american classic carbonator 29It is no secret that both c_g and I have been big fans of the American Classic Wide Lightning wheels in the 29″ size.  Those wheels have been a real surprise for the impressive combo of weight, width, and strength, really punching above their weight.  They were designed as an XC rim that would ‘plump up’ a smaller tire to have more volume, allowing for a racer to get ‘more’ tire for less weight, but they are good even on a trail bike as long as you keep it within reason.  But if you are in a situation where rocks and hard rim strikes on the rim wall and the bead area are a real certainty, then the Wide Lightning might begin to show some dings and such.

american classic carbonator 29So if we were looking for a wide rim that is still light enough to be fun and yet be very tough for impacts and overall wheel stiffness, then stepping up to the American Classic Carbonator might be just the ticket.  According to Bill Shook at AC, the American Classic Carbonator carbon rim was intended for something like Enduro or more aggressive trail riding.  MSRP is $1,799.00 compared to the Wide Lightnings at $899.00.  From the American Classic Carbonator website:

profile cut“Carbonator Tubeless wheels are the all carbon workhorse race version of our tubeless wheels. Bill Shook applied his signature tubeless design to our tougher, stiffer, roll over everything Carbonators. The rims are super wide at 33mm wide x 24mm deep with an astounding internal width of 26mm to stiffen the tire and wheel-ground response. Carbonators withstand the tortures of high speeds, re-accelerating, drops and descents without compromising nimble handling. Light enough for accelerating, quick handling and firm control.”

“There is a lot of technology in these wheels that translates into speed, stiffness and responsiveness for racing. Carbon fiber is composed of extremely thin, bonded fiber made of carbon atoms. Thousands of carbon fibers are bundled together into cloth-like sheets. The sheets are combined with plastic resin. The sheets are placed into a mold with the fibers oriented in specific directions to create the desired characteristics of strength, stiffness or flexibility for the completed rim. Carbon fiber is used in wheels because of the high strength-to-weight ratio, low weight and the ability to mold the sheets into specific shapes. The rim combination of the wide profile with stiff carbon shape supports the tire better for more ground control. Our stiff front axle systems resist fork flex. Bead barb technology hooks on the tire bead to help keep the tire in place without burping. We did not skimp on the spokes either with 32 spokes front and rear all hand finished by our wheel builders. Many choices of disc hubs to dial in your equipment needs. Experience controlled, confident racing for riders obsessed with pushing the limits at speed.”

The sidewalls are very thick at approx 3.5mms per side…the rim being 33mm overall and 26mm internal.  26mms is not that wide in the current market of rims, but only a few years ago that would have been the OUTSIDE width of a typical 29er rim, not the inside measurement.  You can see below, in the two side by side pics, we are comparing the wall thickness of the Wide Lightning on the left with the Carbonator on the right and that there is quite a difference. The way Bill Shook designed the Wide Lightning gives it a very low sidewall shape, helping reduce rim dents,  but in comparison the carbon rim just looks tough as nails.

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Not the widest internal rim, but still generous in that regard.



They are tubeless ready and come pretaped and include valve stems and spacers for running 10 or 11 spd SRAM/Shimano (1×11 SRAM is available as well).  The hubs are a tried and true AC product with high flanges and steel inserts in the hub driver body to keep cheaper cassettes from digging into the alloy freehub.  I have never had one issue from an AC hub.  Spokes are 32 in count, front and rear, something that is a rarity these days.  Alloy nipples and 14/15 g butted spokes tie it all together.

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Weight on the AC website is called out as:  FRONT 784gr | REAR 892gr | PAIR 1676gr.  I weighed them with tape on, no valves and no axles (both hubs are set-up as thru-axle, non-boost)  Front – 741g  Rear – 856g.  AC may weigh them a bit differently or in some other axle configuration, otherwise mine are special as I get a 1,597g total.  That is still above the slightly wider and lighter Wide Lightnings at a claimed 1569g.

We will be running these on a mid travel 29er FS, the type of bike that is actually would be great for either wheel.  Fitted with a decent set of trail bike tires like Nobby Nics or Specialized Purgatorys, we should feel pretty bulletproof for the fall through spring season.  We will report back.

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Note: American Classic sent over these products at no charge to Twenty Nine Inches for test and review. We are not being paid, nor bribed for these reviews and we will strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.