What I like about this brand, among other things, is that it doesn’t draw a hard line bifurcating road and gravel. Sometimes I think CADEX has a hard time deciding what a product is for and if so, bravo, that's healthy.
At their best handlebars and wheels are tools. Things. Manufactured things. The customer decides how to use them. Today a pair of products get launched (or relaunched) that bear the AR designation, and CADEX means all-road when you see the AR in the model name. While I love bikes like the Cervelo Caledonia, which kind of qualifies as an "all-road" bike, to me the CADEX AR line is more than just, “it goes on a Caledonia.” It means you can use these products on road race bikes or gravel race bikes, back and forth, and everything in between, user chooses.
A case in point are the AR 35 wheels announced today that I suspect many in my cohort will label “gravel” wheels. But at 25mm they have the same inner bead width as a Zipp 353 NSW. Is that a gravel wheel? The AR 35 certainly has its limitations as a road wheel and they're the same as the Zipp 353: You can’t use a tire narrower than 28mm. But, so what? I doubt I will ever ride a 25mm tire again, in any kind of race.
The AR 35 is made for the kind of riding I do nowadays. I’ve got a 32mm CADEX Classics tire on the bike I’m using now for all the climbing I’m doing these days, which is quite a bit of my riding. It’s mounted on a CADEX 36, which is a road wheel, and has an inner bead width of 22.4mm. That 32mm tire is kinda poofy on the rim; it would look more appropriate, probably, on this new CADEX 35. (My set up horribly violates the Rule of 105.)
But the images you see here are of CADEX’s pair of new 40mm gravel tires mounted on these wheels. CADEX calls these wheels all-road. But, again, is the 353 an all-road wheel? It could be. Zipp has done a very good job of making “road” wheels that are omni-use, and CADEX follows right along in that path. My climbing bike – for road – weighs 16 pounds, dressed out, with a Wahoo ROAM and a Garmin Varia, with bottle cages, and Speedplay POWRLINK pedals and those 32mm tires. Were I to swap out the wheels for these new CADEX 35 – which I am likely to do – I’m still in at 16 pounds as this wheelset weighs in at 1270g for the pair, and the wheel has the same carbon aero spokes as do the dedicated road wheels. This is every bit a road wheel.
But today’s good carbon road wheels are also Classics wheels, and any wheel that can survive Paris Roubaix can survive any gravel you can throw at it. The benefit of a wheel with this inner bead width is you can now stick any tire you want on there from 28mm up to any 700c tire that will fit into your gravel bike (certainly up to 47mm at least). It’s a do-anything, go-anywhere wheel.
Two things I want to say about these wheels before I move to tires. First, the hubs are quite advanced and I’ve written before about ratchet style hubs. Second, these rims use hookless beads. This is a source of controversy that I’ve waded into and will again. It is my view that this is the tech of the future for us and it’s not simply because the wheels are easier (and therefore, on paper, cheaper) for a manufacturer to make. They also allow the rim to be made with much greater precision, and if you’re going to move to tubeless and you want to do so with near-zero leakdown, and precision fitment, you’re almost obligated to move to a hookless bead.
I have no problem with this, because wheels made with at least 23mm of inner bead width, and tires at 28mm in size, will have an ideal pressure of 60psi or so, more or less, depending on the exact spec of the wheel and tire. Hookless is a great tech for this. For both their Classics and their Gravel tires, on both their road and AR wheels, you can put CADEX’s tires on CADEX’s wheels, with no sealant, and in a week the tires may have lost a pound or two. Of course I ride them with sealant. But, for the 32mm Classics tires on my road bike? I don’t ride with spares any more. I ride commando.
The “problem” with this wheelset is the price, at $3,000 a pair. They’re worth every penny of that price. I do look for the day, though, when CADEX gets to the next stage in its development, where the tech they make flows down. Right now CADEX is Dura Ace, Super Record, RED, Rapha oriented. No complaint. Just, a wish for a broader range that appeals to a broader audience, but with the same utility.
CADEX also launched new tires today, each 40mm, one with a finer tread and one with a little more bite. They’re great. They’re fine. If I don’t sound over-the-moon impressed, that’s me, not the tires. Where I ride, what gravel means to me is either pavement or full MTB, all smooshed into the same loop. That is best ridden – I find – with a 650b wheel and a 53mm (or so) tire. Which isn’t either of these tires. So, the tires look and ride great and the tires and wheels really dress up this Cervelo Aspero, do they not?
And if I was to take a bike to Unbound Gravel it would be this bike with these wheels and perhaps the AR version of these tires. The finer bead in 40mm, above, is the AR Tubeless Tire, and the tire below is the GX Tubeless. Me? I think they’re both just gravel tires. They’re each 170tpi tires, and the AR tire features, according to CADEX, “Dual Shield bead-to-bead puncture protection combines a proven Race Shield+ layer on the center of the tire with all-new X-Shield on the sidewall.” Sounds like an Unbound tire to me. These are each $85 tires.
CADEX launches, or relaunches, the AR handlebar today. I say relaunches because I wrote about this handlebar last October. The handlebar is made in one piece – not hooks bonded to tops – which is rare, and allows this bar to be a sub-200g weightweenie’s delight. But what I like about it most is the geometry: 3° flare, very tight 70mm reach and 115mm drop. Here’s the thing about this handlebar: I have it on a couple of my gravel bikes; and I’m putting it on my climbing bike, that is to say, on my Cervelo R5 that is a fully road as road can be. Not “all-road.” Not a tweener bike.
I’ve got the same kind of bar, same geometry – a full gravel bar of another make – on my other road bike, which is an aero road bike (a QR SRsix). I challenge you to ride a bar of this geometry on your gravel bike, go back to your road bike, and not want that same bar on that bike too.
Pardon if I'm beating this up too much, but the AR wheels and handlebar are going to migrate over to that climbing bike of mine, but these products you see here could just as easily be on a gravel or bikepacking bike. The features here are not use-case-specific. You can measure or qualify what you see here by weight, hardiness, ergonomics, aerodynamics, and rolling resistance. What CADEX has made are tools; you decide how to use them.
The AR 35 Wheel System is available now, as is the AR Handlebar.
The AR and GX Tires aren't available as of this moment, and will start shipping sometime in Spring of 2022.