American Classic Race 29’er Wheelset Review

The American Classic Race 29’er wheelset has been reviewed countless times before.  Where this review differs, is the genre of racing and cycling for which this wheelset has been used.  For over 15 months, the American Classic Race 29’er wheelset has been part of my Ultra CX / Monster CX arsenal.

At the time of this article (October 23, 2014), the wheels have been raced at (my race video links below):

… to name a few.  There is also the countless training miles (link to the velcro tyre training ride) where the wheels have been spared no mercy.

Having spent this much time on the wheels, you can consider this a long term wheelset review.

Inside the Box

Despite owning two pairs of these wheels, I (JOM) didn’t think to take photos of the goodies when I originally opened the boxes.  But rest assured, the wheels came safely packed in a lovely wheelbox, complete with American Classic’s spanky red valves, quick releases, cassette spacer, tubeless tape pre-installed, catalog, and a nice sticker.

Quick releases supplied will depend on your chosen hub configuration.  In my case, my Monster CX rig requires a 15mm thru axle on the front wheel, and a regular 9mm quick release on the rear.

AC29Race1-Flash
688.5 grams.

The Important Stuff

Everyone loves light wheels.

Wheel weights (with American Classic tubeless tape installed).  Front wheel – 688.5 grams, rear wheel – 803.5 grams, making for a total of 1492 grams.  Catalog weight on these wheels is 1459 grams, but axle choice and tape installation will affect that weight.  Regardless, a sub 1500 gram aluminum (aluminium) MTB wheelset, with 32 *regular* spokes, and tubeless tape installed is impressive stuff.

AC29Race2-Flash
803.5 grams.

Regular spokes – there are no proprietary, rocket science, custom spokes with these wheels.  All of the spokes are a regular J-Bend, mated to an American Classic alloy nipple.  Should one break a spoke, a regular J-Bend spoke, available from any local bike shop, will have you up and running quickly.  American Classic also stocks spare spokes.

Six bolt rotor mount – again, no worries here, six bolt rotors are virtually the standard for disc brake wheelsets.

Tire InstallationAC29Race4

Installation of tires was a piece of cake.  I won’t go into details about the tires I currently use, but suffice to say, both pairs mounted easily with a compressor.  Both wheelsets are configured tubeless.

Why two sets of these wheels?

I’m a bit of a nut when it comes to bike preparation for an event.  Leaving very little to chance, each set of my American Classic 29’er Race wheels is fitted with a different type of tire.  One set is geared towards knarlier terrain Ultra CX events, and the other, for those of a more gentler nature.  Each rear wheel is also fitted with a different cassette, again dependent on terrain.

How do they Ride?

AC29Race3CloseFabulous is the word.  As stated earlier, sub 1500 gram MTB wheels are a delight.  But, when the wheels are paired with a custom built drop bar mountain bike frame and a fast set of tyres, the bike’s performance is significantly increased.

Firstly, there is the acceleration factor.  The wheels with the right tyre combination have the bike feeling snappy.  Granted, a drop bar MTB Monster CX rig isn’t going to be as snappy as a regular CX bike, but these wheels give the rider a massive edge.  Because of the wider rims, and the ability to run fast MTB tyres, a good rider on a Monster CX rig can blitz tricky gravel descents, which normally leave a CX bike floundering.

On regular hardpack and paved surfaces, these wheels feel just like a fast set of road wheels.  In fact, one of the local Gainesville guys, Dr Pain, has successfully hung with and attacked multiple times, one of the A level group rides, riding his Monster CX rig and the American Classic 29’er Race wheels.

Ascending – Because the wheels are light, the wheels are barely noticeable, a good thing.  In or out the saddle, they climb well.

Descending – Don’t let the high spoke count fool you.  I had the wheels up to 47mph at Iron Cross XII this year on a paved descent, and into the high 30’s on some of the gravel descents.  I don’t even think about the wheels, that is how much confidence I have in them, and my chosen tyre combination.

