The Aspect is the latest titanium offering from Mason Cycles and it's a beauty, not only in the way it looks but also in the way it rides. The frameset offers so much depth in the way it behaves thanks to the tubeset, the fork and the geometry all working together to give a sublime ride quality and an excellent level of feedback no matter how rough the road surface is.
- Pros: Extreme levels of craftsmanship; truly beautiful riding experience
- Cons: This level of quality will cost you
Titanium frames often have a very specific feel about them, offering that smoothness of a quality steel frame yet with a firmness edging towards that of an aluminium alloy one. Mason has exploited this very cleverly indeed.
My first ride was a quick blast around the lanes for just over an hour to test the setup and my position. Mason says that the Aspect is 'designed to be a super-smooth, fast, ultra-distance rocket ship for long distance rides' so that was how I treated it: stamping on the pedals and giving it a damn good thrashing.
I was definitely impressed with the stiffness around the bottom bracket under acceleration, and the tautness of the front gives a very direct feeling to the steering. I did have a few reservations, though, about long-distance comfort from such a firm ride, especially as the Aspect felt like one of the stiffest titanium frames I'd ridden. They were short-lived, though.
With a five-hour ride mapped out ahead of me, the Aspect proved what a chameleon it is. With the usual traffic to contend with getting out of my hometown, the ride started off in much the same way as the previous one, with the pedals being driven around in anger to keep up with the ebb and flow of the cars and lorries.
Chaos left behind, I turned onto the country lanes and within a mile or two with the pace slackened the rear end started to feel a little different. I started cussing, thinking it was the start of the tyre going soft, fearing a visit from the puncture fairy before I'd even got going.
When a quick check revealed nothing untoward, I took off again at speed to make up the lost time, with the rear end feeling as tight as that first ride.
Backing off the pace again and things smoothed out, and with a bit more playing about with the effort I could really start to feel how the rear triangle was taking the sting out of the road surface.
Whack the power through the pedals again and, boom, off the Aspect surges.
This is obviously magnified by the fact that when you are riding harder you are putting more of your weight on your feet and less on the saddle, but it also shows just how well a quality designed tubeset works.
When it comes to this stiffness, I'm not exactly talking about it matching that of a peloton-ready, oversized carbon fibre race frame, but it surpasses that of pretty much any bike I've ridden with this long-distance remit.
It's not just power transfer where the Aspect surpassed my expectations either. Just like the Definition and Resolution, Mason's similar themed aluminium and steel offerings, it really is amazing how a longish wheelbase and relatively slack front end can deliver such sharp and confident handling. Point the Aspect downhill and it feels absolutely planted, even when things start to get technical.
The whole bike responds well to subtle shifts in body position, keeping the Aspect feeling balanced, and with the amount of feedback coming through the frame and especially that Aperture2 fork from Mason's own mould, you really know what the bike is up to.
The fork supplies plenty of stiffness to match the frame and easily deals with the forces coming from the steering loads and that of the disc brakes.
Everything about the Aspect's ride quality is a joy, but the key thing for me is that you can get as involved with it as you want. Ride it hard and you'll feel part of the bike – it reveals everything you need to know about what is going on beneath its tyres, which means you can really have some fun. If you just want to waft along covering as many miles as you want without distraction, like when tiredness is setting in on one of those epic rides, then the Aspect can achieve that too. Everything just calms down a bit and all you've got to focus on is turning the pedals.
Frame and fork
Mason has produced its own tooling with Dedacciai to create tubing specifically for its bikes. Here on the Aspect it's most notable in the D-shaped down tube, the ovalised top tube and the custom bends on the stays.
Both the top tube and down tube are smaller in diameter than Mason's other titanium model, the gravel-inspired Bokeh, which makes them lighter and they have different butting profiles to suit road riding rather than the trails.
The new 'DForm' down tube profile prevents it overlapping the seat tube too much, which, Dom Mason reasons, can cause the seat tube to crack at the back, something he knows from previous experience.
It also gives a wide weld area across the top of the threaded bottom bracket shell, for good lateral stability.
The head tube is tapered, as you'd expect in these modern times.
The 3D printed dropouts developed with Reynolds gives the rear end of the bike a very clean look and uses less material than a lot of other titanium setups I've seen.
With the finished product being completely on display, the welding has to stand up to plenty of scrutiny from an aesthetic point of view, and designer Dom Mason reckons that this was one of the hardest parts of the whole project: finding a frame builder who could deliver the quality but also the consistency he was after.
The overall finish is very impressive indeed, and not just around the tube junctions but also around all of the MultiPorts (Mason's internal cable routing solution) and the multiple eyelets for bottle, rack and mudguard mounts. Mason chooses to weld these rather than rivet them, for longevity.
