I took all the parts from the Masi and put them on a Soma Fog Cutter frame with Champs Elysees low trail disc fork. Then I weighed the Masi frame/fork.
54cm frame weight: 4.98 pounds
Fork weight (220mm steerer): 2.80 pounds
Those aren’t randonneuring bike weights. No wonder it rode so poorly.
Smooth tread tires were obviously slippy slide-y in the mud but the low trail/low flop steering allowed for a surprising amount of control. Most of the really muddy off-camber stuff I was only seconds behind the guy who won on a mountain bike.
I went on a mixed-terrain 96 mile ride over the weekend. For those local to the Atlanta area it was most of the Dirty Sheets route down near Chattahoochee Hills, GA. Mostly smooth roads and smooth gravel – I rode this route several times on a road bike with 25s years ago and had no issues so it’s pretty mild. The gravel sections were a little tacky due to the ice/snow from the prior week but overall in good shape.
The main takeway from this ride was how stiff the front fork is. I think the designers may have used stouter fork blades than necessary to provide additional durability and avoid issues as seen with the Elephant NFE fork. In that case; thinner supple fork blades, an aggressive bend and short ISO mount combined to cause durability issues that manifested as cracks in the fork blade. Masi has also used a short ISO mount but with much larger diameter tubes and a less aggressive bend. There is also much less taper down to the fork ends that I expected. Possibly this design choice may also be an attempt to handle front loading as well as prevent shimmy?
However, overall the bike rides really well. The frame feels much better than the fork and I had less shoulder and arm soreness than usual when riding my aluminum/carbon forked gravel bike. Low wheel flop and low trail make the bike ride intuitively on the road and much easier on gravel where you can steer more when the ground is loose without leaning quite so much. Fenders are stiff enough that there was no vibration or rattle issues but do need some mudflaps as the bottle bracket was caked with dirt after the ride. No shimmy but there is definitely some oscillation that can be felt at certain speeds when riding no handed and not pedaling. Could be position related but I’m still getting data as I ride more.
So I like it quite a bit, not as supple as I think it could have been but overall pretty good for a production bike. Here are some pictures compared to a 2016 Soma Double Cross Disc. The Soma definitely “planes” for me and has obvious visual fork flex when riding very fast on gravel or singletrack.
It’s been a rough 6 weeks for riding here with some unexpected snow and ice. I did manage to get two rides in and really like the bike so far. It comes as close to planing as any other steel disc bike I’ve ridden but does have a slightly stiffer fork than I’m used to. Not nearly as stiff as a carbon fork but stiffer than other steel disc forks like from Soma or All-City. So I’m very excited to put in some long rides once the weather clears. The bike rides much more neutral than expected, no shimmy so far with 8-11 pounds up front in a rigid bar bag. Low wheel flop makes turning the bike easy and cornering is much less of an affair than the higher trail bikes I’ve been riding that do the fall and catch style cornering. My previous bike had 26mm flop/75mm trail so I’m still acclimating to the Masi but it handles much more intuitive than I expected. I don’t have enough data but so far the only speed differences I’ve seen have been slightly faster.
I feel the bike misses some small things. The seattube and front downtube bottle bosses are very high. This impacts mounting a frame bag and limits front water bottles to 20 ounces or smaller. The brake housing to the rear runs along the downtube and is mounted at a degree that prevents mounting a minipump under the bottle cage. There is no good front platform rack mounting options, the user is left to double-up bosses on the drop-out or is limited to one rack from Compass made to fit the low-rider boss. I think the bike should have either come with a front rack or had a specific rack designed and sold by Masi available. I emailed the product manager and they specificly recommended the Compass UD-1 rack, which is $180 plus shipping. Right now I’m using a $40 Soma Lucas rack and that will probably be the only rack I use. The rear fender should have been attached through the fender to a boss on the underside of the brake bridge instead of being the typical side through-bolt that clamps to the fender body. I also think this kind of bike makes more sense for being sold as just a frame and not a complete build but whatever.
