What’s the perfect lockdown bike? It’s the one you’re permitted to ride, for starters, and the one you have readily available, but it’s also the bike that inspires you to pedal when times are hard and provides a dose of government-approved adventure when everyday life has become a bit, well, monotonous.
For me, that bike has been my Mason Bokeh, a loyal companion over the past couple of months of social distancing and the latest showpiece in our BikeRadar Builds series.
Welcome to BikeRadar Builds
BikeRadar Builds is our occasional look at the team’s personal bikes, including custom rigs, commuters, dream builds, component testbeds and more.
This is our chance to geek out about the bikes we’re riding day-to-day, and explore the thinking (or lack of it!) behind our equipment choices.
A build for all seasons
I bought this Bokeh frame about a year ago when living in London but, for one reason or another, didn’t get round to piecing together the rest of the spec until December.
I then closed out 2019 with a shakedown ride on New Year’s Eve after picking it up from my local bike shop, Strada Cycles, who put the build together here in south Bristol.
The Bokeh is Mason’s ‘Adventure Sport’ frame. That’s gravel, to you and me, but it’s an indication of where the Sussex-based brand founded by Dom Mason, formerly of Kinesis, pitches the Bokeh. It’s a frame designed for covering ground quickly, with a sportier overall geometry to match.
That’s what drew me to the Bokeh in the first place. I wanted an aluminium frame with a simple, elegant aesthetic, fixtures and fittings for bikepacking, touring or winter road riding, and geometry numbers at the sharper end of the gravel bike spectrum (my 54cm frame has a stack of 568mm and a reach of 376mm). The Bokeh may not be as geared up for properly technical off-road riding as some gravel frames, but its strength is its versatility.
Most ‘gravel’ riding in the UK will likely involve linking sections of trail and bridleway together by road, rather than heading out into the wild or spending all day on dirt. That’s certainly the case where I live, so building a bike that also felt at home on tarmac was key.
If it could double as a posh winter bike with mudguards, even better. A bike for all seasons and all occasions.
The frame is made in Italy from custom-formed, triple-butted Dedacciai tubing and is paired with Mason’s Parallax carbon fibre fork.
Claimed weights are 1,640g (52cm frame) and 465g (uncut fork) respectively – cast your mind back to Matthew’s recent Genesis CdF build and the weight savings over a steel frame are significant. I won’t dwell on the details – take a look through the galleries – but it’s a beautifully finished frame. And that orange!
In the time spent procrastinating between buying the frame and getting the build done, Mason actually released a second-edition Bokeh frame (we gave the original Bokeh five stars when we reviewed it in 2017).
The updates are pretty subtle, namely a beefier bottom bracket shell to accommodate a 30mm crank spindle, repositioned cable ports and a new fork – the Parallax 2 – with mounts on each leg and the option to fit an internally-routed dynamo.
GRX because… gravel
Mason offers the Bokeh in six builds, as a rolling chassis with an own-brand carbon seatpost and Hunt wheels, or as a frameset.
I’d initially planned to put an Ultegra Di2 groupset on my frame, but one benefit of stalling the build was the release of Shimano’s GRX gravel components, so GRX Di2 RX800 it was (RX800 sits at Ultegra-level and includes both mechanical and electronic options).
I’ve opted for a double chainset up front; sacrilege on a gravel bike, I know. I ride with quite a high cadence and, sensitive soul that I am, dislike big jumps between gears. That’s not so much of a problem when riding off-road – the popularity of 1x for mountain bikes, mine included, is evidence of that – but those extra few gears make all the difference on a bike likely to spend time on a variety of surfaces, so the front derailleur is present and correct.
The GRX RX810 2x chainset gets 48/31t chainrings (the more affordable RX600 2x chainset has 46/30t rings) and is paired with a 11-34t cassette.
Shimano’s gravel gearing is on the punchy side compared to SRAM’s new Force eTap AXS Wide components, which come with a 43/30t crank and 10-36t cassette, but it works well for my kind of riding.
I’ll likely look to add a few extra teeth to that cassette when riding the South Downs Way later this summer, though.