It’s twelve years since Avid introduced the Matchmaker. One single sleek mount was the promise. The reality turned out to be a little more complicated.

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A bit like Tinder for your handlebars, Avid’s introduction of the Matchmaker in 2006 brought gear and brake controls together in one easy step. Twelve years later it’s amazing how a component designed to simplify and declutter has spawned so many complications.

Shimano’s I-Spec system comes in three flavours

What’s the deal with SRAM?

In 2006 it was dead simple, if you had Avid brakes with a twin bolt clamp and SRAM trigger shifters with removable clamps then bingo you could combine them by buying a special Matchmaker clamp and neaten up your bars no end. Avid eventually ditched the twin bolt mounting system and along came the split clamps that you see on SRAM brakes today. This enabled the birth of Matchmaker X thus allowing the mounting of not only your Matchmaker SRAM shifter/s and brakes to one clamp but also RockShox Reverb dropper and certain RockShox suspension remotes. Putting it simply if you are dedicated to SRAM and you want full compatibility and minimal clutter you are going to want Matchmaker X compatible products.

What about Shimano, I’m confused about I-Spec compatibility?

When Shimano joined the integrated clamp party they confused everyone by rapidly adding three ‘standards’. These were I-Spec A, I-Spec B and I-Spec II. I-Spec A and B have a very similar design but are not fully compatible. I-Spec II is entirely different, it uses a wraparound shim that protrudes from the shifter and fits underneath the brake lever clamp. To put it simply, older brakes (I-Spec A) are compatible with I-Spec B shifters but not the other way round and I-Spec II is only compatible with itself.

What if I want to mix and match?

Thanks to some companies a tad smaller than those beginning with S we have seen products arrive which help riders to break free from compatibility issues and being locked into one brand. Problem Solvers have a stack of adaptors available allowing you to pair SRAM and Shimano onto one clamp. Brake companies such as Magura, Formula and Hope have also joined the game with aftermarket clamps to pair their brakes with shifters as have dropper remote manufacturers like Wolf Tooth – tidy.