As you can imagine, each frame is quite time-consuming to create and the builder in Tuscany can only make around 10 frames a month, split 50/50 between the Aspect and the Bokeh Ti.
With this in mind, the Aspect is welded to order, which does give you a little bit of customisation – leaving off the Di2 ports, for example, if you are only going to be running a mechanical groupset.
Many titanium frames are either polished or have a brushed look, but the Aspect has what Mason calls 'Structural Surface Finish'. The Mason logos on the down tube and the rear of the seat tube are polished first before being masked off, and then the frame is ceramic bead-blasted to 'shot-peen' the surface. This helps to stress-relieve the tube surface after welding. Once that has been done, the rest of the decals are applied.
Extra little details like the chain pip and guides for the rear brake hose are also good to see.
As you'd expect, the bike is set up to run with 12mm thru-axles front and rear.
The Aperture2 full carbon fibre fork, as I've mentioned already, is very impressive indeed, offering an excellent mix of stiffness and comfort from its full-carbon fibre construction.
The internal cable routing gives it a clean and uncluttered look, backed up by the hidden mudguard mounting points on the inside of the legs.
Geometry-wise, the Aspect has very similar figures to the Definition and Resolution.
This 54cm model has an effective top tube length of 551mm, head angle of 71.5 degrees and a seat angle of 73.5 degrees. The head tube is 170mm, which is 15mm taller than the Definition, and all of this gives a stack of 579.9mm versus a reach of 378.2mm.
One other difference is that the chainstays are slightly longer at 425mm, 5mm more than the Definition and Resolution, which increases the wheelbase by the same amount.
It is very much endurance-based, but as I've talked about in the ride section above, it really is a fast bike. For anything other than road racing it won't be found wanting, delivering an excellent balance of speed, handling and comfort.
There are six sizes available in 2cm increments from 50cm through to 60cm models.
The Aspect is available as a frameset or in a mixture of builds similar to the options you get with the Definition or Resolution on Mason's website, offering a certain level of finishing kit based around the groupset.
Our test model comes with a full Shimano Ultegra Di2 groupset and it is an absolute joy to use. Shimano's electronic groupsets have continued to evolve over the years and the latest version offers quick and precise shifting even under heavy load.
With a lack of mechanical gubbins under the hoods, the overall size of these hydraulic shifters mimics those of the standard rim brake versions of Ultegra R8000, which means they have a lovely minimalist shape.
Braking is also brilliant, with loads of feel and feedback whether you are just giving them a light squeeze to scrub a bit of speed or hauling on the anchors for an emergency stop.
The 140mm rotors have plenty of stopping power. I've never locked up a front brake in my life, and the modulation afforded by the Ultegra callipers means I'm not about to start now – handy when you are a very late and heavy braker like myself.
This isn't exactly an off-the-shelf bike, so gear ratios and crank lengths aren't set in stone – you have some flexibility here and can tweak them to suit the style of riding you are going to be up to.
Mason often sticks to a chosen set of brands for its finishing kit, and it's no surprise to see a Deda handlebar and stem fitted here, plus a saddle and bar tape from Fabric.
It's quality kit and I was a big fan of both the saddle and bar tape in terms of comfort.
Mason supplies its own seatpost, the Penta, with a carbon fibre body and an aluminium cradle for attaching the saddle. The Aspect uses a 27.2mm diameter post for a little bit of added flex for comfort.
Wheels and tyres
Mason started its journey with Hunt Wheels right from its first models, so it is no surprise the UK company is supplying the hoops for the Aspect.
Fitted to this model is a set of its 30 Carbon Aero Disc wheels, which are 30m deep, 27mm wide and weigh just 1,347g per pair.
It's a very good set of wheels. A separate full review is on its way very soon, but briefly: they offer excellent stiffness and thanks to that weight, or complete lack of it, they absolutely fly on the flat and when you hit the hills. When you consider that they only have an RRP of £799, they look like quite the bargain too.
Tyre-wise Mason has gone for a pair of tubeless-ready Schwalbe G-One Speeds in a 30mm width, though the Aspect can take up to 35mm in width.
I'd say the 30mm setup here is spot on. If you like to ride higher pressures like I do, the tyres roll along brilliantly and offer a real performance boost, plus the compound is tacky enough to allow you to take tight bends and roundabouts with plenty of confidence. If you prefer a slightly more plush ride, you can knock plenty of psi out without sacrificing much in performance or reliability.
An Aspect frameset, which includes the frame, fork, Deda headset, stainless steel bolts throughout, all of the MultiPort adaptors, seat clamp and the seatpost, will set you back £3,450.
That's a fair chunk of money, yes, but when you look at the manufacturing processes involved and the overall quality, you can certainly see where a lot of that cost is going.
