Hey, everybody, welcome back. Like always, it is truly appreciated.
So….I’m going to go ahead and jump right in to this post…ok?
Right on…here we go.
I’ve wanted a bike like this for quite some time. You know, a bicycle with real “low trail” geometry. I’ve decided not to dive into the deep rabbit hole of bicycle geometry/geekery…I will however, tell you that the term “low trail”, when referring to bicycle frame geometry, simply has to do with how a bike will handle with the front end loaded down. OK? For right now, I think that’s probably all I’m going to say about that.
So that brings us to the topic of this post. My new bike. Like I mentioned earlier, I have been longing for a bike like this for awhile. Randonneuring bikes are everything I love about cycling. They’re chocked full of beauty, utility, practicality, versatility and have a real “one bike does it all” kinda sensibility. So, when the opportunity arose to get my hands on one….I jumped at it. Hell, I even got Maria, my wife, one! #twinning
My new bike is a 2020 Masi Speciale Randonneur Elite. This was one of the only real “low-trail” production bikes that I have seen. It is a modern version of the custom bicycles that were being built by frame builders in France in the mid-20th century. These boutique builders and their creations are commonly known as the French Constructeurs. I’ve read that the time period these custom steeds were popular were from 1940 through 1975-ish. And most, if not all of these frame builders were riders themselves, so their creations reflect that kind of detail. And let me tell you, these old French bikes are gorgeous! Look at the one below. See?
The sport of Randonneuring has been around since 1897 with the first recorded event being called an Audax. Audax is Latin for “bold” or “daring”. With the invention of the bicycle came the need by the day’s cyclists to push harder and farther, with the invention of the endurance aspect of bicycling. These new endurance cyclists were deemed “audacious”….hence the title of the first event.
Anyway, these bikes had fatter tires as they were obviously doing these events of the early days on dirt and gravel roads because paved roads were, well…not invented yet. In this sport, the cyclists ride courses that are 200 km or more with predetermined checkpoints every few tens of kilometers. The cyclists try to complete the course within specified time limits, and receive equal recognition regardless of their finishing order. The randonneuring event is called a randonnée or brevet, and a rider who has completed a 200 km event is called a randonneur. These cyclists can take part in the event as a solo cyclist or as a group, but regardless they are to be completely self sufficient. Sounds cool.
This tradition of the bigger tires carries on to the rando bikes of today. And you could easily say that rando bikes were the very first “all road” or “gravel” bikes. With geometry that lands somewhere between a dedicated road racing bike and a touring bike, while having a slightly relaxed, more upright riding position.
This kinda stuff is right up my alley. Right? I mean, beautifully practical and utilitarian, steel framed (often lugged) bicycles that are very aesthetically pleasing, but also full of utility and grace all while being built to be down right rugged. Then you add the beautiful, canvas and leather bags that provide the ability to carry stuff….and you all know I love to carry stuff on my bikes, like food and coffee stuff for #coffeeoutside…so, yeah, right up my alley. Plus, I just like the idea of being out ALL DAY (and maybe into the night) on the bike, carrying everything I need to get by. It’s the same thing that draws me to bicycle touring and bikepacking….that need for adventure!
Now, let’s talk about my Masi!
I know you are wondering how my Masi came out of the box and what parts it came from the factory with…so let’s cover that. After we go over that, I will tell you what didn’t work for me and what I’ve upgraded.
This bicycle was spec’d really, really well right outta the box. The frame is made with a double butted Columbus steel tubeset, with flat mount disc brake mounts and a 12mm thru axle. The house branded components, the bars, seatpost, stem and rims are very good, typical house branded stuff, but with a high end, great appearance and a very good fit and finish. The hubs have sealed bearings with the front hub being an off branded dynamo hub that powers an off branded 50 lux front dynamo light!! How kick ass is that! Name another new/modern “low trail” bike spec’d with a dynamo hub for 2020…
By the way, I am completely sold on the dynamo tech…with its endless supply of energy, what’s not to be sold on, right? More on this a little later.
Back to the spec…the fenders are aluminum and NOT steel. The frame had some nice details added to the construction like a built in chain hanger on the seatstay, a frame pump nipple behind the headtube. The fork has 12mm thru axle and flat mount disc brake mounts as well as, low and behold…it actually had internal routing for the dynamo light. What?! Nice attention to detail!
