It seems that almost every morning, upon checking my email inbox for the first time of the day, I'm hit with a barrage of new cycling products that have just launched. Rims, saddle bags, revolutionary flat fixing devices, apparel pieces that will take me to before unheard of levels of cycling prowess and other mostly un-noteworthy items. You, dear reader, may be spared from all of these notices in your inbox, but surely you hear about them from all of your cycling friends, social channels, and whichever other Youtube or other online source you get your most important news from.
My purpose today is to introduce you to another such new product. But this one is worth learning a bit more about, so without further ado, please allow me to introduce you to CADEX. If you’ve been around cycling as long as I have, or at least since the late ’80’s you may have heard this name. I think it was 1987 when Giant introduced its first carbon fiber road frame that bore the CADEX name. CADEX was something of a skunk works lab for the now major cycling company. I’m sure there are plenty of places to read up on the history of CADEX but this is about the present.
CADEX was relaunched during this years Tour de France depart in Belgium. It was actually a nice launch, as far as those things go. CADEX even contacted us, and we sent them one of our new, also unreleased at the time, Sarto frames—the Seta + (you will see this in most of the CADEX ads). GCN covered the launch and has a good video up covering the new wheels and components that you can check out as well. The official launch may have been during the tour, but CADEX was not ready to launch the actual products right away, at least in the States, so things stayed a bit quiet for the last few months. But that is over now as we just received our initial order just in time for the second officially official launch during this year's World Cycling Championships.
Again, CADEX is a sibling of the Giant brand. However, from what I’ve seen so far first hand from riding prototypes, and from long dinners and phone calls with the folks running the company, this is going to be a lot different from the other house brands that we all know of and mostly don’t love. I would say this is less of, “we’re looking for other ways of leveraging our parent company's brand name for more monetary gain” and more of, “we’re part of a company that pioneered carbon development and we want to take that knowledge and develop some cutting edge products” type of thing. I do not say that lightly. Everyone who knows us, even a little, knows that we take the performance aspect of cycling pretty seriously. Sure, we’ve dabbled in a lot of different things over the course of our now 13 year (yikes!) history, but that is how you learn and really validate what does and does not work. Due to our history, we are fortunate enough that we now attract the attention of a lot of these bigger companies. This was the case when people from Giant reached out to us almost half a year ago, well before the first official launch, and told us about a new secret company that was forming to create the best of the best in cycling components. After signing NDAs, they gave us a short presentation on a new set of wheels, tires that accompany those wheels, and lastly, a new saddle.
Everything looked and sounded great, but as I stated at the beginning of this article, we’ve heard it all before. In fact I probably read about another company releasing the best set of wheels in the world earlier that morning. As is our norm, we asked for a set of wheels to see for ourselves what they were all about, to which they agreed. And that’s where this way too early wheel review begins.
Jeff at CADEX warned me that these prototypes had been used, hard, but that they should give me a good idea of what to expect. A few days later, we received the wheels with the new CADEX tubeless tires mounted. Upon first inspection, the rear hub was haggard, bearings beat and just worn out. Spokes were twisted around in a very much NOT tuned manner, and the bare rims were beat up and looked worse for wear. So I mounted them on my Mosaic RT-1 tester, went for a spin, and was blown away by how good those beat to hell wheels felt! I did get a flat in the first five minutes of that first ride, but it was my fault, rode over some glass just to see what would happen. That flat led to my newfound love of road tubeless, but more on that in a future entry. I had these prototypes for a couple weeks, but at that time there were very few of these wheels in the world and they had to get back to the proper testers, but the point had been made and I was looking forward to the production ready effort.
Around the time of the Tour launch for CADEX, they sent me another set, this time a brand new pre-production, but very close to the final design wheel set. This is what I’ll be covering now, in as few words as possible as this short review article has reached novel like lengths, for which I’m very apologetic. Testing wheels is pretty straight forward. For the average road rider you want to know just three main things. One, how do the wheels climb? Number two, how do they descend and lastly, how do they handle a sprint. Everything you really need to know can be covered in these three tests.
You’ll get to know how well the brakes work on long, or steep, or long and steep descents, you’ll get a good feeling of how light they feel when climbing, you’ll know how well they track and how stiff they are when launching a sprint from a low speed and so on. For this test I used my Sarto Dinamica bike with Campagnolo Super Record 11 speed components. I took off a set of Lightweight Meilenstein clinchers to put the CADEX 42mm tubeless rim brake wheels on. So, this would be a really good comparison with what I believe to be the best wheels made right now, the Lightweights.
