First published in Issue 124 of Singletrack Magazine, this Mason InSearchOf was reviewed as part of our Long Haulers test of bikes with racks. For when you really want to carry everything and the kitchen sink.
Words by Antony de Heveningham. Photos by James Vincent.
- Price: £3,490.00 (+£160.00 for dynamo wheelset)
- From: Mason Cycles, masoncycles.cc
Mason Cycles may not be a household name in the mountain bike world but if you’re from the UK and ride bikes on dirt, chances are you’ll have encountered a bike designed by its owner. Dom Mason was the lead designer for Kinesis Bikes, before striking out on his own in 2014. Mason’s current range of bikes is all steel or titanium with drop bars, but calling them road bikes would be a misnomer. They’re all designed to be a tad more adventurous than that, with disc brakes, plenty of tyre clearance, and other indications of a penchant for leaving the tarmac.
So have we smuggled a gravel bike into a mountain bike test? Not quite. The InSearchOf is Mason’s newest model and although it’s very much designed around drop bars, in most other respects it’s a mountain bike. It takes Boost cranks and wheels and, therefore, joins the likes of Shand’s Bahookie and Bearclaw’s Beau Jaxon on a very short list of drop bar bikes that can also accept wide 29in or 27.5+ tyres. You won’t spot one on your local club run, and even if you turned up to a cyclocross race on it, you’d get some seriously funny looks.
The frame is made in Italy by Dedacciai, and features an array of subtle manipulations to get the best out of each bit of tubing. Swoopy seatstays are augmented with two sets of rear rack mounts (for a lower or higher mounting position). The dropouts incorporate a replaceable mech hanger and flat mounts for the latest generation of road disc brakes. The seat tube features internal dropper post routing and the whole frame is internally coated with an anti-corrosion treatment.
The InSearchOf can run 100mm of front suspension, thanks to the kinked downtube, but our test bike came equipped with Mason’s HotShoe rigid fork. This features a brace of mounts for bottle or gear cages, plus a crown mount for the specially designed front rack. Sadly, at the time of writing the rack hadn’t quite made it to production, but the alternative option is just as interesting – a massive, colour-coordinated mudguard that’s also designed to be load bearing, incorporating a small flattened area and some slots for straps.
The fork’s other neat trick is a slim internal channel for dynamo wiring. I’m a dynamo convert, and the ability to generate your own power and light opens up all sorts of adventurous possibilities. In a nice bit of joined-up thinking, Mason has collaborated with Hunt wheels on a wheelset featuring an ultra-reliable (and expensive) SON hub, and the final version of the rack will have a front mount for a light unit.
The rest of the build on our test bike had a pick ’n’ mix theme, with a SRAM Force 1×11 cyclocross groupset paired with a 10–42 wide range cassette, and a Truvativ Descendant carbon fibre crank (full builds will come with the lighter duty Stylo chainset instead). If disc brakes were a quantum leap forward from cantis, the latest generation of hydraulic drop bar brakes are light years ahead of cable discs, and allow you to descend spicy trails with much more control, even with your hands on the hoods. Mason has also tweaked the mounts to run a larger 180mm disc rotor at the front of the bike, adding even more power and modulation.
As already noted, the InSearchOf is designed around drop bars, and is available in five sizes from XS to XL. Confusingly, sizes are based on seat tube measurements, along the lines of road bikes, but with a touch more standover, so our medium test bike was a 50cm frame, but felt equivalent to a 54cm road or cyclocross frame. Reach and stack are also hard to compare with more conventional frames, and if you’re unsure about sizing we’d recommend contacting Mason for a chat.
Our tester arrived with a relatively short stem, and Ritchey VentureMax bars, which have quite an extreme flare and an ergonomic kink (dubbed the ‘bio-bend’) towards the end of the bar. This seems designed to locate your hand in the optimum position for braking in the drops. Another UK brand, Fabric, supplies the bar tape and the saddle, while the carbon seatpost is another Mason product and features a thumb-wheel for angle adjustment.
The look of the bike is rounded out with some tasteful graphics, gold pinstriping on the seat tube, and an absolutely gorgeous polished head badge. As well as the cool grey of our test model, the frame is available in a rather less understated green, with colour-matched racks and mudguard. And aesthetically, the bike is dominated by that front mudguard. As a statement of utilitarian anti-cool, or the offspring of a child’s plastic sledge and a snow shovel, depending on your point of view, it’ll probably play a decisive role in many people’s decision to purchase this bike.
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|Price:||£3,490.00 (+£160.00 for dynamo wheelset)|
|Tested:||by Antony de Heveningham for|