Despite all the recent hubbub (sorry) about carbon-rim’d wheelsets, there are a number of companies who continue to push aluminum wheel technology and weight forward. And our wallets thank them. Take American Classic: still building on Bill Shook’s novel, lightweight, and virtually drag-free freehub, the company is putting out some impressive wheelsets using 32 standard J-bend spokes per wheel. How impressive? How do 1,319g (actual, with tape) and under $1,000 sound for a 28mm wide 26in wheelset sound? Too good to be true? Hit the jump to find out…
Though they may not get the trailhead love of their composite counterparts, the numbers above, along with literally dozens of options (including 26, 27, and 29in rims and considerable hub variations), make a compelling case for the flyweight Floridians. The new-for-2013 AC Coud Black graphics are a step forward for the company and their gold highlights work well with most forks and shocks on the market. The high-flanged pewter Disc 130 and Disc 225 hubs have a look all their own- somehow managing to look at once classic and modern.
Aside from three common mountain rim sizes, American Classic’s Race wheelsets are available with to suit the following hub standards:
- 100mm x 15mm Thru Axle Disc
- 100mm x 9mm Thru Axle Disc
- Lefty Disc 100mm (26in and 29er only)
- 135mm x 10mm Quick Release Disc
- 135 x 12mm Thru Axle Disc
- 142mm x 12mm Thru Axle Disc
Throw in the choice of standard Shimano/Sram cassette or XD drivers and you have over 50 potential combinations in the Race model alone. The wheels come out of the box taped and complete with the relevant quick release(s) and a pair of lightweight aluminum valve stems. American Classic’s proprietary bead seat makes inflating tubeless-ready tires easy and the rims’ 28mm outside / 24mm inside width adds a fair amount of girth to any tire- American Classic recommend saving a bit of weight by going down a size when coming from 19mm wide rims (though there’s nothing wrong with enjoying a bigger footprint with the same tires).
With a Specialized Ground Control 2.3 / Fast Trak 2.2 combination and XX1 cassette mounted, the Race 26 Tubelesses look like a lot of wheel. Which is no bad thing- riding in these parts includes large numbers of loose and sharp rocks and given the small weight difference between many brands’ 2.0s and 2.2s, a bit more protection for the lightweight rims isn’t a bad idea. When choosing tires, be sure to ensure that there is sufficient tread to protect the sidewalls when stretched across wide rims: we found that the additional width left Continental Race King and X-King 2.2s’ sidewalls exposed and quickly suffered sidewall cuts as a result.
Over the past four months, we have had zero problems with American Classic’s hubset- and come to love the freehub’s quiet purr and the wheels’ ability to just spin, spin, and spin in the workstand. The XX1-compatible XD driver hasn’t performed any differently than the standard model, which is to say solidly once engaged but with somewhat large (15°) gaps between the 24 points of engagement. While this can be felt from time to time at the cranks, on paper it’s just behind Stan’s 12°, on par with Hope, and better than DT’s standard 18°. The fact that all six pawls engage simultaneously does make for an extremely robust mechanism- one that we’ve run without issue for years on singlespeed mountain bikes.
On the bike, the American Classics’ lack of weight is obvious. They’re not all-mountain solid, but for their intended use they’re more than stiff enough. Even if it’s just psychological, the absence of mass makes long climbs easier and were noticeably quick to spin up on Southwest Colorado’s punchy, twisty 12 Hours of Mesa Verde course. That said, New Mexico’s rocks have taken their toll on the rear rim. Despite never cutting a tire at the bead, the beads have bent in a number of places under this (moderately aggressive) 140lb rider. To the rims’ credit, they have held the tire and air inside it without issue- but for riders in rocky areas–or those approaching the 220lb weight limit–longevity may be a concern. To address the issue, a mixed set using the 60g heavier MTB Tubeless rear wheel and MTB Race Tubeless front might not be a bad idea, still netting a sub-1,400g set.
The damage is hardly a fault of the wheels themselves- after all, they are explicitly a Race Tubeless wheelset- and only the most sadistic promoter would hold an event on our rock-strewn trails. But it is worth keeping in mind: as companies continue to push the limits of weight and performance, more attention should be paid to their products’ intended use. For racing? It’s awfully hard to find fault with the American Classics. The wide footprint, easy servicing, ready tubeless compatibility, and freakishly light weight tick all the right boxes. Though they aren’t a shortcut to a 24lb trail bike, they could play a big part in getting that race bike under the 20lb mark.