The Takeaway: A light wheelset that feels great, the CADEX AR 35 faces some stiff competition.
- All new hub design with 60-tooth ratchets
- Carbon-fiber spokes
- Ceramic bearings and Centerlock rotor mounting
- Hookless 35mm deep rims with 25 mm internal width
Price: $ 3,000
Weight: 1,353 grams (my scale), 1270g (claimed)
CADEX, Giant’s high-end parts division, continues to expand its product line. After starting with a range of carbon wheels and parts for use on the road, CADEX has all road and gravel in its sights. Today sees the launch of a new wheelset, a new handlebar, and a pair of new tires.
CADEX AR 35 — All Road Carbon Wonderwheels
The latest wheelset to roll out of CADEX, the AR are a 35mm deep carbon all-road wheel with 25mm internal width. Like CADEX’s other wheels, the AR features a tubeless design (they come pre-taped and with valves), has a hookless bead, and uses carbon spokes.
Much like the 36 road wheelset, I reviewed last spring, CADEX’s wheels are all about low weights and high stiffness. The AR 35 weighs just 1353 grams on my scale (747g rear, 606g front — CADEX claims 1270g). CADEX says its internal measuring and testing found that the AR35 has greater stiffness, a better stiffness to weight ratio, and less wind up (they call it “transmission stiffness”) when compared to Bontrager’s Aeolus RSL 37V (1355g claimed weight) or Zipp’s 303 Firecrest (1352g claimed weight). Due to supply chain issues, CADEX did not secure other wheels for testing, notably Roval’s Terra SLX (1296g claimed weight) or Enve’s SES3.4AR (1399g claimed weight)
The 35 AR’s hubs spin on ceramic bearings, with the rear hub employing a 60-tooth ratchet design similar to the one made famous by DT-Swiss (Hugi). Though similar, the CADEX wheel does not use DT-Swiss hubs, and therefore hub parts are not interchangeable with that brand’s widely available bits. In addition, this CADEX wheel’s hub design differs from previous CADEX wheels, so the hub parts in CADEX’s relatively young wheel line are, unfortunately, not interchangeable either.
I asked CADEX’s head of product and marketing, Jeff Schneider, why there’s an all-new hub design. He responded, “As we started looking at […] quicker timing in the 60T ratchet system and our effort to continually reduce friction in the hubs to enhance overall efficiency, it led us to a rethinking of the hub internals and how the different parts interact with each other. When you also factor in the new “mullet” drivetrain systems (hybrids of road and mountain) we are seeing used in the all-road and gravel community; we wanted to make sure the smaller teeth and internals were prepared to take the increased torque loads. ”
I give high marks to CADEX for using 60 tooth ratchets, providing a relatively quick — for a road/gravel/all-road wheel — six degrees engagement. Those ratchets are Chromoly steel, then treated with a DLC (diamond-like coating) for improved durability. CADEX offers HG, SRAM XDR, and Campagnolo N3W drivers, while the brake side is Centerlock only.
Because of winter weather in southwest Colorado, I was already going to be challenged to get a lot of time on the AR 35 wheels. CADEX then threw a wrench in the works, sending the wheels with a pair of gravel tires but then issuing a stop-ride notice on those tires. That put a kink in my testing, and I had to switch from riding the wheels on a gravel bike with 40mm gravel tires to running them on a road bike with CADEX 32mm road slicks. I only have about five hours on the wheels after the tire kerfuffle, so consider these my initial impressions.
I had no issues mounting hookless compatible tires on the wheels. Like most tubeless setups, it’s a little tight — as it should be — but I could mount the tires by hand and without any tricks. The tires inflated easily and I didn’t need to remove the valve cores. When mounting up the tires I also noticed that the threads on the driver body and rotor splines seemed well-cut.
