One of the great things about living in France is that I get to see and experience many amazing bike things that the average fan only dreams about – and it’s all literally on my doorstep. The PEZ has his homebase in Canada and loves nothing more than living vicariously through me, sending me off on some Alpine adventure or another to get something different for our site that no one else has with some exclusive European content.
With the famous Mt Ventoux just a couple of hours drive away, and some simply superb riding literally outside of my front door I’ve been able to post some interesting Top Ride stories this year but PEZ being the PEZ – he always wants more!
So during a recent Skype chat when he asked if I could get a bike test lined up, something European, something unique and something interesting – I immediately replied – how about a Mathot? “A what?”
Yes, a Mathot, a boutique brand from Luxembourg who had actually been featured on PEZ a couple of times before but to which the PEZ himself had no recollection.
The first time a Mathot appeared on PEZ – as part of a Daily Distraction at the start of the year.
Unlike the PEZ I wasn’t blinded by the obvious beauty of the Daily Distraction Anne Tabarant, vice champion of France triathlete and sponsored Mathot athlete – I was also interested in the bike! I’d already checked out the Mathot website & talked to some friends about the brand but I’d never actually seen one in person so I figured a Mathot could fit the bill.
One email and a telephone conversation later with the CEO Paul Mathot in Luxembourg and their flagship model, the Mathot Pallium was jetting its way to my place in the South of France for a road test.
When it arrived though I wasn’t home so my wife signed for the delivery although she had absolutely no idea what it was. “Who delivered you an empty suitcase Chris?”
Nope, not an empty suitcase but one well packed and protected bicycle.
This was the first surprise I had with the Mathot – their packaging. Being a company that sells the grand majority of their bicycles online to customers all over the world, secure shipping is a big part of their offer, so each bike comes with one of these hardshell cases – which the customer keeps of course.
So it was a well packed machine and obviously light weight with my wife thinking the box was in fact empty but now it was time to unload this baby and see exactly what it has got.
First up let’s look at the frame. It’s a UHM unidirectional 100% carbon frame styled in the latest ‘aero’ trends. The carbon used on the Pallium comes from the carbon manufacturer Toraya and isn’t pre-woven, instead it comes in threads where the engineers can then decide how many threads go in which direction at what place in the frame, allowing them to tune the frame’s stiffness in different areas.
The tubes themselves are all either ovalized or styled with aerodynamics in mind along the original ideas developed by German aerodynamicist Wunibald Kamm – creator of the “Kammtail” design (We took a closer look at this design here). Although I didn’t have any wind testing available for the test, the principles behind the stylings are similar to many big brands offerings that were on display at the Tour de France this year. These aerodynamic stylings have led to quite a bulky frame though with the headtube and downtube especially of a large diameter.
Bulky yes, but certainly not heavy. The frame comes in at 920 grams and the fork weighs 350.
The seat stays merge into one at the level of the rear brake and combined with the large bottom bracket area around the Shimano BB86 Bottom Bracket should make for a stiff frame.
In fact from the very first look at the Mathot it’s obvious that this bike has been designed to be aero and stiff, but is it light?
I quickly put this X-Large sized bike together and hit the scales for a result of a non UCI legal weight of 6.65kgs – without pedals. With some pedals and bottle cages attached the UCI limit could be attained giving you a pretty light bike when looking at the components involved.
Now, speaking of components – let’s take a look at what came delivered on this test Pallium, and I say ‘this Pallium’ because all Palliums are not made the same. In fact, being a small brand gives Mathot the flexibility to offer 20 different component and wheel possibilities for this model. Customers can choose from Ultegra mechanical with 5 different wheel choices, Ultegra Di2 (this bike) with 5 different wheel choices, Durace 11spd mechanical with 5 wheel choices and finally Durace Di2 with the same 5 wheel choices. All these Shimano offerings come with either a 53×39 front chainring combo or a compact 50×34 with a 12×25 rear.
The 5 different wheels that are available with each componentry offering in ascending price order are the Shimano Ultegra tire wheels, FFWD F4R tires or tubulars, FFWD F6R tires or tubulars, FFWD F9R tubulars and finally Lightweight Meilenstein tubulars. Obviously these wheels provide quite a different scope of prices for the Pallium with prices ranging from 3650 Euros to 8100 Euros with my Ultegra Di2 and FFWD F6R tubular equipped test machine retailing for 4850 Euros.
The F6R wheels combined with the aero styled frame certainly make the Pallium look fast.
