7th December 2021
The RAW development
In many ways, our Ride Driven Design approach to product development is very fluid, and allows for ideas to accumulate and take form from disparate sources, without necessarily following a repeated, restrictive cookie-cutter process.
For us, a less-mechanical or formulaic approach to development is key to ensuring we’re doing everything we can to stay progressive and provide riders with the best possible bicycles for their ever changing needs.
As with many MASON design projects, they start with the requirements of riders and an initial idea often grows with the input of our team riders. The MASON MTB was no different and Josh Ibbett was once again key with his inspiration and design input for this new bike, encouraging Dom Mason to revisit his MTB-design heritage and work on a bike that took things one step further from the InSearchOf in terms technical off-road abilities, whilst still holding on to the ‘MASON spirit’.
The RAW concept made a lot of sense for the evolution of the brand, it represented a new opportunity for MASON fans to ride and adventure in different ways and helped diversify our range to further serve riders who share our ethos.
Further along the line of the RAW development, once the initial design ideas were starting to take form, was the requirement to identify and work with the right kind of production partners - including materials suppliers, tube and frame makers. It’s a crucial step which we always agonise over, and one which we recognise as a key part of what sets us apart from many other bicycle brands. We have always worked with small specialist makers in Italy, but we are not an ‘Italian Cycling Brand’. The idea has always been that we work with the craftsmen that will provide the absolute best product of that type. So, for the MTB, it made sense for us to work with makers who we believed were at the top of their game for steel MTB fabrication.
Cue Five Land Bikes. Founded in 2017 by Matt and Callum, who originally studied design together in Aberdeen before setting up their beautiful workshop on the West side of Pentland Hills, their frame fabrication outfit and work with steel bicycles has quickly become synonymous with utmost quality amongst those in the know.
We first became aware of Five Land during our trip to the Isle of Arran Grinduro event in 2017. We were sitting in a cafe on a rare sunny afternoon and got chatting with Matt and Callum, who it turned out were at the fledgling stages of setting up their own frame building workshop. At that point we were progressing with new frame projects in Italy and not quite ready to develop the MTB, but during that lucky meeting it became clear that we had found our partners for development of the new RAW.
From their scrutiny of tube quality, attention to wall thicknesses, geometries and butting profiles, to their consistently accurate mitring, second-to-none welds and their quality control, working with these guys was a perfect fit for MASON.
As well as their fabrication work, we nurtured a collaborative dynamic with Five Land and invited their feedback and inputs into our design process. Working very closely with a very small and experienced team has really allowed us to fine tune all aspects of the RAW frame from optimising tyre and chainring clearance (always a very tricky area with a hardtail), to perfecting the seat tube bend (also much harder to achieve than it looks!), even down to final brake mount and dropout shape. Five Land have been on hand with advice and technical expertise throughout the process.
So why go into so much detail about just one - albeit vital - ingredient within our development process for the RAW? Because it’s a perfect example of the broader MASON CYCLES ethos to look in fine detail at very tube, bend, crimp and angle, to learn from riders and immerse ourselves within our world, but also to work in proper partnership with our frame makers to learn and benefit from their experience.
This is a final and key part in the complicated process that helps to deliver that certain ‘ride feel’ and ‘life’ that exists within our frames.
For us, considerations such as the partners we work with are vital to our ‘progressive’ approach and a product quality which we can confidently stand behind. It’s about always finding ways to increase capability, adaptability, durability and the ultimate riding experience. By doing this, we also hopefully challenge accepted industry conventions along the way.