Like the 36 wheels, the 35 AR are a snappy, light-feeling wheelset. The stiffness and reactive nature brighten up a bike. CADEX certainly seems to have the formula for a fast-feeling wheelset pretty dialed — The out of the box feel of their wheels is impressive. So far, I found the wheelset tracked well in corners, and my butt and hands tell me it’s a damped wheelset as well. But I’m over 180lbs dressed to ride, and I’ve only used them on decent tarmac thus far — and with a nice set of 32s as well. They are undoubtedly stiff enough that I wouldn’t be surprised to hear if lighter riders found them on the firmer riding end of the spectrum, and I worry a bit about how these wheels will track the corners of my dirt and gravel roads when they dry out, and the washboards come up.
Though the CADEX is a good wheel overall, they face some tough competition from Roval’s Terra CLX wheel. On my scale, the Terra comes in lighter (1,313 grams) than the CADEX, but the Roval’s claimed weight, 1296g, is heavier than the CADEX’s claimed weight. Weird, and I don’t know why the delta between the CADEX’s 1270g claimed and 1353g actual weight is so much. The internal width of both wheels is the same (25mm), while the CADEX’s rim is three millimeters taller, 35 vs. 32mm.
Roval has a better warranty: A lifetime warranty against material and workmanship defects, plus a two-year free crash replacement warranty. The CADEX has a two-year warranty and a five-year incident protection program. CADEX’s incident protection program offers a 50 percent discount on a replacement wheel if yours is damaged. The CADEX warranty isn’t bad, but Roval’s is better. The Rovals are $ 500 less, and its hooked bead provides more tire choices than the CADEX’s hookless bead. I find the Roval slightly soft, with the CADEX 35 AR a stiffer and more reactive feeling wheelset. That’s good for parking lot acceleration testing, but for bombing a blown-out fire road, the softer Roval may turn out better. Time will tell.
CADEX AR Handlebar
CADEX also launched a light and pricey ($ 370) carbon all road bar along with the wheels and tires. The AR bar’s one-piece design is somewhat unique. Many/most make carbon bars in three sections: the top, a left hook, and a right hook. This cuts down on the number of molds required. Manufacturers can trim the center section of the bar to the desired width then add on the hooks. The AR’s one-piece design means each width needs its mold but also cuts down on overlapped materials and additional bonding. CADEX also claims it allows them to run continuous longer fibers, which improves strength.
At just 190 grams (420mm width), the bar is impressively lightweight. That’s about 60 grams less than my current favorite all road bar, Enve’s SES AR, and 18 grams less than Easton’s new EC90 AX gravel/all road bar. My 400mm CADEX AR sample bar weighed just 178 grams. The CADEX AR comes in 400, 420, 440, and 460mm widths measured at the hood, with the tops having three degrees of back sweep. With eight degrees of flare and three degrees of out sweep, the drops measure about 60mm wider than the hoods. Extended tails provide more potential positions on the drops.
I did spend some time on the bar and, honestly, I didn’t love it. The top section was too fat for my taste. I prefer a thinner or smaller-diameter bar, partly because I have somewhat small hands. Plus there are no hose/housing grooves, which means the bar diameter gets even fatter when installed and wrapped. The drops were a nice shape, and the weight is fantastic, but I much prefer the 60-ish grams heavier Enve SES AR bar simply because it fits my hands better. Of course, your hands may tell you otherwise. If you like bars with a large-diameter round top section, I strongly suggest checking out CADEX’s AR.
CADEX AR and GX Tires
CADEX also dropped information about two new tires designed for all road and gravel riding. Both come in one size (700×40), employ dual-compound tread rubber, are approved for use on hookless rims, and carry a retail price of $ 85 per tire.
Both the smoother AR and knobbier GX tread use 170TPI casings with a pair of puncture protection materials: One called Race Shield + under the tread, and the other, called X-Shield, stretching from the bead to mid-sidewall.
The AR has a claimed weight of 425 grams, with the GX at 445g — impressive weights for a 700×40 gravel tire.
I got the new tires with the wheels, but soon after, CADEX’s reps sent me a stop ride notice stating, “There have been a few reports of a possible bead integrity issue on CADEX’s early production CADEX AR and CADEX GX tires. This is possibly due to packing methods, but we’re learning more as the CADEX team conducts some initial internal testing. ” I’ve received no further information except that the tires “Will not be immediately available.”
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