Being a European company and with the majority of their sales in mainland Europe, Mathot currently only list their prices in Euros but they will ship to anywhere in the world. Bear in mind these prices include European sales tax so they would actually be cheaper for those buying outside of Europe. For example this test machine which retails for €4850 (plus 150 Euro for delivery and travel box) in Europe would sell for €4075 outside of Europe with an approximate €250 delivery fee plus possible customs charges depending upon where you lived of course.
Backing up the Shimano drivetrain is a nice collection of components from a couple of well known manufacturers. FSA got the nod for the bar/stem combo with their Omega handlebars and their OS-190 stem with different sizes depending upon the size of bike ordered. The headset is a Neco H373 integrated & tapered unit and sitting atop the Mathot branded aero setapost is a Fizik Arione K:IUM saddle.
The seatpost continues the aero theme of the frame and although it’s not super light it was user friendly being very easy to adjust the angle of the saddle.
The seatclamp is similar to the seatpost, aero-shaped with a certain touch of class and very easy to use.
Enough about the prices and components already – it was time to put some pedals on this mean looking machine and take it out for a ride – destination my local group ride.
There’s nothing quite like turning up to a group ride on a new machine and have everyone salivate over your bike. The 15 or so regulars that I ride with every week turned into a pack of hungry vultures when I arrived at the meeting point poking and prodding at the bike, lifting it up and asking me a million questions about its ride qualities, weight and more to which I could only answer – I don’t know, let’s hit the road so I can find out!
First impressions as we rolled along the flat first few miles was the ease at which I was cruising. This bike just seemed to sit at a relatively high speed with very little effort. The 35-40kph average on the flat was maintained easily but it was when we started hitting the small hills approaching our first mountain of the day that I got my first surprise. This bike just loves to change tempo! With the F6R high profile wheels on board I was expecting the accelerations to be a bit slower but it looks like the stiffness of the frame compensated nicely as the ease at which I was changing speeds on the hills or sprinting for town limit signs wasn’t due to my good form I can assure you…
In fact I’d love to try out this bike with some of the other wheel combinations available but as I was sent just the F6R’s I can only give my impressions with these. The ease on the flats was something I was expecting as they’re a tried and tested wheel with a 60mm double arced rim with low drag which is ideal for flatter rides and time trials but the hills were a pleasant surprise.
I hadn’t suddenly become a mountain goat but the Pallium did climb well, especially on the short sharp hills.
The mountain on the agenda on this day was a tough beast with a steady 8% gradient and although I couldn’t class this bike as a pure climber in the form it was delivered, its ability to change speeds was impressive. The ease of the changes in pace whilst climbing on the small hills continued on this large climb as I changed from my super slow speed to just slow and back again…
Already on the flat I’d noticed that the Pallium was a sharp handling machine. It seemed to want to dart into the corners at any given moment and wasn’t one for straight lines, hands off the bars chilling out – it wanted to attack the corners.
Nothing extreme when it comes to frame geometry but the straight front fork and the aero tubing give away the Pallium’s desire – to race!
Being on a borrowed bike that I’d only ridden an hour on, with full carbon wheels and hitting a rough mountain descent at 70kph that I didn’t know that well I was understandably a bit nervous heading into the first few corners. Braking on full carbon rims is never quite the same as alumnium rims but the combination of the Ultegra brakes and the SwissStop carbon specific brake pads did their job well. After just a few short efforts on the brakes I was confident in the braking abilities of the Pallium but cornering was still a different affair.
Ultegra brakes and the carbon specific pads did a good job of slowing down the Pallium and its desire to go fast into the corners – sometimes too fast!
The bike wanted to attack the corners but I was still a little hesitant. The ‘turn in’ was fairly dramatic and I quickly found myself hitting the apex – much quicker than what I was used to. The frame angles are by no means extreme on this bike but the combination of the straight fork, the stiffness of the frame and the wheels with their Continental tubulars certainly provided this very quick turn in ability and it took a little getting used to.
With more miles in the saddle I became used to the handling but it certainly wasn’t an out of the box, easy ride and even at the end of the test the bike still had this sharp, nervous feel – although I was no longer nervous myself! Instead I was charging down the descents at full pace putting time into my riding buddies – something I certainly wasn’t doing in the first week of the test.
With this race handling and the deep dish carbon wheels it will come as no surprise that this bike isn’t designed for comfort, it’s a pure bred race machine. However, the ride was more compliant than I expected and after the first 100km ride in the mountains I came home with a feeling of tiredness in the legs but no niggles or numbness due to a too harsh ride. My hands though were a bit sore but I felt that that was due more to the FSA bars and their tight bend rather than any harshness of the frame.
