Carbon Weight, Enduro Width & Alloy Price: American Classic Race Tubeless 26 XX1 Wheelset Reviewed

American Class MTB Race 26 labelDespite all the recent hubbub (sorry) about carbon-rim’d wheelsets, there are a number of companies who continue to push aluminum wheel technology and weight forward.  And our wallets thank them. Take American Classic: still building on Bill Shook’s novel, lightweight, and virtually drag-free freehub, the company is putting out some impressive wheelsets using 32 standard J-bend spokes per wheel.  How impressive?  How do 1,319g (actual, with tape) and under $1,000 sound for a 28mm wide 26in wheelset sound?  Too good to be true?  Hit the jump to find out…

Though they may not get the trailhead love of their composite counterparts, the numbers above, along with literally dozens of options (including 26, 27, and 29in rims and considerable hub variations), make a compelling case for the flyweight Floridians.  The new-for-2013 AC Coud Black graphics are a step forward for the company and their gold highlights work well with most forks and shocks on the market.  The high-flanged pewter Disc 130 and Disc 225 hubs have a look all their own- somehow managing to look at once classic and modern.  SONY DSC

Aside from three common mountain rim sizes, American Classic’s Race wheelsets are available with to suit the following hub standards:

Front

  • 100mm x 15mm Thru Axle Disc
  • 100mm x 9mm Thru Axle Disc
  • Lefty Disc 100mm (26in and 29er only)

Rear:

  • 135mm x  10mm Quick Release Disc
  • 135 x 12mm Thru Axle Disc
  • 142mm x 12mm Thru Axle Disc

Throw in the choice of standard Shimano/Sram cassette or XD drivers and you have over 50 potential combinations in the Race model alone.  The wheels come out of the box taped and complete with the relevant quick release(s) and a pair of lightweight aluminum valve stems.  American Classic’s proprietary bead seat makes inflating tubeless-ready tires easy and the rims’ 28mm outside / 24mm inside width adds a fair amount of girth to any tire- American Classic recommend saving a bit of weight by going down a size when coming from 19mm wide rims (though there’s nothing wrong with enjoying a bigger footprint with the same tires).

American Class MTB Race 26 rim widthWith a Specialized Ground Control 2.3 / Fast Trak 2.2 combination and XX1 cassette mounted, the Race 26 Tubelesses look like a lot of wheel.  Which is no bad thing- riding in these parts includes large numbers of loose and sharp rocks and given the small weight difference between many brands’ 2.0s and 2.2s, a bit more protection for the lightweight rims isn’t a bad idea.  When choosing tires, be sure to ensure that there is sufficient tread to protect the sidewalls when stretched across wide rims: we found that the additional width left Continental Race King and X-King 2.2s’ sidewalls exposed and quickly suffered sidewall cuts as a result.

Over the past four months, we have had zero problems with American Classic’s hubset- and come to love the freehub’s quiet purr and the wheels’ ability to just spin, spin, and spin in the workstand.  The XX1-compatible XD driver hasn’t performed any differently than the standard model, which is to say solidly once engaged but with somewhat large (15°) gaps between the 24 points of engagement.  While this can be felt from time to time at the cranks, on paper it’s just behind Stan’s 12°, on par with Hope, and better than DT’s standard 18°.  The fact that all six pawls engage simultaneously does make for an extremely robust mechanism- one that we’ve run without issue for years on singlespeed mountain bikes.SONY DSC

On the bike, the American Classics’ lack of weight is obvious.  They’re not all-mountain solid, but for their intended use they’re more than stiff enough.  Even if it’s just psychological, the absence of mass makes long climbs easier and were noticeably quick to spin up on Southwest Colorado’s punchy, twisty 12 Hours of Mesa Verde course.  That said, New Mexico’s rocks have taken their toll on the rear rim.  Despite never cutting a tire at the bead, the beads have bent in a number of places under this (moderately aggressive) 140lb rider.  To the rims’ credit, they have held the tire and air inside it without issue- but for riders in rocky areas–or those approaching the 220lb weight limit–longevity may be a concern.  To address the issue, a mixed set using the 60g heavier MTB Tubeless rear wheel and MTB Race Tubeless front might not be a bad idea, still netting a sub-1,400g set.

