Adventure bikes are a rapidly growing market, appealing to those who want to add some variety to their riding to include off-roading as well as tarmac excursions. Mason is a UK brand that builds its bikes in Italy from custom steel, aluminium and titanium tubing, supplying modern, disc-equipped, drop-bar bikes.
The new Bokeh is its aluminium frame and carbon fork adventure model. I’m testing the 650b Force version, which comes with thru-axle 650b wheels with 44mm tyres, SRAM’s Force 1x hydraulic disc brake groupset and Deda and fabric finishing kit. At first glance it looks like a cyclocross bike, but the huge gear range (40t at the front and 10-42 at the rear) and enormous knobbly tyres hint towards something more. Designed to be able to be ridden on all terrains and distances, from tarmac to deep muddy broken ground, it comes equipped for action with mounts for dynamo lights, racks, three bottle cages and mudguards. The same frame also fits more conventional, larger diameter 700c wheels, giving you the option to switch between both depending on your route, and there is a stock 700c model, too. With is a long list of things that it claims to be able to do, does it do anything well?
On the road it feels immediately familiar and comfortable, if you’re used to riding a road bike there aren’t too many surprises in geometry and handling. I was expecting the 44mm knobbly tyres on smaller wheels to feel sluggish and sticky, but they spin up to speed nicely and the large contact patch makes it an incredibly comfortable ride. I quickly forgot I wasn’t riding a road bike on the journey out of town, which is real compliment given what else the bike has to offer.
The thing that marks out a bike like this is not how it handles on the road but how it handles off it. Take it over rocky bridleways and through the woods it’s an absolute blast. The geometry of the bike makes the riding position aggressive enough to feel fast without ever getting too twitchy. I’m not the most experienced off-road rider but I found myself taking on broken paths and weaving through trees with total confidence.
The large tyres soak up the worst of the bumps but also alleviate you from worries about having to be too careful picking your line. A few times I hit a big root or rock that on a cyclocross bike may have caused an unexpected dismount, but the 44mm tyres took them in their stride and I had a big smile spreading across my face on the rough stuff. The combination of the tyres, carbon fork and aluminium frame make this about as comfortable as a non-suspension bike gets off-road and after five hours of Hertfordshire’s bridleways, farm tracks and woodland trails I didn’t feel knocked about in the way I would have expected from that sort of riding.
The big gear ratio also comes into its own during off road excursions. On steep, muddy climbs I was very thankful for the 42t on the rear cassette allowing me to winch myself up while staying in the saddle. SRAM’s hydraulic brakes were excellent, giving a lot of confidence and power, while the single-ring drivetrain shifted well and without fuss throughout.
The real joy of a the bike was the way it can comfortably transition between tarmac and other surfaces, it feels genuinely at home on both, which opens up so many possibilities. While riding it, my mind started to wander about all the riding options it could open up; tackling the South Downs Way, or a long-distance adventure in the Scottish Highlands, quick blasts in the woods after work or even cyclocross racing. A change of wheels and a set of mudguards would turn it into a highly capable all-season road bike, too.
It’s not cheap, particularly for an aluminium frame, but it could well be the only bike you need – and it is an awful lot of fun.
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