Mason Bokeh Force

8
£3,100.00

VERDICT:

8
10
Highly capable and feature-packed adventure bike
Weight: 
9,400g
Contact: 

The new Mason Bokeh is a highly capable adventure bike with a feature-packed aluminium frame, splendid aesthetics, and handling that ensures it's as at home on the road as it is on the trail.

Adventure is a fast-growing segment of the cycling world, with the combination of versatility, capability and ruggedness appealing to cyclists who don't want or need the lightness and stiffness of a World Tour race bike. Suitable for just about everything, from winter training rides to commuting, touring and audax to off-road trail exploring and bikepacking trips, adventure bikes have few limitations.

> Buy this online here

The Bokeh combines an aluminium frame and carbon fork with all the key ingredients of an adventure bike, including wide tyres, disc brakes, thru-axles, relaxed geometry and mounts for mudguards and racks. The Bokeh goes the extra mile with a front dynamo mount, third bottle cage mount, 700C and 650B wheel size compatibility and fully internal cable routing.

The new Bokeh essentially builds on the solid foundations laid down by the Resolution and Definition. 'It's an AdventureSport bike,' says Mason founder and designer Dom Mason. 'It's a response to this move in cycling towards venturing off road and using bigger tyres, disc brakes and lightweight packs and having adventures, but not necessarily on bikes with masses of luggage.'

Ride and handling

As lovely as the Bokeh undoubtedly looks, its appearance is pointless if it's not backed by a high-quality ride. Fortunately, a high-quality ride the Bokeh most certainly does deliver. In a nutshell, it's a lovely bike to ride, whether on tarmac or gravel roads, or woodland byways.

In many ways the Bokeh mirrors the company's Resolution and Definition road bikes, but there are some important changes that ensure it feels right at home when riding on loosely surfaced and bumpy off-road tracks. The bottom bracket is higher for increased ground clearance (but lower than a cyclo-cross bike) and the wheelbase is longer and the head angle slacker. That sets the Bokeh geometry halfway between an endurance and cyclo-cross bike.

> Cyclo-cross bikes vs adventure/gravel bikes – what's the difference?

The stack and reach measurements (the vertical and horizontal measurements from the centre of the bottom bracket to the top of the head tube) are very similar to the company's previous models, ensuring the position between the models has some similarity – ideal if you are lucky enough to own one of each – and provides the sporty ride that Mason was keen for this new model to provide. Though the fork is longer, the head tube has been shortened to 155mm on the 56cm size frame to keep the stack measurement about the same.

Those numbers gift the Bokeh a sporty and lively ride, backed up by the rock solid stability you want when blitzing down a fast gravel road descent chasing another adventure bike.

It's right at home on the road, with neutral handling that lends the bike an easy grace when carving through country lanes. The low stack height means it never felt compromised as a road bike, a fact backed up by the fitting of slick tyres: it's perfect on long road rides and climbs and descends very well. The wide-range SRAM 10-42 cassette paired to the 42t single chainring up front will get you up and down most climbs and descents without unduly running out of ratios.

But it's the Bokeh's off-road capability that is the real highlight, and how easily it transfers from one surface to another. Head off into the wilderness and show the Bokeh some muddy bridleways or gravelled roads and it feels even more home than it does on the road. Its stability, from the long wheelbase and slack head angle, is a massive boon when tackling rough tracks, and it inspires confidence on loose terrain.

The Bokeh can tame rough roads and gravel tracks better than most carbon, steel or adventure bikes at this price. Despite its comfy ride character, the Bokeh is responsive and agile. It's a little less nimble than a cyclo-cross bike at lower speeds when weaving between tightly spaced trees, but at higher speeds, it is confident and enjoyable.

This is a bike built for going the distance, or as Mason puts it, 'Continent crushing rides'. From my time riding the Bokeh, it's clear you could happily keep riding until you ended up in some far-flung corner of Europe. It's how it slips from rugged gravel blaster to smooth road tourer that is its real secret. It's not a bike of compromise, as some adventure bikes can be.