The damage is hardly a fault of the wheels themselves- after all, they are explicitly a Race Tubeless wheelset- and only the most sadistic promoter would hold an event on our rock-strewn trails.  But it is worth keeping in mind: as companies continue to push the limits of weight and performance, more attention should be paid to their products’ intended use.  For racing?  It’s awfully hard to find fault with the American Classics.  The wide footprint, easy servicing, ready tubeless compatibility, and freakishly light weight tick all the right boxes.  Though they aren’t a shortcut to a 24lb trail bike, they could play a big part in getting that race bike under the 20lb mark.

marc

amclassic.com

Comments

pornitswhatlwouldratherbmaking - 06/15/13 - 9:28am

how freakn hard would it be to make it big enough to take a 20mm front axle. Lame

Harald - 06/15/13 - 9:58am

Hi Marc, I’m very sorry but i can’t take this review serious. I believe that you can use this wheels, but I am dutch (one of the largest people in the world). When I was 13 years old I already was almost 6 ft tall, very skinny but still heavier than 140 lbs.

Now I am a big adult who can not believe a weight limit of 220 lbs if a 140 lbs rider already damages the rims.
For a little under a 1000 dollar they need to last longer than 1 day ;-).
I think I’ll go with the new roval carbon wheels without the rim bead and take the 200 gram punishment. Still very light (for 29er wheels), but much more allround and many times tuffer.

Keep up the good work though, just would like to read more reviews from bigger guys so the experience they have with suspension and endurance are more real world to bigger bikers.

CXisfun - 06/15/13 - 10:08am

Hate to say it, but I have to agree. If a 140lb dude is denting the rims there’s NO WAY they’ll last under someone at 220lbs. Ain’t. Gonna. Happen.

Joe P - 06/15/13 - 11:25am

Agreed- the Samoan side of my ancestry says being a 140lb lightweight is so 8th grade and at my most fit 185lbs back 23years ago.

Larry Falk - 06/15/13 - 11:56am

I’m not trying to defend AC and their (ongoing) durability issues, but what tire pressure did the reviewer use? This always has an impact (pun intended) on a rim’s protection especially when riding “moderately aggressively” on rocks. Everyone should also remember that Bill Shook has always talked about designing products on the edge of durability to achieve light weight. He admits that his 310g rim for the Road Tubeless can be permanently bent with a tire lever and the installer needs to be very careful! Even Stan’s had to backtrack from their original Alpha 340 rim design as it was problematic.

C T - 06/15/13 - 12:32pm

@Harold – I don’t see a problem with the review. The author informed you of his own weight, indicated that he was denting the rims and you were able to draw your own conclusions for your own body weight.

Perhaps the real problem is with American Classic who are the ones setting the upper weight limit of 220lbs.

TXC - 06/15/13 - 1:01pm

Going to agree with other comments here. How is American Classic still in business? Their wheels are a joke among bike mechanics everywhere. How can a company have such poor hub and rim designs in this competitive market?

Samuel J. Greear - 06/15/13 - 1:40pm

The extrusions used in this rim are quite thin, the rims will dent when confronted with a significant impact. That said, the wheels are very stiff for their weight and a few dents does not really affect the function of the rim. I’m not sure how a rock thrown off the front wheel and into the rear or similar will have more force from a heavier rider. The bead hooks on these are short enough that you should have trouble deforming them there, but what you will get are cosmetic dents between the bead hook and the spoke bed on the outside of the rim. I would definitely run these on a race bike, or even an all-around bike that I did not put a ton of miles on — with the understanding that I might have to ship them back to AC at some point to be re-laced to new rims.