The crank and bottom bracket are Praxis Works Alba with the front chainrings being 48/32. This, so far, seems to be pretty good gearing choice….even with some steep off road climbs under my belt. Although I haven’t done much riding loaded yet, so we will see. My prediction is the rear cassette that was spec’d (Shimano 105 in 11-34) may need to be upgraded to something with an easier granny. We will see. Or perhaps, I could just keep the one that’s on there and struggle more to burn some of my goddamn fat. I dunno, we’ll see about this…the jury is out on that at the moment.
The drivetrain has been flawless. It was spec’d with 2020 Shimano 105, the brake lever/shifters, the front and rear derailleurs and cassette just work so beautifully together. All hail Shimano! The tires that it came with were a set of the WTB Horizons in 650b x 47, which are a fine pair of tires, but I had a pair of the new Panaracer Gravel King SS+ in 650b x 48 (1.90) waiting on the bike to arrive…so I put those right on when I built the bike. So far they have out performed my expectations of a tire with semi-aggressive side knobs and a “file” tread center. The rims were tubeless ready, so all I had to do was ditch the tubes and the WTB Horizons, mount the Gravel Kings, add some valves, add some sealant and we were set to go.
The few other things that I had waiting for the bike to arrive was a Brooks C17 Special saddle, a Domed Brass Bell from Rivet Cycle Works, my old Silca Impero Ultimate frame pump, three King Cage Iris stainless water bottle cages as well as some hearty, Velo Orange leather Mud Flaps that my boys got me for my birthday…both front and rear. The bike looked sick once it was built. Seriously.
So, like I said the bike was almost perfect right out of the box, see above picture. But, I did need to do some comfort upgrades, and add some traditional randonneuring items that I’ve always wanted. So, below is a list of the upgrades I’ve done on her.
The stem, was too long for me at 110 mm. So the first comfort item I upgraded was putting a 90mm PNW Coast Stem on her and that instantly felt right. Except for the bars…I couldn’t figure out why, for the first time on a drop bar bike, I was getting wrist pain in my right hand….like even on short “errand running” rides. I had already changed the stem, so my next logical step was the bar.
I went with the Velo Orange Nouveau Randonneur handlebar. The new bars are 46cm wide (the factory bars were 44cm). The new ones also have a 6 degree back sweep and a shallow drop. When I rode these new bars for the first time, I was shocked at the instant difference in comfort…much, much better. I ordered some of Camp and Go Slow‘s gorgeous Western Rattler bar tape to wrap those new bars in. It’s a woven tape with a smidgen o’ padding. It’s stunning, really. I mounted a new front rack as well. It’s from Velo Orange. It’s their Flat Pack Rack and it’s made to work perfectly with their traditional, front Rando Bag offering. This front bag is made by one of my favorite companies in the bike biz, I have written about and tagged them numerous times here on this blog and on my Instagram Page. They are Roadrunner Bags out of Los Angeles! I love them a lot, so the choice to go with Velo Orange’s Rando Bag was an easy choice to make. 🙂
I also upgraded the front light to a brighter Busch & Muller IQ-X with the matching Mini rear that powers off the front light. Like I said, I am sold on this dynamo stuff and it’s free power. I will soon be purchasing the Sinewave Cycles Reactor to charge my accessories while riding my bicycle. that’s cool. This new front light is super bright and has a few LEDs that make up the daytime running light and run slightly dimmer and it has an automatic sensor that turns the other bulbs on to go full bright at dusk, as well as a 5 minute stand light when I stop moving. I never have to worry about batteries and “run time” again. This makes me happy.
Well, I think that covers it. I haven’t done any other upgrades and the bike feels perfect now. I’ve logged exactly 398 miles as of this post since her maiden voyage on August 18th. So yeah, it’s EXACTLY what I needed it to be. And it’s just so comfortable!
Here are a few more pics to drool over 🙂
This bike ended up being a dream come true. The stars just lined up when it came to acquiring the parts to fill the “wants and needs” list. I couldn’t be happier with the results!
I’ve said this so many times already, but I feel like it needs repeating; Forget what the bike industry tells you or guilts you into buying. Be your own cyclist. Just ride. And when all else fails, just ride what makes you happy and buck the norm. Don’t forget to try to shop the little guy. And for the love of everything holy…try something different, like, vastly different.
OK, lecture over. Go ride your bicycle.