Mason Resolution 2 frameset long-term review: Traditional look, modern feel
So good to ride, I nearly bought it for myself.
So good to ride, I nearly bought it for myself.
Mason isn’t a big name in terms of market share, but the UK brand enjoys an outsized presence for the progressive nature of its drop-bar bikes — all of which are made of metal, not carbon fiber. The Resolution 2 is the brand’s steel all-road bike, TIG-welded in Italy from a mix of Columbus chromoly tubing. Its look may be very classic, but it offers a surprisingly modern feel that quickly makes you forget you’re carrying a few hundred extra grams around.
Since its inception in 2015, Mason Cycles has always sought to do things a little differently from the mainstream. The company’s first few bikes were quintessential UK four-seasons road bikes — bikes that could be practically used in all weather conditions while still feeling like summer-only performance machines. The brand has since grown a bit to incorporate a fairly broad range, but that sense of versatility and practicality for real-world cyclists is still very much alive and well. And just as in those early days, every Mason frame is still exclusively made of either steel, aluminum, or titanium.
The Resolution 2 is Mason’s steel all-road model, TIG-welded for Mason in Italy using a mix of Columbus Spirit and Life tubing. At first glance, the frame seems somewhat old-school, what with the very slight top tube slope and classic seat cluster arrangement (no dropped stays here, folks!). But in reality, there’s a lot of modern massaging going on here.
The oversized down tube sports a pronounced D-shaped cross-section (more to enhance the weld surface area than to improve aerodynamics), the top tube is ovalized from end to end to help maintain front triangle torsional stiffness, and the stays sport elegantly subtle S-bends instead of more radical curves. Up front is a tapered 1 1/8-to-1 1/2″ head tube with stainless steel bearing seats for the integrated headset, and although the seat tube is round, it’s still moderately oversized with a 31.8 mm outer diameter for stiffness.
Naturally, the bottom bracket is a standard English-threaded unit. You didn’t honestly expect to see a press-fit setup here, did you?
Finer details abound when you start looking for them.
Out back, the custom dropouts are CNC-machined in the UK exclusively for Mason. The shape is admirably compact while still incorporating features like a stout CNC-machined aluminum rear derailleur hanger and eyelets for a rear fender and rear rack. In a nod to yesteryear, there’s even a chain hanger on the driveside seatstay.
There are corresponding fender mounts built into the Mason Aperture 2.2 full-carbon fork, too, along with internal hub dynamo routing and a mounting point on the crown for a headlamp.
Control line routing is internal through the main frame on the Resolution 2, using swappable MultiPort aluminum ports at each entry and exit point so you can mix and match depending on particular brake and drivetrain configurations. The front brake line is routed through the fork blade on one side, while the other leg includes internal routing for a hub dynamo wire. The crown even sports a mounting point for the matching headlamp.
As further evidence of how Mason intends for the Resolution 2 to be used, all of the hardware is stainless steel, right down to the smaller screws that hold the cable routing ports in place.
Being an all-road bike, the Resolution 2 offers clearance for tires up to 700×35 mm, and nothing more; this is no gravel bike. The geometry is stretched slightly, relative to a full-blown road racer, and while the stack and reach across each of the Resolution 2s eight sizes aren’t quite as aggressive, they’re not dramatically far off. As compared to a Specialized Tarmac, for example, the reach on a 56 cm Mason Resolution 2 is just 10 mm shorter, while the stack is 25 mm taller. But relative to a Specialized Roubaix endurance bike, the Mason’s stack is actually 25 mm lower, and the reach 4 mm longer.
In other words, if you leave the steerer long and add a heap of headset spacers, you can sit fairly upright on a Resolution 2, but if you want to stretch out for long, spirited days in the saddle, you can certainly do that, too.
Handling personality is where you see a bit more difference, although that’s to be expected. Whereas a road racing machine’s trail dimension is somewhere in the mid-to-upper 50s, the Resolution 2’s trail is a mellower 60-70 mm, depending on size. The 70-73 mm bottom bracket drop on the Resolution 2 is well within reason in terms of balancing quickness and stability, while the front-center and chainstays are both extended by about 10 mm. Again, we’re talking modest differences relative to a frenetic road racing, but not enough to neuter the bike’s agility.
Actual weight for the 52 cm frame I tested is 2,155 g — not exactly a featherweight as compared to carbon fiber, aluminum, or titanium, but about average for a higher-end steel road frame these days. The matching fork is similarly stout at 455 g with an uncut steerer.
Mason supplied a bare frameset for this review, which retails for £1,600 (roughly US$2,200 / AU$2,900 / €1,860). Mason offers it in a variety of complete builds — if parts are actually in stock given the global shortage at the moment, of course — but I went ahead and built this one up myself with a Campagnolo Super Record 12-speed mechanical groupset, Fulcrum Racing Zero shallow-profile carbon clinchers, 30 mm-wide Challenge Strada Bianca open tubulars set up tubeless, and a smattering of various high-end finishing kit. The whole thing came in at just under 8.5 kg, or about 18.67 lb, without pedals or accessories — not bad.
People love to make all sorts of generalizations in terms of how certain frame materials feel out on the road. Carbon is efficient but dead, aluminum is stiff but punishing, titanium is this magical wonder-metal that can somehow do it all, and steel is comfortable and lively — or that’s how the common sentiments go, at least. In reality, bike performance has so much more to do with how a frame is designed than what it’s made of: the shape and size of the tubes, how everything is arranged, the way it’s all joined together.