Fatso - 06/15/13 - 1:46pm

Denting a rim is significantly different than a collapsing rim or a cracked rim. I have the All Mountain version of these rims – basically the same thing but a bit more metal – because I am 220lbs. They are the same width and have all the same options as the Race wheels, however they have slightly heavier spokes and are about 155 grams (ish) heavier per rim, plus they are $150 cheaper. I’ve had mine for 4 years on my hardtail and never had any problems.

Why are guys over 200lbs even commenting on a 1,300 gram wheel set? They weren’t designed for you you to ride as your everyday wheels. I imagine that they have a 220lb weight limit as an advisory for the guy that is 250lbs and thinks its a good idea to ride 1,300 gram wheels. I would assume that after 220lbs you might run into structural problems.

I’ve dented and damaged many wheels “heavier duty” than this in 1 ride ( and I’m sure you big guys have too ) It also has a lot to do with handling and tire pressure as previously noted. You’re comments really have nothing to do with the quality of the wheels nor are they based on any experience from riding them, from what it sounds like.

I’m trying to defend these wheels as I’ve never ridden them, but I have ridden something almost identical and they sure are nice. If I was under 200lbs I would race these.

Sound advice from Samuel Greear!

WilsonH - 06/15/13 - 2:48pm

I’ve been building wheels with AC products for years, and continue to beat up the SS and standard hubs without a single blown bearing or free hub. I’ve had a ton of luck building the new 101 rim into the disc 130/225 hubs, and getting a wheelset lighter than these MTB race wheels (narrower rim profile) with no durability (denting at the bead hook) issues under my 170lbs on rocky western VA trails (on a rigid SS). FWIW, my customers have been beating up on them too.

Chad - 06/15/13 - 5:54pm

I have a set of these in the mail right now; should be here Tuesday. I read a lot of reviews and comments about them on Mtbr, and I found many people use them as their every day wheels. I’m 165-170, and am an old school xc rider. I intend to use them for every day riding, but I am also going to hang on to my old mavic crossmax st wheels just in case. I wanted something lighter than the mavics, but I may have gone too light.

Colin - 06/15/13 - 9:34pm

Who has a mountain bike that weights more that 20lbs these days?

Marc - 06/15/13 - 11:16pm

Anyone else here have an American Classic freehub body blow out on therm? I’m a moderately aggressive 155lb rider. That supid freehub blew and earned me a 6 mile walk out. I had been warned but didn’t listen.

Nick - 06/16/13 - 12:13am

Marc, I had a team-mate blow out an AC freehub in a training ride. Luckily he could phone someone for a lift. He had his repaired and continued to race them, and I continued racing mine too, without any issues.

MissedThePoint - 06/16/13 - 12:30am

He’s saying that the rim bead hook is getting dinged, but it isn’t affecting the rim’s ability to be run tubeless, and that it’s his fault for riding with low pressure and rim striking rocks that wouldn’t be found on an XC race course.

I hear of DT rims suffering the same damage. They’re not folding or collapsing, just getting dented on that hook part. There’s a Rim Wrench from Morningstar Tools that might be able to remedy some of those dents. A dent (cosmetic damage) is better than a flat spot (affecting wheel/tire roundness) in the rim, IMO.

Eli - 06/16/13 - 8:27am

I’m 190lbs and using this wheelset for the 3 months on mostly rocky terrain with zero issues. I also have the regular AC 29er tubeless wheelset on my single speed rigid MTB for two years, with one broken spoke being the only issue so far.

Fatso - 06/16/13 - 9:22am

@Marc and @Nick

I have(d) six pairs of AC wheels and have never once had this problem. I’ve heard about it from others but I know that the hub does require regular maintenance (like all products). Really the only way the hub could “blow out” is either it wasn’t assembled correctly, wasn’t tightened correctly, or that little spring in there was too long and got clogged up on the cam plate (isolated but I’ve seen it happen).

