What does a great Friday night look like for you? My last Friday night will probably resemble Marmite... Some will hate it (too much sheep dung!), but others will love it (bikes! coffee! sleeping under the stars!).
A few weeks ago we were planning a photoshoot for our Autumn range. We needed a nice bike to help showcase our latest Merino-powered cycle collection. I suggested that Mason Cycles might be a perfect fit for howies, and their Bokeh frames looked especially great. I fired off an email, and it soon turned out that everyone at Mason was super helpful and eager to make something happen. After some initial confusion on my part about what month it was (September? Already?), a demo Bokeh was soon on its way to us for a short loan.
Then the gears started turning in my mind. I've quietly yearned for the Mason Bokeh for a long time. The idea of finally being able to take one for a spin was very appealing, so I suggested that I go for an overnight bikepacking mission in between the photoshoot schedules. Maybe I could even capture a couple more usable photos. Everyone was up for that, so I messaged a friend (who shares similar ideas about what makes a good Friday night), and we agreed to pack up for an overnight adventure in the Gower Peninsula.
The day came. I packed my bags, prepared the bike, and left work early to cover the 50-60 miles to our loosely arranged camping spot near Rhossili Beach.
I don't have much experience with gravel bikes, having typically kept my MTB and road riding exploits strictly separated in the past. However, I was immediately impressed by how well the Bokeh performed. The early road sections passed quickly and smoothly, with none of the slightly wallowing ride I had feared. I actually felt almost as nimble and fast-moving as I do on my road bike with 25mm tires, while the benefit of being able to roll over potholes and bumpy terrain without the usual bone-shaking rattles was a welcome improvement, especially when heavily loaded. This level of comfort was only enhanced by the carefully selected pad and perfect cut of our Linton cycle bib shorts.
It was toward the end of the ride (after some mini and not-so-mini-bonks drove me into a campsite shop where I devoured a frankly obscene quantity of ice cream) when we covered more and more challenging off-road terrain that the comfort of the Bokeh and the howies Merino-powered cycle kit really shone. I had ill advisedly chosen to carry a fair amount of weight in a backpack and was increasingly glad that the padding in the bib shorts was up to the task of keeping my backside as unbruised as possible.
Even with all the camping gear I was carrying, I never once felt that the bike was holding me back (only my own lack of fitness did that). Up hills and down, over loose scree, cattle grids, and very bumpy rocky sections, the Bokeh rolled easily and with a nimbleness that belied its 'pack horse' capabilities.
We eventually found ourselves in a fantastic spot just as the sun began to set. After brushing away most of the sheep droppings to pitch our tents on a reasonably clean patch of grass, we settled down to watch the stars come out and cook a fantastic mushroom risotto (thanks, Greg). Overnight, the gentle sound of waves rolling up and down the nearby beach would have been the perfect lullaby if it had not been punctuated by the bleating of sheep who seemed to be gathering the courage to wander closer and closer to our camp.
In the morning, as we packed up and prepared to ride again, I dreaded the moment of getting back into yesterday's soggy cycling kit. However, the Merino-powered jersey and bibs had dried well overnight and felt remarkably fresh for another day in the saddle.
After watching the sunrise and rolling down the hill to find a nice spot to brew some coffee and enjoy a simple breakfast, we headed homeward, content in the knowledge that we had made good use of Friday night.