7th February 2023
My MASON RAW - A journey through South America #1
In January 2023, friend of MASON Joe Sasada took his MASON RAW to the very northern tip of Colombia to begin an incredible journey southbound through the spine of the Andes mountain range. With a rough route of heading through Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, and possibly heading to Patagonia, without a set deadline, Joe is riding to:
Live life a bit differently for a while, and an opportunity to reconnect with nature and explore new places/cultures and perhaps most importantly, an opportunity to explore the inside of my own head.
In January 2023 I started a long, lazy tour through north Colombia, pedalling southbound through the deserts and jungles of the Caribbean coast, and now into the more mountainous region of Santander. The plan is to take the scenic route, meandering the Andes through Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and beyond, over the course of around a year. Time will tell whether I make it to Ushuaia in Argentina, el Fin del Mundo. But, naturally, I went to great lengths to start my journey at the very northern tip of South America, at Punta Gallinas in La Guajira desert…just in case.
We will be following Joe’s bikepacking adventures and sharing his tales, but for now, we take a look at Joe’s bike setup.
Preparing for such a journey presented a few headaches, in terms of bike/kit selection and setup. I’ll be touring through a wide range of terrains both on-/off-road and I needed my bike to offer a healthy balance of indestructibility and speed, as well as the ability to haul a heavy gear load without sacrificing on handling.
Whilst my prized BokehTi would certainly be up to such a challenge, I needed something a bit more burly, and my preference was for a flat bar bike with bigger wheels / wider tyres to ensure maximum comfort over long distances.
I was lucky enough to acquire my MASON RAW in the first production run last April and have since been loving exploring the local trails around Bristol, where I just recently moved. It was the natural choice for my trip, although it needed a bit of a spec-up to convert it from hard-tail to dirt-road-mile-muncher.
For starters, I needed to find an alternative to the Rockshox 120mm travel carbon fork. As dreamy as it is, it's not suitable for my load-bearing requirements nor for the constant abuse over the long duration of my trip. A steel fork was what I needed, as well as a front rack.
I shopped around a bit but couldn’t find anything suitable off-the-peg given the relatively long Axle-to-Crown measurement of the RAW. There were some carbon ones available but again, not really suitable. So exploring the custom route instead, I approached Pi Manson at Clandestine.cc whose workshop happens to be less than a mile away from my front door in Bishopston, Bristol. Having just won Best Touring Bike at last year’s Bespoked Awards, I was in good hands…
Pi built me a bi-plane fork and matching rack out of Columbus steel, with the geometry more or less identical to the original Rockshox. The rack is slightly extended, offset in front of the front hub to accommodate the protruding Jones Loop Carbon bar I fitted, and we designed the cage bosses to face backwards so as to run front panniers as well as carry-anything cages simultaneously. I am super happy with the final result - it handles beautifully and whilst I am only a few hundred km into my trip, so far it feels bulletproof and I expect it to remain so.
For the groupset I am running all the stock Deore XT 12-speed that came stock with the bike, but swapped to a smaller chainring (30T Absolute Black elliptical) to winch me up the 4000m+ climbs I have ahead of me. At this juncture I wanted to make a specific mention about the Wolftooth WT-1 chain lube I am using… it is ridiculously good and well worth the high price point!
I had sleepless nights trying to decide between clipless/flat pedals, and am extremely happy with the final choice of my Hope F20 flats…Lastly, I am using a PNW Loam dropper post which for me is a game changer. Being able to remain in the saddle when rolling up to traffic lights and putting both feet down (I’ve only got little legs!) is crucial when controlling a ~45kg bike.
In terms of luggage, I wanted to achieve a balance in handling with the weight spread across the bike to allow me to tackle some more varied terrain, as well as a modular setup allowing me to send on stuff I won’t need (e.g. I plan to send ahead camping/cooking kit to meet me in South Colombia). I adapted a Tailfin AeroPack system to carry 2x22l panniers at the rear, but crucially to mount a lightweight, large capacity dry-bag rucksack on top instead of their standard AeroPack. This gives me the ability to lighten the load for hike-a-bike and is generally useful for off-bike day hikes, city tourism days etc.
At the front, for the first time, I am using Rockgeist Microwave panniers - 10L each - which attach using a clever voile strap system and are rattle-free even over the rough stuff. I’m very happy with them so far. I fitted a Roadrunner Jumbo Jammer handlebar bag, which has ridiculous amounts of capacity, for valuables & camera kit, and a custom DyedInTheWool roll-top frame bag for heavy stuff like a water bladder, tripod, and tent poles. Cargo cages on the forks/downtube are again from Tailfin.
Tyre choice was another aspect that I long considered. In the end, I maxed out my clearance with 2.6inch Vittoria Mezcal’s which roll super fast on tarmac and offer decent comfort/grip off-road. A Son Dynamo hub powers a Sinewave Beacon front light and offers USB charging on the move.
Finally, I’ve got a bit of a funky cockpit situation going on, with a set of Profile Design aerobars intersecting the Jones Loop bar. I wanted the option to take the load off the wrists and expect the headwinds to become a lot stronger the further south I am. Most pleasingly, there is space for my water bottles to slot through adjacent gaps into 2 StraightCut Design stem bags. Extremely, extremely pleasing! Shout out to Jon Wild at 73 degrees in Keynesham who helped me nail down the fit.
In summary, I am super pleased with the final result - the bike handles beautifully and is more than capable of handling whatever is thrown at it. I am sure that any limiting factor will be my legs and lungs, not the bike! Finally, I would like to say a big thank you to the whole MASON team for the ongoing after-sales service/support, which really sets them apart from their peers in the bike industry!
Follow Joe’s progress on Instagram.
Full bike spec:
- Frame: MASON RAW
- Forks: Clandestine.cc Custom Columbus Steel
- Handlebars: Jones Loop Bar Carbon
- Stem: Race Face Turbine
- Cranks: Shimano XT
- Chainring: Absolute Black 30T Elliptical
- Derailleur: Shimano Deore XT
- Shifters: Shimano Deore XT
- Cassette: Shimano Deore XT 51-10
- Brakes/Rotors: Shimano Deore XT
- Wheelset: Hunt 29 Trailwide, Son Dynamo at front
- Dropper Post: PNW Loam
- Tyres: Vittoria Mezcal 29x 2.6
- Saddle: Ergon Pro
- Grips: Ergon GP1 Biocork
- Pedals: Hope F20
- Aerobars: Profile Design Sonic Ergo 50
- Dynamo light: SineWave Beacon
- Front panniers: Rockgeist Microwaves
- Front Rack: Clandestine.cc Custom Columbus Steel
- Rear panniers: Tailfin 22l extra durable
- Rear Rack: Tailfin aeropack, minus the “pack”
- Framebag: DyedInTheWool custom
- Handlebar bag: Roadrunner Jumbo Jammer
- Stem bags: StraightCut Design (x2)
- Top tube bag: Apidura
- Fork mounts: Tailfin cargo cage large (x2)
- Downtube mount: Tailfin cargo cage small
- Backpack on rear rack: Arcteryx Alpha FL 30L