American Classic MTB Tubeless Review

Pro Reviews Wheels

Impressions
I spent a lot of time on my local home terrain, bashing them through my favorite rocky singletrack trails. They were subjected to rock gardens, twisty tight switchbacks, rolling berms, jumps, and the usual ugly Pike Peaks pea gravel. The latter adds some spice to life, since it requires a stand up cornering style, and can cause bike traction to wash out at any moment, usually when you least expect it. The wheels proved to be quite durable for the abuse I piled on them over the winter.

Their first foray out onto some tough terrain the spokes pinged a bit as they sat themselves in, but after that they have been silent. Although they are not the lightest wheelset I have used, they do feel light, and they roll and accelerate nicely. The AC MTB Tubeless really shined where acceleration was required, whether that was when putting the pedal to the metal while racing or when a quick technical move was required like climbing up a rock ramp or some stair stepped ledges. They were lightning quick due to a combination of their lightness, and greatly engineered rim geometry. Add in the fact that the rear hub pawl and ratchet system give a positive, solid and and low friction engagement, all make for a winning synergy. Even though it only has a 24 point engagement, it feels like it snaps quickly into action, with a buttery smooth feel. This acceleration makes climbing easier, and requires less energy output. They really rolled nicely, and that was a welcome feeling on long rides and climbs. It could be felt when rolling into berms, up and over rock rollers and descending. They swoop! Less input was required, and they just seemed to keep gliding along after pedaling had stopped. The wheels have enough stiffness to keep the traction on the tarmac, offer a nice deft touch, and give good feedback during steering.

It is only when pushed hard in rocky All Mountain terrain, that they have a tad of flex. Bring them up to Mach 10 in a rock garden, and they belay their lightness and slight lack of width, and then they feel slightly out of place, but not appreciably so.

AC meant these wheels for cross country and trail riders, which mostly use 150mm or less of travel. Fox and Marzocchi use 15mm as a standard, while Magura, Manitou and Rock Shox use 20mm. I would like to see an optional 20mm axle for these other forks.

I installed a set of my Rubber Queen 2.2 UST tires, and they popped out without any issue. I have used NoTube rims quite a bit, and for some reason, these rims seem a tad easier to get tires to pop on? I do love that sound when a tire bead pops up into the hook of the rim. I have also put on a set of normal tires, and had no issues getting them to work. When I install any sort of tire, whether tubeless (UST) or regular, I always use sealant when I run them in a tubeless mode. It is pretty much required to get normal tires to seal up in a tubeless mode, and it also helps seal up leaks or punctures on either tire type. I have a set of the AC All Mountain wheels, and I used a rim strip to run them tubeless, and it was hit and miss getting tires to work. A well engineered tubeless system works much better than any sort of retrofit.

ac_final

Bottomline
American Classic updated their cross country mountain bike wheelset to be tubeless, which is a welcome change. The rims were re-designed for better stiffness, control and strength, while still retaining their lightness. The steel facing on the aluminum cassette body is a clever feature that will increase that life of the body and keep the drivetrain snug. The wheels are well made, with many hidden engineering features, that are carefully thought out an innovative. They did display some flex when pushed to their limits in difficult All Mountain terrain, but they were better than most in their cross country category.

I have been very happy with the American Classic MTB Tubeless Wheelset. The rims are easy to set up most tires in a tubeless mode, although they did seem to leak air more than other rims? They roll and accelerate like demons, and give nimble and precise steering. They look good (love the red hubs), and have so far proven to be durable.

Strengths
-Steel face on cassette body
-White spoke pointing to valve
-Lightweight
-Quiet rear hub
-Excellent acceleration
-Good rollers

Weaknesses
-Hint of flex in tough All Mountain terrain
-Not the lightest
-Slight air leakage
-Lack of 20mm thru axle option

Overall Rating: 4 Flamin’ Chili Peppers

AC Specifications
Hubs Front Disc 130 100mm & Rear Disc 225 135mm
Brake Interface – 6 Bolt International Standard
Color – AC Alphatype White, AC Crest Black
Options Ceramic Bearings, Titanium QR’s, Wheel Bags, 15mm Front Thru Axle Disc Hub
Rims – MTB Disc Tubeless Aluminum 26”
Spokes – AC 14/15 Gauge Spokes Black
Nipples – AC Aluminum Nipples Silver
Pattern – 32h 3 Cross Front and Rear
MSRP $790

AC MTB Tubeless url: http://www.amclassic.com/en/products/mtbwheels/mtb26disc.php

About the author: Brian Mullin

Brian has been part of the Mtbr team since 2007, where he has become an integral member of the review and test staff, specializing in technical articles. He likes to push the limits in all the sports he obsesses in, whether it's mountain biking, whitewater kayaking, extreme skiing, or sport climbing. He takes those same strengths and a good dose of insanity to his reviewing and writing on mountain biking products, creating technical, in-depth and hyperbolic articles. Whenever he's not on the bike, he might be found watching MotoGP racing, otherwise look for him out on extremely technical singletrack.