This is what most cyclists really want to know from the beginning. How light are they? Low weight is nice, but you can have a super light wheel that climbs horribly and we’ve ridden them. Conversely, you can have a heavier wheel that climbs amazing. Where do these CADEX wheels fall? Among the best. These wheels are light: case in point, when I weighed the Sarto with the Lightweights on it right before the swap it was 15.52 pounds, fully built, with cages and pedals. After putting the CADEX 42s on the weight was 15.17. I had to weigh it a couple times as I could not believe that the CADEX wheels were coming in not only lighter, but significantly lighter than the bike built with the Lightweights. No one at the shop believed me when I told them this, but it’s a fact. It was not a straight swap of course, the LWs had 25mm Vittoria Corsa Controls mounted with standard inner tubes and a Campagnolo Chorus 11-29t cassette and finished off with older Shimano QR skewers. The CADEX wheels had their own 25mm tubeless tires mounted with a Shimano Dura-Ace 11-28t cassette and new edition Dura-Ace QRs. But still, that is a lot lighter. But as I said, weight is only part of the story, how they actually feel on a climb is what matters. Well, what really matters is a pair of strong legs, but barring that, how do these feel? They accelerate extremely well. There is absolutely zero brake rub, which shows me that they are stiff. In easier gears, they feel that they roll fast and overall, the bike just feels really good on climbs with these wheels.
What goes up must come down. Due to the low weight of the wheels, they flick from side to side really well. Our descents out here are decently technical in nature and these wheels handled them with poise. The high speed stability was good as well. I’ve been on lighter wheels that feel just OK at high speed and then turn terrifying on those high speed descents where you have to bank it into an equally high speed corner. These wheels handled that well and I never felt uncomfortable. Because this is a way too early review, I want to give the brake pads a longer try. But, with the official CADEX pads on the Sarto things were a little noisy, to say the least. It actually started out fine, and the braking seemed quiet enough, but on my normal test route I have a 20% short descent that ends at a stop sign. So you barrel down this hill and towards the bottom have to lay on the brakes, hard. This is where I can tell how the pads work with the rims under immense heat. Most, if not all the wheels give at least a little noise here, but the CADEX wheels were almost unbearable. I felt bad for the folks who live on that street and hope it wasn’t nap time. I think half of Mill Valley heard me coming! The pads also feel a little grabby. I noticed when I was installing the pads into the pad holders. They were more pliable and soft, which I could feel under harder baking. But that I could bear, the noise, no way. In fact, after that initial torture test w/ the brakes, they now make a ton of noise every time I stop. To cure this, I just put back in the brake pads that I use with the Lightweight wheels and it’s totally silent. I’m going to try the CADEX pads again with different brake calipers and see if that makes a difference. Will let you know. Overall though, these wheels descend great and also feel pretty good in high wind areas as we tend to get here and I was not pushed around any more that I would be on other wheels.
This really shows how a wheel tracks under power and gives you a good sense of the wheel's stiffness. Zero brake rub was the first thing I noticed (and I run my pads fairly close to the rim). The acceleration on the CADEX wheels is absolutely fantastic. They feel fast once you are up to speed and hold that speed well. It’s easy to keep them in a straight line and track as well as much heavier wheels that I use. Then braking hard from speed to dive into a sharp corner feels easy (especially w/ the different pads) and the wheels feel stiff leaned over and hold the line well.
Overall, I really, really like these wheels. That is saying a lot, I think, especially after coming off of the Lightweights to try these. I’m not ready to say that I love them more than my other favorites but if I was told that this was the only set of wheels I could use from now on, I would not be upset at all. I really feel that anyone trying these for the first time will absolutely feel the difference over most other wheels out there. For those of you that are in our area, come try for yourself; we have a set or two set aside for rental/demo.
I left a lot out on this review as I just wanted to get my initial thoughts in before the wheels are readily available. We’ll put more up very soon covering more aspects of the wheels. For example, I hadn't yet mentioned that they use shaped carbon spokes with are 2 grams lighter, per spoke, over a comparable stainless spoke. That is pretty huge—2X44 is not bad. The hubs are nondescript but do the job well, and the aesthetic is good. You can get blacked out logos, which work with any bike. But, I want to get more miles on these before commenting on durability and other topics, which take a bit more time to assess. I can see a nice wheel comparison coming up, maybe putting the Lightweights, ENVE’s and Campagnolo wheels up against the new CADEX offerings? Could be fun, stay tuned!