If your aims are a little less ambitious, the Bokeh is ideal for stringing together local off-road paths and woodland tracks with sections of road to make the ride a bit more interesting. And it's fun, so much fun. The Bokeh will tackle just about anything, and with the 650B tyres fitted it didn't feel a million miles away from a rigid mountain bike, unsurprisingly.

700C versus 650B

The Bokeh Force bike is sold with 650B wheels, but Mason supplied a set of 700C wheels for us to test and compare the two wheel sizes. Mason has designed the Bokeh to be compatible with regular 700C wheels, with clearance for up to 41mm tyres, and the increasingly fashionable 650B wheel size, with tyre capacity increased to 50mm. Mason is selling the Bokeh with a choice of two wheelsets: 700C Hunt Four Season Gravel Disc wheels with 35mm Panaracer GravelKing SK tyres, or – as on our test bike – a Mason x Hunt 'AdventureSport' 650B wheelset with Panaracer Comet Hardpack 650B 2.0in tyre.

Swapping between the two wheelsets is easy, and with just 12-13mm difference in the outside diameter with the slightly smaller 650B wheels, there's only a small difference in the bottom bracket height. The bigger difference is in how the bike rides.

With the 700x35mm wheels and tyres the Bokeh behaves like many other adventure bikes I've tested: it has all the manners and much of the speed of an endurance bike on the road and doesn't get flustered if you point the bike down a farm track or bridleway. The Panaracer GravelKing SK tyres roll fast on hard surfaces and offer plenty of grip in the loose; they particularly excel on the fast and smooth gravel roads around Salisbury Plain.

With the 650B wheels and larger Panaracer Comet Hardpack tyres fitted, progress on the road is a bit slower, with the extra weight and increased frontal surface area blunting pace. But what they lack in speed compared with the bigger wheels/skinnier tyres, they more than make up for with their sheer smoothness. The larger tyre provides much more cushioning than the skinny 35mm tyres, and that's a bonus on poorly surfaced roads where the comfort outweighs the slight loss of top-end speed. I would have loved to have tried a slick 650B tyre on the Bokeh but sadly I didn't have the bike long enough to experiment with different tyres.

Neither tyre can really cope with proper mud, but the Comets are certainly more capable off-road when the going is rough and unpredictable. You can delve further into the wilderness in more comfort with the bigger tyres. And there are enough good 650B mountain bike tyres and ample clearance in the frame and fork to dabble with more aggressively treaded tyres if you do want to fit a tyre that won't come unstuck in the gloop.

Which wheel size is better? They both have their pros and cons. If you're riding more road and just the occasional off-road and value speed, the 700x35 setup is a better option for you – faster certainly, with enough cushioning and grip for dealing with hardpacked gravel tracks. If you value comfort over speed and want to do a lot more off-road riding, the 650x50 combination is probably better, with vastly increased cushioning and only a small dent in top-end speed.

Frame and equipment

Mason has opted for a custom shaped 7000-series triple butted aluminium frame, made by hand, by Dedacciai, in Italy. The frame is exquisitely finished, all smooth welds and draped in a lusciously thick coat of gloss paint, with Mason's usual gift for sharply designed graphics finishing the frameset off a treat.

Each tube has a specific role. The down tube has the same oversized D-shape as the Resolution and it, along with a tapered head tube and ovalised top tube, provides the necessary lateral and front-end stiffness. Custom shaped bowed seatstays help to provide the necessary compliance, while the dropped chainstays provide chain and brake clearance. The seat tube accepts a 27.2mm seatpost, further contributing to the comfort factor.

The Bokeh is packed with details. It's disc brake-specific, naturally, and uses the flat mount standard with thru-axles to clamp the wheels into place. Mason has stuck with a conventional 68mm threaded bottom bracket but uses a wider-diameter outside shell to both increase the down tube weld area and route the cables and hoses through on their way to the chainstays.

There are three bottle cage mounts, with fully internal cable routing using the same Multiport adaptable design, as first used on the Resolution, providing Di2 compatibility. There are mudguard and rack eyelets on the frame and the new Parallax full carbon fibre fork, which can also be used with a dynamo hub, an indication of the sort of distance riding the bike is designed for.

