By melding alloy with carbon fibre, Carbon Cycles have set out to create a light but stiff bar with their eXotic Carbon Matrix Flat Top, but unfortunately have achieved neither. The weight is average and it's the most flexible bar I think I've ever used.
The Matrix (that's we'll call it from now on) has an anatomical shape that offers the same sort of dimensions as a more traditional drop bar but with the inclusion of a flat section for a more comfortable hand position. Most of the bikes I ride these days have newer compact style bars, so swapping to the Matrix meant I had to move to a 20mm shorter stem to get the 105mm reach and 157mm drop to feel comfortable. Worth remembering if you're going for an upgrade.
The bar tested is 44cm, which Carbon Cycles measure centre to centre, so outers come in at around 47cm - that's a wide old bar. The overall shape is comfortable, though, and there is plenty of clearance for your wrists when in the drops. The flat tops are a pleasant place to rest your hands too.
The thinking behind using the combination of carbon fibre and 2014 grade alloy is to exploit the benefits of both materials. Alloy bars can be made cheaply and they are relatively stiff. They can be heavy, though, relatively speaking, so by wrapping them in carbon fibre you can have thinner walls and save a bit of weight and rely on the carbon to provide the stiffness. That's the theory anyway.
The trouble is, the Matrix is no lighter at 271g than other alloy bars we've tested at this price point, and while it might be stiff around the clamping area, from the hoods or drops it flexes like mad. This is ideal in terms of comfort, but not what you want when accelerating or pulling on it when climbing. You can even feel it dip under hard braking, which is unnerving to say the least.
Overall, the Matrix Flat Top looks good, and offers a variety of hand positions and comfort, but it's just too flexible for any kind of performance riding - which is what I'd say it's aimed at. I've ridden plenty of bars that have inherent flex in them for a bit of shock absorbance but the Matrix is just a step too far. It's bordering on scary at times, because of the feeling of lack of control. Even for the discounted online price of £67.99 there are plenty of similarly weighted and shaped bars that offer much more in the way of stiffness.
Smart looking comfort handlebar but with serious flex issues
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Carbon Cycles eXotic Carbon 2014 Matrix Flat Top Road Bar
Size tested: 31.8, 440mm/31.8, 420, 2014 Al Skeleton
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Carbon Cycles say, "MatriX is the manufacture process for melding aluminium or alloy with carbon fibre. It allows our components to take advantage of the strengths of both materials. Carbon fibre is light and strong and alloy is heavy but flexible, so in matriX we get the best of both material's properties."
I say, "It hasn't quite worked."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
*2014 grade alloy skeleton
*Reinforced with carbon fibre
*31.8mm clamping diameter
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Comfortable, but too much flex for my liking.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The carbon gloss finish.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Did you enjoy using the product? Not really
Would you consider buying the product? No
Would you recommend the product to a friend? No
Use this box to explain your score
I really like the way the Matrix Flat Top looks and it offers plenty of comfortable hand positions, making it ideal for all-day efforts, but the flex puts me off. Descending on rough roads or pulling hard on the bar when climbing means you lose all feedback from the bike, giving a feeling of being out of control. The way it dips under hard braking is bordering on the scary as well. Basically, you could get all of the good points and the weight from another alloy bar without the flex.
About the tester
Age: 36 Height: 180cm Weight: 76kg
I usually ride: Kinesis T2 My best bike is: Mason Definition
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed
Stu knocked out his first road.cc review back in 2009 and since then he's chucked the best part of seventy test bikes around the West Country, a couple of them quite literally! With three alloy and two steel bikes in his fleet he's definitely a metal man (that'll be the engineering background) but is slowly warming to that modern carbon fibre stuff along with fat tyres & disc brakes.
It's not all nostalgia though, after spending the last few years in product design Stu keeps banging on about how 3D printing is going to be the next big thing and he's a sucker for a beautiful paint job too.