I’m a longtime fan of ergonomic deep bend handlebars so to ride a bike with a tight bend in the drops just doesn’t suit me and it was the only unpleasant part of the ride for me. A minor point of course but with the contact points of handlebars, pedals and saddle the most essential pieces ‘comfortwise’ if one isn’t to your liking it’s quickly noticed.
A bit too tight for my personal tastes but the bars themselves are light, stiff and perfect if you like that style.
With the pedals on the Pallium being a ‘bring your own’ affair the last point of contact to talk about is the saddle, and it was here where I fell in love! I’ve ridden Fizik saddles many times before and even have one on one of my own bikes but I’d never riden the Arione K:IUM before this test. To be honest previous rides on Fizik’s have left me with a fairly average opinion – nice, but nothing special. This changed for me though with the Arione K:IUM which provided a level of comfort above and beyond what I’m used too but just as with the handlebars this is a personal thing. My seating Nirvana might not be the same as the next rider’s, just as the handlebars were a quality product but I didn’t like them.
The Arione K:IUM that may just get lost in transit on the way back to Luxembourg…
There’s not much to be said about Ultegra Di2 that hasn’t already been said, it shifts perfectly, it’s ergonomic and it simply does everything you ask of it. The fact that Mathot has decided to equip the bike with the full Shimano drivetrain and not tried to save some money by mixing and matching with other companies’ brakes and cranks for example is certainly a benefit as the standard Shimano offerings are first rate and without fault. This bike came equipped with the 53×39, 12×25 combo which should in all honesty cover most scenarios. I live in a pretty mountainous area and I was never short of gears but if I was to use this bike for a full racing season I would probably invest in a cassette that had an 11tooth.
The fact that you have many options available between Ultegra, Durace, mechanical or electronic is certainly another advantage of the Pallium although unfortunately SRAM and Campagnolo fans are left out in the cold. (Ed’s note: Although not actually offered by Mathot, Paul Mathot has since contacted me and stated that he would be prepared to build up and sell a Pallium with either SRAM or Campag for any customer who wishes for it.)
At the end of any product test before I write the review I like to ask myself a couple of questions: Who is the product best suited to, and would I buy this product? To answer my first question the response is without a doubt a racer. Somebody who values going fast on a bicycle and is looking for a machine that can perform at a top level. It’s a sharp handling, race bred machine that is literally begging you to go fast on it and my biggest regret of this all too short 1 month test is that I didn’t have the chance to race on it myself.
Having the test in the summer break meant I had no races on the calendar for this entire test which was a true shame as the changes of acceleration and the Pallium’s ability to sit quite easily at high speeds on the flat would have obviously been fun to try out in a race situation.
I did win lots of town sprints and KOMs on the group rides though and even stacked up a few Strava records during the test but it’s certainly not the same as racing… I was just itching for the competition!
Doing a U Turn to go back down and try and beat the Strava time again. I know it’s childish and silly but that damned Laurens Ten Dam!
The second question is more difficult – Would I buy it myself? If I was a single man with the money – Yes is the answer. Budget-wise the Pallium and Mathot bikes in general are well placed in the market when you look at the level of componentry on offer and this bike really piqued my interest with its styling and performance. If you’re after an anonymous bike that blends in with the crowd though, the Pallium is definitely not for you. I’ve ridden some pretty cool bikes over the years but I’ve never been as inundated with questions from fellow cyclists about my ride than when I’ve been riding the Pallium.
The Ultegra Di2 componentary on the test bike was standard Shimano precision and a sheer pleasure to use but is the extra few hundred euros for the electronic shifting worth the price though over the admittedly almost perfect mechanical Shimano groupset? That’s a question that any buyer would have to ask themselves and that’s before they even start to contemplate the 5 different wheel choices on offer. There’s a lot to think about before purchase for a buyer and many choices to make to get the best machine for themselves.
One thing that is sure though is that when buying a Mathot Pallium is that they’ll get a bike that is race ready no matter what components/wheel combination is chosen and something that they’re not going to see under the guy next to them in the bunch or a dozen examples of the same brand at the local coffee shop.
The Mathot Pallium is a race ready, aero styled & unique ride and yet another interesting option on an already saturated market. If you’re looking for a new bike and in particular for something a bit different it’s certainly worth a look.
• For more info check out their website or send them an email: firstname.lastname@example.org Being a small company there’s a fair chance that it will be Paul Mathot himself who will get back to you.