Mason Bokeh GRX

8
£3,175.00

VERDICT:

8
10
Top performance, looks and capability from Mason's updated gravel bike
Weight: 
9,470g
Contact: 

The gravel and adventure riding scene has come a long way since Mason Cycles first launched its Bokeh in 2016, and for 2019 the model has been updated, increasing its capability. In terms of performance and handling it's still top class and essentially unchanged from the original – it's still a bike that is very happy mixing up road and off-road riding – but you are paying a premium over aluminium alternatives.

  • Pros: Handling, looks, lots of mounts, tyre clearance
  • Cons: Pricey, not the smoothest ride

Ride and handling

I tested the original Bokeh when it first launched, and I've ridden a hell of a lot of gravel and adventure bikes in the intervening years, so I was keen to have a go on the updated Bokeh 2 and see if it still lived up to the plaudits I handed it in that original review.

> Buy this online here

It hasn't lost any of its appeal. Most of my previous observations still stand. This is still a highly capable bike that's just as at home cruising along country lanes as it is splashing through hub-deep puddles, skidding around corners and dive-bombing down rutted descents.

The Bokeh 2 has a sporty ride. It feels fast – there's a positive steering response and evident stiffness from the frame and fork to ensure it's responsive to your inputs, whether through the pedals thrashing up a climb or carving corners.

Direction changes come quickly, too, when you're hurtling through the woods. And it feels quick on the road, the frame doing a good job of transferring power when you're gunning for the top of a climb. You can easily fit some fat slick tyres and, gearing aside, keep up with faster roadies on a club run or smash out the commute.

There's sure-footed stability when careening down a rocky descent or pushing along a gravel track. The slack head agile, longer fork trail and stretched wheelbase compared to a road bike, as is common with many gravel bikes, prevents the Bokeh 2 from feeling too edgy or nervous.

Comfort is good over rough terrain, the big tyres at low pressures obviously contributing a great deal. It doesn't smooth out the impacts quite as well as some rivals, namely the Specialized Diverge with its Future Shock or the GT Grade's bendy rear stays. Yes, tyres are the main source of suspension but the frame and fork still account for some of the difference you can clearly feel through the contact points.

I primarily rode the bike with the 650B Hunt wheels and 47mm WTB Sendero tyres it came with, a combination that proved excellent in the muddy conditions I had for testing. We've had one of the wettest autumns in a long while and slick gravel tyres aren't much use if you want to go off-road here in the Cotswolds, I can tell you!

The Sendero tyres are capable in loose gravel and deep slippery mud, finding traction when you're on the edge of toppling over. And when the time comes to bash out some road miles, they're not all slow and ponderous – in fact, they zip along quietly and happily.

Smaller wheels equal more fun too. The Bokeh 2 is more agile and easier to carve through tight corners with the 650B wheels. Speed comes more easily when sprinting out of corners. The only downside to the smaller wheels is the impact it has on the bottom bracket height and a slightly increased risk of pedal strike.

I also tried the Bokeh 2 with some 40mm Panaracer Gravel King tyres on 700C wheels, and I still personally think bigger wheels are the outright faster choice. If I was doing a long-distance gravel adventure that would be my preference. But for blatting around the woods, focusing on having fun and getting a faceful of mud, 650B with Sendero tyres get my vote.

Changes to the Bokeh 2

The Bokeh 2 is made in Italy from triple-butted Dedacciai 7000 series aluminium. It's packed with sensible details and there's a nice aesthetic balance to the bike, from the chunky carbon fork to the profiled down tube and curved stays. The decals are up to Mason's usual impeccable standards and give the Bokeh 2 a sense of pedigree.

The eye-catching green paint is new for the Bokeh 2 and an easy way to spot one in the wild, but the original orange and grey colour choices are still available too. There's an extra size as well: a 62cm frame, increasing the range to seven. The geometry remains unchanged from the original.

Tyre clearance has been increased by a useful amount, up from 41 to 45mm on a 700C wheel. There's also 650B compatibility with up to a 50mm tyre catered for. If you want wider, you'd be better served by Mason's ISO.

Those clearances are ample for many people buying gravel bikes who will want a bike that offers good speed on a wide variety of surfaces, from road to woodland tracks and pure gravel.

You have to look closely to spot the other changes because they're subtle. The carbon fork has been updated and now features internal dynamo routing and three rack mounts compatible with Anything accessories, so you could add extra bottles or load storage. They've been canted forward for more clearance.

Mudguard and rack eyelets carry over from the original, ensuring this is a bike that could easily serve as a slick-tyred winter training, commuting or touring bike with a change of tyres or wheels.

