A classic is back — an American Classic, to be specific. The revered cycling company shuttered in 2018 after 35 years in the industry. But now American Classic returns with a brand refresh, and a new tire lineup that includes road and gravel rubber.
The road lineup includes the Timekeeper race tire and the Torchbearer fondo tire. The gravel range includes the Aggregate adventure tire, Kimberlite all-road tire, Udden mud-shedding tire, and the versatile Wentworth tire designed for all-road, race, and adventure.
And wait until you see the pricing…
The American Classic compounds
The gravel tires in the American Classic lineup are built with the Rubberforce G compound. The carbon black additive makes these tires abrasion-resistant. They’re also resistant to tears and cuts, according to American Classic.
Carbon black is essentially a filler in the compound that has a high surface area to volume ratio. It’s strong and improves a tire’s tensile strength, which means you’re likely to get more life out of your tire.
On top of all that, each gravel tire comes with Stage 5S Flat Protection. That’s a full-ply layer within the tire construction to offer as much puncture resistance as possible.
On the road side, the Timekeeper and Torchbearer tires are built with a Rubberforce S compound. American Classic doesn’t offer a ton of insight as to what goes in this compound. But the company says it is “The fastest compound synthesized for maximum speed and grip for road racing.”
The Timekeeper comes in both a tube-type and tubeless version. It also comes in either 25mm or 28mm sizes. The Torchbearer also comes in both a tube-type and tubeless version. It comes in 25mm, 28mm, and 32mm size options.
And finally, the Lamplighter city tire gets the Rubberforce R compound. It is “optimized for its grip and rolling efficiency with maximum puncture resistance and tread life.” You’ll see these on commuter bikes and e-bikes where puncture resistance is paramount, but weight is less of an overall consideration.
Road Hazard Replacement Policy
All American Classic tires feature the Road Hazard Replacement Policy. This gives you 50% off retail price should you need a replacement tire after tearing or puncturing your tire. You’ll need to register your tires to be eligible for the program.
Nuts and bolts
Since American Classic is now run under new ownership, it should come as no surprise that the company enters the market with a strategy to upend and compete. One look at the pricing makes that abundantly clear.
Tube-type tires will retail for just $30, while tubeless tires in the American Classic lineup cost just $35. If the quality of the tires lives up to current standards, the pricing will make American Classic an instant contender.
The American Classic tires will only be available in the USA at launch. The company has landed on a direct-to-consumer model, which means you can buy them through the Amazon marketplace or through AmClassic.com.
How exactly does American Classic keep the price of its tires so low? It’s largely the result of in-house manufacturing. The tires are handmade in American Classic’s facilities, which allows the company to control all aspects of manufacturing. On top of that, the direct-to-consumer model cuts out middlemen so consumers end up with the best pricing possible.
American Classic Torchbearer first ride
I have spent a good bit of time on the road now with the Torchbearer tubeless tires, which are designed for long days in the saddle and everyday riding and training. A quick squeeze with your fingers indicates how burly these tires are constructed. It made me wonder if that was at the expense of ride quality. It certainly doesn’t feel like the suppleness you can get from a cotton casing race tire. Then again, that’s not what this tire is designed for.
Still, where is the line between durability and ride quality? You need to make that decision yourself. For me, I’d rather sacrifice plenty of that suppleness if I don’t have to change flats on the side of the road. That’s the case for, say, 90% of the road riding I do, which is on rugged pavement with plenty of shattered glass to weave around. For racing and for super long days in the saddle, however, ride quality tends to matter a whole lot more for me.
Fortunately, I tested the Torchbearer tubeless tires on my Merlin Extralight Disc titanium road bike, which offers more than enough compliance regardless of tire choice. Indeed, out on the road the Torchbearer tubeless tires felt less supple than the Cadex Classics tires I had been riding previously. Yet the Torchbearers also offered a bit more suppleness than I was expecting. Dream ride? No, of course not, but that’s not what these tires advertise, either.
The Torchbearers roll quite fast. I imagine that flat center tread has a lot to do with that. They complemented my fast-rolling Hunt 44 UD Carbon disc wheels nicely, and the combo was easy to spin up and keep my speed.
I was pleasantly surprised at how well the Torchbearers corner. Boy, they sure are sticky when you roll off that center tread and onto the sides of the tire. The sidewall supports the whole works quite nicely, and the cornering tread bites into pavement well, particularly at high speeds through flat corners (think office park crits here). It became something of a game for me to see how fast I could dive into a certain corner without feeling like the tire was about to give up my grip entirely. That game went on for a long time, and I still have all of my skin.
I tested the 28mm tires. According to my digital calipers, the actual width was 26mm. That of course depends on what rim you end up using, but I will say these looked and felt a touch narrow, especially when I compare them to the Cadex Classics tires I had on before them.
But ultimately, I quite like these tires. More so than I thought I would, in fact. If the ruggedness and durability claims stack up in the long term, the Torchbearers are certainly a top choice for training or everyday riding. They aren’t the most supple tire out there, but neither are they unforgiving or unduly harsh. They hit a nice middle ground here, while offering other benefits — particularly some stellar cornering.
Keep an eye out for my thoughts on American Classic’s gravel tires in the coming weeks.