AMERICAN CLASSIC Wide Lightning 29″er wheels – Final Review by c_g
It is well over 4 months now that Grannygear and I have been riding the AMERICAN CLASSIC Wide Lightning wheels – wheels some of you have commented as „too good to be true“. Let’s see if they are … shall we?
But before stepping into what I have to say, here is a brief compilation of the articles we have in this review series so far: The Out Of the Box / Intro with all the details, weights and specs, the First Ride Impressions by me with their performance in combination with trail tires and the Mid Term Report by Grannygear on what he experienced with narrower tires and low pressures.
Similar to what Grannygear did, after riding the wheels with trail-weight tires I went to explore their qualities as XC wheels and mounted a set of SCHWALBE Rocket Ron front and Thunder Burt rear – each in 2.1“ width and for a bare minimum of flat protection each with the Snakeskin sidewall reinforcement.
In the first weeks of XC-oriented review I had the wheels mounted on my RADON Black Sin with the NINER RDO rigid fork. At only 8.3kg / 18.3 lbs this bike of course was a racer’s delight, but my aim was to examine the feeling of the ride itself, which of course was untainted by the direct character of the rigid bike. I wanted to see how this combo of the narrow XC super wide AMERICAN CLASSIC Wide Lightning rims would fare in terms of comfort and traction.
Analog to what Grannygear did, I experimented with tire pressures, beginning at about 2.0 bar (29psi). As would be expected the ride got more comfortable and traction improved with every reduction in tire pressure. It was interesting though to see that cornering remained stable and precise much longer than the ever increasing danger snake bites would allow me to go. Even at only 1.3bar (19psi) the bike felt very controlled in aggressive cornering. After going to extremes I found my personal favorite pressure for this tire/rim combination to be anywhere between 1.6 and 1.8 bar (23 to 26 psi) –depending on the trail – which was not ridiculously low, but the reason for this is more with the flat protection of the tire, than with the rims.
So after my own experimenting, I can confirm what Grannygear said: The very generous inner width of the rims of 29.4mm has had a positive effect on every single set of tires I tried. In my case the level of traction and comfort, even with the super narrow 2.1“ XC tires, was nothing short of amazing in combination with the extra wide AC rims. By plain facts the weight advantage of the wide rim / narrow tire also holds true, so I would agree with Bill Shook’s philosophy saying that a wide rim makes just as much sense for XC racing. So for me the basic truth is that wide rims like the AC Wide Lightnings are pretty much a win-win situation for whatever tire you are using.
So, if you asked me whether I’d rather use the super light AMERICAN CLASSIC Race wheels, the DT-SWISS SPLINE 1250 XRC or the AMERICAN CLASSIC Wide Lightning – I would probably accept the slight weight penalty of the Wide Lightning’s over the other two for the benefits of the widest rim – being more traction and more comfort. So only to drive my point home – in case it is not clear at this point yet – when I was about to draw this review to a conclusion I was absolutely stoked by the level of performance of the AC Wide Lightning wheels and especially of the super light yet capable XC tire combination.
Before this test I would not have considered such traction and comfort at such a weight possible and the AMERICAN CLASSIC Wide Lightning wheels had convinced me beyond doubt, that they are definitely very good as XC/race wheels as well.
But then … after riding the XC tire / Wide Lightning combo on my rigid bike until the End of April I moved it to my ROCKY MOUNTAIN Instinct for some time simply to see how the combo would do when ridden more aggressively – including several rough rides in the Lago di Garda Festival. When the climate changed and I found the combo lacking control on wet grounds and upon swapping tires I found this – a decent size dent! (See below) Obviously I had taken the aggressive riding with the XC tires just a bit too far.
Thinking about what had happened I came to the conclusion that either the riding with super low pressures or the rides on the 130mm full suspension bike was simply too much for the narrow tires and a hard hit on the rim had been rather likely. Of course a sub-400g rim cannot have endless reserves, but the more important question was: How could I examine whether the dent was caused by a one time ride mistake (and possibly unfavorable circumstances – narrow rim and low pressures) or whether it was an indication of potential durability issues of the rims?
Well, the answer is rather simple – KEEP ON RIDING THEM! So I did the best thing I could to keep our work as unbiased as possible and extend the review period until I was 100% sure – one way or the other.
Verdict after the extended review period: Since the End of April, when the incident happened, I have been riding the wheels really hard on multiple bikes:
First the PIVOT Les to check for this bike’s trail potential. And after that very frequently on the ROCKY Instinct and last on my CUBE Stereo on the Enduro-Trip to Finale Ligure in Italy:
–> And after the entire extended review period the AMERICAN CLASSIC Wide Lightning wheels have not given me the least bit of peculiarities and simply „walked through, without flinching“
So in conclusion I have no numeric proof that the Wide Lightning wheels are less durable than other, heavier rims – simple logic would suggest that a sub-400g cannot be as tough in all regards, but apart from the one dent (after riding them with the skinny tires) the wheels have been nothing but strong and trouble-free. Even during the extension, where I deliberately pushed them as hard as I could, there was nothing, no further dents, no play or untrue condition. So for me the overall robustness of the wheels has been more than established and the dent to me is a „shit happens“ incident. After talking to them, AMERICAN Classic additionally offered I could keep on running the wheels long term for further evaluation.
Verdict: AMERICAN CLASSIC promised the Wide Lightning wheels to be the „One for All“ wheels – one wheel to use in XC racing all the way to enduro riding. Grannygear and I have been riding two sets of wheels during the last 4 months on an array of bikes and often in a very demanding manner and him and I can confirm – these wheels fulfill that claim perfectly well.
With their extremely low weight, the super wide rim profile and the option to run nearly every tire width size on them (plus the benefits of the larger footprint and volume) the AMERICAN CLASSIC Wide Lightning wheels have proven some of the most versatile wheels existing.
Considering their MSRP, they are one of the best, if not the best, value in alloy wheels. Obviously Bill Shook has achieved, once more, a design miracle and raised the bar of what lightweight alloy 29“ wheels can do again.
ps: Now being moved over from regular review to long term test – expect to see theses wheels on our bikes more often during the year.