Cable routing has been revised, still using the same modular system that ensures compatibility with all groupsets and 1x or 2x, but the rear gear cable port has been repositioned to reduce top tube pack interference.

Another change to provide easier internal routing of the rear brake hose and electronic shift cable is an oversized 56mm diameter shell around a 68mm threaded bottom bracket. The bigger shell not only provides space for the hose and wires to pass around the bottom bracket, it also provides more real estate for welding the chainstays lower, for better cable routing and more tyre clearance. It's a little slab-sided ugly but it's at least functional and serves a purpose.

Frame weight is a claimed 1,730g for a 56cm frame, with the Parallax 2 carbon fork adding 465g.

Equipment

The £3,175 Bokeh GRX on test is the pick of the range in my opinion. You get Shimano's brand new GRX 800 mechanical groupset in a 1x configuration, pairing an 11-42t cassette with a 42t chainring.

If you prefer 2x, that can be specced for an extra £20, and you get an 11-34 cassette and 48/31 chainset.

I've spent quite a bit of time on Shimano's new GRX groupset, on several test bikes, but this Bokeh 2 was my first with the 1x version. The ergonomics of the hoods are excellent and increase control in tricky situations, with the brake levers easier and nicer to operate.

The shifting quality is flawless; each push of the gear lever results in a smooth, quiet and quick gear change. It works reliably in all conditions too – even when the entire bike is caked with mud, there's no reluctance from the rear mech.

The clutch mechanism in the rear derailleur eliminates chain slap. This makes the bike quieter, reduces damage to the chainstay paint, and prevents the chain from falling off when you're bouncing across cobbles or rutted fields.

Braking performance is first class too. The braking force and delivery of the power feel the same as Shimano's road bike groupsets; it provides easy one-finger braking, which gives you more control over the handlebar when the tyres are sliding around struggling for grip.

Wheels are the Mason X Hunt 650B AdventureSport Discs, shod with those WTB Sendero tyres I mentioned earlier, but other tyres can be specced from Schwalbe, Panaracer and other models from WTB. The 650B Hunt wheels are stiff and responsive and proved reliable during my test, and the tyres are grippy in the mud and not draggy on the road. A good winter pick.

Finishing kit is a combination of Mason branded carbon seatpost and seat clamp, a Deda Gravel100 handlebar and Superzero stem, and Fabric Scoop Shallow saddle with matching Hex bar tape.

The aluminium handlebar has a nice amount of flare to the drops, 12-degree flare to be precise, without being excessive, enabling more control over the direction that the bike takes on the descents, while the top section is slightly ovalised, lending more comfort when cruising.

Value

The Bokeh 2 frameset costs £1,250, a £100 increase since we tested the original in 2017. You can buy a 'rolling chassis' for £1,598, which includes Hunt wheels in a choice of 650B or 700C size, and a carbon fibre seatpost.

Our test bike with Shimano GRX 800 costs £3,175, but complete builds start from £2,795 with SRAM Rival 1 or Shimano 105, rising to £3,995 with Shimano GRX Di2. If that's not posh enough for you, switch to the Bokeh Ti and you can spend £6,195.

It's certainly a pricey proposition for an aluminium frame, but not all aluminium frames are designed with as much care and attention to detail as the Mason clearly is. Take into account subjective things like the Italian manufacturing, the design, finish and attention to detail and the price becomes more acceptable – but you are paying more for the frame when comparing complete bikes to some rivals in this category.

Ribble's CGR AL, for example, costs £1,839 for a complete bike when custom specced with Shimano GRX 800 and WTB Nano tyres. You can read a review of it here.

There's also the excellent Canyon Grail AL 7.0, which offers very good value for money, though the finish of the frame clearly isn't on the same level as the Bokeh 2.

> Buyer's Guide: 22 of the best gravel and adventure bikes

You could also get a carbon fibre bike in the shape of the Vitus Substance CRX, which costs £1,799 with a SRAM Rival 1 groupset and 650B wheels and tyres.

If you want a British designed and British made gravel bike, your choices are limited. One that springs to mind is the new Enigma Endeavour which costs £2,001.98 for the frameset.

Verdict

The updated Bokeh 2 retains everything that I loved about the original, with excellent handling that works well across a variety of terrains. It's fast, sporty and involving. The extra tyre clearance will be welcomed, as will the increased capability with extra mounts, and the small changes to cable routing show the company's attention to detail.