Long Term Performance

For 15 months, these wheels have remained true, with zero broken spokes.  The wheels have been submerged in water, mud and sludge multiple times.  Yet, the wheel bearings remain smooth and trouble free.  The wheels have been hammered on dirt and gravel descents.

ZERO impact upon performance.
Dent = ZERO impact upon performance.

One of my rims has been dented on the sidewall and top of the rim, but this minor damage has not affected the wheelset, or tubeless performance in any way.  I suspect the damage was caused by an errant rock, crushed by yours truly as I was bombing a descent sometime during 2013 / 2014.  Overall, the wheels have been maintenance free, and a pleasure to ride.

My impressions of these wheels has been so positive, that at least four other cyclists in Gainesville, Florida with an affliction for gravel / limerock / dirt riding, are now riding these wheels.  Three of these cyclists are running the wheels on their CX bikes (for gravel racing), such is their improved performance over stock CX wheelsets.  Pricing is very competitive.

Overall

AC29Race5Gravel Cyclist doesn’t have a points or review ranking system.  If we did, these wheels would score very highly.  These wheels are MORE than just MTB wheels for rolling around in the woods.  They are an awesome upgrade for a gravel grinder type bicycle… or a cross bike.

Consider dropping by American Classic’s Website, or calling the friendly sales staff at their USA office.

Thanks for reading!

Note: In no way was Gravel Cyclist bribed for this review.  Both wheelsets were bought and paid for by JOM.

25 comments on “American Classic Race 29’er Wheelset Review

  1. I do have a comment — I’ve been riding Stan’s Arch Ex wheelset. I’m considering both the AM Classic MTR Race (boy, long name) and Stan’s Grail Comp as my next CX/gravel/training wheels. Any experience with Stan’s

    FWIW..I’m 6’1″ & 205 lbs.

  2. Thanks for the reply. I have been reading a lot on Ultra CX bike set up and go back and forth on several build options. The good thing is it seems a lot of choices seem to work. I’m in your camp on the wider tire options and like the idea of the road handlebars. The new Moots Routt 45 is directionally correct, but pricey given it’s new… so, I’m looking at the possibility of the used Ti mountain bike frame.

    Long story short, what should I focus on when sizing a mountain bike frame to fit me with road bars? Do you compare stack and reach with road frames and fine tune it from there? Any rule of thumb, like go one size down from normal mountain bike sizing?

    Thanks,
    Steve

    1. Steve,

      Sorry for the delay in my reply. Comparing reach on an MTB frame vs a road frame typically won’t work, because the virtual top tube length is longer on an MTB. Rather, I first had to focus on the correct seattube length. If the seattube is too short, a seatpost that is > 400mm would be required, which (a) don’t exist? and (b) would flex terribly.

      In my case, I have a 17″ seattube. From there, I used a zero setback seatpost (400mm), my saddle and a plumb bob to get my saddle position relative to my road position / centre of bottom bracket. Then I had to shorten the stem significantly. I ended up with a 66mm Syntace Flatforce, which also drops the bars nice and low. Not quite to my road position, but a little extra bar height is desirable for Ultra CX. I hope this helps.

      I started drafting an article a while ago about converting an MTB frame to a Monster CX setup. I really need to finish that off.

      Jayson

  3. Hi
    I have a set of A.C. 29race which I’ve previously have used for MTB marathons 12/24H races etc
    How ever they are a bit on the soft side for my riding style now.
    But would they not be strong enough for a gravel/commuter buildup on a Escaped, I’m so lucky that my 11km tarmac to work can be transformed to 18 km fifty/fifty gravel/Forrest tracks and tarmac in the way home 🙂
    (I know nothing of riding road, CX and other dropbar activities – so no ideer eighter of how “strong” wheels have to be)
    Oh yea, I’m bout 195lbs (88kg) all loaded up,so still whitin the 210lbs weight limit off the wheels 😉

  4. Hello. Your review of the AM Classic Race 29’er wheels is very helpful. The fellow Gainesville cyclist running these wheels on CX bikes that you mention, what size tires are they able to fit into their frames? I am purchasing a Specialized Crux and would like to use the Race 29’er’s for D2R2(not the Full Monty, being a newbie) and the Vermont Overland this summer. Thanks. Regards,Ralph.