Every product has potential problems. I’ve broken seatposts, saddles, handlebars, stems, etc. I’ve stripped non-drive crankarms (especially SRAM) but would I call their products “stupid”? I called them, explained the issue and generally they’ve been warrantied products. I’ve had to deal with American Classic before as well and I will say they have top notice customer service (matters more than the product in my opinion)

JMH - 06/16/13 - 10:55am

Good comment, Fatso! I have several sets of AC hubs and they do well with just a bit more attention than my other wheels.

I can also add another review of the Race 29 wheels to this one. I used the Race 29 wheels as my “daily drivers” on my trail bike for about 6 months – mostly in Moab – and even raced the Moab Enduro on them. I weigh 165 pounds and like to chase Strava DH KOMs. While this type of riding is definitely outside the recommended use, they surprisingly held on. Honestly every time my tires were pushing for traction to suddenly hook up in turns or I found myself in the wrong place in a high-speed rock garden I would find myself quoting Han Solo to the Falcon under my breath: “Hear me baby? Hold together…” and they pretty much did with some TLC.

They are stiff for a 1450g alloy wheelset (29er) and have an excellent lively feel to them, I loved the extra rim width and did I mention how incredibly light they are? Because of the type of use I ended up truing them frequently and had to rebuild the rear wheel with brass nipples after about 4 months because the aggressive spoke prep combined with alloy nips didn’t do well with the constant truing. I have a few cracks forming at spoke holes now, perhaps I rebuilt to a higher tension? The rims do get little cosmetic rock dents in the sidewalls, but I run ample tire pressure specifically to avoid damaging or cracking bead hooks so I had no issues there. The bearings are tired at this point. AC uses very small cartridges to save weight and I would imagine that a fact of life for many riders with these wheels is frequent bearing inspection/lube/replacement. Except for slightly disappointing bearing life I have experienced similar issues with other light weight wheels and I can’t really guess how the AC RACE would have held up in a “normal” environment except to say “probably a lot better.”

Likes: Weight, awesome rim width and stiffness, full 32 spoke count instead of cheating with some dumb 24h setup, Weight again, graphics are cool IMO.

Dislikes: Nipple washers creak quietly and require regular lube to silence, Schwalbe tubeless setup requires an extra wrap of Gorilla Tape on top of the stock tape to seat well, fiddly bearings, awkward access to rear hub bearing preload depending on frame type.

Synopsis: I keep waiting for these to die but they aren’t there yet. I have just mounted Hans Dampfs and plan to put them on slack steel singlespeed trail bike. Their durability (with maintenance time commensurate to abuse!) is surprising and the ride is sublime.

Samuel J. Greear - 06/16/13 - 1:33pm

JMH, Have had good luck with Schwalbe’s on these rims using Stans tape (removing AC tape completely). Have found that the AC tape does not hold up very well.

Fatso - 06/16/13 - 2:16pm

@Samuel J. Greear

Stan’s tape is thicker and is designed to fill the space between the bead and hook on the rim. AC’s tape is thinner as it has a different bead seat with a hook that holds the bead.

I had a problem with the AC tape the first time until I read their instructions about using a lot of soapy water to mount the tire. Works like a charm. Most rubber is designed to be tacky and it does exactly that to the tape if its not soaped :)

Cyclocross - 06/16/13 - 2:32pm

If the beads are bending with a 140lb rider, there must be no hope for a 220lb person. Also what’s the point of having new wheels if you can’t go on rocky area’s? That’s the whole point of a Mountain Bike!

Samuel J. Greear - 06/16/13 - 4:32pm

@Fatso, the Schwalbe tires specifically are easier to air up with the Stans tape. My problem with the AC tape was that every time I had to put in a tube I boogered up the tape.

Doug - 06/16/13 - 5:20pm

American Classic hubs are the most unreliable pieces of $h1t on the market. The free hub bodies and hub shells are junk.Blown flanges, cracked pawls or maybe the bearings just crap out after a week. In the off chance you get one that is made “correctly” by their standards, they are so flexy that out of the saddle your tire will hit alternating chain stays and feel disconcertingly like you have a flat tire inthe corners. Problems are made worse on larger wheel sizes i.e. 650b or 29er. As a bike mechanic I have to work on the stuff they sell to the unknowing. DO NOT BUY!

