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Is this the ultimate gravel crushing bike?

Mason Cycles unveiled its brand new InSearchOf (ISO) gravel and adventure bike at the Cycle Show and we were there to film the big unveiling, which you can watch in the video above.

The ISO follows on from the Bokeh and is a natural evolution with an even bigger appetite for off-road terrain and wilderness adventures, with a new steel frame designed around 29er wheels with huge tyre clearance,  long carbon fork that can be swapped for a 100mm suspension fork, dropper post compatibility and a new custom front mudguard and rack accessory.

- 22 of the best 2018 gravel & adventure bikes

A custom Dedacciai Zero steel frame has been developed with a swoopy downtube to provide clearance for a suspension fork, while the top tube is also curved to provide extra frame bag clearance. There’s all manner of mounts for racks, mudguards, a dynamo light and internal routing for both 1x and 2x groupsets. The frame is accepting of both 29x2.4in and 27.5x2.8in mountain bike tyres.

Mason ISO Cycleshow 2018-1.jpg

The all-new carbon fibre fork has a 3-bolt mount on the front onto which the company’s new mudguard or rack can be fitted. The mudguard is obviously designed to keep mud and water out of your face, but rather neatly it has an integrated rack onto which you can strap up to 500g of kit, say a sleeping bag, or a keg of beer perhaps? There’s also a more conventional rack which can accommodate a dynamo light.

The development of the bike owes a lot to the exploits and demands of TCR winner Josh Ibbett. His adventures were getting into more challenging off-road terrain and the idea for an even more capable and rugged Bokeh was dreamt up.

Mason ISO Cycleshow 2018-4.jpg

“Josh found himself deep in the Mexican desert, fully loaded in deep sand. I found myself smashing down blue runs in the French Alps and linking runs together on isolated, steep, Rocky Mountain trails. The Bokeh handled this stuff incredibly well, it was amazing fun but it got us thinking again and after a long distance call from Josh [he was actually in his bivvy bag way out in the desert], I started sketching,” explains designer and founder Dom Mason.

“This is how our radical new bike the ‘InSearchOf’ or ‘ISO’ was born. This new bike is still firmly in the #FastFar, #ContinentCrushing vein but a progressive new frame and fork design allow it to use 29 x 2.4” or 650b x 2.8 wheels, meaning steeper, rougher and deeper terrain are well within its capabilities. Multiple mounting points, a bespoke load-bearing mudguard, specific rack systems, 160/180 flat-mount braking and 100mm suspension-ready geometry mean that the InSearchOf, once again, does not shy away from the ‘Progressive’ word in our title.”

Mason ISO Cycleshow 2018-6.jpg

The new ISO costs £1,495 for the frame and fork, a ‘rolling chassis’ which includes a choice of 27.5” or 29” wheels and seatpost costs from £2,000, and a complete bike with SRAM Rival or Force 1 starts from £3,195, again with a choice of wheel sizes. Availability is scheduled for December or January.

Hit play on the video above to watch Dom Mason talk through all the key details of the new bike. We’ll hopefully be able to get a first ride on the bike soon so watch out for that, it should be very interesting.

More info at www.masoncycles.cc

David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.

17 comments

Avatar
daccordimark [81 posts] 2 months ago
0 likes

The Mason bike I've been waiting for! The look is "interesting" but it's all about function for this kind of bike. One question I have having read this write-up is the load capacity of the front mudguard. I'm sure all the other specs I've read said 0.5kg which is not a lot but if the 5kg stated here is correct that is much more useful.

This bike seems to push even further into MTB territory and must surely beg the question why not just get a hardtail MTB in the first place? I'm still riding flared drops off-road but do wonder about moving over to "the other side".

Mark.

Avatar
David Arthur @d... [906 posts] 2 months ago
0 likes

daccordimark wrote:

The Mason bike I've been waiting for! The look is "interesting" but it's all about function for this kind of bike. One question I have having read this write-up is the load capacity of the front mudguard. I'm sure all the other specs I've read said 0.5kg which is not a lot but if the 5kg stated here is correct that is much more useful.

This bike seems to push even further into MTB territory and must surely beg the question why not just get a hardtail MTB in the first place? I'm still riding flared drops off-road but do wonder about moving over to "the other side".

Mark.