The components are surprisingly very very good. 4700 Tiagra has a very light action with extremely crisp shifting for both the front and the rear. Much better than 5800 and really indistinguishable from 6800 IMO. The brakes are also surprising, they seem to work very well despite appearing to be a low-quality OEM design. I need to get some rain rides in but for now I’ve shelved my plans to replace with Spyres. The brake housing is typical squishy OEM nonsense so I will be replacing that at some point but it works fine for now just obviously not the best. I replaced the 50/34 Tiagra crank with a Shimano RS500 46/36 crankset from Merlin Cycles for $72. I looked at the Ultegra 46/36 crankset or even just the 4-bolt 46t chainring but both options were extremely expensive. Shimano 4 bolt is not something to which I can afford to convert. I also replaced the handlebars as they have a ridiculous flare that is more appropriate for dirt bikes and not a primary road bike like this.
I will add that if anyone is on the fence about running 650b as a tubeless set-up, go for it. The difference in ride feel is shocking. Replacing the weight of a tube with sealant makes climbing completely different and mounting the wheel in a truing stand and spinning by hand it is very obvious the difference in power required to spin the wheel without a tube. It’s really great. Of course not 30 seconds into my second ride I ran over a nail or something that blew out a hole that would not seal and I had to remove all the sealant and put in a tube so I could ride. I’ve patched the tire and it seems fine now but it sure was a kick in the pants. True punctures have been rare for me as the only flats I’ve had for the past 16 months have been slow-leak glass flats that happen hours or days after running over the glass as it works its way through the tire into the tube. So I’m hoping this will be an exception.
I like the bike and will be riding it as my only road bike once I get it completely set up – I’m trying to tune the fit to match my other bike that I can easily ride for 10+ hours and it’s taking a bit with the weather. It’s the most expensive bike I’ve ever purchased and as most of my bikes have been from the Raleigh/Diamondback corporate discount program the Masi’s price was staggering. I can’t help but feel it should be priced closer to $1000 but that’s probably a bit unrealistic for what seems to be niche geometry/design.
The bike arrived last night, unfortunately I won’t be able to ride for a week or two as I’m replacing the crankset with a more appropriate model for my needs and it’s in the mail from the UK right now.
But I do have some build notes below, it’s a nice bike. I looked at some of the comparable models in my back issues of Bicycle Quartlery and noted that although the Masi is relatively heavy – for a disc, fendered, low-trail steel bike it’s only 0.5-1 pounds heavier than something like an Elephant NFE. Weight with stock wheelset, no pedals or accessories was 28.75 pounds/13.04 kg.
The stock wheelset (no skewers but w/rotors) weighs 2.56 pounds/1.16 kg front and 3.0 pounds/1.36 kg rear. I replaced with a $400 stans/shimano/sapim build I did myself and dropped total weight by 1.5 pounds. I’m probably going to drop the front front fender support and tire directly to a front rack so that would be an additional few ounces saved.
- Fenders are set-up for max clearance for 650bx47 only, slight air gap in front. 42s will not look good and no further downward adjust-ability with stock hardware.
- Overall fit/finish is good. Some of the welds are not the best but the paint and overall parts finish is good.
- IMO 50/34 crankset is not a good choice for this style bike – 46/36 would be better but not easily available at OEM level for the same price as 4700 crankset.
- Drops are flared too much at the wrong point. Flare should have been more at the top of the drops and less overall; 8° would have been good.Left to right: 0°, 8°, “12°” from the Masi
- Wheelset is heavy as expected, also is not set-up for tubeless out of the box – rimstrip is regular plastic band and is actually too narrow for the rim – replace before riding.
- Frame has a small sticker indicating it is made by Kenstone Metals, Ltd in Taiwan – I don’t have any direct experience but the company’s website inspires confidence this is a well-engineered bike.
- I confirmed the fork rake measurement at 65mm, trail will be 35.7 w/47mm 650b tires, wheel flop 10mm.
- Brake calipers are a similar design to other low end models, but have a small update that I think will keep me on them for a while. The fixed adjustment screw has a small M2 screw to lock it in place. Prior iterations of this type of caliper would often wear out in a few thousand miles as the fixed adjustment screw wore out as there is no detent and the thread is fine.
Tuesday can’t come soon enough!