Cadex release ultralight gravel wheelset that weighs under 1300 grams

Giant's subsidiary brand launches all-road and gravel line-up that includes AR 35 carbon wheels and two tyres with tread patterns designed for the dirt

Cadex AR 35 all-road and gravel wheels with Cadex tubeless tyres
(Image credit: Cadex )

As part of its new all-road and gravel component line-up, Cadex has unveiled the ultralight AR 35 wheelset and accompanying AR and GX tyres. The range will expand later in the year with the launch of a composite handlebar.

At just 1270 grams a pair, the AR 35s - as in 35 mm rim depth - are among the lightest all-road and gravel wheelsets currently available. Cadex also claims that the hookless rims offer “best-in-class stiffness-to-weight ratio.”

The AR and GX are high volume tyres designed to meet the rigors of all-road and gravel conditions. Both tread patterns are currently offered in a 700x40c size only.

Cadex AR 35 gravel front wheel with Cadex gravel tyre

(Image credit: Cadex)

While Cadex may appear fairly late to the gravel party, its entry into this fiercely competitive marketplace appears to have come with much consideration.

“At Cadex, we spend a ton of time riding gravel,” said Jeff Schneider, head of product and marketing for the US brand. “From big days on backroads here in California and mixed terrain adventures in Asia and Europe, to racing at events like the Belgian Waffle Ride, we knew there were aspects of the ride experience we could improve. So, over the past two-plus years, we’ve merged our real-world experiences with time in the test lab to develop a wheel system that we’re incredibly proud of.”

The AR 35s weight will certainly grab the headlines. They’re lighter than Roval’s Terra CLX wheels by 26 grams. Zipp’s Firecrest 303 and Bontager’s Aeolus RSL 37V are 82 and 85 grams heavier. Enve’s 3.4 AR Disc in their lightest configuration are close to 130 grams more than the AR 35s advertised number. All of these rival wheels are lauded for their light weight.

However it’s the AR 35s new hub that has Schneider really excited.

“We’re most proud of our new hub and what it brings to gravel,” he says “We went to the drawing board to reengineer everything from the shell to the teeth to create something that’s ultra-responsive and optimizes power transfer. As we’ve been saying: Effort in. Speed out.”

The precision machined R2-C60 hub boasts an exclusive 60-tooth ratchet freehub and flattened coil spring that are designed to deliver instant engagement that reacts in “milliseconds”. Cadex says that its ceramic bearings further aid the responsiveness and efficiency of the wheel. 

The small engagement angle offered by the ratchet undoubtedly has relevance for gravel riding on technical terrain, especially steep climbs. However this is usually of less importance on the road. For comparison DT Swiss typically equips its hubs with a 36t ratchet.

Cadex AR 35 rear hub detail

(Image credit: Cadex)

Naturally in a wheelset that weighs so little the hub shell has been optimised to be as light as possible while a proprietary heat treatment finish ensures “maximum resistance to wear” according to Cadex.

The internal rim widths of gravel wheels seems to be expanding as rapidly as the discipline itself. The AR 35s have a generous 25mm internal measurement. Combined with the hookless bead design Cadex says, it delivers “maximum strength and smooth handling.” 

While a hookless rim currently limits your tyre options somewhat Cadex is a believer in its ability to “create a rounder, more uniform tyre shape that increases sidewall support for cornering and creates a wider, shorter contact patch.” This it says “minimizes rolling resistance and improves impact absorption for a smoother ride quality.” 

Cadex also credits hookless tech with allowing for a “stronger, more consistent” carbon fibre structure. It says it allows the AR35s to offer the same impact resistance as a XC mountain bike wheel while at the same time resulting in a product that’s lighter than its competitors.

Cadex claims victory too when it comes to the AR 35s stiffness. During testing it reports that it demonstrated improved lateral and transmission stiffness when compared to the aforementioned Roval, Zipp, Bontrager and Enve offerings. The brand also says its creation beats them in a stiffness-to-weight ratio comparison. Transmissional stiffness is determined by how much torsional flex a wheel displays when under load and is used to mimic pedalling torque at the wheel’s freehub. Lateral stiffness determines how much flex a wheel shows under side load. This simulates the forces generated when climbing out of the saddle for example or when cornering.

Other noteworthy details of the AR 35 include the Cadex aero carbon spokes. It says that using its ‘custom tuned dynamic balance lacing technology’ allows for the spokes to be set at a wider bracing angle which helps to even out tension under force. The result it believes is a “stiffer, more efficient wheel with outstanding power transfer.”

Cadex AR tyre tread detail

(Image credit: Cadex)

Conventional wisdom tells us that wide rims need to be paired with a high volume tyre for best effect. Cadex has created two new tubeless tyres to match with the AR 35 wheels. 

The AR is its mixed terrain offering. It combines a 170 TPI casing with a tread pattern that Cadex says is optimised for fast gravel riding and racing as well as on-road efficiency. To achieve this its opted for a low-profile diamond-shaped knobs on the tyres centreline along with larger ‘trapezoidal’ knobs on the outer edge for improved grip. 

The GX up the off-road ante with a more aggressive tread pattern that comprises short centreline knobs for “speed” and chunkier outer knobs for control when cornering. It also uses a 170 TPI casing. While it’s impossible to report on Cadex’s ‘supple’ claims without riding the tyres the high TPI count does point to a potentially comfy ride. 

Cadex GX tyre tread pattern detail

(Image credit: Cadex)

Both tyres aim to deliver bead to bead puncture protection via the combination of Cadex’s Race Shield+ layer in the tyre’s centre and its X-shield technology on the sidewall. The result, it says, is “outstanding” protection against sharp objects and abrasive surfaces. The tyres, in that 40mm width, weigh 425g and 445g respectively.

It will be interesting to see if Cadex extends the gravel range beyond the single size offering. The current 700 x 40mm standard points to its ‘wheel system’ being primarily aimed at fast riding and racing rather than technical terrain or bikepacking trips, which could demand both a more aggressive tread pattern and increased width.

The Cadex AR 35 front wheel is priced at £1,099.99 /US$1,400 / 1,250 euros, while the rear wheel, available with Shimano, Campagnolo and SRAM XDR freehubs, is priced at £1,399.99 / US$1,600 / 1,500 euros.

Both the Cadex AR and GX tubeless tyres retail at £59.99 / US$85.00 / 67.50 euros

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Freelance writer

Luke Friend has worked as a writer, editor and copywriter for twenty five years. Across books, magazines and websites, he's covered a broad range of topics for a range of clients including Major League Baseball, the National Trust and the NHS. He has an MA in Professional Writing from Falmouth University and is a qualified bicycle mechanic. He has been a cycling enthusiast from an early age, partly due to watching the Tour de France on TV. He's a keen follower of bike racing to this day as well as a regular road and gravel rider.