 

Just watched it again and he says about 500g, which I've corrected in the article. Not sure if he's max load tested it, but I'll ask

 

"why not just get a hardtail MTB in the first place" < good question, and one we're hearing quite a bit more. So we'll try and do something around this question soon. A lot of it does come down to what sort of terrain you're trying to ride. There are benefits to the drops versus wide flat bars as well, and I know many roadies might feel this is closer to their comfort zone than stepping over to the other side as you call it  3

Avatar
Miller [161 posts] 2 months ago
0 likes

Having done a bit of off-roading in the past couple of years, which is still very new for me, I think that CX/gravel bikes do a couple of things better than MTBs. They're good on-road, so you can ride to the off-road sections and link between them on tarmac, and because they pedal well, you can actually do climbs.

But if your off-road activity was all, well, off-road, it would be hard to look past a proper MTB. 

Avatar
a1white [157 posts] 2 months ago
0 likes

Very interesting bikes, they look like great fun. Good to see someone trying something so different and unique.

Avatar
daccordimark [81 posts] 2 months ago
1 like
David Arthur @davearthur wrote:
daccordimark wrote:

The Mason bike I've been waiting for! The look is "interesting" but it's all about function for this kind of bike. One question I have having read this write-up is the load capacity of the front mudguard. I'm sure all the other specs I've read said 0.5kg which is not a lot but if the 5kg stated here is correct that is much more useful.

This bike seems to push even further into MTB territory and must surely beg the question why not just get a hardtail MTB in the first place? I'm still riding flared drops off-road but do wonder about moving over to "the other side".

Mark.

 

Just watched it again and he says about 500g, which I've corrected in the article. Not sure if he's max load tested it, but I'll ask

 

"why not just get a hardtail MTB in the first place" < good question, and one we're hearing quite a bit more. So we'll try and do something around this question soon. A lot of it does come down to what sort of terrain you're trying to ride. There are benefits to the drops versus wide flat bars as well, and I know many roadies might feel this is closer to their comfort zone than stepping over to the other side as you call it  3

 

Thanks, I confess I haven't watched the video yet as I'm at work. I think it will still be a useful support for drybags mounted on the 'bars to stop them rubbing on the tyre when things get a bit rough. That's assuming it's long enough of course. Having said that the custom rack with it's light mount is even more appealing but lacks the splash protection. What we need is both functions in one item (how about it Mr Mason?).

Mark.

Avatar
macrophotofly [321 posts] 2 months ago
0 likes

Really like the look of this bike but cannot get away from the thought that a set of moustache handlebars would be better than the splayed semi-drops with shifters at odd angles. If you had the right shape to the moustache handlebars so that they do the full 90 degree turn (like an old path racer) then you could mount MTB brakes and gear shifters giving you the best of both worlds - a road friendly frame that can climb and has single finger controls for the techncial descents. The MTB kit (brakes/shifters/deraileur) is a lot cheaper too.

Personally for me, at the moment the bike looks set up to ride on the drops but the brakes are then too far away to be relaxing on technical descents.

Avatar
daccordimark [81 posts] 2 months ago
0 likes
Miller wrote:

Having done a bit of off-roading in the past couple of years, which is still very new for me, I think that CX/gravel bikes do a couple of things better than MTBs. They're good on-road, so you can ride to the off-road sections and link between them on tarmac, and because they pedal well, you can actually do climbs.

But if your off-road activity was all, well, off-road, it would be hard to look past a proper MTB. 

 

This is exactly my experience and why on balance I'll probably still stick with drops. Mind you that's based on running 700Cx40mm tyres not the much larger ones this bike takes. There have been some cases where I feel I'd like a bit more "suspension" so the 650Bx2.8" option looks good but on well-surfaced tracks and tarmac I assume there's a fair amount of drag. That seems to kind of take away some of the argument for drops.

Mark.

Avatar
Dom [217 posts] 2 months ago
1 like
daccordimark wrote:

The Mason bike I've been waiting for! The look is "interesting" but it's all about function for this kind of bike. One question I have having read this write-up is the load capacity of the front mudguard. I'm sure all the other specs I've read said 0.5kg which is not a lot but if the 5kg stated here is correct that is much more useful.

This bike seems to push even further into MTB territory and must surely beg the question why not just get a hardtail MTB in the first place? I'm still riding flared drops off-road but do wonder about moving over to "the other side".

