We managed to wrangle a ride on Mason's new steel hardtail - the RAW. It's a beautifully made, designed, and finished frame delivering a quick feeling, nimble ride that encourages adventure. The RAW keeps the heart of Mason bikes but is more confident and capable when pushed deeper into off-road territory than Mason’s existing lineup.
first-look-mason-raw-mountain-bike-hardtail-2021.jpg, by Jim Clarkson
The initial idea for the RAW has been in development for some time. Marrying Dom Mason’s years of experience building bike frames and the mountain bike needs of sponsored riders Josh Ibbett and Angus Young, the RAW is positioned as a true trail/adventure frame focusing on an engaging ride but retaining the ‘FastFar’ ethos of Mason.
Built using a mix of custom-shaped Dedacciai Zero/Zero Uno tubing made in Italy from seamless European steel tubes and a Reynolds seat tube, the RAW is hand-made in Scotland by Five Land Bikes. Mason partnered with Five Land Bikes as they are one of the world's most respected and experienced frame fabricators, something that is clearly evident from the level of finish on our demo bike.
A quick run-through of geometry chart shows a head angle of 66º, seat tube of 75º, BB drop of 60mm, and the reach at 471mm for a large sized frame. That’s quite a progressive set of numbers for a trail adventure bike. Not out there, but certainly, figures that are more normally associated with models designed for technical riding. It certainly felt good on this first ride. The frame is designed to work with 120mm suspension forks, ours was fitted with a RockShox SID for our first ride.
Details of each tube’s wall profile are painstakingly worked out by Dom. The head tube, which is machined by BEAR Frame supplies is ring reinforced externally adding longer life and internally machined for more accurate fitment of the bearings. The top tube is shaped to Mason's spec and ovalised where it meets the head tube, giving more support and stability.
first-look-mason-raw-mountain-bike-hardtail-head-tube-2021.jpg, by Jim Clarkson
The one tube that isn't Dedacciai is the seat tube which is from Reynolds and is custom bent by Five Land to provide more clearance for 29" tyres, keeping the rear centre short and creating a good pedaling and great climbing position (more on that in a moment). Mason has opted for a 31.6mm to allow the use of wide range of dropper posts.
first-look-mason-raw-mountain-bike-hardtail-drop-out-2021.jpg, by Jim Clarkson
The seatstays may look familiar to the eagle-eyed as they are from the ISO model and that shape isn’t just for looks, it allows for ample caliper and disc clearance and also provides part of the ride feel. They taper down to 12.5mm towards the dropout and join the chainstays with a really neat cowled style dropout. Mason’s signature bridge is present and correct as is the chain keeper lug.
first-look-mason-raw-mountain-bike-hardtail-iso-seat-stays-2021.jpg, by Jim Clarkson
The chainstays are Dedacciai Zero Uno, finely shaped, crimped, and bent to provide plenty of clearance and add ride feel. There is also a unique chainstay guard designed by Mason to keep chain slap near silent.
The BB shell is a stainless steel, 73mm, BSA threaded piece - and offers a large welding area for improved stiffness and is a proven, reliable standard for heaps of bottom brackets and cranks.
first-look-mason-raw-mountain-bike-hardtail-disc-mount-2021.jpg, by Jim Clarkson
The RAW frame features clearance for 29" x 2.6" tyres, a 34 tooth chainring and has a heap of integrated and removable rack mounts for carrying luggage. All cables are internally routed and their access ports thoughtfully located. There is also plenty of clearance around the bottom bracket for mud, with a wide-open space for muck to fall out, thanks to the shaped seat stays and no chainstay bridge.
At first glance, the RAW is obviously part of the Mason family of bikes. The distinctive seat stays are familiar from the ISO, and attention to detail throughout the frame is typical Mason. It’s a classic-looking frame with a modern finish. What is really reassuring is that Mason stuck to their FastFar ethos and yet have made a mountain bike for riding on proper trails - not just tracks and un-made surfaces.
first-look-mason-raw-mountain-bike-hardtail-bb-clearance-2021.jpg, by Jim Clarkson
First ride impressions:
Rolling out of the cafe car park, my first feeling was that the RAW felt balanced. The ride position was not ‘in’, like a slacker, more progressive hardtail, but also not ‘on’ like a cross-country bike. It’s somewhere in between. It also isn’t a flat-barred gravel bike. Not at all.
Straight up the first technical climb and out of the saddle instantly showed that the RAW is a very capable bike. It felt easy to move weight around for grip and predictable to hop the front wheel quickly over rocks and up steps. Only the tyres and my own ability stopped my ascent.
Traversing, rocky trails, the RAW hummed along feeling very familiar and easy to move between lines and yet spritely enough to hop rocks and handle quick changes in direction. It displayed the best characteristics of steel frames - lively, nimble, with just that right amount of flex.
The Mason RAW hasn't adopted the more modern long, low, and slack geometry for its new steel hardtail. Instead, it's more suited for pedaling efficiency, feeling more agile and responsive at slower speeds. The shorter travel fork and geometry help make for a livelier ride that's more reactive to the trail.
first-look-mason-raw-mountain-bike-hardtail-tubing-details-2021.jpg, by Jim Clarkson
Despite this being a short first ride (full test coming soon), the RAW has a distinctive ride feel - partly the frame material and partly Mason’s DNA and it showed just how well a trail hardtail can perform whilst retaining plenty of adventure versatility. The RAW is a mountain bike first and foremost - it’ll take you anywhere you want.
The frame will be available in S, M, L and XL and in three colourways: Vela (grey/stone), Filter Yellow, and Sensor Blue. Mason will offer two full build options; XT (£4,195) and SLX (£3,795), a frame and fork (SID Ultimate) at £2,395. The frame-only price is £1,695. Full build details and options on the Mason website.
Whilst the price is undeniably high-end, you are getting exactly that. It’s not custom, but as it will be made in small batches, by hand, in the UK, it ticks all the boxes for being ‘boutique’ frame with every single aspect painstakingly considered by Dom.
When the frame is made this well, with a geometry that leans a little towards travel and distance rather than technical or bolder riding, it's refreshing to find that on its first ride out the RAW feels like a really good all-purpose mountain bike and one that we are looking forward to putting through its paces more thoroughly in the near future,