BRUSSELS, Belgium (VN) — Last year, Team Sunweb riders started riding wheels emblazoned with the hashtag #Overachieve; Team CCC has done the same this season. And it was widely assumed that the hashtag indicated a brand of new, top-secret products from global bicycle manufacturer Giant. Some went as far as to assume Giant planned to eventually launch the ‘Overachieve’ label for a new brand of components and wheels.
That was a good guess. But the hashtag was a misdirection. This week Giant launched the new brand of products in advance of the Tour de France’s start in Belgium, and the brand name has a historical tie to Giant’s past. The new brand is called Cadex — yep, the same name that was emblazoned on Giant’s line of carbon-fiber racing bicycles back in the early 1990s. Cadex has been reborn, according to An Le, Giant’s global marketing director.
“The Cadex journey started four years ago, but it really started well before that,” Le said.
Le proudly displayed a photo of Robbie McEwen riding a Cadex carbon frame in the early 1990s. Back then, Giant used the Cadex branding to indicate a “moonshot,” as Le called it: an ambitious product that went well beyond what was commercially available at the time.
Carbon frames were rare then, and that became the impetus for Giant’s exploration into the material. Now Giant is inarguably the biggest name in carbon bicycle manufacturing.
In that spirit, the rebirth of Cadex includes an ambitious lineup of products, including 10 new wheelsets, a suite of tools to service them, a saddle, and tires. Up until now, those components bore the #Overachieve hashtag as they were ride-tested by the pros.
The wheel range includes the Cadex 42, Cadex 65, and the Cadex Aero wheels (intended for time trial bikes). The 42 and 65 wheels will be available in both rim and disc versions, and in tubular and tubeless versions. The tubeless wheels feature a hookless bead system, and the wheels are designed to work with the new Cadex tires.
Giant representatives said you can use other tires, but the system works best with the Cadex tires because they were designed specifically for the rims. This creates the most seamless mating, which lends the most optimal shape to the tire/rim combo.
Race Tubeless tires are available in 23mm, 25mm, and 28mm options. Cadex doesn’t make the tires in-house, but they are designed by Cadex engineers and built to those specs. Cadex calls it a single-layer, silica-based tire with Race Shield kevlar material for puncture resistance.
Cadex certainly focused its main design goals on aerodynamics, but Cadex representatives stressed it was equally vital to create wheels that cut down on weight without sacrificing those aero goals. The Cadex 42 wheels weigh in at 1,265 grams for the tubeless pair and 1,163 grams for the tubular pair, while the Cadex 65 wheels weigh 1,327 grams in the tubeless variant and 1,242 grams for tubulars.
The TT wheels look like your standard time trial fare, with a big disc rear wheel and a bladed front wheel. But Cadex takes it all a step further: The front 4-Spoke Aero wheel features a four-spoke design, and the spokes themselves feature a unique aerodynamic shape.
“We went through twenty or thirty different blade shapes,” said Jeff Schneider, Cadex’s head of product and marketing. “We’re all getting really good at aerodynamics,” he said, referring to brands across the board, “and it’s a +/-1 watt difference in the wind tunnel. By wind tunnel standards, that means the wheels are equal. So what do we do?”
That answer was to differentiate themselves through design. So Cadex sought a wheel design that was aerodynamically optimized at a wider yaw range — namely, from 0 degrees to 30 degrees. Not only did they accomplish that, they also found a way to translate the advances to the other wheels in the lineup.
The spokes on the 42 and 65 wheels are directional to shave off just a bit more drag from the overall system, and they mimic the shape of the blades on the four-spoke TT wheel.
And instead of a more traditional, flat profile on the rear disc, Cadex’s Aero Disc wheel features one flat side on the driveside, and one arced face on the non-drive side. This, according to Cadex representatives, creates the most aerodynamic wheel possible. But perhaps more notably, the tubeless version weighs just 1,180 grams, while the tubular version weighs only 1,000 grams.
The TT wheels cost $2,000 per wheel, while the road wheels cost around $3,000 per pair. These are marquee products, according to Cadex representatives, and they are intended for the highest ranks of riders.
The Cadex saddle adopts the increasingly popular snub-nose trend (Cadex calls the trend ‘Boost,’ hence the saddle’s name, Cadex Boost saddle). The saddle’s length is shortened, while its width is usually extended. This creates a smaller but stable platform that promotes a more consistent, planted body position.
But the real magic is in the rails: The carbon rails extend all the way to the back edge of the saddle, which essentially increases the ‘hammock’ effect that allows the seat to flex. That means more vibration absorption and thus, more comfort. The rail placement also helps eliminate common pressure points, according to Cadex.
At 138 grams, it’s certainly feathery, too. It will run approximately $300, which is competitive with other high-end lightweight saddles. At the moment, there’s only one saddle shape. But designers are exploring other saddle shapes that should be available in the near future.
It’s fair to shrug this off as yet another brand trying to take its components in-house to get a bigger slice of the pie. But such a move also comes with phenomenal cost to the company, and plenty of risk to boot. So, why launch the new brand, given the risk?
For starters, the move allows Giant to control more parameters of its bicycle designs. Giant has long positioned itself as the go-to source for carbon fiber frames, and with manufacturing infrastructure already in place, the addition of component manufacturing seems natural.
Yet Giant has also made a point to keep the Cadex brand separate from Giant itself. They are two brands under the same umbrella, but Cadex has its own engineers and designers. This makes sense when you consider appeal to customers who don’t ride Giant bicycles.
To you, the consumer, there’s probably not a whole lot to get excited about, unless you consider quality. Certainly it’s no guarantee, but Giant is hedging its bets that it can produce exceptional-quality carbon components thanks to its existing infrastructure and production capabilities. In other words, consistency is key. We won’t know for a few years yet, but this is a good test to see if all of Giant’s experience in the carbon frame arena translates to high-quality componentry.
Cadex certainly seems ready and willing to stand by its products just in case. The brand has created tools to service its hubs, for example. And the products come with a 2-year warranty, as well as a 5-year incident replacement program. That’s good peace of mind for your pocketbook, given the high price tag of these WorldTour level components.