Backed by Giant Bicycles, CADEX has emerged as a bleeding-edge component manufacturer taking aim at top brands like Zipp and ENVE. Currently, CADEX offers wheels, handlebars, tires and saddles at the very highest end of the market. With the popularity of gravel, they not only have some of the lightest gravel wheels on the market, but also the lightest gravel bar on the market. I’ve been testing the new CADEX AR All-road handlebar and it makes for an impressive cockpit for modern road and gravel bikes.
CADEX AR All-road/Gravel Handlebar Features:
- Drops feature 8-degree flare and 3-degree outsweep for added control
- Extended 40mm tails on the drops for more hand placements
- 3-degree backsweep in toe tops for balance and comfort
- A 70mm reach and shallow 115mm drop is on par with modern bar shapes
- One-piece, no-bond manufacturing process reduces weight and increases strength and stiffness
- Precision carbon fiber layup provides added strength at minimal weight
- Compatible with Shimano Di2 Bar End Type Junction (EW-RS 910)
- Weight: 195 grams (44cm, actual)
- MSRP: $370
Light, responsive and comfortable — everywhere
When shopping for a handlebar as an upgrade or part of a new build, it pays to know what you like or don’t like about the myriad of options available. And, when it comes to gravel shapes, the variety of flare options can seem overwhelming. Without question, you can go with wild amounts of flare in your next gravel bar, but going to the extreme isn’t for everyone. With that, CADEX has added some modern twists to a great compact bar design that provides added comfort and control over varied terrain.
The installation process is pretty straightforward with the SRAM Red AXS groupset. Should you be running Shimano Di2 or Campagnolo EPS, the port holes facilitate the install process. You’ll notice quickly that the CADEX AR bars don’t have any cable grooves, nor do they have the ability to route cables internally. Because of that, it did take me a little longer to finalize cable routing. In fact, since the bars arrived in January, I installed them on the Open UPPER aboard the smart trainer. With that, I was able to fine-tune the fit and hood placement before finalizing the bar tape. I would recommend that 10/10, where possible since it’s no big deal to be missing bar tape indoors.
When all was said and done, I loved the shape and feel of the bars. There are several great things about the shape of the CADEX AR’s, but I’ll start with the taper/bump as they transition to the hoods. It’s subtle and you may not notice it, but that little bump makes for a seamless hood transition. With it, the hood covers sit perfectly in line with the tape for one of the smoothest feels I’ve experienced. The rubber hoods transition perfectly to the tops.
Additionally, the backsweep of the tops is absolutely killer. It’s only 3-degrees, but that little bit makes for added comfort when you’re hanging out on the tops. Not many bars have backsweep on the tops, but those that do, always win me over. I still don’t understand bars with forward sweep, but that’s a discussion for later. Still, I think the ultimate shape would be backsweep, ovalized tops and cable grooves. With the CADEX AR, you only get one of those three — backsweep.
The tops are completely round to make for the simplest and strongest carbon layup. Cable grooves add weight and complexity, as do ovalized shapes. Internal routing on an aftermarket bar always feels odd, so I’m thankful that wasn’t built on these bars. The continuous 31.8mm diameter feels huge, and, in reality, the bump of the brake lines provides a little extra ledge for my fingers to use for leverage. If you prefer not to feel the brake lines, they could be positioned a little further backward. (Maybe I’ll test that out the next time I re-tape the bars.) All that said, I’d prefer cable grooves, even if it added 15-20 grams.
Road and gravel testing
Initial testing started out on the road, until the gravel routes dried out. On the road, these bars just feel like a great set of drop bars. A little added flare is about all you’re notice compared to a good set of road-specific bars. In all honesty, this is the proper shape that everyone should be riding for road or gravel anyway. Very few of us are lining up at the local crits and banging elbows around corners, so a little added width and flare is truly desirable.
I can easily dance around these bars to find a comfortable hand position. And, as mentioned, the transition from tops to hoods is about as smooth as you’ll find. That short reach makes for little effort to do so. And, with short, 115mm drops, you can head on into an efficient position with ease. Standing and climbing resulted in instant response. Likewise, sprinting efforts yielded zero noticeable flex on the tops or drops.
Rolling through rough pavement, the CADEX AR bars offer the perfect balance of road feel and chatter reduction. No question, they are flexing to absorb some of the impact, but you don’t feel the bars flexing underneath the load. On long, mountainous descents, my hands are comfortable and I thoroughly enjoyed dancing down the 3000 ft. descent from the top of the Alpine Loop.
Now, onto gravel. The aforementioned road performance translates perfectly to gravel and singletrack. Normally, a lightweight bar means higher-modulus carbon fiber and a stiff, uncomfortable ride feel. Somehow CADEX has been able to deliver both light weight and superb ride feel. Gravel chatter is significantly reduced, thus allowing you to focus on the terrain ahead. It doesn’t matter whether you are riding on the tops, hoods or drops, I’m getting pinpoint handling, chatter reduction and comfort.
The touch of flare does offer added control in the drops. This is particularly nice when descending singletrack where you not only need precise handling, but you also need the most powerful braking position. As an added bonus, that flare also adds wrist clearance when you do stand and sprint from the drops. As mentioned, I do prefer ovalized tops for added comfort, but these oversized tops have performed nicely. I feel like my palms can maintain solid contact with the bars — even though they are round.
- Single-piece construction shows what’s possible with carbon bars
- Perfectly-balanced road feel and chatter reduction
- Smooth transition from tops to hoods
- Added flare is just right for road, gravel and particularly singletrack
- Shape makes for easy computer and light mounting
- Short reach and shallow drop is the way to go
- Backsweep on the tops is sublime
- Accommodates electronic shifting
- I’d trade 10-20 grams for cable grooves
- I still prefer ovalized tops
The Bottom Line: CADEX AR All-road/Gravel Bars
Shooting straight, these are simply a great set of all-road bars for modern road and gravel riding. The carbon layup is lightweight, yet still comfortable and responsive. Kudos to CADEX engineers for finding just the right balance there. With a compact shape, it’s easy to find the proper fit and to dance around these bars as needed. Honestly, these are cable grooves shy of perfection.
Buy Now: Visit Cadex-Cycling.com