1st May 2021
My Mason ISO
All Photographs by Chris Martin
Marcus is a regularly contributor over at Advntr.cc and you can also follow him on IG.
At the end of last year, I was searching around for new adventure bike option. I was regularly finding myself on rough and rugged terrain on bikepacking adventures around Scotland and beyond. I’d often get the numb hands and that high impact car-crash feeling after coming home from long gravel rides, riding high pressure on lower volume tyres. I rode my first gravel-ultra race at Badlands in Spain and knew I would be riding a fair few more of these events in the future. Afterwards, I was looking for a bike that would provide more comfort on long off-road rides and would have full functionality for loading up with bags and gear. I decided on the Mason InSearchOf (in Vela colourway) as the frame of choice for my specifications and got to planning of how to build it up.
Over the winter months I built up the frame under the close supervision of my local bike shop mechanic, James. James built up a dynamo wheel for me so that I wouldn’t have to worry about lighting during longer rides and endurance races. I also made contact with Ross at Straight Cut Designs in Edinburgh, to design a custom full-frame bag for the bike. At a quick visit to the Straight Cut studio for measurements I picked out some olive and camo fabrics to be used for the bags and Ross made me some fantastic bags to complete my ISO bikepacking rig. Now I was ready to put the ISO to the test!
In April, I rode a large section of the Wild About Argyll route with my good friend Chris Martin (who has taken the photos to accompany this blog). There’s plenty of climbing along the route and the 34t chainring I have on the front was a good choice to get me up those hills. It’s my first experience of riding 1x gearing and I love the simplicity of it, not having to worry about the front derailleur clogging up with mud! Throughout the Spring I’ve been riding biggish MTB tyres, a 2.35” on the front and 2.25” on the rear. These have got me over some rough terrain, through a few bogs and over some chunky gravel that we have up here in Scotland. The massive tyre clearance means I can ride through thick mud without thinking about having to stop. I’m looking forward to trying out some slightly racier tyres over the dryer summer months and testing out a dropper seatpost too.
On the first weekend of May I took part in the Dales Divide (600km off-road bikepacking race from Arnside to Scarborough and back). I’ve written up a blog of my experience in the ride over at Advntr. Over the course of the tough off-road route the bike really came into its own, handling all the bridleways, farm tracks and rough gravel that the Divide route demands of the bike. I was largely self-sufficient, carrying all my own snacks, tools, repair kit, sleeping system and 2litres of water on the front forks. In long bikepacking races its often worth the weight penalty to be prepared for any technical issues and not have to stop too often for food. My Dales ride went really well and I managed to bag my first top-10 place in an ultra-event.
Looking ahead, I’ve got some big rides planned in Scotland over the summer months and in August I’m hoping to take part in the Hungarian Divide (1200km bikepacking race). It’s going to be a real challenge to face the summer heat over in central Europe – so I’ll be carrying plenty of water for that one! Later in the year I’m planning to ride the Atlas Mountain Race (1250km) in Morocco where there will be a lot of elevation and limited resupply options. Again, I’ll plan to carry a lot of my own supplies for the long ride. I’m looking forward to covering many more miles on my ISO and will continue sharing my experiences along the way!