The Rhythm Goes Round: Caden Wheel Review

The Rhythm Goes Round: Caden Wheel Review

In this internet age, it is often hard to support The Little Guy. However, when The Little Guy is doing some impressive things that should make the bigger industry giants sit up and take notice it makes them much easier to get behind.

When I first heard about Caden wheels I couldn’t help thinking they were simply another ‘brand’ buying catalog parts and claiming the design as their own.  Soon after, I got chatting to Ben Cawood – owner, designer, sales, marketing, chief (and only) wheel builder and tea boy at Caden; and not a ‘little guy’ at all – and I quickly realized this absolutely was not the case.

Ben offered up a wheelset that we featured on my own Lyrebird build and our Parlee Altum review bike; and his passion in explaining his approach, design intent, and future plans when we collected them was palpable.

The Rhythm Goes Round: Caden Wheel Review

Caden rims are produced to Ben’s own design at a factory in Taiwan. Such is his dedication to getting the design right, Ben – a Sydney local – regularly flies over to the factory to work with them on refinements, to the point of being able to lighten his high-end deCADENce clincher 38mm rim enough to get the wheelset weight to 1285g (with his own-brand hubs) following his most recent visit. The reviewed CADEN spec wheelset weight comes in at 1445g, which is still very respectable.

The Rhythm Goes Round: Caden Wheel Review

It’s not just about getting the rim weight down, though. Ben’s carbon fiber experience ensures he is able to work with the factory in the layup of the carbon and the types of carbon used, and his background in hydro dynamics from boat building and wakeboards directly translates into a solid understanding of the aerodynamics of his wheels.

Given that he puts his wheels under some top tier triathletes, this is an important consideration. On top of that, his wheels have passed the strict testing protocols imposed by the UCI, making them approved for use in UCI-sanctioned races.

The Rhythm Goes Round: Caden Wheel Review

The Caden hubs are machined to exacting specifications and ultra-fine tolerances – again, to Ben’s own design – in Germany for the deCADENce level hubs and in Taiwan for the CADEN level hubs.

Everything about their design is centred around wide bracing angles and low bearing resistance; even to the point where you might feel some bearing play in the hub before the quick release is clamped down – something Ben purposely designs into the hubs as he feels that quick release clamping forces affect bearing resistance too much on other wheels.

The Rhythm Goes Round: Caden Wheel Review

Caden wheels utilize a two-to-one lacing pattern on the rear wheel known as triplet lacing – which noticeably reduces deflection. It is an approach adopted by Campagnolo and Fulcrum and, more recently, Shimano and Roval, but one which Ben wholeheartedly attributes to Henry Ford – so much so that he purchased a Model A Ford wheel from 1926 to create a video for the Caden YouTube channel explaining the benefits of the approach.

Unfortunately, for anyone liking what they’re reading about Caden here and contemplating getting their hubs built into Caden rims or getting their current rims built with a set of the Caden hubs, the 21 spoke triplet lacing pattern will most likely void those options for you.

The Rhythm Goes Round: Caden Wheel Review

Ben builds with Sapim CX Ray spokes and nipples, ensuring that each is injected with a galvanic corrosion inhibitor. This is a time-consuming extra detail, but one which helps prevent seized nipples – a very common problem with carbon wheels.

Caden wheels are also supplied with a lead balance weight opposite the valve to eliminate the gyroscopic effect of the valve weight. This small addition has a surprising effect, smoothing the feel of the wheel in turns particularly.

The Rhythm Goes Round: Caden Wheel Review

Riding the Caden wheels is uneventful – which sounds bad, but is actually exactly the kind of experience that every good wheel at this kind of depth should exhibit. They roll beautifully, show no signs of flex or instability, handle crosswinds without issue and are stiff without being too harsh. Without carrying out detailed scientific tests, anything else is subjective and, as I tend to run tubulars on narrower rims, would not be a true or fair comparison.

Ben’s approach to the bearing efficiency does seem to translate into a more free-rolling wheel on the road but, even if that is marginal or subjective in terms of actual road feel, it will carry benefits with regard to bearing life and maintenance. Someone looking for a bigger aero benefit will probably look towards the deeper 49mm rims, but the 38mm rim offers an aero profile at a lower weight and more versatile rim depth.

The Rhythm Goes Round: Caden Wheel Review

Importantly, as a renowned area of concern with carbon clincher wheels, the Cadens exhibit incredible braking performance which is as good as any aluminium rim I have used (barring Mavic Exalith), be that in the wet or dry. The brake track is smooth and true, resulting in zero pulsing or grabbing – even after the rims and pads have heated up (which is typically when brakes do grab on carbon rims).

The grip and modulation from the rim and brake pad combination are such that there is never anything but total confidence under braking, and I would go as far as to say this is the best braking carbon rim I have used. The braking is so good that, as someone who openly admits to not being a confident descender (and usually only rides tubular wheels), this is the first time I have not worried about being on carbon clinchers whilst descending.

The Rhythm Goes Round: Caden Wheel Review

The wheels are supplied with 54g titanium skewers, carbon-specific brake pads and a 10spd spacer for the rear cassette. With easy tire installation, zero valve rattle and subtle screen-printed graphics to round out the package, there is a whole lot here to love and not a lot to dislike; and all in a great value package. In fact, I’m going to stick it out there: These are the best carbon clinchers I have ridden. Yes, really.

The Rhythm Goes Round: Caden Wheel Review

For those of a Tri or TT persuasion, it will interest you to note that Ben is currently finalizing the prototyping of his new 860gram carbon TT disc wheel – examples of which placed 2nd and 4th at the Sydney IronMan in 2016.

He uses a unique construction method that creates more lateral bracing stiffness (which is a problem for flat discs) while keeping the sides flush for maximum aero advantage; and a clean rim-tyre interface which helps reduce drag. The weight rivals the very best and most expensive disc wheels on the market at a fraction of the cost.

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The Rhythm Goes Round: Caden Wheel Review