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  • Anon says:

    Excellent review.

    A few points though (if I may).

    1) Although you mention engagement being good, there is no number mentioned (or if there is, I havent found it).

    2) For a 21mm inside width, the lack of a 20mm option on the front is a really gross oversight – 21mm inside generally means you’re looking at a wheel for trail/am bikes, where the 20mm standard is very common.
    Maybe this one belongs on your list of weaknesses?

    Although they’re not “the lightest” as you note, they are a pretty decent weight considering they’re wider than the 819 and lighter than many wheelsets build using them.

  • Mark says:

    Great review, but the spokes are not made of aluminum as stated…

  • Brian Mullin says:

    Mark – good catch, severe brain fart on my part, sometimes I need a proofreader!

  • Brian Mullin says:

    Anon – AC meant these wheels for cross country and trail riders, which mostly use 150mm or less travel, Fox and Marzocchi use 15mm as a standard, while Magura, Manitou and Rock Shox use 20mm. I am sure if you did a special order you can get their 20mm front end? Their All Mountain wheelset comes with that option, but I do agree it would be a nice option.

    I am not a proponent of engagement point mumbo jumbo (but that is my opinion), especially when it comes to actual trail use, as Shiggy once said “speed of engagement as opposed to points of engagement”. The AC system is positive and has a solid engagement, due to their six pawl cam actuated engagement system. Quick engagement, albeit not instant! I will add some more verbiage in the article when I get a chance.

  • Anon says:

    I realise that they’re intended for trail (or light am), and was working on the assumption that a 21mm wide rim is ideal for bikes with 140-160mm travel (so it seems we’re of two minds here).
    Personally I’d have said that rockshox had the biggest share of the fork market right now, and they use 20mm axles on several forks that might be relevant, hence why I suggest that the lack of 20mm compatability may be an oversight.

    Re: Engagement points.
    I like them as a number – knowing how many times the hubs engage per rotation gives a useful guideline to know whether a hub is slow or quick.

    Different riders will (ofcourse) have different opinions on what is “quick” and what takes an age to engage, for a number of different reasons (including terrain, riding style and simple preference).
    For example: to a friend of mine (and many others), his Hope pro2 (24) have are quick enough on the engagement front, yet after riding my Burgtec’s (48) there is an appreciable lag to a pro2. With “quick” being such a subjective term, some kind of numerical figure helps to differentiate for those that care about specifics.

    I guess the upshot of all this is that a POE number allows particularly fussy gits (eg: me) to compare with products they have experience with rather than relying on your judgement that they’re quick (with no idea of what you may be comparing with, roughly what engagement speed makes you happy, etc).

    It isn’t so much that the actual number matters on its own, but that it allows for easy comparison.
    I suppose its a bit like tires (sticking with a shiggy example) with some being “big” 2.1′s and some being “small” 2.1′s – some people will want exact measurements while others will just want to know whether it is the size it claims to be. To me, the best reviews would have numerical data on points like this.
    [note: I'm not bashing your review with this analogy, as there's much more to a set of wheels than the engagement, the same as there's much more to a set of tires than their width - the analogy is simply to show that more data simply allows your review to satisfy a wider range of people]

    Ps.
    I dont mean this to be confrontational (though my style of writing unfortunately comes across this way sometimes), it’s just something that may be worth considering (ofcourse, you’re welcome to tell me you’re not interested, which is fine too).
    It’s nice to see your reviews up here. Always interesting kit, nicely described and photographed and with much thought evidently put into writing and testing. Sorry if my rather anal nitpicking is irritating here, I just thought it a point putting across (and am unable to stop myself from replying to rebuttals – the debater in me, I suppose)

  • Brian Mullin says:

    The rear hub uses the standard 24 teeth engagement point, but it’s a slighly odd system:

    “The American Classic Six Pawl Cam Actuated Engagement System is an interesting beast. All the six pawls engage in unison when pedaling input is applied, and the cam plate powers the pawls up into engagement with the 24 toothed ratchet on the cassette body simultaneously. There is a secondary ratchet system that does the coasting, and forces engagement of the pawls only for drive torque transfer. Each steel pawl is double tipped for 12 points of engagement.”

    I updated my article slightly. I added the lack of 20mm front axle, and slight variation on my impressions of the rear hub. I hope it adds some clarity.

    1) “AC meant these wheels for cross country and trail riders, which mostly use 150mm or less of travel. Fox and Marzocchi use 15mm as a standard, while Magura, Manitou and Rock Shox use 20mm. I would like to see an optional 20mm axle for these other forks.”

    2) “Add in the fact that the rear hub pawl and ratchet system give a positive, solid and and low friction engagement, all make for a winning synergy. Even though it only has a 24 point engagement, it feels like it snaps quickly into action, with a buttery smooth feel.”

