Feature: American Classic Wide Lightning and other 2014 Wheels

27.5 29er Wheels

Wider is better! The Wide Lightning is American Classic’s new lightweight tubeless ready mountain bike wheelset with 32mm width rims for both 27.5″ and 29″ sizes, that is stiff, strong and tough.

I got my usual wonderful technical and in depth walkthrough of their products, by the man himself, President, founder, engineer and techno geek, Bill Shook. Bill went into detail on the evolution of the Wide Lightning wheels, and how his mountain bike rim widths have increased over time. Years ago, he had started out with 24mm rims, and his racers told him that the rims were moving around within their wide tires, so he bumped things up to 26mm and made a better bead barb. Next he created the 28mm rims for his lightweight race wheels, which allowed him to decrease the barb height and use lighter spokes due to the increased strength from the width. He asked himself, where is the sweet spot for rim width? After lots of testing and brain storming, he felt that 32mm hit the jackpot, and one of the reasons is that it creates an ideal tire profile, in which the tire patch has even pressure throughout its footprint. He found that a greater than 32mm width caused the tire to heave up in the middle, so that the pressure is high on the edges and low in the center, which is not an ideal pattern.

American Classic Wide Lightning Internal

The Wide Lightning has a 32mm outer width and a 29.5mm inner, and the cross section with its deep 22mm parabolic depth gives it great stiffness and strength with little detrimental increase in weight. It uses beefy 14/15 double butted spoke in a 3-Cross pattern and at 1512g for the 27.5″ and 1569g for the 29″, they only weigh about 110 grams over the Race wheels, but have greater stiffness and strength. The wheels will only come in 27.5″ and 29″ sizes, due to smaller demand for the 26″ size. The 32-hole aluminum rims come with their tubeless amber tape installed and their trick lightweight valve stems are included. They use their Disc 130 front hub and Disc 225 rear with the typical axle options, and can come with either the Shimano 9/10/11 or SRAM XX1 spline, and they’ll retail for $849.

Bill re-engineered the rear hub for an 11-speed cassette by changing the flange spacing, moving things over towards the non-drive side, shortening the drive side spokes, etc. You can run other sized cassette by adding a spacer; for example, a 10-speed would use a 1.8mm spacer by the spokes. Obviously, I would assume someone might be coming out with something that might fit this someday.

Other highlights from American Classic are:

Wide Lightning Rim Profile - Tubeless with 32 mm external width

American Classic All Mountain Tubeless 27.5

MTB Race is only 1435 grams

American Classic was at Eurobike too with a great booth.

About the author: Brian Mullin

Brian likes to push the limits in all the sports he obsesses in, whether it's mountain biking, whitewater kayaking, 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 articles. Whenever he's not on the bike, he might be found watching MotoGP racing, otherwise look for him out on the trail.

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  • Motivated says:

    When will Wide Lightning 29 be available?

  • Tad Dickman says:

    Motivated – I read next week on their facebook page.

  • r1Gel says:

    Wide Lightning FTW! New dream wheels!!!

  • Twenty Six says:

    Twenty niners are a fad to get roadies into mountain biking because the mountain bike market is stagnant and its scaring manufacturers.

    Yes 29ers roll faster until you have to make a real turn or bunny hop an obstacle then a real rider sees how lame they are. Real riders will taco those flimsy wheels too when ridden hard.

    26.75 should be the next size, it’s the perfect compromise between 27.5 and 26. Plus it’ll revitalize the tire/tube/wheel/rim and spoke business… Genius HAHAHAA!

    • scentofreason says:

      I routinely out decent 650b and 26″ dual suspended riders on my 29″ hardtail (cross country racing). The thing is, for cc racing, most of your time is made in the climbs and the flat peddling sections, this is where the 29″ shines. So hangs with the smaller wheels and dualies, but walks away on the flats and climbs. CC weapon of choice is a 29″ with a dropper post….

  • J says:

    i rented a 29er the other day and here is my take, it took next to no skill to navigate the trail, its like being in a monster truck and driving over a pump track, it just tames the trail. All the things that require skill ie, bunny hop, jumps, fast maneuvering ect sucks on a 29er, sure maybe times are faster but unless your racing who cares, i grew up riding because of the fun factor, mountain bikes with wheels bigger than 26 were made to increase the customer base, 29rs take far less skill to ride and that benefits manufacturers by enabling people with limited skill to be able to buy a bike and quickly be out on the trails, manufactures want a bigger customer base, and there are far more people who cant ride vs who can, you do the math.

  • Paul says:

    My wife wants the new giant 27.5 advanced lust carbon dualism.What axle options would I need to order with the AC wide lightening?Cheers.

  • Eric in NM says:

    I took the plunge on these wheels and have been riding them with abandon for more than six months on my Tallboy C…and I have to say that they are simply far and away the greatest wheels I’ve ever ridden in 14 years of MTBing. No exaggeration. The “wide thing” is soooo NOT hype. I run Maxxis Ardent 2.4’s and I swear they look like 29+ tires. (I recently rode my buddy’s Mach 429 with Easton Haven Carbon’s and his Maxxis tires felt like cross tires, no joke.) do yourself a favor and sell your 21 mm internal width rims NOW (let alone your 19 mm’s!), you’ll feel less guilty than if you wait until after you ride these. Bill Shook is my hero. Seriously: 29er wheel set for $849 29.3 mm internal width, pain free tubeless, and only 1689 gm?!? They are insane. Love, love, love ’em.
    : )
    Cheers, Eric

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