We test the Mason Bokeh “AdventureSport” bike in both its double-chainring 700c and its single-ring 650b variants
Dom Mason started his own bike brand in 2015, having previously been bike designer for Kinesis UK. His first two models were the aluminium Definition and the steel Resolution road bikes.
These models had a touch of multi-terrain, with the clearance for wider tyres and the stable ride needed to tackle off road as well as long distance road-going adventures. Mason was ahead of the curve in designing such features into his endurance bikes.
But Mason soon found that riders were making use of his bikes’ versatility for long-range bikepacking expeditions. And Josh Ibbett won the 2015 Transcontinental race on a Definition.
So Mason’s third model was the Bokeh. It’s designed to take even wider tyres, to tackle yet more rugged terrain and to carry all the luggage needed for off-road adventures. In 2017, Ibbett won the 900km Italy Divide race on his Mason Bokeh, before setting off on it again to ride round the world.
The Mason Bokeh’s Italian-made alloy frame uses an entirely bespoke Mason tubeset with its profiled tubes made by Dedacciai. Triple butted, it’s hand welded and lugless, with the tube joins smooth welded so that they don’t require post-weld finishing. There’s a BSA threaded bottom bracket shell for ease of maintenance.
The Parallax fork is an all-carbon Mason design with the brake hose routed internally through the fork crown. Both the frame and the fork have a complete set of guard, rack and bottle bosses, including a third bottle mount under the down tube, a useful feature for the more adventurous rider.
And there’s loads of clearance: enough for 41mm 700c tyres or 50mm tyres on the 650b wheels that are becoming a feature of multi-terrain machines. There’s room for mudguards too.
The Mason Bokeh is available with 650b wheels in a SRAM Force 1 build for £3,100 and with Rival 1 for £2,795. There are also 700c, double-ring chainset options at £3100 with Ultegra Hydro and at £2795 with 105 Hydro.
For a really unique bike, Mason has recently introduced an Italian-built titanium Bokeh frameset. Available in very small quantities, it has a matt finish, 3D-printed dropouts and logos in silver mirror.
The Ultegra build of the Mason Bokeh uses mechanical Shimano Ultegra shifting. There are flatmount Shimano RS805 hydraulic disc brakes with 160mm front and 140mm rear Icetech rotors. The chainset is 50/34 and coupled with an Ultegra 11-32 cassette gives plenty of range, although the SRAM 1x builds go even lower for a 1:1 lowest ratio.
Cables are internally routed and fully enclosed, with the rear cable taking a top tube/seatstay route to the mech. Usually found on cyclo-cross bikes, this helps avoid contamination, damage and mud.
Mason has worked with wheel brand Hunt to develop the Four Season 700c Gravel Disc alloy wheelset. Quoted weight is just over 1,600g and the wheels come with an asymmetric rim profile and a wide 20mm internal width for a wider, more stable tyre profile. The hubs are double sealed and like all of Hunt’s wheels, they’re pre-taped and tubeless ready.
Tyres are 35mm wide Panaracer GravelKing SK. Their small square knobs run well on tarmac and dry off-road, although they’re inclined to clog in muddier conditions. Like the Hunt wheels they’re tubeless ready, although Mason supplies them with inner tubes.
Mason provides the zero-cost option to spec MasonxHunt 650b wheels with 2in Panaracer Comet HardPack tyres instead of the 700c wheelset and the Bokeh is available in grey as well as orange.
Bar and stem are Deda alloy, while there’s a Mason carbon seatpost fitted with a custom Fabric Scoop Shallow saddle and shock-absorbing Fabric Hex bar tape.
Mason Bokeh: ride
Dom Mason has really sweated the details with the Bokeh, resulting in a supremely versatile, do-anything machine, well suited to the trend for pointing your drop-bar bike off road too.
Heading out on road, the combination of relaxed geometry with the wide gear range and 35mm tyres mean that you can keep your pace and tackle ups and downs, covering a good distance in comfort.
With the usual state of UK backroads, it’s nice to have some extra air in the tyres to smooth out the bumps. This also means that you don’t need to worry too much about surface imperfections, leading to a more confident ride on the flat and downhill.
Riding on predominantly dry trails, the GravelKing tyres work well off-road, too. As you’d expect from their name, they handle gritty byways with ease. But the small knobs do clog in mud, leading to some loss of traction. If you’re planning to ride off-road through the winter you will probably want a tyre with a more aggressive tread.
The Mason Parallax fork is chunky. It’s fine with the 35mm tyres on road and on smoother trails, but on really bumpy bridleways and particularly when riding off-road descents, there’s vibration transmitted through to the bars, which I found could get tiring.
It’s worth considering what you want to do with your Bokeh before deciding on the spec you want. If you’re planning to ride predominantly on road and less demanding trails, then the 700c options are a good bet.
But if you want to try bikepacking and more adventurous rides off-road, then you will probably be better off with a 650b variant. Although SRAM 1x gives you half as many gear ratios as a double-ring Shimano option, these still cover a wide range. It’s also less prone to chainslap and there’s less potential for chain loss on bumpy ground.
We also rode the 650b/Rival 1 variant of the Mason Bokeh. You sacrifice a bit of speed on road, the wheels have more inertia and you can spin out on faster descents on tarmac. But in exchange, there’s phenomenal grip and roll-over of obstacles on more technical, loose or muddy terrain and lower gearing for steep, loose climbs. There’s also less vibration at the bars.
Although you’d get a higher spec or lower price from a mainstream brand, it’s unfair to compare this to the Mason Bokeh. You’re getting a beautifully finished, Italian-made custom frameset from a low-volume producer. And Mason has really thought about what’s needed for a versatile on/off-road machine.
The frame and fork are totally bespoke to the Mason Bokeh and even the wheels have been designed in collaboration with Hunt specifically to Mason’s requirements. There’s a huge amount of flexibility built in to alter the spec, if in future you do want to try something different.
And Dom Mason is happy to discuss your requirements, make suggestions, swap out components and offer test rides from his Sussex Bike Barn to help you decide what you want.
The Bokeh is well adapted to more adventurous rides in typical UK conditions. It’s fast and comfortable enough for longer road rides, but there’s the opportunity to mix it up with off road sections too, or just take to a trail for the day. It’s a bike that you can easily set up for bikepacking or wet weather riding. But to take full advantage of the Bokeh’s versatility, you might want to budget for a set of Hunt’s 650b wheels in addition to the excellent 700c wheelset. Swapping to 650b opens up yet more technical off road routes and bikepacking options.