AMERICAN CLASSIC Race Tubeless 29″er wheels – On Test: by c_g

Sometimes it takes a bit longer …“ – This sentence is soften heard in the biking industry, but this time it is not about the time passed between the first prototypes being shown and final products becoming available for you and I to buy, this time it is about a test materializing. We first had reported about the AMERICAN CLASSIC Tubeless Race 29″er wheels during Eurobike 2011 (here), and now we finally have a set of these potentially game changing alloy wheels at hand for us to ride.

1437g actual weight (659g for the 100/15 front and 778g for the 142/12 rear wheel) is pretty awesome – and that as a 29″er set with a classic build (32 butted (14/16 Gauge) spokes, 3x crossed, alloy nipples), with the reportedly durable AMERICAN CLASSIC hubs. At an inner rim width of remarkable 24mm (28mm outside width) these tubeless ready rims come in at a weight of under 400g – and all that made of alloy and consequently with a rather reasonable price tag of USD 999.- (or EUR 899.- in Germany) … to me this sounds very much like a biker´s dream come true.

Too good to be true? How are the AC Race wheels going to be in terms of stiffness or long term durability? Are they (as the name may imply) „Race-Day-Only“ wheels or will they hold up under regular daily use? We will be running them on our test bikes for the next months and will let you know.

Since all AMERICAN CLASSIC MTB wheels come with the identical hubs (extensively machined and easily converted to different axle standards) we don´t expect any surprises in this department – Grannygear, Guitar Ted and I have all reviewed several wheels built up from these hubs and they all have held up admirably (some still running strong :)). Just to recapture the rear comes with the innovative steel face inserts on the alloy cassette body, their own patented 6-pawl free hub (simultaneously engaging by 2 teeth each – thus 12 points for reliability and power transfer) and Bill Shook´s own narrower than common flange spacing – that tries to meet a better balance of spoke tension versus triangulation. When riding the AMERICAN CLASSIC MTB tubeless wheels back in 2010 (here) I found a bit of rear wheels flex, but not so when reviewing their All-Mountain wheels (here), whose primary difference were the rims. Now with the lightest rims of them, all this once more has me wonder how it will fare. We shall see.

And while it should be only common sense (something many rim designs seem to be lacking when it comes to width dimensions) for large volume Trail and All-Mountain tires to go wide, it is a different question if this makes as much sense to have a 24 mm wide rim when running XC weight tires. How is this going to affect the performance of a narrow tire, which in relation is altered much more dramatically, than if you ride a 2.3“ wide tire and increase the rim width by a few millimeters. AC´s company president and engineering mastermind Bill Shook claims it would bring nothing but benefits – a wider rim brings more air volume meaning better damping and shock absorption characteristics, it increases the tire´s contact patch by spreading out the tread wider and adds extra support to the tire casing which in turn allows lower riding pressures, … which further assists the above benefits. In theory I agree, but the trail time will tell if and to what extend this translates to a better ride … we shall see.

Last but not least- How are the AC Race 29″er wheels going to be in their tubeless characteristics? We have already learned from our previous tests that their standard XC MTB rims are difficult with some very tight tubeless ready tires (like GEAX´s TNTs ot WTB TCSs) while the All-Mountain 29″ers cope much better with even such tires, compromising a bit on the inflation qualities when combined with wider tubeless ready tires, such as SCHWALBE or MAXXIS´s (not tubeless approved) folding tires. We are happy to see that all those little details were carried over from other models – such as the bead locking hump on the rim´s shoulders, the gentle curved inner rim bed, all optimized towards tubeless performance. As usual we will start out our testing with tire mounting and tubeless conversions so you will hear about these properties first … and pretty soon. All AMERICAN CLASSIC tubeless ready wheels come with the sealing tape pre-installed and a set of those sleek (and super-light, 5 g!) red anodized alloy valve stems.

By specifications alone these wheels are something unprecedented and without much competition (at least that we know of :)). Now they only have to hold up to our riding, not let us down in stiffness and durability. If they manage, they may well alter our view of what is possible with alloy wheels.