The Cadex name has been associated with Giant in one way or another since the early 1990s, and it was only recently that the bike maker revamped the brand as a separate performance-oriented component entity.
And given how the world’s largest bicycle manufacturer has used its performance-oriented in-house manufacturing know-how to produce some category-leading frames, there’s an expectation that the brand would also push the limits of carbon wheel technology. Giant’s in-house Cadex 36 wheels utilize just about every speed-focused, watt-saving design available.
The Cadex 36 is a 36mm-deep carbon rim with a hookless bead. Cadex recommends running tires between 25mm and 32mm on the 22.4mm internal width. The hookless internal rim allows for a better rim-to-tire interface, tubeless tires are mandatory. Cadex ships the wheels with tubeless tape and valves pre-installed.
Cadex claims nearly 50-percent weight savings with the use of aero-bladed carbon spokes over traditional steel spokes. The carbon spokes are molded with alloy ends attached to the hub and threaded to an alloy nipple. The front wheel has 21 spokes laced in a radial pattern on the drive side with a double-cross pattern on the rotor side. The rear uses a two-cross lacing on both sides with 24 carbon spokes. To improve the wheel’s overall stiffness-to-weight ratio, Cadex claims the carbon spokes are stiffer than traditional spokes.
The exterior of the sleek center-lock alloy hubs is the same throughout the Cadex wheel line; however, these wheels have proprietary internals that have been upgraded. Low-friction ceramic bearings reduce resistance with a claimed 1.5x smoother action than steel bearings. The rear engagement is a ratchet type with 30 points, meaning that all 30 teeth are engaged at the same time. The 36s are compatible with 11- and 12-speed Shimano setups, as well as SRAM XDR and Campagnolo hub bodies.
On the scales, the front 36 tipped 589 grams with the rear at 722 grams. The 1311-gram system weight includes the pre-installed tubeless tape and valves. It’s impressive for a disc wheel and appropriate when considering the price point and depth. As a comparison, Roval’s Alpinist clincher wheelset weighs in at 1248 grams and is about $1000 less expensive than the 36s, but lacks any official tubeless compatibility. Bontrager’s Aeolus RSL 37 wheels weigh 1325 grams and feature similar dimensions but lack the carbon-spoke design. Against these two similar wheelsets, the 36s have distinct tech advantages that distinguish them in the market of modern wheels.
Cadex sent a pair of their 25mm tubeless tires, which popped onto the rims with the help of a standard floor pump. Just like the discontinued Mavic UST system, the Cadex rim and tire combination shines bright in the murky world of tubeless compatibility. We left the tires overnight without adding sealant and were pleased to discover that no noticeable amount of air leaked, indicating a proper interface.
One of the most encouraging aspects of this process was the stamped 50–95-psi recommendation on the tire’s hot patch. It’s a welcome sign that tire manufacturers are understanding the benefits of lower-pressure and high-volume tires. We ran 60 psi for most of our testing and consider pressures over 70 psi too high for nearly every type of rider on most modern tubeless systems.
On the road, these wheels ooze responsiveness. This can likely be attributed to the weight savings we noticed after swapping out the nearly 1509-gram Dura-Ace C50 wheels we were running previously. Cornering and steering response are where the added stiffness of the carbon spokes provide the most noticeable performance enhancements. We found ourselves braking less and holding our speed into turns with confidence.
The higher air volume balanced out the stiffness with some necessary compliance and vibration reduction from road imperfections. The ability to run lower pressures allows for more control (and more speed) in treacherous conditions, like cornering over rough roads or loose sand.
Cadex is cranking out cutting-edge wheelsets for performance-oriented riders looking for marginal gains. Although carbon spokes have been used for years, most famously by Mavic, the design is enjoying a new breath of air and making their way on to more flagship wheelsets across the industry. Just like tubeless tech has made a hookless bead and wider rims commonplace on stock builds, we’d expect to see the ride-enhancing qualities of the black plastic spokes trickle down across catalogs and, in time, become expected on most of Giant’s road bikes.
One notable compatibility issue is the recommended tire list on the Cadex website. There are currently 15 approved tires in various sizes, with a majority in 25mm and 28mm widths. There is also an unrecommended list that includes tires from Continental, Pirelli and Vittoria.
• Cutting weight for disc brakes
• Carbon-spoke performance
• Expensive marginal gains