Mark.

 

Hi Mark,

We are getting a very positive response about the InSearchOf from those who 'get it'. We think it looks rather beautiful! [see pic].

Mudguard load capacity: I wanted it to carry a jacket/lightweight sleeping bag/roll-matt etc, so that's where the 500g came from. In reality we want it to have a much higher load capacity and the early samples [one of which you see on the FilterGreen bike] easily take 2kg +. We are still at testing stages with the 'guard but response has been very good and it works nicely, so we'll be getting things finalised and getting it into production asap.

"...why not just get a hardtail MTB in the first place?" - This type of bike is aimed at travelling, fast, over very variable terrain, think Tour Divide or cross-continent adventure. The geo. is derived more from road than MTB [there are 5 sizes], a modern hardtail is very long and slack. So the idea is that it provides plenty of space in the front triangle for a bag and more importantly gives an extremely comfortable long-distance riding position, with your hands falling naturally to the drops. A MTB can travel of course, but this type of bike is designed to be much faster and more efficient for purposeful, ultra-distance, multi-terrain, loaded up adventures. The drop bars put you in a more efficient place and just as importantly provide multiple hand-positions [especially with clip-ons], which help the rider fight cramp and fatigue and keep fresher over high mileage.

I hope this helps answer your questions and thanks for your interest in what we are doing : ]

 

Dom | Mason Cycles.

 

Avatar
Dom [217 posts] 2 months ago
0 likes
David Arthur @davearthur wrote:
daccordimark wrote:

The Mason bike I've been waiting for! The look is "interesting" but it's all about function for this kind of bike. One question I have having read this write-up is the load capacity of the front mudguard. I'm sure all the other specs I've read said 0.5kg which is not a lot but if the 5kg stated here is correct that is much more useful.

This bike seems to push even further into MTB territory and must surely beg the question why not just get a hardtail MTB in the first place? I'm still riding flared drops off-road but do wonder about moving over to "the other side".

Mark.

 

Just watched it again and he says about 500g, which I've corrected in the article. Not sure if he's max load tested it, but I'll ask

 

"why not just get a hardtail MTB in the first place" < good question, and one we're hearing quite a bit more. So we'll try and do something around this question soon. A lot of it does come down to what sort of terrain you're trying to ride. There are benefits to the drops versus wide flat bars as well, and I know many roadies might feel this is closer to their comfort zone than stepping over to the other side as you call it  3

 

Hi Dave,

Good points, also In the vid I do say that it will take much more load. We are still at testing phase and I expect to be able to give a much more accurate load rating soon. It works great as a mudguard too! This is important for long distance, offroad riding where getting dirt/watermud thrown in your face for 100miles does not always help endurance! Also, the pronounced 'lip' at the rear is designed to help stop water/grit being thrown into the rear of your headset by the large treaded tyres.

I say a bit more about "...why not just get a hardtail " in my reply to Mark above.

See you soon!

 

Dom | Mason Cycles.

 

Avatar
Dom [217 posts] 2 months ago
0 likes
Miller wrote:

Having done a bit of off-roading in the past couple of years, which is still very new for me, I think that CX/gravel bikes do a couple of things better than MTBs. They're good on-road, so you can ride to the off-road sections and link between them on tarmac, and because they pedal well, you can actually do climbs.

But if your off-road activity was all, well, off-road, it would be hard to look past a proper MTB. 

 

Hi Miller,

You are exactly right about gravel bikes and our Bokeh bikes work exactly as you describe. This new bike, the InSearchOf is designed to perform in much rougher/steeper/deeper territory than a 'gravel' bike and travel a very long way, loaded up with frames bags etc if neccessary.

A proper MTB is excellent off-road and for doing MTB stuff but is compromised when it comes to multi-terain, purposeful, fast, travel, so the InSearchOf is optimised for this type of riding and is also a total blast on the fast trails and singletrack!

I hope that helps : ]

 

Dom | Mason Cycles.

 

Avatar
Dom [217 posts] 2 months ago
0 likes
a1white wrote:

Very interesting bikes, they look like great fun. Good to see someone trying something so different and unique.

Thanks a1white !

They are an absolute blast. We are Mason PROGRESSIVE Cycles, so we will always be pushing things and responding to the demands of the riders who are out there pushing things too!

