On Test: American Classic SS 29″er Wheels: by Grannygear

I have been enjoying the time on the Specialized Carve Pro SS, the latest test bike to grace the hooks in the grannygear garage.  To get the bike on trail, I had mounted up the Easton EA90 XC wheels with spacers and they were doing a very good job at rolling me along the trail.  They are light, in the 1700g range, they are pretty fast engaging and they are good looking with those blingy red hubs.  There were three things that bugged me about the Easton hoops though.  They are somewhat narrow and that 19mm inner rim width was working against me a bit when I ran at 25psi on the TNT casing Geax AKAs.  I could feel the tire rolling over on high ‘g’ turns.  Also, although the UST beaded Geax TNT tires are a bomber fit on there, I am not crazy about how a typical tubeless rated or especially a non-tubeless rated tire fits on the UST rim.  The last thing that bugged me was the way a non-SS hub looks with those spacers. Yeah, I am fashion driven :).

So I was looking to get a wider rim with a more versatile tire fit on an SS hub and still keep the weight down to that 1700g range.  A conversation with the good folks at American Classic about the upcoming Race 29er wheels led to a bit of talk about SS wheels and one thing led to another.  Soon enough a box was sitting on the front porch with these in it.  The MTB 29 tubeless single speed wheels hit the bullet points very well.  They are light at a claimed 1600g a pair.  They are an SS freehub design with a shortened freehub body that will take up to 5 cogs of a typical Shimano/SRAM cassette or, in my case, run a single speed cog with a minimal amount of spacers.  It also allows for a more equal spacing of the hub flanges, although American Classic draws theirs inward a bit more than typical SS hubs might.  That equal flange spacing, at least in my mind, looks ‘right’ in use on an SS bike.  They also are nicely wide at 26mm external and 21mm internal, allowing for better tire sidewall support at lower pressures and letting that tire gain some volume.  It also should keep the tire bead seated better too.

Pulling the American Classic SS 29er wheels from the box was a treat.  Man, to risk a near pun, these are some classy looking wheels.  The deeper V shaped rim, the water transfer graphics, the 2 red spokes at the valve location…even the valve stems are sweet looking and darn light too.  Up on the scale of truth and justice the weights were as follows:  Front wheel with purty bronze tape and a 15mm set-up – 772g  Rear wheel with 9mm QR axle (no QR) was 875g wheel only and 941g with the composite spacers, 18T cog (standard with the wheelset) and alu lock ring.  That is 1647g for the wheels and tape.

Fitting some tires was next.  I took the cool little red valve stems, installed them and grabbed some tires.  I wanted to run some Geax TNT Saguaros but no dice.  The bead fit was too tight to try and mount them up.  I maybe could have gotten them on there, but I bet it would have been a real battle.  So, grabbing a set of the new Conti X Kings in the Protection casing, they were a bomber fit.  I also tried a set of the revised Specialized Fasttrak 2.2 LKs and that was a snug fit too.  Both tires were floor pump city to inflate.  This seems to point to a very Stans-like tire fit for the American Classic rims on this wheel and that is not a bad thing depending on what tires you like to run.

The elephant in the room:  So why do we not see a bunch of American Classic single speed wheels out there as compared to other brands?  Engagement.  No, not the kind that leads to marriage, but the kind that leads to a quick take up of pedal power when you switch from coasting to ‘go’ again.  The biggest complaint against an American Classic free hub design is the somewhat lazy degrees of engagement compared to other more popular single speed hubs that can be as little as 3 degrees on something like an Industry 9 hub.  So is that a big deal?  You would think it was by the way the internet talk goes on and on.  But I seldom spend any time in the slow, rocky, ledgy, rooty, fallen tree, stair step type of trail where you need a quick backpedal and then a fast response to the down stroke to get over or past something.  So we will see about this elephant as we get out on the trail.

Next we will get them set up and on the Carve Pro single speed and get them dirty.  Stay tuned!