    1. Hi Ralph,

      The lad with the Specialized carbon Crux and AC Race 29’ers is running Clement’s X’Plor MSO tyre in 40mm – tubeless – no worries for clearance.

      Jayson (JOM)

  5. I’m asking out of ignorance here. Help me out….

    How are guys using these wheels on cross bikes? What cassette are they using? Will these wheels work with current 11 speed road cassettes? I’m very intrigued and would love to hear some details around making them work with CX bikes.

    1. Hi Tim,

      The newer versions of these wheels with the 11 speed body (I believe any hub shell marked from D onwards is 11 speed compatible) work just fine with road or CX type cassettes. For example, two of my teammates are running various combinations of the SRAM 1170 cassette, in conjunction with a SRAM Red 22 drivetrain. I cannot speak for the older generation wheels, but perhaps one of those 3rd party cassettes that fit 11 gears into the space of 10 will work. Worst case scenario, call American Classic with your questions about which generation of wheel is specifically 11 speed compatible.

      I hope this helps!

  6. Yes, certainly helps and thanks a bunch for the reply Jayson.

    Had a pretty good discussion about these wheels in the gravel section on bikeforums based on this review. One person spoke very highly of you. Thinking of putting these on a 2015 CAADX.

    Thanks again. Ride safe. Peace.

    -Tim-

  7. I’ve got these wheels on my xc bike, love them! Thinking about migrating them to road bike duties though – reckon they’d be ok running something like a Schwalbe s-one tubeless in 30c or is the rim too wide?

    1. Hi Gary,

      We’ve run these wheels with 38mm wide tyres, but nothing below that. I recommend you call American Classic and pose your question to them.

      Please let us know how it goes!

      Regards,

      JOM

    2. Hi Gary,

      I’m thinking of putting these wheels on a Niner RLT9.

      Did you have an answer from AMC on the minimum tyre section to use?

        1. Thanks for the advice and contact!
          Just had an answer from AMC, the guys answered very fast!
          Tyres from 35C can be mount on the 29 Race rims.

  8. Still thinking of getting a set of wheels built up over winter after I get some more gravel riding/racing under my belt. I saw somebody posting the pretty red Chris King hubs but for $500 – $600 just for the hubs that is out of my price point. What hubs did you use. I think I might have read American classic 32 or 36 spokes but I can’t remember. tks

  9. 6 months and 1200 miles on a pair of these wheels and the rear hub bearings had to be replaced and freehub had to be rebuilt under warranty – bad from the factory.

    I noticed a little side to side play when new but had never used through axles and thought it was normal. Feel kind of silly now that I know but it got worse over time and after 1200 miles the rear drive side bearing was quite crunchy.

    American Classic uses an interesting clutch design for the freehub and the large spring which holds the clutch plate was gouged. ProWheelBuilder.com is an American Classic authorized. The owner diagnosed and both he and his contact at AC could not understand how the freehub failed the way it did.

    ProWheelBuilder.com did a great job and the wheels are quite literally better than new but please check your wheels before putting them into service.

    Also lots of people reporting that the 38 mm version of the Scwhalbe G-One Allaround blows off the rim when used with these wheels. This combination does not seem to work well together. Reference https://www.bikeforums.net/cyclocross-gravelbiking-recreational/1123760-schwalbe-g-one-allaround-blowing-off-rim-why-alternative.html

    -Tim-

  10. By the way, I’m running them with the 35 mm version of the G-One Allaround without problem.

    Also 30% off Black Friday sale at the AC website. Act fast.

  11. Went into the garage this morning and the 35mm G-One’s were self-deflated. Obviously Schwalbe G-One’s don’t work well with these rims.

    Panaracer Gravelkings are now on the bike. If this combination is good enough for JOM them it should be good enough for me.

    -Tim-

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *