In bike shops, wheels are always a hot topic. Wheels can often make or break a good bike build because they offer the biggest variable in terms of the overall bike performance.
Rotatinal mass is a key factor in this, but stiffness/deflection, and hub smoothness and durability are very important to the wheel system as well. With Mountain and now road wheels moving into tubeless technology, the way the tires lock onto the rim is a fourth aspect to wheelset's merit.
A few years ago I raced on the American Classic Pro Mountain Bike Team and although I had used their hubs on my wheel builds previously, I had always used Stan's rims. Riding and racing for a year on the different wheels AC has to offer, and getting a lot of technical information on the more subtle aspects of the wheels was great.
But enough introduction, on to the review.
In the low 1400g range the wheels are over 200g lighter than the Tubeless 29er wheels and the internal width is 3mm wider. Wider rims have gained popularity because with a wider footprint on the rim, tires become more stable at low pressure and less likely to roll over, especially under hard cornering. This lighter, wider profile is achieved with thinner rim walls, but maintain the rounded triangular shape that most of the AC wheels share.
The wheels spin up extremely fast and stiffness is on par with the Tubeless wheels. Racing on them is a treat. The stiffness under acceleration and steering is awesome. The bead seat, which is where the tire hooks onto, is very, very tight to prevent tire 'burping.' AC has a special dipped bead hook that essentially locks the tire onto the rim. Compared to the Stan's rims which use a bead shelf, but not as secure of a connection. I've never burped a tire on an AC rim. The Race wheels have the tightest bead seat junction in their offroad line.
Overall durability is sacrificed a little from the Tubeless wheels though, and for everyday riding on our rough trails I would recommend the Tubeless, Terrain, or the All Mountain wheels for less maintenance. I rode my Tubeless 29er wheels for a year without needing any truing, and the All Mountain Wheels offer a wider footprint for hardly any weight added!
The hubs in all of the AC wheels are super durable, and low maintenance with stainless bearings in almost all of their wheels and a very unique engagement mechanism-We have a cutaway hub in the shop to see how this works! AC uses standard 'j-bend' spokes so if a spoke were to break somewhere, it's a standard part, along with all the other major parts in the wheel system. They're 32 hole rims and hubs, and can be built to virtually any rim out there.
Between the bead lock, hub durability, and standard part components, American Classic has a wheelset for almost every rider. Stop in at the shop to learn more!