Titanium frames are often said to be lifelong purchases, so it's good to see that the Aspect comes with a lifetime warranty for the frame and it has also passed full ISO testing, not something that is mandatory.
The build we have here with the Di2 and carbon wheels will set you back £6,665. On paper, comparing it to other titanium models I've ridden recently, the Aspect may not look like that great a deal at first.
The Litespeed Cherohala SE frame will cost you £2,699.95, but then you need to add the fork for another £419.95 which pushes the price up to £3,199.90. When it comes to ride quality and performance, the Mason pretty much smashes it out of the park.
Another option could be the J.Laverack R Jack Disc frameset, which has an RRP of £2,380. The Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 model David Arthur tested, with carbon wheels, came in at 8.1kg which ties in well with the Mason's weight of 8.31kg with the Ultegra option. It does only get a 10-year warranty too, if that's important.
The Mason Aspect is a brilliant bike for those who like to ride far or fast, or both. The way it behaves, however you are riding it, is downright genius. It's machine and rider in unison. And then you just have to look at it.
An exceptional balance of speed, comfort and handling backed up by exemplary handbuilt quality
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Mason Aspect
Size tested: 54cm
About the bike
List the components used to build up the bike.
Ultegra Di2 hydraulic groupset
140mm Shimano Rotors
Hunt 30 Carbon Aero Disc Wheelset
Schwalbe G-One Speed 30mm tyres
Mason Penta Carbon seatpost
Deda handlebar and stem
Fabric bar tape
Fabric Scoop Carbon saddle
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 says, "Our new titanium 'Aspect' is designed to be a super-smooth, fast, ultra-distance rocket ship for long rides on variable and unpredictable surfaces.
"We have developed an entire new Ti tube set working with Dedacciai and Reynolds UK and the Aspect uses the incredible Reynolds 3D printed Ti dropouts.
"Superb Tuscany made craftsmanship, super-high finish quality, our Mason Aperture2 fork with unique UD carbon finish, Hunt wheelsets and highly customisable build levels make the limited production Mason Aspect a very special bicycle indeed."
The Aspect is very comfortable for long distance rides, and it's quick too.
Where does this model sit in the range? Tell us briefly about the cheaper options and the more expensive options
The Aspect is available with a huge amount of builds from Shimano, SRAM and so on. Full specifications can be decided at time of ordering.
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Amazing quality throughout, especially the welding.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
The frame is constructed from custom drawn 3Al-2.5V titanium tubing while the fork is full carbon fibre manufactured from Mason's own mould.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
The Aspect is an endurance based, long distance machine that also performs well when you ask it to deliver some speed. The geometry is a balance between the two but it has excellent handling considering how relaxed the front end is.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
This 54cm model has a stack of 579.9mm and a reach of 378.2mm giving a ratio of 1.53, bang on where I'd expect it for this type of bike.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Yes, very comfortable when you are cruising along.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
When you put the power down the rear end is very responsive and stiff.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
For a bike that is aimed more at long distance miles, the Aspect is surprisingly nippy, giving little away when you stamp on the pedals.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so was it a problem?
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively neutral or unresponsive? Neutral with a hint of liveliness.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
It offers an excellent balance. Easy to live with when you are taking it steady but with just enough excitement and sharpness that it responds well when you push it into the corners.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
I wouldn't change a thing. Everything works really well.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
The Hunt wheels are stiff enough for even the hardest of sprints.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
The tyres worked very well. Fast on the road but wide enough to take on a few unforgiving surfaces.
Shimano's Di2 is brilliant and the Ultegra version offers pretty much the same quality of shifting as Dura-Ace without the price tag. You can't fault the hydraulic brakes either.
Wheels and tyres
Brilliant wheels across the board, especially when you consider the weight vs durability for the money.
A good compromise for the type of riding the Aspect is aimed at. Fast on the road too.
It's all decent quality stuff and does the job just fine.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes
Would you consider buying the bike? Yes
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes
How does the price compare to that of similar bikes in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
Titanium frames range hugely in price and while you can get one a lot cheaper, there is a lot going on here with the Mason that helps justify the price.
Use this box to explain your overall score
The Aspect delivers across the board, and highlights the finer complexities achievable by an excellent choice of tube sizes and profiles.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: B'Twin Ultra CF draped in the latest bling test components
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed
Stu knocked out his first road.cc review back in 2009 and since then he's chucked the best part of seventy test bikes around the West Country, a couple of them quite literally! With three alloy and two steel bikes in his fleet he's definitely a metal man (that'll be the engineering background) but is slowly warming to that modern carbon fibre stuff along with fat tyres & disc brakes.
It's not all nostalgia though, after spending the last few years in product design Stu keeps banging on about how 3D printing is going to be the next big thing and he's a sucker for a beautiful paint job too.