Project 1.1 Review: American Classic’s MTB 29 Tubeless Singlespeed wheelset
Wide, sturdy, and light. When American Classic offered up their MTB 29 Tubeless Singlespeed wheelset as a comparison with my self-built DT/Stans wheelset, I was torn. As a former semi-professional wheelbuilder who takes pride in selecting components and building up a wheel well suited to my riding, I almost didn’t want to know if American Classic could do a better job. That said, having chosen the company’s hubs for single speed use in the past and been impressed by their tubeless MTB 26 Tubeless and All Mountain wheelsets, I had the sneaking suspicion that they could…
Built around a single speed-specific version of their 225 high flange disc hubs, American Classic’s MTB 29 Tubeless Singlespeed wheelset uses the company’s own 26mm wide (outside, ~23mm bead seat), 23mm tall rims. The rim extrusion is designed specifically to be run tubeless and comes with amber sealing tape and some swanky 5g red valves installed. The rims work better with true tubeless beads than Stans rims and so don’t result in my own wheels’ cursing and deathly fear of flats (because I have no idea how I’ll get the tire off) when used with Geax or Vredestein tires.
While 1,600g wheels were standard for 26in race wheelsets using proprietary components just a few years ago, American Classic have built a 1,645g 29er wheelset (1,600g claimed) using standard parts. Sure, the spokes use American Classic-specific butting and the nipples are designed to work in compression as much as tension (by virtue of a threaded section that extends above the rim wall), but any standard J-bend spoke or standard nipple will quite happily serve as a replacement. Unlike some wheels in their weight range (including those built by yours truly), the MTB 29 Tubeless Singlespeeds have a surprising amount of lateral and vertical stiffness- almost to the point of being uncomfortable on my aluminum hardtail. Inelegant landings are surprisingly solid and the wheels complain less than some 26in trail wheels that I’ve ridden.
With fat-but-fast 2.25in Schwalbe Racing Ralph tires mounted to the American Classics (a union now blessed by both companies), the wheelset can be railed through corners and tossed into rubble like a heavier wheelset. The optional 15mm thru axle front hub helps to make the most of the front wheelset’s stiffness. The aluminum 18t cog that is provided with the MTB 29 Tubeless Singlespeeds was too tall for my legs but is a nice touch- as are the spacers, lockring, and stainless rear quick release (a bolt-on rear hub is also available for use with horizontal dropouts).
Though American Classic hubs lack the instantaneous engagement of some high-end alternatives, the freehub’s proven durability and near-silent running are especially welcome on the singlespeed. For anyone so inclined, running 5 cogs out of a standard 9- or 10-speed cassette is also an option. As much as I find satisfaction in building my own wheels, American Classic has ticked all of the right boxes with the MTB 29 Tubeless Singlespeed wheelset. Heck, there’s even dust accumulating around the nipples suggesting that each was lubed during assembly. Though the $900 may seem steep, by the time a decent set of hubs, spokes, and rims are purchased and a wheelbuilder paid, the American Classics are also price competitive. It hurts my pride to admit, but I’ll be sad to see them go.
in the same weight range