What? - 06/16/13 - 6:55pm

Doug – I have been a mechanic for 20+ years and the AC are the best I have had the pleasure of working with in that time. They did have a bad run for 2 years about 10 years ago. Let it go, the wheels now are absolutely fantastic and have no stiffness issues either.

A. - 06/16/13 - 10:06pm

The unfortunately thing about American Classic wheels is that Niner specs them. Perhaps they are paying attention and will stop.

Rich - 06/17/13 - 8:36am

I have a pair of Race 29er wheels which came stock on my JET9 RDO. The wheels have held up fine for close to a year now and I ride them as my everyday wheel set. Several trips to Moab and Fruita this year already as well. I love the weight, and they are pretty stiff too given my set was 1430 grams. I am 175 pounds riding weight. Only section I feel I am on “race” wheels is in chunky and off camber rough trails. But the climbing….oh so nice to have durable/light wheels.

You should see what happens to a carbon fiber wheel when you run too low air pressure and tag rocks. Ask me how I know. I would rather be able to take some pliers and manually straighten a bent rim bead then ruin/waste a day of riding in the desert due to carbon rim bead explosion. Bent rims is a rider error, not mfg error. I am running 22-24 psi and can sell these wheels as new if I wanted to they are so straight. Hope that helps.

Kark - 06/17/13 - 1:17pm

From personal experience (3 front hubs, 1 back) and several years on of north east trail, technical riding I have a lot of faith in their hubs. I’m over 180lbs with equipment.

..apparently they don’t work well on the internet but I heard that already. Luckily for me I don’t ride the internet much. on the trail they’re silent, smooth, reliable and priced well.

on the other hand I’ve had three shimano freehubs fail on me including an xt and an xtr.

Bottom line in my experience is if you MTB hard enough you will break shit. accept it or go for a road ride.

Charlie - 06/17/13 - 7:38pm

AC makes fine wheels. You heavier guys (like me at 195lbs) really shouldn’t be considering any wheelset this light if you are hard on things, and therefore probably don’t need to comment on the product. This is a RACE wheelset with a stated weight limit people! I ride the same trails as the reviewer and have seen every wheel I can think of have failures. The fact that he only has a few dings is very fair for this weight class. The only rims I haven’t seen ding out here are carbon which just break, albeit not often though. Most XC Race wheels only ever see smooth dirt and that is what the weight rating assumes. If your local races are over brutal rocky terrain, then its your responsibility to figure out that you need to make an adjustment to the industry classifications. Common Sense.

John - 06/19/13 - 12:19am

Ridden several models of AC wheels over the years. Lots of miles & abuse with no complaints. Occasional damage, due to terrain/abuse. Nothing unexpected. Done maintenance when required. Even re-spoked one set with Sapim CX-R’s. bomber. I’ll soon be picking up a set of Race 9-er’s for my Hardtail. I wouldn’t expect any more or any less out of em’.

Chad - 06/20/13 - 1:00am

I got my mtb race 26 wheels and mounted my ritchey z-max tubeless ready tires today. Not done re-building my bike just yet, but the wheels are crazy light. I’m almost a little scared to ride on them. They are lighter than my road wheels. The tape was a little messed up on the rear wheel, and I’m worried it might not seal very well. So far I’m having some issues getting the tires to hold air, my bottle of Stan’s is a little old and/or I might need to add a little more. The bead hooks hold the tire bead really well. I’m not a tubeless tire expert, this is only the second time I’ve tried tubeless. They seem very well built, I just can’t get over how light they are. I realize they won’t be as durable as my crossmax st wheels, but I’ll be happy as long as they don’t need to be trued every other day. I will be using them on my 08 Titus racer x full suspension bike.

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