The response to these new bikes has been great and we are really looking forward to seeing where they will take people.

Thanks for your interest and watch this space : ]

 

Dom | Mason Cycles.

Avatar
Dom [217 posts] 2 months ago
0 likes
daccordimark wrote:
David Arthur @davearthur wrote:
daccordimark wrote:

The Mason bike I've been waiting for! The look is "interesting" but it's all about function for this kind of bike. One question I have having read this write-up is the load capacity of the front mudguard. I'm sure all the other specs I've read said 0.5kg which is not a lot but if the 5kg stated here is correct that is much more useful.

This bike seems to push even further into MTB territory and must surely beg the question why not just get a hardtail MTB in the first place? I'm still riding flared drops off-road but do wonder about moving over to "the other side".

Mark.

 

Just watched it again and he says about 500g, which I've corrected in the article. Not sure if he's max load tested it, but I'll ask

 

"why not just get a hardtail MTB in the first place" < good question, and one we're hearing quite a bit more. So we'll try and do something around this question soon. A lot of it does come down to what sort of terrain you're trying to ride. There are benefits to the drops versus wide flat bars as well, and I know many roadies might feel this is closer to their comfort zone than stepping over to the other side as you call it  3

 

Thanks, I confess I haven't watched the video yet as I'm at work. I think it will still be a useful support for drybags mounted on the 'bars to stop them rubbing on the tyre when things get a bit rough. That's assuming it's long enough of course. Having said that the custom rack with it's light mount is even more appealing but lacks the splash protection. What we need is both functions in one item (how about it Mr Mason?).

Mark.

Hi Mark,

It does work nicely to support a drybag/bar mounted pack and the rack is supposed to take over for larger/bulkier loads where the 'guard isn't enough and of course it has more strap positions and internally routed dynamo light mounting points. The 'guard is first and foremost for protection from the elements and is also a handy carrying space for lightweight essentials.

I tried to make them work together but there just isn't enough space to do it without compromise.

I hope that helps : ]

 

Dom | Mason Cycles.

 

 

Avatar
Dom [217 posts] 2 months ago
0 likes
macrophotofly wrote:

Really like the look of this bike but cannot get away from the thought that a set of moustache handlebars would be better than the splayed semi-drops with shifters at odd angles. If you had the right shape to the moustache handlebars so that they do the full 90 degree turn (like an old path racer) then you could mount MTB brakes and gear shifters giving you the best of both worlds - a road friendly frame that can climb and has single finger controls for the techncial descents. The MTB kit (brakes/shifters/deraileur) is a lot cheaper too.

Personally for me, at the moment the bike looks set up to ride on the drops but the brakes are then too far away to be relaxing on technical descents.

Hi macrophotofly,

Thanks! Very glad you like the look of the new InSearchOf : ]

A set of moustache bars might work, but the flare bar [Ritchey VentureMax in this case] give you a wide range of hand positions, even more when combined with the Deda clip-ons and this really helps to combat cramp and fatigue on very long distance, multi-terrain rides.

The geometry is optimised for drops and puts you in a very good position for off-road on the drops and hoods and you can easily work the brakes/gears from the hoods. I'm short with small hands and I have real trouble on drop bars when things get steep but this setup really eliminates that.

Actually, I think the road.cc pic makes the levers look further away from the bars then they are in actuality, they are a very easy reach from drops and hoods and the outward angle doesn't hinder operation or comfort with the plus side of giving really good bar bag space!

Thanks for your interest and I hope that helps answer your Q's.

 

Dom | Mason Cycles.

 

Avatar
Dom [217 posts] 2 months ago
0 likes
daccordimark wrote:
Miller wrote:

Having done a bit of off-roading in the past couple of years, which is still very new for me, I think that CX/gravel bikes do a couple of things better than MTBs. They're good on-road, so you can ride to the off-road sections and link between them on tarmac, and because they pedal well, you can actually do climbs.

But if your off-road activity was all, well, off-road, it would be hard to look past a proper MTB. 

 

This is exactly my experience and why on balance I'll probably still stick with drops. Mind you that's based on running 700Cx40mm tyres not the much larger ones this bike takes. There have been some cases where I feel I'd like a bit more "suspension" so the 650Bx2.8" option looks good but on well-surfaced tracks and tarmac I assume there's a fair amount of drag. That seems to kind of take away some of the argument for drops.

