The X-Treme Matrix Elite carbon tubular road wheels are among the lightest we’ve tested at just 1050g for the pair (claimed) yet achieve that feat using an easily serviced traditional build. Moreover, a few cleverly embedded technologies – and one decidedly old-school technique - suggest a level of strength and responsiveness greater than you'd expect for the weight.
X-Treme’s Spoke Specific Rim Technology (SSRT) moulds the spoke holes directly into the rim without drilling, thus leaving the surrounding carbon fibres intact and yielding what should be a more pull-resistant hole. Spoke holes are also locally reinforced with additional material for even greater strength and internal stiffening ribs prevent sidewall buckling under tension.
According to X-Treme, SSRT provides improved durability and stiffness while its Impact Absorbing Core Technology (i-ACT) supposedly keeps that way for longer than its competitors.
The stout rim construction also allows for higher tensions on the included Sapim CX-Ray bladed stainless steel spokes. In a surprising nod to tradition, the spokes are anchored in the cartridge bearing-equipped forged-and-CNC machined hubs with brass spoke head washers, an old-school trick that is surprisingly effective at squelching debilitating fatigue failures.
Unfortunately, our first outing on the Matrix Elites inadvertently provided a good test of their strength. During the first lap of a local club race on particularly rough roads, we nailed a large pothole while following one of the bigger guys in the peloton. The ensuing clang had us thinking that it was time to head home as surely the impact was hard enough to cause a puncture. Yet we were able to finish the race four laps and 120km later and still ended up with a full 130psi in the tyres.
As it turns out, the rim had sustained a crack right through the braking surface but was still completely true and round such that we didn’t notice it until the day after. Normally we wouldn’t proudly extol the virtues of a broken rim but the force of the impact had us fully expecting the wheel to fail in spectacular fashion. To put the situation into perspective, the rider we were following broke his frame on the same pothole.
Although we ultimately had to replace the rim we were still duly impressed with the Matrix Elite’s impact resistance. Moreover, the experience highlighted the convenience of their traditional build; once a new rim was laced up, tensioned and trued we were back on our way.
Thankfully, things went much smoother afterwards. The rim’s feathery 320g weight (claimed) and high spoke tension (said to be the highest in the industry) made these a fast and responsive set of wheels when punching out of corners or accelerating whilst climbing. There was very little flex to speak of and the Matrix Elites also carry no rider weight limit.
The moderate 45mm depth was versatile in a variety of conditions, too, providing a good balance of aerodynamics, weight and ride quality. For those looking for more specific to climbing or time trials, though, X-Treme also offers comparable wheels with 83mm or 24mm-deep sections.
Unfortunately, carbon-specific pads aren’t included but that does at least allow consumers to use their favourite compound. In our case, SwissStop’s Yellow King pads provided good, but not great, braking performance in both wet and dry conditions on the untreated carbon sidewalls.
We’ll take two
Overall, we found the Matrix Elite wheels to be an excellent choice for all-round performance and impressively stiff and strong for their paltry weight. While far from cheap, they’re still less expensive than some other key competitors and offer some truly unique design features that should bode well in the long run. Want clincher convenience instead? X-Treme offers the standard Matrix as well with an alloy braking surface for an extra 140g per hoop. Either way, they’re hard to pass up.