You can buy a Bokeh frameset for £1,150 or choose one of four complete builds. You can choose Shimano 105 or SRAM Rival 1x11 for £2,795; Shimano Ultegra or SRAM Force for £3,100. The Shimano bikes come with 700C wheels and 35mm tyres, the SRAM bikes with 650B wheels and 50mm (2.0in) tyres. Hunt wheels, Deda finishing kit and Fabric saddles are used across the range.

The test bike is the top-end SRAM Force 1x11 with its wide-ranging 10-42t cassette and 42t chainring. The gearing provides all the range you need for most off-road and road rides, the lowest gear helping you scale all but the very steepest hill. And if you do find yourself over-geared, the chainring can be swapped for a small outlay.

SRAM's hydraulic brake levers might not be the best lookers on the market but performance is excellent, with plenty of power and satisfying modulation, and the tool hoods provide reassuring anchor points when hurtling down rough and loose tracks. If I'm being really picky, the levers don't have the same smoothness as a Shimano hydraulic lever.

The Hunt wheels collaboration continues, as I've already mentioned. The new Mason x Hunt AdventureSport 650B wheels use an extra-wide rim, making them the perfect fit for wider tyres and are tubeless-ready. Rims are laced via J-bend spokes to hubs rolling on replaceable cartridge bearings. It's a stiff and strong wheelset, as evidenced by the rigorous off-road testing it coped with easily.

A finishing parts package includes Deda SuperZero stem with an aero handlebar. The latter has an aero shaped centre section, which might reduce drag, but more realistically provides a comfortable place to rest your hands. I wasn't that impressed with its shape or appearance, and would probably swap it for a more conventional bar if I was buying this bike.

Mason specs Fabric Scoop Elite saddles across the range, with a colour-matched base which points to Dom Mason's fastidious attention to detail. It's a supremely comfortable place to plant your bum for as many hours as you want. A Mason branded carbon fibre 27.2mm seatpost clamps the saddle into the frame.

Conclusion

The big appeal of adventure bikes is their do-anything and go-anywhere capability, and for many cyclists they might very well be the only bike you need. They're more than n+1 – they could free up a lot of space in your garage or bike shed and replace several bikes at a swoop.

The Bokeh is expensive for aluminium, but it is at least extremely nicely finished and feature-packed for the price – you're certainly getting a lovely looking bike and the performance is without fault.

> Conversation Mason

Mason has managed to produce in the Bokeh an adventure bike that is highly capable and outlandishly smooth and controlled off-road, yet is sprightly and entertaining on the road. The Bokeh might be the last bike you ever need to buy. It's a brilliant bike, and if the price doesn't put you off, I'd recommend it.

Verdict

Highly capable and feature-packed adventure bike

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road.cc test report

Make and model: Mason Bokeh Force

Size tested: 56cm

About the bike

State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.

Dedacciai, custom formed, triple-butted performance Aluminium frame with Mason Parallax full carbon Thru-Axle fork.

Unique Mason MultiPort adaptable internal routing.

Mason 'ThruBB' 50Ømm, internally routed bottom bracket shell.

Lightweight, full SRAM Force 1x HRD groupset with hydraulic disc brakes.

Precisely engineered 10-42T wide range cassette.

Clutched rear mech keeps chain securely positioned.

High peformance F160/R160 2-piece centrelock floating rotors.

Specially developed Mason x Hunt 650B AdventureSport wheelset.

Panaracer Comet Hardpack 650B tyres claw into trails and roll easily on road.

Ultra-light and triangulated for stiffness Deda Superzero stem with aerodynamic Superzero1 handlebar.

Mason x Fabric exclusive, UK designed, Alloy rail Fabric Scoop Elite saddle with colour matched saddle base.

Carbon Mason Penta microadjust post and Mason Macro clamp.

Fully and discretely eyeletted for rack and 'guards.

Integrated Parallax fork-crown boss for fixed light set-ups.

Clearance for full mudguards.

3rd Bottle cage bosses on the underside of the down tube designed to work seamlessly with Fabric bottles and tool kegs.

Tell us what the bike is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?

