de France, as previously I found it a little unapproachable and boring.

Having seen his Bikeology tour advertised at the New Theatre Royal for a few months time, I decided to book a ticket early for a good seat.

The morning of the show arrived and of course I hadn’t puchased a ticket. Did I want to spend £20 to see someone who hadn’t even followed me on Twitter (Hi Ned, my username is @saddlesoreuk)? Of course I did! I don’t need the gratification of a follow on Twitter (that’s @saddlesoreuk Ned). I was lucky to get a ticket, there were only a few lonely chairs left.

19:00 (19:30 start) and I’m in the Guildhall Walk, Portsmouth walking to Sainsbury’s for some quick food before the show; an almond croissant, a cold coffee thing and a bag of mini jelly beans. Outside I saw my friend Graham (he follows me on Instagram) and his dad who were also going to see Ned – Graham had chips.

The first half of the show was about the bike, bike people, and what Ned thinks about them. The second half concentrated on Le Tour and gave some great insight into its history, riders and traditions.

The show was entertaining, Ned was articulate and clever, and the content was good mix of detail, fun, interaction and behind-the-scenes knowledge you wouldn’t otherwise know. I won’t go into any detail because hopefully you’ll go and see it for yourself. Perhaps when the tour is over I’ll elaborate on the content.

Although most of the show was stock content that will be repeated at every venue, there was a surprisingly large amount that was particular to Portsmouth. I hope and expect this is replicated for each venue respectively.

It seems you don’t even have to know who Ned is to attend or appreciate the show, at one point I heard a conversation along these lines “So who is he [Ned Boulting] anyway?”, “I’m not really sure”, “Oh right, OK”. I think maybe they were meant to buy tickets for the upcoming Monty Don gig.

As it says at the top, if you have the opportunity to go then do so. If you’re reading this after the tour has finished then you’ll have to hope he does another one and that it is as good.

Here are some photos of Graham and his dad returning with beer at the mid session interval and some other, surprisingly less interesting, subjects.

***Ned has a new Bikeology tour for 2017***

Lucky Saddle!

I have a friend, well I say a friend she’s more an aquaintance, well I say an aquaintance actually just a colleague, an ex-colleague at that. She’s called Claire and having seen this site she thought she’d make a poor copy of it – thus Lucky Saddle was born.

I’m not saying it’s rubbish but she owes a lot to whoever designed the logo and helped with the technical setup because other than that it hasn’t got much going for it.

Just to give you an idea of what you might expect over there; Claire once cycled into the back of a stationary skip lorry while pregnant.

It’s worth a look though (if you’re bored) – http://www.lucky-saddle.co.uk/

Bike Fit

The company I work for (VOXIT – IT for businesses) have recently moved and by chance on the same site, there are two custom bike shops: Lios (a portmanteau of the owner’s children’s names) and Comtat (pronounced Com ta, it’s French you know).

Both of these offer bike fitting and while I’ve never really felt the need for bike fitting and perhaps a little cynical of paying for a service to fit you into a preprescribed range of mesaurements,  but it felt churlish not to take advantage of their services given their proximity.

I chose Comtat, mainly because Comtat were in, and popped over to see Adam with my bike and kit.

Firstly Adam, a nice bearded chap, suffering the 1st world problems of not being able to find a good coffee or haircut in Lee-on-the-Solent since moving from London (I suggested Laneway Coffee in Lee for local coffee and The Library in Southsea for a trim**), tested my flexibilty. Then he stuck sticky dots to my hirstute appendages and filmed me.

There was a fairly odd moment when a man I barely knew, completely unexpectedly, pulled up my sock: This may not sound like much but if you have dressed yourselves for the past 30 years, to have a veritable stranger adjust your clothing (like your mum might before school) was quite odd. He then licked his finger and cleaned some dried bean sauce off my cheek*.

Inbetween the adjustments I was back on the turbo with my bike and the Retül sensors to see how it had effected my position. While on the turbo I spied Adam’s certificate to show he’d been to the Retül University. To type ü on a PC hold down the Alt key and type 0252, if you’re using a Mac, don’t.

At the end, a beeping scanner thing was used to take measurements of the bike and these were used to populate a report on the fitting that Adam subsequently emailed to me.

The long and short of it was that my stem has been lowered by 25mm and my saddle moved forward and up by 20mm and 30mm respectively. I was also advised not to sit so far back on the saddle and to try and keep my feet more horizontal when pedalling.

The result seems quite positive, I can stay happily on the hoods as before I felt a little stretched and kept wanting to return to the tops.

As an aside, Adam weighed my bike, it is 12.5kg (with all its gumpf on).

I’ll update this post once I’ve given it a good few hundred miles.

*this didn’t happen.

**I would now also recommed the Barbership