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Adventure bike test: Kinesis v Specialized v Mason

Matthew Page
30 Nov 2017

We take three bikes designed for on or off road fun and head into deepest Wales for a two-day adventure…

In recent years, the demand for bikes that are capable of riding both on and off-road while also being able to carry bags for bikepacking has exploded.

We wanted to test three of the most capable bikes in some of the toughest terrain possible so headed to mid Wales for a bikepacking adventure.

Given how relatively new adventure bikes are in their current form, it can be hard to keep up with what riders are looking for and the limits of what people are riding.

Off-road riding has been around for decades, with groups like the Rough Stuff Fellowship formed over 60 years ago, but it’s only in the last five years that interest has really been rekindled.

There are many factors in this resurgence, not least the desire to avoid busy roads and escape to worlds off the beaten track, driving the demand for manufacturers to develop bikes that can ride in places where drop-handlebar bikes have never ventured before.

What our three test bikes all share is the potential for riders to have just one bike that is capable of almost everything – from Sunday club rides and sportives to bikepacking trips that take you around the world.

The bikes

Kinesis Tripster AT | £1,699

Kinesis was somewhat ahead of the trend when it released the titanium ATR bike several years ago, which has converted riders from all backgrounds to this new style of versatile bike.

The new AT is a cheaper aluminium version that has also been modernised to be compatible with 650b wheels, also adding cable ports on the main frame that can accept standard or Di2 cables.

Read the full Kinesis Tripster AT review...

Specialized Diverge Comp | £2,600

The standout feature of Specialized's 2018 Diverge is the Future Shock suspension, which gives 20mm of travel neatly packed into the steerer tube. First seen on the Roubaix model, it’s no surprise to see it move across to the Diverge, though it has been tweaked with a firmer compression spring giving a more progressive ride.

Being internal, this can’t be swapped by the rider, but there is the option to switch between three different springs.

Read the full Specialized Diverge Comp review

Mason Bokeh Rival 1x | £2,795

The Bokeh is Mason’s response to its own customers after seeing its Resolution and Definition models being used in ways it hadn’t envisaged, with bikepacking being one major area. The changes include big tyre clearance – our test bike came fitted with chunky 650x50mm tyres with room to spare.

The ability to fit both 650B or 700C wheel sizes is something we’re seeing more of, the former giving the option of even bigger volume tyres, which offer a more comfortable ride, but don’t affect the geometry or handling.

Read the full Mason Bokeh Rival 1x review...


The winner: Mason Bokeh Rival 1x

One thing that became clear throughout our test is just how capable the new breed of adventure bikes are.

All three bikes proved perfectly adept at taking on some of the wildest tracks in mid Wales, as well as behaving like true road bikes on the tarmac and being able to cope with the extra weight that bikepacking brings.

The Kinesis AT is true to its name: capable of riding places drop handlebars would never have been capable of just a few years ago.

While the build kit on our test bike is a well-rounded option, we think most buyers will go for the custom/self-build option, giving the chance to tweak and create something unique.

The Specialized Diverge is fast and light, with the Future Shock really helping on smaller bumps.

It can’t match the off-road ability of the others, but for rough roads and the occasional off-road jaunt it’s great.

It feels far more like a fast gravel racer, so could be top of the list for speed addicts.

Out front, the Mason Bokeh, with its 650b wheels, was the most capable off-road though the bigger tyres might slow it down a bit on the tarmac.

It’s a beautiful bike to look at, too. With both wheel sizes and 1x and 2x groupset options available, it can cover all riding styles.

The Rival groupset isn’t perfect, but the quality of the frameset helps justify the price tag.