The Matrix T806 wheelset are the first all carbon hoops I have used. I’ve been riding them for the whole of 2012 on both solo and tandem, although they are not specifically designed for the latter. As I am sponsored by Matrix it could be said that I’m somewhat biased, but I’d like to think that I can still be fairly objective in offering this review: I’m sure Matrix would prefer me to give honest feedback rather than just saying something is good for the sake of it. After-all, gaining honest feedback helps manufacturers improve their products – in part, this is why they sponsor athletes and teams in the first place!
There are loads of carbon wheels on the market nowadays from a myriad of different manufacturers. Such wheelsets vary significantly in quality, weight and price from about £500 to well over £2K. All lay claims to improved performance in one way or another, often backed up by scientific or results-based ‘evidence’…reduced weight, increased acceleration, improved lateral rigidity, more stability in crosswinds etc. Aerodynamic benefits over standard shallower wheels through technical innovations might be achieved through narrower rim profiles, fatter rim profiles, specific rim depths, special spoke shapes and patterns, use of certain tyres etc. etc. often backed up by wind tunnel data.
You could probably rip some of this data apart if so desired, as often the ‘evidence’ presented only relates to specific wind conditions at particular speeds or angles that may or may not apply to the individual purchasing the wheels or their intended use. There are almost too many options out there and the science behind each can be a bit mind-boggling!
Matrix don’t appear to have done any wind tunnel testing on the T806’s so you don’t get loads of science thrown at you, which is kind of a nice change. They have been UCI approved however, suggesting that they are built to high standards and able to withstand a crash without shattering into thousands of tiny pieces. See here for the UCI report on the front T50 wheel – qiute interesting! You also get a two year warranty, another sign that the manufacturer has confidence in their own product – many other brands only offer a one year guarantee…a good start.
X-Pace carbon rims (for tubular tyres) are used with a 60mm rim laced with 20 spokes at the front and an 80mm offering with 24 spokes at the rear. Both are built using DT Swiss triple butted aluminium round gauge spokes using Matrix branded light weight Joytech hubs. The wheels come with Ti quick release skewers, tub tape, carbon specific brake pads and a double wheelbag. An added bonus is the inclusion of valve extenders saving you the hassle of trying to find ones that are the right length. Not bad considering the £999.99 price tag, but how do they perform?
The simple answer is brilliantly!
They are great for high speed time trial-type efforts and feel very fast running true and smoothly. They seem to perform well in crosswinds, probably helped by the slightly shallower front rim and I have rarely noticed any difficulty controlling the bike even in very blustery conditions. On a solo bike they are very ridged and show no sign of lateral flex or break rubbing even when sprinting out of the saddle or hammering around a tight corner. Exceptional acceleration has come in handy too on more technical courses. This is chiefly down to the ridiculously light weight of this wheelset (1,535g), making it easier to get back up to speed.
Whilst not designed for the tandem – I was a bit dubious initially – they have proved surprisingly strong and durable. The rear wheel has only needed minor truing once having been put under massive pressure on a technical World championship circuit with dead turns around a cone. Amazing really! To be totally tandem-proof, you might want a few more spokes in the rear wheel, especially if you have heavier riders however.
Unfortunately, we did also carried out our own version of the UCI crash test on a pair of these wheels during one race on the tandem. I can confirm that they stood up remarkably well to a 30mph head on collision. Whilst a new front wheel was required just to be on the safe side given it’s use on the tandem, our crash did confirm the UCI results: they are almost bombproof!
My only slight criticism could be that braking isn’t quite as good as it with an aluminium rim, but then that wasn’t much of a surprise and it’s still pretty decent. I suppose you could also argue that having round spokes is less aerodynamic than using bladed spokes, but in all honesty I’m not convinced you would notice a major difference. In any case, this means the wheels are easy to service should the need arise.
The wheels have helped me to victories at the European and World triathlon championships, so they are showing some of that ‘evidence’ to indicate they perform well. Certainly they have been my wheel of choice this past year even with a disk and tri-spoke available.
Personally, I think the Matrix T806’s are an exceptional offering suitable for almost any event. The fact they can stand up to the forces involved with using them on the tandem is perhaps testament to how good they really are despite their lightweight build. Over-all these are high quality, fast wheels easily worth the cash: Performance at a reasonable price point.