The CADEX 50 Ultra Disc is faster than a 65mm wheelset and one of the lightest wheelsets available today. They cost more than the competition but it makes sense in context. These aren’t in everyone’s budget but there’s no question they follow through on the promises made.
Freehub pulls free and is simple to service or swap
Lighter than most climbing wheels
Stiff and responsive
Beautiful carbon layup
No risk of damaging the branding when mounting tyres
22.4mm wide internally
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If you are looking for one of the best road bike wheels available there is always going to be a push-pull with weight vs aero. Making a wheel deeper means making it heavier and you have to decide if you are going to buy into the idea that an aero wheel is faster at the end of a ride even if it’s not faster up a steep climb. For some people the calculation is that they’d rather choose one of the best lightweight wheels even if it’s a little slower. Cadex has a different calculation though.
What if you didn’t have to choose between aero and lightweight? The latest Cadex 50 Ultra Disc wheelset is lighter than anything on our lightweight wheels list but it’s still 50mm deep and aerodynamically fast. Is it too good to be true? Keep reading to find out. We put the wheels to the test riding hundreds of miles over all kinds of routes and we are ready to talk about what we enjoyed and what they are like to ride. If you are looking for a wheel that breaks boundaries and does it all, these are worth checking out.
Design and aesthetics
It’s easy to jump into the aesthetics of the Cadex 50 Ultra wheels. Simply put, in my opinion, they are some of the best-looking wheels on the market. On either side of the wheels, you can find a simple gel coat with a Cadex wordmark. In between these, there's a smaller set of perpendicular designs that also sit opposite each other. At the valve stem is a logo that’s black and proudly states the 50mm depth as well as the status of the 'hookless' bead. On the opposite side is a shiny wordmark that says 'Cadex Ultra' with a pair of lines to give it space among the slab of carbon it inhabits.
That carbon is the real story. The dominant visual is the carbon construction and there's no obvious finish, gloss or matte, that sits on top. By itself, using a raw carbon fibre finish to a set of wheels isn't completely unique. There are other brands that do it but somehow, this is different. The look is attention-grabbing without the need to be flashy. It catches the light and you can almost see the directionality of the layup. The effect is a depth that's well beyond what is normal for raw carbon and it's mesmerising.
Seeing that raw carbon also gives a subtle window into what’s below. Unseen beyond the final layer of carbon is the promise of speed from aerodynamics. If you are familiar with the market segment, you'll know this isn't unusual at all. Each brand claims superior aerodynamics and Cadex is no different. There are charts and graphs that make claims but what's different is the content of the Cadex claims. Rather than any vague description of time saved over an unknown course, Cadex walks us through the process of testing.
The goal is a wheel that cuts through the air and Cadex is smart to talk about that goal in the context of the whole system. To prove the point, the Cadex 50 Ultra wheelset has gone through a series of four tests that work to isolate the contribution of the design one piece at a time. Coming to market along with the new wheels is an addition to the Cadex lineup of tyres, this time with an aero-specific focus and a 25mm width. You can dive into the specific numbers but the overview is that through the tests, the brand swaps out leading wheels and tyres as well as leading frames.
In every test thrown at the Cadex 50 Ultra, both with and without the new aero tyres, they come out on top. As you dive into the charts deeper and scrutinise the numbers, you'll see that in some cases the advantage is very small. There are other fast wheels and tyres available and the results align with what we found in our own wind tunnel testing. In the case of one of those fast wheels, the DT Swiss Arc 1100, the difference is only .61 watts. It highlights just how good the options out there are but a win is a win and, at least in these tests, Cadex wins the day.
Finding those small efficiency gains is hard fought at this level and for Cadex, they've come from design changes to the hub, the spokes, and the shape of the tyre. Visually, the aero shaping of the hubs and the slightly taller hookless bead, which makes for a more aerodynamic tyre profile, aren't particularly noticeable. The hub internals haven't changed radically either. As it was before, it's a ratchet-style hub with 40-tooth engagement that requires no tools to change the freehub.
The piece that's a lot more visually striking is the spokes. The Cadex 65 wheels were the first product in the brand lineup and they also used a carbon spoke. At the time it was a polarising feature as the carbon spokes paired with the Cadex "Custom-tuned Dynamic Balanced Lacing technology" makes for a very stiff wheel if you don't also make use of the 22.4mm internal width to run lower tyre pressure. That strength and stiffness continues to be a feature but the new "Super Aero carbon spokes" have seen their profile flattened all the way out to 5.2mm wide for better aero performance. If you've never thought spokes could be flashy, you haven't seen these.
Beyond the aero performance of the flashy spokes, there is another important aspect to the stiffness they bring. The Cadex 50 Ultra has a claimed weight of 1,349 grams and we weighed them at 1,316 grams ready to mount a tyre. To be clear, that's 1,316 grams with rim tape, tubeless valves, and a SRAM XDR freehub. In the world of 50mm wheels, that's essentially unheard of. The list of options to match the aerodynamic performance with that weight is very small and very exotic and it's the design of the spokes that brings it all together. They have the stiffness to make an ultralight wheel rideable while also contributing to the low weight and being a big factor in the aerodynamic performance.
