AMERICAN CLASSIC Tubeless Race 29″er 29“er Wheels – First Impressions: by c_g
Recently we have introduced to you the new AMERICAN CLASSIC Race 29″er Tubeless wheels, which we received for long term testing. To revisit all the specs, weights and details, go here.
Somehow these wheels are capable of transforming a bike. They turned my CUBE Stereo SHPC test bike, which by design is a true AM/trail bike, into a endurance/marathon race bike. Thus proving me right when I made that claim earlier in the bike´s review (here). These wheels rightfully carry the „Race“ name, simply because they make accelerating sooo much fun. Getting out of the saddle virtually catapults the bike ahead underneath you and in this configuration I turned to the granny gear a lot less than before. (This was even before I turned the CUBE Stereo into a 1×10 steed for testing the SRAM Type 2´derailleur ).
Once again it came as a positive surprise how much more fun light wheels can be – but this only holds true if the wheels are stiff stand up against long term use. It is much too early to talk about long term durability and it will take a few months of good riding before I can make a well funded assessment in this department, but in terms of stiffness and precision I have very little to complain about with the AC Race wheels. They sure don´t seem overly soft or flexible. By first impressions I´d say they are right in the ballpark with other lightweight wheels. So far I cannot see any detrimental effect in that department from the radical diet of these wheels. The only thing I noticed riding was that when hitting obstacles like rain rutts or roots at an off angle, the rear wheel skipped more often than with others I had recently ridden. I am not sure if this really is a wheel or a tire issue but I will keep an eye on it. More riding and testing will tell.
So let´s dive into tubeless characteristics on those 320 g (claimed) rims by AMERICAN CLASSIC. I have mentioned before that with its 24 mm inner width they are somehow similar to AC´s All Mountain 29″er wheels – reviewed here. Bill Shook was kind enough to point out that while sharing similarities, the RACE wheels are a completely different design – from extrusion, to wall thickness, to the lower and more rounded bead hook, all the way down to spoke selection and spoke tension. Still when it comes to tubeless characteristics the Race wheels and the All Mountain wheels are actually pretty close relatives. On both it is possible to mount even the tightest tires by hand. It took some hand strength to get the WTB TCS and GEAX TNT tubeless ready tire samples mounted, but nothing that required a lever. All other tires virtually jumped on the Race wheels by themselves :). (Note: AMERICAN CLASSIC themselves don´t recommend to run UST-tubeless or UST conforming tubeless ready tires on the Race wheels, because the tire´s bead or rim´s bead hook may be damaged when forcing the tire onto the rim with a lever. So stay away from such tools and when running into an incompatible combination – rather turn to another tire. In our case we never needed to resort to mounting tools on any tire, but your experience may differ.)
As expected, the tight GEAX and WTB tubeless ready tires aired up the easiest but required really high pressures (higher than 3.5 bar) to push those beads over the bead hook and get them properly locked. Obviously those bead shelves are designed to safely work in tubeless configuration even with the more loosely fitting tires – much like the designs by NOTUBES or BOR. An interesting thing has been to see that the almost square shaped cross section of the GEAX TNT bead would make that loud „banging“ sound when settling on the rims´ shelves, but frequently would drop back down into the central channel when being deflated – I suppose the lower and well rounded rim hook is not compatible with GEAX´s special bead shape, but then again such tires are not recommended for these wheels anyway :). All other tires I usually use for tubeless testing (SCHWALBE Hans Dampf Evo, CONTINENTAL Mountain King II Protection, Hutchinson Toro TLR) mounted really nicely, once locked stayed in place really well and as such seem to be fully recommendable for tubeless applications. Curiously we were not able to inflate any of these tires with a floor pump but needed a strong burst of air from either a CO2 cartridge or a air compressor to initially inflate.
After my initial testing I am somewhat torn what to think about the special alloy AMERICAN CLASSIC tubeless valves. No doubt – they are light at about 6 g each, they look great with their deep red anodizing and have no weakness in terms of sealing the rims airtight. They even assist mounting tighter tires, because they protrude only minimally on the inside of the rim, but the flat design has a weak spot. It does not force the tire bead apart, like other valve designs. More than once we had air escape underneath the bead to the sides when we hadn’t made sure the beads were 100% outside the valve. No big deal, but in tubeless conversion with so many things that need to work together to get it right, I´d rather see a more pronounced protrusion. My opinion only.
I will get into this in more depth when bringing the final verdict of the WTB Moto 1.9 TCS tires soon, but I can already see one case where the exceptionally wide design of the Race rims (24 mm inside width) does benefit the tire´s performance big time – more volume, better support and consequently lower pressures, more traction and better comfort all benefit the riding experience big time. But again – more on that later.
Summary: So far I see my high expectations I had when the AMERICAN CLASSIC RACE 29″er tubeless wheels came in the test fully met. They really tempt a rider into lightweight euphoria and acceleration heaven … and seemingly without any real weaknesses in stiffness or precision (so far :)). The extra width of the rims comes as an added bonus.
All in all I am lead to reconsider whether carbon really is necessary to make strong and light wheels :). We will keep on riding the AMERICAN CLASSIC Race tubeless wheels with to check their long term durability and get more into their character, plus try them with a few different tires too.