Mason states on its website:

The new 'Bokeh' [Alu] and 'BokehTi' frame sets and bikes have been in development for over a year, they are AdventureSport machines for fast 'Continent Crushing' rides and they can use either 650b x 50mm or 700c x 41mm tyres. These new bikes are big news for us because they are the ones to follow up our first ever models, the Award Winning Definition and Resolution, these two bikes were a tough act to follow! The pressure was on and I knew that whatever I came up with had to be good.

We have started from the ground up with the Bokeh geometry the clearance is increased to take up to 650b x 50mm or 700c x 41mm, I think anything larger is MTB territory. The wheelbase is longer and angles a little slacker, with the fork using a 50mm offset to keep the trail dimension under control

I've kept the stack height very similar to the Definition and Resolution, I didn't want overly long head tubes because these are fast bikes and they need to accelerate and climb well. Sizes are 50, 52, 54, 56, 58 and 60cm, click the link below for full geometry.

The carbon monocoque 'Parallax' fork has been developed in conjunction with our Italian frame builders, it uses a Ø12mm thru-axle, flat-mount and internally routed hose and weighs just 465g. As with the frames, there is a full compliment of discreetly sited rack and fender eyelets and an extra one at the front for a Dynamo light.

Frame and fork

Overall rating for frame and fork
 
9/10

Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?

Top notch build quality and finish, as we've come to expect from Mason Cycles.

Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?

Triple butted and custom shaped aluminium tubing handbuilt in Italy.

Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?

A bit more relaxed than an endurance bike like Mason's own Resolution, and differs from a cyclo-cross bike in a number of key areas.

How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?

Perfect.

Riding the bike

Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.

For an aluminium bike it was incredibly smooth, more comfortable on and off-road than many steel and carbon adventure bikes I've tested.

Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?

Despite its comfy ride, it didn't lack stiffness when putting the power down on the climbs.

How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?

Very efficient.

Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?

None.

How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? Neutral.

Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?

Behaved very well on and off-road, and with both 700C and 650B wheels fitted.

Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?

The Hunt wheels and SRAM Force groupset and brakes all worked reliably.

Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?

The carbon seatpost provides an extra measure of seated compliance.

Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?

No changes.

Rate the bike for efficiency of power transfer:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for acceleration:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for sprinting:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for high speed stability:
 
9/10
Rate the bike for cruising speed stability:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for low speed stability:
 
7/10
Rate the bike for flat cornering:
 
7/10
Rate the bike for cornering on descents:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for climbing:
 
7/10

The drivetrain

Rate the drivetrain for performance:
 
8/10
Rate the drivetrain for durability:
 
8/10
Rate the drivetrain for weight:
 
8/10
Rate the drivetrain for value:
 
7/10

Wheels and tyres

Rate the wheels for performance:
 
8/10
Rate the wheels for durability:
 
8/10
Rate the wheels for weight:
 
8/10
Rate the wheels for comfort:
 
8/10
Rate the wheels for value:
 
8/10
Rate the tyres for performance:
 
8/10
Rate the tyres for durability:
 
8/10
Rate the tyres for weight:
 
7/10
Rate the tyres for comfort:
 
9/10
Rate the tyres for value:
 
8/10

Controls

Rate the controls for performance:
 
7/10
Rate the controls for durability:
 
8/10
Rate the controls for weight:
 
8/10
Rate the controls for comfort:
 
8/10
Rate the controls for value:
 
8/10

Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?

I wasn't that impressed by the aero shaped handlebar, and would probably swap it for a more conventional bar.

Anything else you want to say about the componentry? Comment on any other components (good or bad)

The Fabric Scoop saddle is a smart choice, it seems to suit most people.

Your summary

Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes

Would you consider buying the bike? Yes

Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes

Rate the bike overall for performance:
 
9/10
Rate the bike overall for value:
 
7/10

Use this box to explain your score

The Bokeh is expensive for aluminium, but it is at least extremely nicely finished and feature-packed for the price – you're certainly getting a lovely looking bike and the performance is without fault.

Overall rating: 8/10

About the tester

Age: 31  Height: 180cm  Weight: 67kg

I usually ride:   My best bike is:

I've been riding for: 10-20 years  I ride: Every day  I would class myself as: Expert

I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, mountain biking

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.

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