Tested: CADEX Aero 4-Spoke Wheelset

CADEX isn't just another bike and accessory company. It is 100% a lifestyle company. It’s the Rapha of hardware: super expensive stuff, but with little doubt that the look and feel of everything justifies the cash required to obtain them. The question that I have, and we will have to figure out over time, is this: does the end consumer ever really get to see those differences yet?

Let’s start with what I call “the arrival moment” of each product. CADEX is our industry’s Apple when it comes to product packaging. It provides the best in case of quality look and feel. That all important first touch when you hold a product in its packaging and you feel quality. It’s the feeling when you walk into a really nice hotel instead of a run-down motel. It’s when you go into a Michelin-starred restaurant or sit in a new luxury car. It’s that moment of, “Oh, yeah. This is nice.”

That is the feeling I have gotten with everything I have ever opened from CADEX thus far. Even a pair of socks comes in this really nice packing box. Now is this much packaging needed? Some might say it is wasted material. But so is everything you get in a package from Amazon delivered to your door (and often the same day you ordered it). In the end it’s incredible packaging, and it creates a necessary feeling when you spend this amount of money on something.

To be fair, not everything that CADEX sells is jaw-droppingly expensive. Their tires are priced in line with what you would expect for the quality, and the two saddles they sell aren't out of the norm for a carbon based saddle. But if you are wanting some jaw dropping both in price and performance, CADEX has something for you.

Let’s first look at the CADEX Aero 4-spoke wheel set.

High five, the auctioneer signals with his hands before confirming with his voice. That’s right. We are talking FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS. It will set you back $2,300 for the front and $2,700 for the rear. I can think of some wheels that are more money on the market, but there aren’t many of them. And it goes back to: what are the differences? And from my impression, with CADEX it’s things you can actually feel are different instead of those you can only read about on spec sheets.

The CADEX TT wheel system comes in 3 options.
-The Front AERO 4 -Spoke
-The Rear AERO 4- Spoke
-The Rear AERO Disc

We’ll be reviewing the Disc at another point in time.

The AERO 4-Spoke set comes with a front rim depth of 50mm, and 65mm rim depth our back. The rear comes with a little more outer rim thickness as well – 2mm wider than the front. The 4 inner spokes that replace the traditional smaller spokes range from 16mm-20mm in depth and 16mm-22mm in thickness (from what I measured). These are hookless and tubeless ready, with a very interesting 22.4mm inner rim width. I say interesting as most TT wheels these days feature inner rim widths of 21mm or 23mm. But it’s that unique inner rim width that allows for CADEX to get the width it wants for the matched CADEX tire line – a combination of aero and cornering benefits.

The wheel is built from a bidirectional laced ultralight carbon that is encased with a 18K carbon weave. For the uninitiated, that’s the cool looking chess/checkers looking squares. The wheel feels very solid. The 4 carbon spokes are linked in the middle by a CADEX R3-C Hub (Front) and the CADEX R3-C40 Hub (Rear) both with internal CADEX Ceramic bearings. It’s a relatively standard thru-axle set up: 12x100 front, 12x142 rear.

If you are wondering why I keep using the word “CADEX” in front of everything, it’s not because we’re keyword stuffing for Google ranking purposes. It’s because CADEX is not outsourcing or combining OEM products. They seem to be doing all of these things themselves. From A-Z on this wheel system they are truly the manufacturers.

Rounding out the wheel system in the weight: 880g front, 1047g rear, for a total of 1927g or 4.2lbs. In other words, not light. But also right in the mix when compared to the other 3 and 4 spoke wheels on the market. All of these companies make similar claims on this aero (and how that aero impacts control of the bike) trumps weight. We’d agree most of the time. Still, when you think about it, depending on your frame, and the size of the bike, wheels are going to make up anywhere from 20-30% of your overall machine's weight. That's usually not the case when you are spending this kind of coin. Or, at least, it hasn’t been in the past.

So what are you getting for all of this expense? Simple: speed and stiffness. The first time on the wheels I felt like I was riding a track bike. Fast in the straights, fast in the corners, and very little flex in these wheels at all. I remember back in the day with certain disc wheels having to adjust our rear brakes to make sure we didn't hear them rubbing every time we got out of the saddle. Those days are long gone.

This also shows the importance of that hookless rim design. Because you have so much solid carbon underneath you, even rolling at CADEX’s recommended tire pressure for me of 82 PSI, it still felt like I was riding a tubular at 150 PSI. With CADEX’s calculator, I found I had more wiggle room to go lower on pressure, and so on the tires I found that riding at 78-79 psi was a super nice yet fast ride. For CADEX, the minimum pressure on a 23/25 tire is 70 PSI. My recommended range, based on my weight and this particular inner rim width, was 74-82 PSI.

I have tested these mostly on my road bike. I know that may sound odd but I feel that I get more feedback on handling and riding characteristics of these wheels when I ride this way. I have ridden them on a TT bike as well but I’d estimate 70% of my testing to date was riding around the foothills of Salt Lake City on my current road bike. That said, I will test ride the AERO Disc on the flats of western Utah.

Conclusions So Far

Assuming you can even find these wheels to buy – because you can’t order them online – and assuming you are in the market to spend $5,000 for a set of wheels (which is a bit insane to think about for a set of wheels), I don't think they are overpriced. I have yet to see a wheel system with this level of all-encompassing manufacturing and feature building on offer here. There’s no comparison. You are paying for a high dollar, luxury brand experience that checks all the boxes. There’s no stone left unturned here. Everything is included. You don’t have to worry about it. And that peace of mind is worth something.

I don’t understand, though, why I can buy most everything else online from CADEX but I can’t buy these wheels. Before I write my review of the AERO disc, I'm going to spend some time calling a random number of CADEX dealers to see what the shopping experience is like. I’m hoping that dealers make this process easier than not. A part of me doesn't like the idea of getting them from a dealer because chances are the dealer is going to set them up for you, meaning you probably won't even get to experience that moment of arrival. You miss that premium packaging and unboxing experience, which in my opinion is part of the high-touch experience that creates the value at this pricepoint. But there are advantages to this model. Especially with hookless, getting set-up right out of the gate is important. Having the training on proper tire pressure, and being able to swap out a tire, on a wheel like this is important. Hopefully shops are part of the white-glove experience.

There’s a lot of expensive and shiny things in our sport. Some of them are simply status moves – “I bought it because I could.” Others are just expensive because of what they are. CADEX is starting to become the latter in my opinion. It’s high end expensive gear, but justifies its price tag if that is what you are looking for.