19 May 2022
Italian retro style that’s not form over function? That’ll be the Matrix boots.
Those of you who remember the 80s and 90s will attest to the fact that many products which came out of Italy were often beautiful... but critically flawed. Think Italian motorcycles and cars, which either rotted before your very eyes, or had electrical systems that failed just for fun. Today, though, things have changed. Italian bikes are reliable and beautifully built, just look at Ducati’s new Desert X – 15,000km between services and 30,000km for the valve checks.
So, I approached Stylmartin’s Matrix boots with some decades-old scepticism. Waterproof? Comfortable? Form over function? We’d see.
If you’ve not heard of Stylmartin, they’ve been making boots since the 70s, and had a very successful period in the mid-90s, their boots being worn by MotoGP racers Eddie Lawson, John Kocinski and Angel Nieto among others, so they know what they’re up to.
I was on the lookout for a pair of everyday boots with a bit of a retro vibe, something practical but cool. Boots I could wear on my old R80GS that didn’t make me look like Power Ranger. I’d been eyeing up a pair of Stylmartin’s Continental boots – in very retro rosso/red. They, so very, looked the part (behold their glory below...) and took me straight back to my youth. Just before deciding to box them up and head out the door, I asked, “They’re waterproof, yeah...?” Nope. The Continentals are stunningly retro, including not having a waterproof liner – straight outta the 80s. The thought of it took me back to my teenage misery of wearing plastic bags on my feet inside my boots any time it even threatened to rain. My feet were either wet from rain, or wet from sweat. I’ve done that, got the badge and don’t intend to start again. As a sunny day boot though, they look cool as hell. This is when my gaze shifted to the Matrix boots... “Do those ones have a waterproof liner...?” “Yup, sure do!” came the cheery reply. Done. I walked out lamenting not having the beauty of the Continentals, but happy with the Matrix’s mix of retro-style and the performance of modern materials.
Stylmartin bills the Matrix boots as ‘adventure touring’ boots, and are made of soft, full-grain leather. So, if you like the stiffness of MX boots on your adventure bike, these aren’t for you. They’re real leather, not one of the synthetic leathers such as Lorica.
I have no real issue with faux leathers, but I like the fact you can use beeswax to keep real leather in top condition... and an Italian leather boot has a certain appeal – especially as it wears, giving a unique patina. In fact, Stylmartin has pre-empted the buyer of these boots, saying ‘the leather will wear uniquely to write your story into the leather’.
And wear they have. I’ve done multiple week to 10-day South Island gravel/4WD track adventure trips in these, and thousands of gravel and seal miles nearer to home. They’ve certainly got my story written in them at this point.
When I first got them, they were a bit too big for my foot – correct for the length, but a little ‘baggy’ on the top. I swapped out the supplied insoles for a pair of Blundstone work-boot insoles – which are more comfortable and take up the extra space (maybe I have thin feet?).
Adjustment on each boot is via a pair of two-position levers with a toothed adjuster, and a large velcro section on the upper boot. There’s ankle, tibia and calf protection built in. And for those after a really retro MX-boot look, there’s a metal skid plate supplied for the toes.
My time with the Matrix has shown them to be waterproof and very comfortable (even straight out of the box). They make a great everyday riding/touring boot and even a decent light adventure boot (Stylmartin was bang on with the ‘adventure touring’ label). the Vibram sole gives good grip everywhere I’ve ridden – except on the Papa mud, which, well, if you know Papa, you know it. They’ve developed their own unique odour too, which prompts them to be left outside my tent or room on tours – probably my own fault for not putting fresh socks on each day on one particular tour.
I like that Stylmartin has spares available to extend the life of their boots - you can get replacement buckles, straps and metal toe cups.
At $549, the Matrix aren’t cheap boots, but they are premium quality and well built. I’m picking I’ll get lots of years out of these – and look good while I’m doing it. Can’t ask for much more than that.
Article kindly brought to you by kiwirider
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