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When both Schwalbe and American Classic were in touch recently to ask if we were interested in spending some time with their lighter-and-faster-for-2012 Racing Ralph tubeless ready 29er tires and Mountain Tubeless 29 single speed wheels, we thought that it would be a great chance to bring back two of our favorites from last year’s Project 24 bike in a single speed 29er setting. Now that they’ve arrived and are mounted on our Project 1.1 Tomac, hit the jump for photos, weights, prices, and initial impressions…
Revised for 2012, Scwalbe’s changes to the excellent Racing Ralph aren’t immediately obvious. Closely related to the previous generation, the most obvious departure is a doubling of the intermediate knobs. Despite adding knobs, the revised Ralph is claimed to be 15% lighter (this will vary with size). An upgraded 127tpi casing is partly responsible, and also helps to reduce rolling resistance by a claimed 20%.
Having had a 26in Racing Ralph blow off American Classic’s All Mountain wheelset, the new tires’ reinforced bead core and Schwalbe’s reassurance make me comfortable giving the combination a go. Advertised at 525g apiece, our Racing Ralphs weighed in at 535 and 580g- about an ounce heavier than claimed and well within normal tire weight variances.
American Classic’s Mountain Tubeless 29 Single Speed Wheels use a modified version of the proven hubs seen throughout AC’s mountain line. The shortened cassette body allows for a moderate amount of chainline adjustment (or 5 cogs off of a 9 or 10 speed cassette) and drives through founder Bill Shook’s bombproof and quiet freehub mechanism. The included cog, lockring, and spacers are a bonus (saving an easy $40 or more at the bike shop)- though the first hill had me wishing for lower gearing than the cog’s 18 teeth could provide. I know that it’s relatively flat near American Classic HQ in Florida, but it’s a strong rider who can run a 32×18 or 34×18 on a 29er in these parts. The entire package retails for $900, making them competitive with other non-carbon premium wheelsets.
The wheels came taped and weighing 765 and 880g (1,645g vs. 1,600g claimed) with 15mm thru axle front and QR rear hubs. The included 5g valve stems (with removable valve cores) are more than welcome, though take it easy on the lockring- they are super-light aluminum. Using Formula R1 brakes and and an R1 rear rotor meant that American Classic’s provided Rotor Reinforcing Ring was needed- as will any rotor without webs between bolt holes. Installation is easy and the ring weighs next to nothing.
Surprisingly loose, I was able to easily mount the Racing Ralphs to the 26mm wide (outside) American Classic rims by hand. The flipside to that ease was the need to fire up the air compressor to get them to seat and seal. Altogether, the combination reduced the need for cassette spacers and shaved 1/4lb off the Project 1.1 single speed’s DT/Stans wheelset with Vredestein tires while providing more air volume and allowing for lower tire pressures.
Comfort-wise, the change is largely a wash- the American Classic wheels are stiffer then those I built up but the tires are more comfortable. Though many will balk at the Schwalbes’ $84 price tag, I haven’t found a tire that handles our local loose-over-hard terrain better than the Racing Ralph. They’re not quite as startlingly fast as Specialized’s new Fast Trak, but certainly are fast for knobbed tires- and the PaceStar rubber all but refuses to come unstuck- either in corners or when climbing (essential on a single speed). The American Classics’ virtually silent freehub makes a quiet single speed even more so and previous hubs have proved it more than up to single speed abuse. Stay tuned for updates…