I first met Dom Mason a few years back at the London Cycle Show. A close friend of mine began working part-time for Mason Cycles in 2015 and introduced me to Dom at the show. Immediately, I felt aware of Dom's knowledge, credibility, enthusiasm for cycling, quality products and, of course, pride in his company Mason Cycles.
A few meetings later and my initial impressions of the former Kinesis frame designer have been confirmed and the growth of Mason Cycles, without any concerted effort at marketing, speaks volumes for the framesets and bikes the company sells.
Mason Cycles produces three metal framesets, designed at the company's headquarters just outside of Brighton, UK, which are built by artisan, small batch frame builders in Italy.
The company's initial raison d'être, producing the ultimate four-season super commuter, has developed into something far beyond this. Now, aluminium, steel or titanium, carbon-forked framesets offer different price points, for different styles of riding.
Dom Mason recently took a visit to BikeRadar HQ to give us a first look at the Mason Resolution2, and we also had a chat with the Brightonian about what Mason Cycles is and where he sees the brand going in the future.
Dom Mason: "I wanted to work in Europe, I wanted to do something in Italy. There are these little tiny places, you can't call them factories, it's like carpentry.
"I wanted to hold the tubes and work out designs with the guys that were there and that's what I did. It was really hard, if people are making bikes in Italy they don't tell you because it's really hard to find an opening to do it. It took me ages, but when I finally found the right place we had to go through loads of prototypes because we couldn't communicate.
"In Taiwan, you send a picture of the design and a bike comes back, in Italy, you can't do that. You have to go there and hold tubes and bend things.
"The first [Mason Cycles] bike came out of that and then the aim was to make the ultimate four-season bike, which I had started on when I worked at Kinesis, but wanted to make them out of these tiny, little workshops and that's how our first two bikes came about."
The initial designs of these forward-thinking, durable bikes, which Mason dubbed 'Progressive Cycles' grabbed the attention of several ultra-endurance riders, with Josh Ibbett winning the Transcontinental Race 2015, Italy Divide 2017 and a second place at Bikingman Oman all aboard a Mason Cycles frameset.
Fast and far
While Dom Mason never expected his bikes to be winning races, he welcomes the rise in popularity of ultra-endurance racing, as well as his bikes enabling those not interested in racing to ride further and faster on bikepacking adventures and more.
"As our brand progressed, Josh Ibbett won the 2015 Transcontinental Race (TCR) aboard a Mason Definition and it was like, wow.
"At that point, people started to get more interested in our bikes, racing has never been my thing and I'm always a bit embarrassed by that. I do like performance stuff though and Josh won that race and now more and more people are putting packs on their bikes and going a long way.
"Ultra-endurance riders are not necessarily going really fast but they are going far and now the guys on our bikes are going with a set destination in mind and they are going fast. They're putting everything on their bikes and they are just going. Shortly after Josh won the TCR, I came up with the hashtag #FastFar and now after three years of doing that we've started calling ourselves a Fast-Far bike company.
"The bikes have morphed from the four-season bikes to this. What I first envisaged as the best possible four-season bikes have turned into the best fast-far, continent-crushing bikes. If you want to go a long way and feel engaged with the bike, then this is what our bikes do."
Industry giants Specialized, Trek, Cannondale and the like spend huge sums of money each season developing new range-topping all-round race bikes or aero-specific framesets in an effort to make the smallest of advantages.
The bikes are incredibly successful year in, year out at the top level of the sport, offering consumers a taste of WorldTour cycling, as well as the inevitable trickle-down technology for nearly everyone to enjoy in the seasons and years that follow.
These same companies are also offering adventure and gravel bikes, fuelled to an extent by social media and I welcome all aspects of cycling.
However, the organic growth and development of Mason Cycles feels like something different and a refreshing change to the usual marketing and press releases of the latest gravel/adventure bike, which may or may not have had more spent on the marketing campaign than the actual development or production of the bike.
"I like the idea of getting lost, people falling off and having an adventure. That's what it's about for us as opposed to the podium at the Tour de France," says Dom.
"We call it ride-driven design as we're watching what people are doing on their bikes and, while the whole industry has made a gravel bike, we've created these bikes that can ride gravel and more.
"We find people understand it and they hunt us down, we've only ever run four adverts for our bikes and we don't plan on increasing that any time soon.
"Another thing is that it doesn't matter whether you've spent £1 million developing a bike, if you've got a tall head tube the bike isn't going to climb or accelerate properly. It just doesn't, you can stack up the handlebars if you want but this is designed to accelerate well, be able to smash it through corners and ride for miles, which is quite a tightrope to manage."
Custom component design
Mason Cycles' has exclusively developed and produced components for its different frame options because Dom chooses not to compromise in an attempt to have the latest technologies.
The recently released Mason Resolution2 has custom-made dropouts allowing for thru-axles and flat-mount standard disc brakes, while the carbon forks used on Mason's framesets are produced with Mason's custom-tooling as opposed to an off-the-shelf option from the Far East.
Threaded bottom brackets are, of course, more expensive and heavier than press fit options but this doesn't stop Mason Cycles using them on each of its models.
These decisions come at a large expense for a relatively small company with just five employees, but one that is clearly working and is appealing to a wide audience.
"There are two types of buyers of our bikes, younger guys who are super-enthusiastic riders but don't want to be sat at lights on a Trek or Specialized next to another Trek or Specialized, or there are older guys who are selling three or four bikes to buy this one bike who will generally spec each detail of the bike themselves.
"We have a presence at all of these amazing races such as the Transcontinental Race and Italy Divide and that isn't through us, it is through guys who are finishing in the top three or four places, so that's our presence and reputation. If you can't bond with your machine that you are riding on for 200 miles a day then you're never going to enjoy riding it," says Dom.
Mason Cycles' bikes and business is refreshing for an industry that can often feel predictable and uniform. Still growing and developing, the company appears to be having early commercial success through an entirely different model to the usual start-up brands, as well as offering hand-crafted products on a larger scale than other small-batch but respected frame builders.
I look forward to seeing the brand grow and after limited riding on some of Mason Cycles' bikes, I can't wait to enjoy some more.