In that sense, I found the Mason Resolution 2 to be an absolutely lovely bike to ride, but it might not be the sort of ride you think it is.
There’s no mistaking the Resolution 2 feels like a steel bike, but a modern steel bike, not the cushy, slender-tubed machines of yesteryear. This isn’t a bike that you need to “wind up” to get up to speed, but rather the oversized tubing is plenty eager to get up to speed as soon as you decide to put power down. The bottom bracket area feels sturdy and robust, the front end is highly resistant to twist when you’re wrestling the bars during a steep climb or sprint, and the rear end behaves like it’s one with the front triangle, instead of wagging behind like you can sometimes find with bikes built with oversized front ends and more spindly dimensioned rears.
By intent, the steering geometry isn’t inherently lightning-fast. However, the Resolution 2 still handles extremely predictably thanks to that solid front end and notably rigid carbon fork, casually snaking its way through fast downhill sweepers and tight switchbacks. Sure, you might need to push the inside of the handlebar down with a bit more vigor than you would with a road racing bike, but the Resolution 2 faithfully hears those commands nevertheless.
The slightly longer wheelbase and 73 mm of bottom bracket drop make the bike pleasantly confident and stable at high speed, but the trail dimension is still in the mid-60 mm range so it’s hardly resistant to initiating a turn. It flows beautifully into corners if you want to attack a fast and twisty downhill, but yet it’s just as happy to maintain a dead-ahead trajectory if you need to sit up to peel off a jacket.
“Intuitive” is a word that’s often tossed around when you read descriptions of how bikes handle, but it still crossed my mind an awful lot when I was riding this thing — and that’s when I was thinking about it at all. More often, the Resolution 2 just weaved its way down the mountain in such a confidently composed way that I usually just didn’t think about it at all.
As for ride quality, I’m bound to disappoint more than a few steel aficionados by saying that I didn’t actually find this bike to be unusually cushy. There’s a subtle resilience to how the Resolution 2 rolls across the ground, yes, along with that slight amount of give and flex you expect from a good steel bike. But those oversized tubes also crash and buck quite hard on medium-to-large impacts, and there’s still some buzziness on coarse pavement and less-than-pristine dirt. It’s particularly noticeable up front, and it’s perhaps due more to the fork than the frame. The fork blades are unusually fat and burly, and while that might pay dividends in terms of handling and durability, it leaves the front end feeling firmer than it might otherwise.
That’s not to say that I didn’t like how it rode, though. Quite the opposite, in fact. While the Resolution 2 isn’t especially comfortable — even with those absolutely glorious 30 mm-wide Challenge Strada Bianca tubeless open tubulars — it still manages to not leave you beaten up, even after several hours on dirt. It might be a little buzzy in some situations, but it’s electric and alive in others. It’s maybe not what some people expect to hear about a steel bike, but it’s what I’ve come to expect from modern oversized, thin-walled steel, with all of the good and all of the bad.
Speaking of the bad, there’s no getting around the substantial weight penalty relative to any of the non-ferrous frame materials.
I won’t say that I was constantly aware the Resolution 2 frame was twice as heavy as even a lower-end carbon frame. During most of the everyday rides I did on this thing, what I mostly noticed was the communicative ride quality and brilliant handling. That extra kilo was more noticeable on steeper and/or longer climbs — I’d be lying if I said a 6 kg carbon wonder bike didn’t climb better than this thing — but for the most part, the extra weight really wasn’t that big of a deal. My suspicion is that most people wouldn’t really care that much.
What honestly mattered to me more was the attention to detail clearly paid by Mason. Those tidy CNC-machined rear dropouts are properly aligned so it was easy to get the brakes to run without rubbing (even with the tight clearances on the Campagnolo calipers), the seat tube is properly honed so even carbon seatposts slide in and out without scarring the finish, the paint is flawless, and the bottom bracket cups install easily by hand into the nicely chased threads. Better yet, the shell is also faced, which bodes well for bearing longevity.
Less enamoring was the internal routing design.
I like the idea of the convertible ports, but Mason doesn’t provide as much of a variety of them as I’d like. I had to drill out a couple of inserts to run full-length housing on the front derailleur line, for example. And while I don’t have philosophical objections to running the mechanical rear derailleur line through the top tube, I’m not a fan of the chintzy plastic clamps used to secure the housing to the outside of the seatstay from there. And finally, lining the housings with foam is a must to keep everything from rattling incessantly. Mason thankfully includes the foam sleeves with the frame, but it’s a pain nonetheless, and even more so when you need to replace housing down the road.
Am I nitpicking a little? Well, yes, of course — it’s what I do, after all.
In fairness, most of my complaints don’t matter at all once the thing is all put together, and the Mason Resolution 2 has otherwise been absolutely wonderful to ride these past few months. It might not be my first choice if I’m seeking all-out speed, but then again, that’s not why you’d buy something like this. It just feels good, and I feel good every time I’ve ridden it. And have I mentioned yet that the thing looks amazing?
So no, I don’t think this thing is perfect, it’s not exactly cheap, and on paper, a carbon bike is “better”. But I’d say that unless your overwhelming priority is performance — be it weight, aerodynamics, stiffness, or whatever — the upsides of the Mason Resolution 2 outweigh the downsides.
By the time you read this, this frameset will be on its way back to the UK. I don’t usually give much thought when it comes time to return test bikes, but maybe it was my subconscious that kept pushing this writeup further and further past the original target date. Farewell, Resolution 2. I’ll miss you.
For more information, visit www.masoncycles.cc.