Hunt 44 UD Carbon Spoke Disc versus Cadex 42 Disc
As weight geeks and ardent race fans alike can recall well, carbon-spoked wheels are nothing new. It was back in the early 2000s when Jan Ulrich famously relied on German-made Lightweight wheels with their bonded carbon spokes as a specific weapon against Lance in the many climbing stages of the Tour de France.
In the years since, while the wheel wars have continued unabated with every technology thrown at the category by a multitude of brands, bonded carbon-spoked wheels have remained rare, owing not only to their cost of construction, but more so to their complexity of repair compared to steel spokes.
However, it looks like many of those barriers may have come down, and both Hunt and Cadex are now offering new wheels built with carbon spokes. Curiously, as similar in concept as both offerings are, the brands themselves couldn’t be more disparate. Where Hunt is a smaller, British-based wheel brand, the Cadex hoops are actually the in-house wheel brand for the behemoth bike maker Giant.
What both wheels bring is a new age of carbon-spoke design and construction that seem to offer all the performance advantages with nearly none of the disadvantages.
The Hunt 44 UD Disc is a 44mm-deep carbon wheel with a hooked bead that uses the same unidirectional carbon rim used on a few of their other builds. The wheels have a 29mm external width and 20mm internal width, and come pre-taped for tubeless applications along with valves.
What sets them apart from so many other carbon hoops on the market is that they’re laced with straight-pull, bladed UD carbon fiber spokes. The front wheel uses 18 spokes laced with a two-cross pattern on the rotor side and radial on the drive side. The 20-spoke rear uses a two-cross pattern on both sides. The spokes use alloy nipples that allow them to be trued and built like any traditional spoke.
Hunt uses their CNC-machined, Race Season disc, straight-pull, super-light alloy hubs with a center-lock rotor mount. Hunt offers compatibility with nearly all drivetrains and axle types. The rear freehub uses a three-pawl system with 48 points of engagement for a secure and reliable system.
The 42mm-deep Cadex 42 carbon wheels have a 23mm external width and a 19.4mm internal width. The rim uses a hookless internal rim profile, which, as the name implies, eliminates the hook bead and is said to allow for a better rim-to-tire transition. The rims are shipped with tubeless tape and valves pre-installed.
Similar to the Hunt wheels, Cadex also uses an aero-bladed carbon spoke that is molded with alloy ends used to attach to the hub and thread to the alloy nipple. The 21 spokes up front have a double-cross pattern on the rotor side and a radial pattern on the opposite side. The rear uses 24 carbon spokes laced with a two-cross on both sides.
Cadex builds their wheels around an alloy hub that has a very minimal and sleek design with a center-lock rotor mount. The hubs are 12mm thru-axle-compatible and you have the option of Shimano 11-speed, as well as an XDR hub body. Cadex does offer other axle standards, but only ships with the 12mm compatibility. The rear engagement is a ratchet type with 30 points, meaning that all 30 teeth are engaged at the same time.
All of the tubeless tires we mounted were easy to install and remove by hand. Getting the tires onto the bead shelf was possible with a floor pump, but a booster pump or compressor made it effortless. Tube-type tires fit easily as well; you just need to remove the tubeless valve.
We did most of our testing on 28- and 30mm tires, but we did try some 25mm tires that measured closer to 27mm. All the tires we tested measured wider than their labeled size, and we went all the way up to a 35mm all-road tire, but larger sizes would still easily fit and maintain a good profile.
Hub-body swaps are not as simple as they are on the Cadex wheels, and two cone wrenches are needed to remove the end cap. Engagement is very good at 7.5 degrees, but three-pawl systems have less total points of engagement at any one moment.
On the bike, accelerations and application of the brakes offer almost instant response. The spokes have a noticeably lower amount of preload, but the real difference is in the corners. Between the wider profile of the tires and the added lateral stiffness, every bike we tested them on had a noticeable improvement in cornering response. While the wheels never felt harsh, even with 25mm tires, the carbon didn’t seem to bring any added compliance. You’ll have to leave that up to the tire pressure and bike.
While the thought of introducing a carbon-spoked wheel into off-road environs might make some queasy, Hunt says the wheels are just as good to go gravel as any traditional wheel.
Setting up the Cadex wheels was a breeze with all the same tubeless tires as used with the Hunts. The 19.4mm internal width paired well with all the tires, and the hookless bead transitioned to the tires’ sidewall very flush. The rims seem to pair best with 25–32mm tires, and they all measured slightly larger than their labeled size. Just like the Hunt wheels, the tires could be seated with a floor pump, but a booster made things quick and effortless.
On the bike, you can immediately feel an uptick in the response to efforts. At 1350 grams, some of that could be an almost guaranteed weight drop, but the added stiffness of the carbon spoke structure is evident. Braking response is also enhanced, with the wheels loading less. The added spoke count and lacing pattern seem to give it a slight edge over the Hunt build, but it is very hard to validate.
Cornering and steering response are where the system really shines and offer the most noticeable performance gains. The added lateral stiffness offers pinpoint response and handling. We found ourselves committing to corners with confidence while maintaining momentum. Out-of-the-saddle climbing and efforts are rewarding. In the saddle, the compliance is left to the tires, but the wheels don’t feel harsh by any means.
As we look at the two wheels next to each other, it’s hard to imagine that Hunt can make such a nice wheel for the price, and at the same time it also makes it hard to validate spending $3200 on the Cadex. Sure, the Cadex hubs use a ratchet system, which we prefer much more than the pawl system, but that alone doesn’t sway us.
Even though we normally run with a tubeless setup, we like that the Hunt wheels are compatible with both tubeless and tube-type tires. Both wheels hold tubeless tires up on the bead shelf, even when there is minimal to no pressure, so adding more sealant is easy through the valve.
The Cadex wheels do offer more spokes in a lighter package, and on paper the 90-degree tangential spoke lacing on the rear should deliver the best results from a performance standpoint, but that’s hard to measure. Cadex is using a hookless bead, which should offer a slight durability advantage in the case of a rim strike, but those are rare on the road. It should also be noted that the hookless rims can be run with an inner tube, but it needs to be paired with a tubeless-ready tire.
Both wheelsets use what seem to be nearly identical spokes, but there are subtle differences in head shape and the way the alloy heads are permanently attached to the ends of the carbon spoke. Both sets of wheels can be serviced and have spokes replaced if needed, something that has until now not been possible.
Although paying nearly an extra $2000 for a 100-gram weight saving is a tall order for us, if you are a serious, weight-crazed road racer willing to commit to road tubeless, the Cadex is your better option. For those looking for new wheels and not sure what bike or style of riding you might want to do, the Hunt checks all the boxes.
No matter which wheel you were to choose, the carbon spokes used on both definitely brings a level of performance and easy maintenance/replacement that the molded carbon-spoked wheels of old lacked. The carbon spoke horse has left the barn, we won’t be surprised to see more options hitting the market in the future.
HUNT PUNCH LINES
How are they only $1300?
Hook bead means more tire options
CADEX PUNCH LINES
The full, modern performance package
Optimized for 25–30mm tires
Hookless means tubeless tires only
Weight: 657/799 (1456) grams
Weight: 601/749 (1350) grams