We recently held our first Mason Cycles X Neighbourhood Gravel event, an intro to sleeping in a Bivi. With a ride along the South Downs, experienced to new bikepacking riders finished the day's ride at the MASON barn, for a sustainability tractor tour, food, talks, and beer before settling down for the night, which for some, was their first Bivi experience.

Dom Mason, co-founder of Mason Cycles:

"Riding and riders have been at the heart of MASON since we started in 2014. 'Ride Driven Design' is our central pillar and guiding statement. If there is not a real-world riding advantage to be derived from a component, tube shape, feature or frame design, then we don't do it. We are all riders here, we support some of the best riders in the world and we watch, listen and learn from their incredible riding experiences. This direct rider feedback, along with almost 25 years of bicycle design experience, combine to help form the essential DNA of each MASON bicycle.

Although our support of top-level athletes and world-class riding events is absolutely essential in what we do, something has always frustrated me and felt slightly out of reach, this has been the support of riders and riding at the grassroots level in our local community. So this year, 8 years in for Mason Cycles, feels like the right time to get involved. Building the brand and business and steering it through a turbulent and unpredictable world has been a challenge that has been all-absorbing, sometimes exhausting and at times has left little time and energy for anything else! So, maybe partly spurred by recent world events and a need to re-engage on a personal level, but also by my feeling that I have been pouring absolutely everything into building this brand and obsessing over the smallest details, possibly at the expense of engaging with riding and riders on a social level, and a nagging feeling of the need to reconnect - we are going to be supporting our local riding group 'Neighbourhood Gravel'.

I've noticed the group expanding in my peripheral vision for around a year and thought "those guys look like they are doing it right, riding, having fun, pushing it quite hard every now and then, but not taking themselves too seriously..." At the core are Lorah Pierre and Tom Hall, both accomplished riders with some pretty hardcore endurance rides under their belts, but running their group with accessible and fun riding events firmly at the forefront. Neighbourhood Gravel is also fully focused on making their group properly inclusive and encouraging for underrepresented groups in cycling.

So, the first MASON x Neighbourhood Gravel event would be a bivi night aimed at those who were new to sleeping outside with their bike! Around 20 riders of various bivi experiences gathered at the start point in Hove, Sussex and we rode in glorious conditions across the South Downs to a flint barn in the fields surrounding the MASON HQ. A true team effort ensued with setting up the camp, the experienced helping the less experienced and new. The straw-filled barn was too close for a campfire, so we sat around a large lantern from The Lantern House and shared our bike-bivi experiences - good, bad and hilarious, for all to learn from.

Then it was the last drinks [beer provided by STOHK] and everyone zipped into their bags for the night!

It was a cold and slightly damp night, but most slept well, especially Lorah on her 'Princess and the Pea' luxury straw bale/double air mattress bed! Coffee and bivi-type discussion ensued over morning coffee, and then, on a beautiful sunny morning, we all rode back through the farm and along the coast, headed for home…

We chatted with Neighbourhood Gravel bikepacker and adventure racer Lorah Pierre who was at the heart of the event: 

The recent MASON x Neighbourhood Gravel Introduction of Biv-ing Night has had some great feedback, can you tell us more about this event?
Introduction to Biv-ing was the first collaborative event between MASON and Neighbourhood. Our aim was to create a safe space to build and practice skills around bikepacking, with a priority on empowering people and having fun.
Though our original audience aim were those who may never have bike packed before, we had a range of experience sign up. From multi-day tours, and local one-nighters, to ultra race ‘sleep’, the different bikes, setups, kit lists, equipment quality, and personal hacks everyone participated in were fundamental in making the evening. Everyone had a chance to look at different setups, offer up advice, and tell stories around the ‘fire’.

How did a bivi night with MASON come about?
Dom originally contacted us saying he felt it was time to put back into grassroots cycling, and that he wanted to support what we were creating. We had a few meetups and put ideas into motion. 

Are the rides designed for all levels of riders?
The route for the Bivi night was planned with Claire Frecknall and Dom Mason. They chose a relatively easy, short route which seemed to work perfectly for everyone that came.
On our Neighbourhood rides, we have two routes; easy and sleazy. They usually set off together and have a coffee stop 10-15 miles in and then the groups will diverge.
This format is still something that we are trying to work on, and are always pleased to hear feedback on what people want from a ride.

Do you have a must-have bivi night out, kit checklist?
Bivi, sleeping bag, ground mat, liner. 

How long have you been running these events?
We have been going as Neighbourhood Gravel since August 2021. 

How do people find out about your upcoming plans?
We use Instagram as a way to advertise our events.

Co-founder of Mason Cycles and bivi-night newbie, Julie said

"Having camped many times before, I'm used to packing my eye mask, ear plugs, Nytol, and cashmere bed socks to get the best night's sleep possible.

This time having to fit everything on the bike was a challenge. I suffer from back and joint issues so my comfy sleeping mat was a must, a really good sleeping bag and the hire of a Rab Ridge Raider Bivi made the whole experience more enjoyable than it might have been. The only clothes I packed to change into after the ride were my beanie and thermal tights and top, which I also slept in. A down jacket and of course the cashmere socks! Minimal food, tiny toothpaste, travel toothbrush, lip salve and that was about it, which for anyone that knows me or who has been on holiday with me will be amazed as I've normally got the biggest suitcase!!

Loved the whole people, ride, and friendliness vibe about it, shame my back has been killing me since."

Dom, shares his final thoughts...

What a lovely experience our first event was! New friends were made, new plans hatched and plenty of knowledge handed down. For some this was their first bike-bivi and night outside, it was fantastic to hear them say that they were hooked and this would be the start of something. For me, it strengthened my conviction that now was the time to start giving back and taking every chance possible to ride and be part of this wonderful community that surrounds what we do.

Thanks, Lorah, and thanks, Tom! BIG thanks to all the riders that made this event such fun. We'll be doing it again...just the start of many!!"

Follow Neighbourhood Gravel on Instagram to find out about upcoming events.