AMERICAN CLASSIC Smokin’ Gun 29er wheelset – Test Intro: from c_g


Regular readers of our site know our opinions on wheels and rim widths: We are facing the current trend towards wider rim with arms wide open and with a positive attitude. Granted, there are tire combinations, in particular those under 2.2″ width and some specific tread designs, which do not function optimally with rims wider than 30 mm (internal width, that is), but in most cases the tires from 2.3″ and above have had positive results on wider rims. As an example, the AMERICAN CLASSIC Wide Lightnings were our favorite rim in a dimension that is 29.3mm internal, a width which I currently consider to be optimum for 29er trail tires in 2.2″ to 2.4″.


But how wide is too wide for standard tires? This is one question we have to  ask with these all-new AMERICAN CLASSIC 29er MTB wheels – the Smokin’ Guns (cool name, right?). We have received the wheels before their official introduction, so at this point you will find no info on them on the AMERICAN CLASSIC website, but we were told this would change soon. We were also announced availability in both formats (29er and 27.5″) by the end of Febuary/beginning of March. Retail was announced at a decent 899.- Euro/$899.00USD.

9a-AC-SmokinGunWith a total claimed weight of less than 1800g, they are in the range of good all-mountain 29er wheels, but were to have an extremely wide inner width of 40 mm! With such dimensions everyone will immediately think about the currently fashionable Plus format. Most manufacturers spec their Plus bikes with inner rim widths between 30 and 45 mm, so the Smokin’ Guns would fit in there squarely.

But Bill Shook, AMERICAN CLASSIC founder, design engineer and mastermind was very clear when we talked to him that the Smokin’ Guns are indeed suitable for Plus tires, but were actually designed to give ordinary 29er tires added volume and stability – in a sense, they are an extreme version of the Wide Lightning wheels we like so much.  I was able to prove both those properties when riding the 45NRTH Nicotine 2.3, a tire with particularly flexible sidewalls. Here the extra width of the rims gave the Nicotine  additional stability and made it possible to take them to lower pressures (the full review will be online here soon).


But back to the intro of the wheel set on review. With a measured 1853g,  our set does not not quite achieve the claimed weight, but considering the width. that still is extremely light. At 989g for the rear wheel and 864g for the front wheel,  you will have to search high and low for anything comparable – carbon or non-carbon. AC still are the alloy wizards, and the Smokin’ Gun proves that once again.

Of course, the rim is tubeless-ready, as can be seen from the rim shape with a bead-lock rib and wide shelf which locks the tire bead in place at any pressure. Due to the general criticism of the somewhat fragile honey colored tubeless tape, AMERICAN CLASSIC has changed to a blue tape which is significantly more robust. If you look closely, you may even see how first a narrow layer of filament tape is laid down to prevent the sealing tape from overload and the resultant bulging into the rim at the spoke hole drillings. Only after this is laid down is the blue tape applied as the actual sealing tape – certainly a more robust solution than before.

4-AC-SmokinGun-e1454670289567 5-AC-SmokinGun

Just like it is with the Wide Lightning, the Smokin’ Guns aluminum wall thickness is rather extreme. Those who expect a wheel as burly as the AMERICAN CLASSIC Carbonators, look elsewhere. I’m sure the Smokin’ Gun’s limits to dent resistance are nowhere near as high. Just consider the very low side wall’s wall thicknesses of only 1.5 mm! The Smokin’ Gun is likely to be a good candidate for a snake bite protection like SCHWALBE’ Procore system.


Let us go away from the most obvious feature – the rims – and look at the no less exciting AMERICAN CLASSIC interpretation of the new and upcoming Boost standard. Our test wheel set came in the brand new AMERICAN CLASSIC Boost hub configuration – ie for forks with 110 × 15 mm and rear triangles with 148 × 12mm OLD dimensions. If you remember our intro of Boost Technology with SRAM almost a year ago, you know that the greater hub width is primarily used to shift the hub flanges further apart – 5mm on each side on the front and 3 mm on each side on the rear.  The result of the wider hub flanges is a stiffer, and in theory, a stronger wheel.


Bill Shook thought about this and came to the another conclusion how to use the additional space. For him, the asymmetry of the spokes angle (front left and rear right are much more acute an angle than on the opposite side) and the uneven spoke tension are the main obstacle to achieving a optimal wheel stability. So according to this train of thought a symmetric build was even more important to  increasing the wheels stiffness then by spacing the flange to their possible max. In the end, Bill found that if he maintained the distance between the hub flanges and would use the additional width for a better symmetry he would achieve a more stable wheel overall.

8-AC-SmokinGun 7-AC-SmokinGun

In the case of the rear wheel, where the hub design is determined both by the position of the free hub and the rotor position, AC needed to develop a completely new hub.  This one is characterized by a much larger distance between the disc tabs and the left flange. Overall the hub gained the full 6 mm, but all of it went into the left side. The trick that makes the AC Boost allegedly AC’s stiffest and most robust wheels to date is that with this move, the rim is centered on the hub but laced a full 6 mm further to the left side … which means that the spoke angle and the spoke tensions now are almost identical on both sides.

On the front, where only the disc tabs influence the hub design, AC could even leave the hub body unchanged and generate the same effect of symmetry by incorporating a special end cap right and a reinforced and longer axle. Now the rim is also laced to compensate the offset, creating a nearly symmetrical front wheel – with even spoke angles and near identical spoke tension left and right.2-AC-SmokinGun–> According to AMERICAN CLASSIC this interpretation of Boost is a better solution to create a stiffer but above all,  a more durable wheelset.
(Note: Conversely, this means that given you have the Boost axle kit – not sure it really will be available separately – it is technically possible to convert a AMERICAN CLASSIC 100×15 front hub into a 110×15 boost front hub. No such option on the  rear as there a specific hub body is used.)

10-AC-SmokinGun 9b-AC-SmokingGun

Since I didn’t have a Boost compatible frame to run the wheels on CUBE BIKES was kind enough to send us one of theirs – a 2016 CUBE Stereo 140 29er SLT, the successor to our much loved test platform of the recent years, which will serve me for the near future as our  boost compatible test platform. Thanks to CUBE for your support!

Stay tuned as we get out on the 29er AMERICAN CLASSIC Smokin’ Gun wheels and come back with our first riding impressions soon.


Note: American Classic provided these wheels 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.