Mark.

Hi daccordimark,

A650b x 2.8 or 29 x 2.4 give excellent shock absorption and a really fast and confidence inspiring ride across very variable terrain. The 2.8 Schwalbes that you see on the green bike are suprisingly fast on harder surfaces and road! They do have more drag than a fast road tyre of course, but the point is that these bikes are fast for travelling and adventuring across very challenging and varied terrain. The drop bars main advantage for this type of bike is the comfort and fatigue reduction offered by the multiple hand positions rather than all-out aero, but saying that, you are for sure going to appreciate a reduction in frontal area and drag if you are battling into a block head wind for 100miles on ANY bike!

Thanks again for your interest and questions : ]

 

Dom | Mason Cycles.

 

Avatar
Miller [161 posts] 2 months ago
0 likes
Dom wrote:

Hi Miller,

You are exactly right about gravel bikes and our Bokeh bikes work exactly as you describe. This new bike, the InSearchOf is designed to perform in much rougher/steeper/deeper territory than a 'gravel' bike and travel a very long way, loaded up with frames bags etc if neccessary.

A proper MTB is excellent off-road and for doing MTB stuff but is compromised when it comes to multi-terain, purposeful, fast, travel, so the InSearchOf is optimised for this type of riding and is also a total blast on the fast trails and singletrack!

I hope that helps : ]

Dom | Mason Cycles.

Yikes, throwaway forum comments get picked up by actual bike manufacturer! My off-roading hasn't involved multi-terrain travel exactly - that would be bike packing? - and I yield to your superior knowledge on that front. Anyway even if I think a particular bike isn't for me it's great to see boundaries being pushed in this way.

I have a friend with a Resolution and he loves it, btw. Resolution and Bokeh - photography references?

 

 

Avatar
daccordimark [81 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes
Dom wrote:
daccordimark wrote:
Miller wrote:

Having done a bit of off-roading in the past couple of years, which is still very new for me, I think that CX/gravel bikes do a couple of things better than MTBs. They're good on-road, so you can ride to the off-road sections and link between them on tarmac, and because they pedal well, you can actually do climbs.

But if your off-road activity was all, well, off-road, it would be hard to look past a proper MTB. 

 

This is exactly my experience and why on balance I'll probably still stick with drops. Mind you that's based on running 700Cx40mm tyres not the much larger ones this bike takes. There have been some cases where I feel I'd like a bit more "suspension" so the 650Bx2.8" option looks good but on well-surfaced tracks and tarmac I assume there's a fair amount of drag. That seems to kind of take away some of the argument for drops.

Mark.

Hi daccordimark,

A650b x 2.8 or 29 x 2.4 give excellent shock absorption and a really fast and confidence inspiring ride across very variable terrain. The 2.8 Schwalbes that you see on the green bike are suprisingly fast on harder surfaces and road! They do have more drag than a fast road tyre of course, but the point is that these bikes are fast for travelling and adventuring across very challenging and varied terrain. The drop bars main advantage for this type of bike is the comfort and fatigue reduction offered by the multiple hand positions rather than all-out aero, but saying that, you are for sure going to appreciate a reduction in frontal area and drag if you are battling into a block head wind for 100miles on ANY bike!

Thanks again for your interest and questions : ]

 

Dom | Mason Cycles.

 

Hi Dom,

As ever, it's good to get some direct feedback from you on here - thanks for taking the time to respond. I'm sorry if I made it sound like I thought the ISO is not a fine looking bike - it certainly is (I guess it's like telling parents their newborn baby is ugly!). The "interesting" comment was aimed at the MTB-style downtube. I absolutely get where you're coming from with this bike and on balance I still think drops are the best match for my riding even though I'm not so much a ContinentCrusher as a CountyCruiser.

Having dabbled in BikePacking with short 4-day trips in Scotland I can see me doing more and a better tool for the job than my modified Genesis Tour De Fer is definitely on the cards for next year. Hopefully I can make the long trip south to see one in the flesh next spring.

Mark.

 

Avatar
matthewn5 [1250 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes
daccordimark wrote:

This bike seems to push even further into MTB territory and must surely beg the question why not just get a hardtail MTB in the first place?

Exactly. Buy yourself a hard tail MTB and put drops on it. Save thousands.