With availability in both 27.5" and 29" models and a new carbon spin-off called the Carbonator, there's a model for just about any bike and budget. The 32 hole rims are build 3-Cross Front and Rear into a wheelset using their own 14/15 gauge spokes and aluminium nipples. Claimed weight for the set is 1569g which is very competitive.
The Wide Lightnings feature the same basic driver mechanism as used on other American Classic wheels. The ratchet teeth are integrated directly into the one-piece aluminium freehub body while a steel cam plate simultaneously engages and disengages six aluminium pawls depending on whether you're pedaling or not.
The advantage to using aluminium all the way through is an incredibly light rear hub, 225g, according to American Classic. The disadvantage is the ratchet teeth have to be bigger than usual to withstand the applied forces. This results in a slow 15-degree engagement.
The argument for wider rims
Wider rims can dramatically increase the volume of a given tire by increasing the distance between the bead seats. Wide rims also have the additional benefit of increasing the sidewall support. This results in a more stable tyre - especially at lower pressures which in turn leads to better traction, out-right traction under load, braking traction and comfort.
By gaining traction and grip through a wider rim a rider would not necessarily have to run a bigger or gripper tyre, meaning a lighter tyre can be used.
As an example: You're riding Schwalbe Racing Ralphs, but find them a bit skiddish in front. Usually you would look at fitting a Rocket Ron or maybe a Nobby Nic to get the grip and confidence you're looking for or you would run a wider tyre in front. By running wider rims this wouldn't necessarily be needed.
On the Trail
Momsen Mount Graham tyres for a review. After about 3 months of use, I started toying with the idea using a grippier front tyre instead. While I was looking around at some options, I changed my wheelset to American Classic's Wide Lightning and decided to move the front and rear tyres across to get an idea of the effect of the wider rim. For reference, the Wide Lightning measures 29.3mm internal and 32mm external vs the AMC MTB 29 Tubeless which is 21mm internal and 26 external.
What a difference those 8.3 internal millimetres make. For starters, I could run even lower pressures than I usually do for extra grip and traction and not sacrifice confidence caused by the tyre rolling on it's carcass. Secondly the extra width of the rim gives the tyre tread a less rounded profile with less of a drop-off on the sides, giving the tyre a bigger contact patch. This makes the transition from the centre to the side knobs more predictable and further boosting confidence. On the Wide Lightnings, the Mount Grahams proved themselves capable of trail riding with ease and reached it's limits much later.
Vee Crown F. I usually run somewhere between 20-23PSI front and 25-28PSI. Again I could pump it up with 5PSI less than usual when mounted to the Wide Lightnings.
My only complaint would be the slow engagement of the rear hubs. By no means terrible, just not in tune with modern offerings and definitely something that takes getting used to. Even more so when there's an Industry Nine hub on my other bike. Pedaling up technical single track takes some careful planning and requires consistent pedaling - something that's not always possible on tricky sections. Once up to speed though, there are no complaints.
Also, I haven't Enduro'ed them, but I would imagine that with a 2.7mm wall thickness they will be too thin to bash day in and out. I have had them on three 29" bikes (Steel Single Speed, 100mm Dual Suspension race bike, Trail 29er) and they were comfortable doing duty on all three. The extra cushioning of the lower pressures were welcome on the single speed, the low weight (especially when factoring in tyres as well) was welcome on the race bike, While on the trail 29er they took whatever was thrown at them in their stride. After months of use they are still true and dent free and haven't needed any TLC.
One always has to remind oneself with reviews to put personal preference aside and see something for what it is or meant to be. In this case, however, I feel comfortable to call the Wide Lightnings game changers.
Until you've tried wider rims for yourself there's no way to properly describe the impact it has without sounding like hype or that you've just spent too much time in the sun.
When I got my first set of Wide Lightnings, I did not think such grip, traction and comfort was possible at this weight. They are definitely very good as XC, Marathon and trail wheels, and are more than happy to play out on the trails without the worry of breaking - not something that can be said of other race wheels. Besides, where can you buy one wheelset that will cover so many bases and look good doing it?
Get out there and drink some of the wide rims cool aid.
The American Classic Wide Lightning wheelset has a RRP of R7,800. Should your Local Bike Store not have stock, new stock will be arriving in June.
- DisciplineMTB | Cross Country | Enduro
- RimsMTB Wide lightning Tubeless Aluminum Disc Rims 29”
- Spokes and nipplesAC 14/15 gauge Spokes Black | AC Aluminum Spoke Nipples Silver | 32h 3-Cross Front and Rear
- Weight front727g
- Weight rear842g
- Weight pair1,569g
- Front Hubs / SpacingDisc 130 100 mm | 15 mm Thru Axle Disc 100 mm | 9 mm Thru Axle Disc 100 mm | Lefty Disc 100mm
- Rear Hubs / SpacingDisc 225 135 mm | 10 mm x 135 mm Thru Axle Disc | 142 mm Thru Axle Disc | Shimano/SRAM 9/10/11 or SRAM XX1
- IncludedAC Tubeless Tape Installed | AC Tubeless Valves
- Quick releaseCromoly QR's
- UpgradesCeramic Bearings | Titanium QR's | Wheel Bag Thru Axle QR's
- Brake interface6 Bolt International Standard