Verdict

Top performance, looks and capability from Mason's updated gravel bike

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road.cc test report

Make and model: Mason Bokeh GRX

Size tested: 54cm

About the bike

List the components used to build up the bike.

From Mason:

Frame Dedacciai custom-shaped performance Aluminium.

Fork Mason Parallax2 full carbon Thru-Axle fork.

Headset DEDA Low profile integrated headset.

Colours Element Grey. Flare Orange. Filter Green

Bike Weight 54cm 9.2kg.

Transmission:

Shifting Shimano GRX-810 Mechanical Shifting.

Chainset Shimano GRX-810 1x (42T) / 2x (48/31)

Cassette Shimano M8000 11-42. / CS800 11-34

Chain Shimano HG701 11 Spd.

Wheels and braking:

Braking Shimano GRX-810 Hydro Calipers.

Tyres Choice of Schwalbe, Panaracer, WTB.

Wheels HUNT Four Season Gravel Disc / Mason X HUNT 650B AdventureSport Disc. Other models available.

Contact zones:

Handlebar Deda Gravel100

Clamp MASON Macro alloy ultralight.

Seatpost MASON Penta carbon, microadjust.

Saddle Fabric Scoop, Shallow, Mason Custom.

Bar Tape Fabric Hex tape.

Stem DEDA Superzero.

Sizing:

Sizes 50, 52, 54, 56, 58, 60, 62.

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:

The Bokeh bikes and framesets are AdventureSport machines for fast 'Continent Crushing' rides and they can use either 650b x 50mm or 700c, with up to 45mm tyres. Many customers specify 2 sets of wheels, a quick swap dials the Bokeh perfectly to your chosen terrain or adventure. Use our 'Configure' tool to build your perfect Bokeh.

All our bike designs require a spark, something that starts the fire smouldering and gets us enthused and caught up, the Bokeh bikes were no different. We started to see the Definitions and Resolutions being used in ways that we hadn't envisioned when they were designed, more and more riders were fitting lightweight packs in the frame and on the bars and behind the seat and heading off on huge adventures. The comfortable, fast, long-distance nature of the bikes really worked for this type of riding and larger volume tyres and disc brakes gave comfort, confidence and predictable handling and braking in all conditions...our mantra 'FastFar' was born.

Josh Ibbetts incredible Transcontinental 2015 win, riding a virtually standard Mason Definition really inspired me and helped strengthen my resolve to design a bike that was a 'continent crusher', capable of being ridden fast on many surfaces and varied terrain, for a long way in as much comfort as possible. 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.

We have again collaborated with our friends at Hunt Bike Wheels to develop a Mason x Hunt 'AdventureSport' 650b wheelset for the Bokeh bikes. The development of 1x drivetrains and lightweight, performance multi-terrain 650b tyres and fast, large volume multi-terrain tyres for 700c has really helped fuel bike development.

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 45mm, 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.

The stack height is very similar to the Definition and Resolution, we 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, 60 and 62cm, see individual bike pages 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 fender eyelets and an extra one at the front for a Dynamo light.

Where does this model sit in the range? Tell us briefly about the cheaper options and the more expensive options

Complete builds start from £2,795 with SRAM Rival 1 or Shimano 105, rising to £3,995 with Shimano GRX Di2. If that's not rich enough for you, switch to the Bokeh Ti and you can spend £6,195. The test bike with Shimano GRX 800 costs £3,175.

Frame and fork

Overall rating for frame and fork
 
9/10

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

Excellent quality, up with the best you'll see on a bike.

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

Dedacciai custom formed, triple-butted performance aluminium frame with Mason Parallax full carbon thru-axle fork.

Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?

Longer and slacker than a road bike.

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

I found the fit and reach comfortable.

Riding the bike

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

The ride quality is very good on the road and in the woods. Wide tyres at low pressures obviously help a lot when it comes to comfort.

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

The frame is very stiff with good power transfer.

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

No lack of power transfer at all.

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? Sporty!

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

It's a sporty and engaging bike with decent stability at higher speeds.

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

I wouldn't rush to change anything on this build.

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

The drivetrain

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

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:
 
8/10
Rate the tyres for comfort:
 
8/10
Rate the tyres for value:
 
8/10

Controls

Rate the controls for performance:
 
8/10
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

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

How does the price compare to that of similar bikes in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?

It's more expensive than many other aluminium gravel bikes, as listed in the review body.

Rate the bike overall for performance:
 
8/10
Rate the bike overall for value:
 
5/10

Use this box to explain your overall score

It's expensive for aluminium, but it's an extremely lovely looking bike that packs a great ride and loads of capability and versatility that shines on all terrain.

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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