When I put together my comparison of Enve vs Cadex vs Roval, covering the personality of the three big wheel releases this year, I dubbed the Cadex 50 Ultra the efficiency monster. The truth is, that's only half the story. There's no doubt that Cadex has produced an efficient wheel. The Cadex 50 Ultra is aerodynamically faster than its deeper 65mm wheel. It's also so light that it's within a few grams of its 36mm offering. In the context of the Roval and the Enve wheels, these are the efficiency kings.
You can also follow that line into the performance of the wheels. Sit down and look through a list of modern climbing-specific wheels and the Cadex 50 Ultra is lighter than many of them. As mentioned above, they bring that light weight to the table with exceptional stiffness as well. When you want to climb these wheels are a willing partner. They amplify the personality of any stiff and light bike frame and they never ask you to choose a different wheel if you are looking for light and responsive.
On the other hand, Cadex is a brand with an eye on triathlon too. When it's time to get in an aero position and pass the miles focused on holding your position and pedalling, these wheels are still a willing partner. There are wheels, like Hunt, with a rounder profile but despite the somewhat narrow profile (for a modern deep wheel) here, I have yet to encounter a scary situation with crosswinds. They feel stable in those situations and they let you focus on going forward as fast as possible.
As with other Cadex wheels, the 22.4mm internal width helps with both of those situations. Widening the base of the tyre helps it flow better into the rest of the wheel, for better aero performance, but it also makes for a rounder profile that's more stable. Descending stability is a big advantage to all the Cadex wheels and that hasn't changed. Enve has one-upped Cadex with an even wider 25mm internal but Cadex has made its own subtle changes with the increased bead width. I can't put my finger on any of those design details during the ride but these are high-volume wheels with a comfortable, stable, ride. They do well descending, they do well in crosswinds, and as someone who likes to feel in control of the bike, I appreciate it.
Beyond all of that efficiency though, there's another layer to riding with the Cadex 50 Ultra disc: these are flashy, look at me, wheels. They don't come packaged in brown cardboard but rather black boxes with Cadex branding. When opened up, they don't ask you to wipe them down and apply tubeless tape but instead have high-quality Giant tubeless tape that's glossy and partially see-through. Even the rim tape looks good and if you ever decide to store the wheels, the wheel bags look good as well. On the bike, the aesthetic depth of the carbon is something I find myself looking at regularly. As the bike hangs on the wall and the light changes, there's always a new detail to find.
When it's time to actually ride the Cadex 50 Ultra wheels, the experience isn't any less flashy. If anyone takes a look at the wheels they will notice the spokes. It's impossible not to just like it's impossible not to notice the freehub. I have yet to find a freehub that's louder than Cadex and the latest version is no different. Come up behind someone and coast for a moment, they will know you are there. I don't mind being a bit flashy on the bike, just make sure you feel the same way.
Cadex wheels have always been among my favourites and each time the brand releases a new option in its lineup, it builds on past success. As the Cadex engineers and designers get better at producing a signature style of wheel, the experience gets better. For all but the most specialised of needs, the Cadex 50 Ultra is the best wheel the brand makes and one of the best wheels on the market.
If you are cross-shopping, contemporaries are hard to come by. Lightweight has the Obermayer EVO with a depth of 48mm and a claimed weight of 1230 grams, and Zipp has the 353 NSW, at an undulating 42-45mm depth at 1255g. Although both are lighter, they're also a slightly shallower, so the Cadex might actually be at parity given the greater depth. Don't forget though, that those Lightweight wheels cost more than double the price. Another option that might be worth considering is Five from Black Inc. As a five-spoke wheel, it's drastically different but it's an aero wheel with a similar weight and if you like flashy, it fits the bill.
We also compared the Cadex 50 Ultra to the Roval Rapide CLX II and the Enve SES 4.5 but the truth is those wheels don't directly compare. The reason they don't quite compare is the only real negative to the Cadex 50 Ultra, at £2649.98 / $3500.00, they are expensive.
The price for performance makes sense but it's still a lot of cash.
|Ride quality||Use the right tyre pressure and these are a joy.||9/10|
|Stiffness||Stiff wheels aren’t always the best and these lose just a little in ride quality because of it. What you won’t find here is any kind of unwanted flex.||10/10|
|Aesthetics||Beautiful wheels that are a pleasure to look at.||10/10|
|Tubeless Compatibility||Easy to mount tyres and there’s no risk of damaging a sticker struggling to get a tyre on.||10/10|
|Hubs||I’ve taken Cadex hubs apart a lot of times and never once damaged anything. They are easy to work on and haven’t failed me yet. They lose just a bit of score because while I love the sound, not everyone else will.||9/10|
|Value||Price for performance is right where it should be. You could even compare them to Lightweight and call them a value but these are expensive wheels and you can get most of the performance for less money.||6/10|
|Overall||Row 6 - Cell 1||90%|
Tech Specs: Cadex 50 Ultra Disc
- Price: £2649.98 / $3500.00
- Rim Dimensions: 50mm deep, 22.4mm internal width, 30mm external width
- Weight: 1316g wheelset weight as measured with rim tape, valves, and XDR freehub
- Hubs: Cadex R3-C40 Aero Hub, centre lock disc only with ceramic bearings
- Spokes: Cadex Super Aero Carbon
- Tubeless Ready
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