Joe’s Mason Cycles RAW Andean Touring Rig and a Colombian Overnighter in El Cocuy

It’s always great to get a chance to cross paths with internet acquaintances on the road and there are very few places like the Boyacá region of Colombia that enable that, thanks to Dean and Dang’s classic “Oh Boyacá!” route. I was heading north along the track while most are aimed southbound, which found me crossing with long and short-distance tourers on a daily basis while grinding up these infamous Colombian mountain passes. I spent some miles with two UK riders and, of course, we talked gear. Read on for a recap of our overnighter around the El Cocuy National Park and a closer look at Joe’s Mason Cycles RAW Andean Tourer.

Luck would have it that two such riders, Joe Sasada from the UK and Matthew Ritenour from the good ol’ US of A, were arriving in the quiet mountain village of El Cocuy right around the day I descended into town from the highest (legal) mountain pass in Colombia.

We were all pretty beat from the consecutive days of scaling Andean ‘trocha’ (aka dirt roads) that we decided to take a couple of free days to chill out in the hammocks of our hostel and regain our motivation to pedal onward.

Joe is on a year+ trip from the very northern tip of La Guajira in Colombia down to the familiar shores of Ushuaia in Argentina, where I finished my first big South American tour in 2018. It’s hard to not be a little bit jealous, knowing all of the amazing places he’ll get to experience for the first time over the next year.

We had time to chat about the constantly evolving gear configurations that tend to occur on these trips. In the first weeks, you come to realize just how much crap you’ve brought along that really isn’t necessary. This culling process is a right of passage on anyone’s first long-distance tour, and hell, it still happens to me after doing this for seven years.

In only a handful of weeks, Joe’s Mason Cycles RAW rig has already dramatically transformed several times. From saying goodbye to the massive 22L panniers, and ditching the aero bars after completing some of the longer flat/paved sections in the north, he’s whittling it down to carry just what he needs and nothing more.

Joe (whom I learned quite a few Brit-isms from) faffed around with his dropper post while Matt and I stripped down our bikes to the bare essentials and plotted out an overnight loop we could all do together up into nearby El Cocuy National Park before heading off in opposite directions.

From the Parque Principal of El Cocuy village, we immediately hit a steep and rough cattle track out of town (the pushing started early). Eventually it smoothed out a bit and we had about 1,150 meters (3,772-foot) of climbing straight up the mountain that would make up most of the hard work of the day, but we had no set destination other than trying to find a spot to camp for the night in a place where we could get a view of the National Park.

As is common in Colombia, the views can often be obscured by thick clouds for much of the day, so when we arrived at the top of the pass to a wall of cloud where the mountains should be, we made our way down to a small farm that we’d spotted on the map which we were hoping might have a warm place to stop and maybe some food. We lucked out here as the owner already had a fire going, and he kicked on the panini press to make some egg and cheese quesadillas to go with warm cups of coca tea to help with the altitude.

After another hour or so of delaying the inevitable, we returned outside to the cold embrace of the Andean wind with our sights set on finding a campsite in the páramo along a little side road that climbs up from the top of the pass. Wild camping in Colombia can be tricky, so you’ve gotta embrace the opportunities when they arise.

We found a spot nestled amongst the Frailejones at around 4,000 meters and settled in for a chilly night. When the sun came up in the morning, the dense layers of clouds from the previous day were long gone, so we walked up toward a viewpoint to get our glimpse of the peaks of El Cocuy in all their glory.

Joe was feeling a bit off from something he ate a couple of days prior, so he opted to head straight back to town while Matthew and I made our way around a loop to catch some more views of this impressive region of Colombia while the sun was still blessing us with its presence.

The scenery didn’t disappoint and the Colombian roads lived up to their reputation of being steep and unforgiving.

Joe’s Mason Cycles RAW

It’s always interesting to hear about the motivations behind a trip that spans a whole continent like the one that Joe is still in the early days of. After years of working as a banker in the UK, he was looking to shake things up, experience new places/cultures, and reconnect with nature.

He wanted a rig that would allow him to take the scenic (and often rough) route on his way south, toward Patagonia. That led him toward the UK’s own Mason Cycles, which had just released its steel hardtail, dubbed the “RAW”. It would need a few tweaks to prep it for a long-haul trip with loads of luggage, but the foundation was there.

The first big tweak was to swap the stock 120mm travel suspension fork for a steel one designed to handle heavy loads and the day-to-day abuse that comes with bike touring. Joe couldn’t find something that ticked all of the boxes off-the-shelf, so he enlisted the talents of Pi Manson at just down the street from him to make a custom fork and rack that would bring everything together.

His luggage setup has been the thing that has transformed the most in his first couple of months on the road, moving from the initial everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach to the trimmed-down kit for regions of Colombia where camping and cooking are quite rare.

Now, a couple of months after meeting Joe for the first time in El Cocuy, I’ve gotten a glimpse of Joe’s latest setup, as dialed in for the Trans Ecuador Mountain Bike route, which we’ll be tackling together in the coming weeks. Follow along on Joe’s Instagram and mine.

Joe’s Mason RAW Andean Tourer specs:

  • Frame: MASON RAW 
  • Fork: Custom Columbus Steel
  • Handlebars: Jones Loop Bar Carbon
  • Stem: Race Face Turbine
  • Cranks: Shimano XT
  • Chainring: Absolute Black 28T Elliptical
  • Derailleur: Shimano Deore XT
  • Shifters: Shimano Deore XT
  • Cassette: Shimano Deore XT 51-10
  • Brakes/Rotors: Shimano Deore XT
  • Wheelset: Hunt 29 Trailwide, Son Dynamo at front
  • Dropper Post: PNW Loam
  • Tyres: Vittoria Mezcal 29x 2.6
  • Saddle: Ergon Pro (now PRO Turnix Gel)
  • Grips: Ergon GP1 Biocork (now ESI Silicon Chunky)
  • Pedals: Hope F20
  • Aerobars: Profile Design Sonic Ergo 50 (removed for the Trans-Ecuador and beyond)
  • Dynamo light: SineWave Beacon


  • Front Rack: Custom Columbus Steel
  • Rear panniers: Tailfin 10L
  • Rear Rack: Tailfin Aeropack, minus the “pack”
  • Framebag: DyedInTheWool custom
  • Handlebar bag: Roadrunner Jumbo Jammer
  • Stem bags: StraightCut Design (x2)
  • Top tube bag: Apidura 2L as shown (now Tailfin 1.5L zip)
  • Fork mounts: Tailfin cargo cage large (x2)
  • Fork Bags: 5L Tailfin
  • Downtube bag: 1.7L Tailfin
  • Downtube mount: Tailfin cargo cage small
  • Backpack on the rear rack: Arcteryx Alpha FL 30L