    I enjoyed your information, as it made me re-think a few things, and it made me go spin a couple of my wheels to see how they felt. It would be nice to have a slew of rear wheels that you could do back to back tests on, to see how they all work in the real world. I like it when my readers think, and are provoked into a technical quagmire.

  • Anon says:

    And provoke you into a technical quagmire back :p

    Hmm, sounds interesting (and I’m too tired to work out exactly what it boils down to)…
    Just to clarify – when you spin the wheel a whole rotation (doing it slowly and counting the engagement clicks) do you get 24?

    What other hubs have you ridden extensively?
    Do you have much ride time on hubs with faster engagement (I9, CK, Hadley, Trueprecision, etc)?

  • Brian Mullin says:

    Yep, 24 clicks. I have spent a lot of time on Cranks Bros, XTR, Hope, Mavic and AC (obviously). I had some short rides on CK’s and have only played around with the I9 and Stealth at the shows (parking lot tests). I would love to get some testing time on the CK and I9, but nothing in the works as yet. Chris King and I9, you’re reading this? So my expertise with high POE hubs is minimal. I hope to change that in the future.

    Quagmire back to you!

  • Anon says:

    Hmm, I guess that would go some awy to explaining how 24 poe would be quick in your book I suppose.

    As I said earlier, to friends who’ve only ridden on hubs with relatively slow engagement (ie: 24) dont see them as slow, as their frame of reference doesnt account for faster hubs. Even for particularly slow (ie: 18) engaging hubs, there is always this possibility – that it won’t feel slow unless you’ve ridden something quicker for it to feel slow compared to.

    Having ridden quicker hubs a fair amount (albeit mostly on 48 rather than 72+, but the difference between 48 and 72 is actually less than between 24 and 36*) I can feel a considerable difference, to the point that riding on 24 points does feel like it takes an age to engage (though 36 is much less noticable).

    * When working on angles of engagement… 72 points is 5 degrees per point (360/72), 48:7.5 (360/48), 36:10, 24:15, 18:20.

    I guess the real question is:
    If 24 points doesn’t feel like it engages too slowly, is it really a good idea to try hubs with faster engagement?
    There is an argument to be made for sticking to 24 points if that feels fast enough since 24pt hubs are generally cheaper, a little more reliable and require a little less maintainance.
    For an analogy: a real weight-weenie bike has some performance advantages, but is more expensive and generally less reliable than your standard “pretty light” bike – and if you haven’t tried one, that difference (that costs you alot more money) may well not be worth it, but unless you try you’d never know what you’d be missing out on.
    (Personally, I’d have to say that curiosity would always get the better of me, though I have a fairly light bike it’s by no means a WW… though it’s something I’d like to try at some stage)

  • Brian Mullin says:

    I am intrigued now! I can’t talk shite about if I haven’t spent enough true world testing on them, lets call them HPOE as opposed to LPOE! I have been a weight weenie for the good part of 2 decades (aka Gram), but as I get older and spend more time in All Mountain terrain my bike has gotten heavier, of course it is still light compared to most, my Mojo has gotten a fat 27 lbs (adjustable seatpost and 2050 gram wheels) with the latest test gear. My latest test wheel the Velocity P35 rolls and accelerates like molasses, but the stability from those wide rims is impressive, you can bash and roll into anything and they stay the course.

    I will ping you separate so we can keep this offline, else it will be longer than the article!

  • Anon says:

    Well, I wouldn’t go that far…

    In terms of hub engagement maybe, but there’s much more to a wheelset than how quickly the mechanism engages (and I must say you’ve done a good job of everything else)

  • Rensho says:

    For riding gears, the POE is not as big of a deal. For riding SS, it is a very big deal. Trying to ratchet over an obstacle or getting started on a steep hill, I really appreciate only needing to move the crank a small amount in order to apply or get back to max torque. If I need to spin the crank 20-30d to get to the next POE, I’ve either fallen over, or have lost way too much momentum.
    OTOH, there is a point of diminishing returns. I run i9, AC, XTR960, DT 240s/18. I can’t stand the last 3 for even running gears. DT is the worst. I’m getting the 36poe ratchets and see if that helps enough. On my i9, I removed 1/2 the paws to get down to 60poe, and that works well enough. My friends running Hope pro II trials, 48 poe, seem to get along with theirs well too.

  • pete says:

    the key comment in this review is that the designer chose to REDUCE the distance between the flanges in order to reduce hub shell flex in the area of the bearings. unfortunately this reduces dish, and in my experience with other hubs out there, contributes to wheel flex. with a 29er wheel, this issue goes from being a nuisance to becoming a real PIA.

    the designer at AC should focus on competitors’ hubs that managage to combine wide flange separation with good bearing durability.

  • Wankel7 says:

    Do they have a wheelset that isn’t a rolling billboard? Black would be nice.

  • Brian Mullin says:

    Pete, please ping AC directly with you issue, they do listen!

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