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  • 04/04/2022 – New bike day

    Is there anything better than new bike day? Nothing really, except maybe two new bike days. My first was a test ride on a titanium Mason Bokeh (mine will arrive next week), the second the arrival of the gravel-capable titanium tandem that +RichardM had built up from a one-off Bingham frame. I think I’ve got that “too much cake” (or too much titanium) feeling.

    I ordered my Bokeh from Mason Cycles a long time ago, back in June 2021, but had an existential crisis about the frame size and delivery got put back from December to April. Gulp. That’s a big delay. As the delivery neared, I decided to take a day off to test ride a Bokeh and make sure the sizing was exactly what I needed. Mason Cycles is based on a farm near Lansing in Sussex on the south coast. Their HQ, the Mason barn, is near the Downs Link and they had a short test loop lined up for me. In fact, they had lined up owner Dom Mason’s own titanium Bokeh for me to ride. It’s a handsome bike, kitted out with Hunt wheels, plush 42mm WTB Resolute tyres and electronic GRX 1x group set.

    What a teaser on two counts. First, it rode like a dream, solid, nimble and perfectly suited to its purpose. And secondly, the Downs Link is seriously lovely. I am going to have to plot a return and really take in this part of the world more fully. I’ve resisted electronic shifting so far, but this worked quicky and flawlessly and has planted a seed in my brain.

    I’d had my eye on the Bokeh for a long time. In truth, I was going backward and forwards between two British brands, the Mason Bokeh and the Fairlight Secan, which I’ve seen a clubmate toting on the Gritty 50 and is highly rated by bike reviewer David English. The latter is a classical-looking steel bike, just as capable and modern as the Bokeh. It was a very close thing. Having left his role as Creative Director at Kinesis in 2016 and Dom Mason has created an incredible range of bikes and I’ve fully bought into the vision.

    Although Dom’s Bokeh was incredible, mine will be different. It will be alloy and the non-electronic Campagnolo Ekar with lighter Hunt Gravel Race wheels. My intention is to run the 42mm Resolutes in gravel season and 32mm and fenders for the off season, when it will serve as a winter trainer.

    The second instalment of new bike bliss came in the shape of a bicycle made for two. Richard’s Bingham Built titanium tandem. This is a serious bit of engineering, which Richard details fully in the Ongoing build projects thread.

    We took this beefy beast out for about 45 miles of gravel riding in south Herts to get a measure of it. What hit me is how oversized the down tube and that (tandem-only) tube between the two bottom brackets is. Actually, and the top tube. All the tubes. But they are so to do a job and it does it well. The most striking thing for me is how those chunky tubes delivered such a silky smooth ride. I know those trails and tracks, and many are quite rough and always leave you beaten up and full of aches and pains. I know it’s not just my age, honest. Four hours later, I felt unbelievably untouched by the bumps and grinds. It was as if the bike had an invisible suspension system. That’s the only way I can describe it. I haven’t finished a gravel ride feeling so fresh. And, yes, I did pedal.

    One part of the spec worth flagging is the satellite shifters. This is now a relatively easy addition with the advent of wireless mini buttons. For background, Richard is something of a grinder, while I am more of a spinner. I know this only too well as we race together on a tandem and have even finished one event with an average cadence of 66rpm. Really we are incompatible; I thought so that day. As pilot he has control of the gearing on the time trial bike. However, wisely or perhaps foolishly, he chose to include satellite shifters for the stoker in this build. This was at times hilarious. Both resisting shifting (waiting for the other to click) or trying to get the first shift in (like being somehow "right") or both shifting at the same time (and then someone has to click back down or up). A can of worms has been opened.

    Finally, I have to say I was grateful to the pilot for taking a cautious approach to any really dodgy looking bits of the course. Negotiating any kind of technical tarmac is pretty challenging on a tandem, off road it's a bigger responsibility. Speaking of responsibilities, in my opinion, the role of the pilot is a kind of backseat driver-in-chief. To be in charge of the sat nav, pacing and master of all sarcasm, which was, I felt, undiminished by the terrain.

    As I write, I’m still charged from this double high. I’m also still waiting for my Bokeh to come (3 more sleeps) and thinking about how much fun I’m gonna have on these bikes. Good things are worth waiting for. I'm feeling very lucky.

    Photo below is Mason Cycles HQ - orange Bokeh blocking the path to the coffee maker

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