Masi Brunello: Getting Rolling – by Grannygear
It was not all that long ago that a bike built with an aluminum frame was typically a budget buy and not something to be taken seriously if you were looking for a sporty, comfy ride. Aluminum had a reputation for being harsh and lacked panache.
But over time, there were some standouts that defied that way of thinking. The Cannondale CAD series of road frames, for instance, were so loved by their owners that they became an icon, providing a fast and sporty ride and even drawing accolades for a good amount of comfort, especially as the series matured.
I remember when Specialized came out with the Smartweld Allez frames for the road, all done in nicely shaped aluminum. The welds were moved away from the joints into places where the tubing could be lighter and the shapes even more manipulated. The Allez in that Smartweld guise was serious competition for a carbon bike and was cheaper to buy.
More sand has passed through the hourglass and aluminum is not your father’s Oldsmobile anymore. The nature of the material allows for a lot of shaping and drawing of tube shapes. Even cast pieces like a bottom bracket cluster or dropout are easy to make compared to pretty much any other frame construction. Hydroformed tubing and CAD designed shapes have moved the aluminum frame so far past the old alu frames of the past that it’s not even close.
And now here is the Masi Brunello GRX 22 and it has more shaping in it’s frame than anything made of metal I have ever ridden. And my first impression is that it works. It works well. But that is getting ahead of myself.
At a suggested price of $2,199.00, it also is a testament to how much bike you can get for your money. If you CAN get one because, you know…COVID. But that is not Masi’s fault. Let’s take a look at the bike.
First of all, It’s good looking, as long as you like that arched top tube look. I do and I don’t, but this one works for me. It does steal a bit of stand-over though, so if you are less of leg length than others, beware. The color scheme is nice and subtle in grey and blue. That works for me too.
From the MASI website:https://harobikes.com/products/brunello-grx22-2021
- Butted, formed, and smooth welded gravel-specific aluminum frame
- Full-carbon fork
- 12mm thru-axles
- Shimano GRX 600 2X drivetrain
- 650b or 700c compatible
- 700x45c tire clearance
- Dropper post compatible
Front and rear derailleurs are GRX 810 series. We do get a 600 series crank (and brifters) and the 46/30 chainwheels and 11-34 cassette will give you a very, very usable gear spread. And it’s Shimano GRX regardless of the series, so it’s only weight you are gaining when moving to a lesser level of hardware with no drop in function.
And 2X just rocks for anyone looking to get the most out of a multi surface gravel bike. 1X is great for some things, like riding in mud or primarily off-road, like bikepacking, but not for ultimate range and I suspect not for efficiency across those extreme chain angles. In any case, as much pavement as I ride on my gravel bikes, I am still a 2x fan. I get a 46×11 high gear and a 30×34 low gear. No silly and rough pedaling 10T or 9T cogs and I get smaller jumps in the cassette.
You do get a carbon seat post and a zoomy looking saddle along with the house brand bars and tape. Wheels are nothing amazing as is always true of a bike at this price, but they are tubeless ready and look wide enough. They likely will do all they need to do until they are upgraded, if ever. The tires are 60TPI versions of the Kenda Flintridge 40mm tires and on the stock wheel, they measure out to 42mms wide at 40psi.
Now then…the frame. I keep finding details on it that I missed at first. Like a third water bottle mount on the downtube (underside). Like the high level of shaping, including the gorgeous, flattened and arched top tube shape and bent seat tube. There are the asymmetrical chain stays, dropped on the drive side with a flat bar welded in there at the chainrings…and the way the brake side sits out for brake clearance. Nice, although a bit less of that ‘stick-out’ would have been nice for me. More on that later.
And there is lots and lots of ‘function’ here. Bento box mounts. Fork mounts. Rack mounts (tucked into the inside of the seat stays…very nice). Fender mounts. Tons of tire clearance. Masi says 700×45 and that has to allow for the legal 6mms of clearance per side. I bet you could run a slim MTB tire in there depending on the set-up. In any case, the 42mm wide Kendas have all kinds of room for doing their thing.
The geometry is a bit more ‘tucked in’ then my Lynskey GR250. Mostly that is in a shorter chain stay and a higher bottom bracket. The reach and stack are pretty much the same, but the head tube angle is one degree steeper. See below.
A 10mm shorter chain stay does not sound like a lot, but it is, especially in the way it can change a bike’s handling. Generally speaking, a shorter back end and higher BB will provide a slightly snappier pedaling response but at the cost of some stability in deeper or faster gravel. That is not all carved in stone, but it’s pretty accurate. 425mms is a nice sweet spot for a bike you want to feel more reactive to pedaling inputs. I am not a fan of road bike-short chain stays on a gravel bike.
On the fish scale of truth and justice, I saw a weight of 21lbs/14oz with no pedals. That is for the 57cm version I have.
A quick spin as I was tweaking bar and controls placement showed that the stock saddle was a bit more roadie than I like for a rough road gravel bike. I also noticed that the stock seat post was pretty darn unyielding so I grabbed my Ti post and WTB Silverado saddle combo off my Lynskey. I don’t find this to be a betrayal of the review as I consider a saddle to be such an individual preference as to be almost a throwaway deal. And that stiff a seat post could make one think the bike is harsh riding. So now I am riding a setup that I have hundreds of miles on and I can focus on the bike, not how badly my butt hurts.
I have one ride in so far and my first impressions are of a very nice riding frame with very good pedaling response, but the tires are draggy on the road (that may not matter to some) and of course, the stock wheels are a bit of a drag as well (I was hearing spokes ping as I rode, speaking to stress relieving moments). But if I have this bike for a while, I will likely swap some things around to see if I am right. Still, as it is, it’s a fun ride and I am looking forward to a lot more time on the Masi Brunello.
And it has me wondering if we need all that much carbon in the future. Is aluminum the metal of choice going forward for a performance frame? Here is a link to a video that mirrors a lot of what I am thinking.
NOTE: Masi Bikes sent over the Brunello GRX 22 for test and review at no charge to Riding Gravel. We were not paid, nor bribed, for this review and we always strive to give our honest thoughts and views throughout.