Review: American Classic Wide Lightning wheelset

Although not the first to launch properly wide rims, American Classic's Wide Lightning were the first to offer extra width in a light and strong rim. Billed for anything from XC to Enduro, we put them to test to see for ourselves how they hold up after months of real-life use.
American Classic Wide Lightning.jpg

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.


American Classic Wide Lightning 3.jpg

American Classic Wide Lightning 4.jpg


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.


American Classic Wide Lightning 2.jpgMomsen Mount Graham 29x2.20" tyre mounted on an Alex Rim DH19 rim.

American Classic Wide Lightning 1.jpgMomsen Mount Graham 29x2.20" tyre mounted on a Wide Lightning.


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


Wide Lightning.jpgThe Wide Lightnings feature a 29.3mm internal width and a 32mm external width.
I recently spent time on the 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.

American Classic Wide Lightning 5.jpgThe American Classic Wide Lightning rear hub setup for single speed gearing.
Keen to see what the effect would be on a more trail orientated tyre, I swapped the front tyre for a 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.

Verdict


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.



Manufacturer's specifications:



  • 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






54 Comments

Cylon, May 11 2015 07:23

Great review. I recently bought a set of the Wide Lightnings and I think you pretty much nailed it. The extra traction and comfort that comes with 29mm wide rims is game changing, even more so when they weigh as much as a decent carbon wheelset for a fraction of the price. The only downsides to the Wide Lightnings are the AC hubs, which as mentioned in the review, take some getting used to in technical terrain, especially if you're used to hubs that have more points of engagement. They are great on flats and downhills though due to the fact that they fully disengage, unlike DT Swiss hubs for example. I also noticed a small ding in the rim after their maiden voyage at Breedstnek which could simply have been due to bad luck but I'm worried that these light aluminium rims are a little soft. Time will tell I guess.

Kraggie, May 11 2015 07:57

Awesome wheelset for the price, I came from a Giant hub, so the engagement is quicker than that so for my not an issue.

 

Only issue is I managed to dent the rear rim running too low pressures obviously. Ran 1.5, learnt my lesson ... it's definitely a dent from low pressure not from a stone or anything like that.

dirtypot, May 11 2015 09:05

Is it more difficult to seat the tyre onto the wider rim?

pgp, May 11 2015 11:15

Is it more difficult to seat the tyre onto the wider rim?

I used a track pump to set Bontrager tyres on mine.

JohanMalan, May 11 2015 12:02

Awesome wheelset!

I was surprised by their stiffness.

Feels like a legal cheat.

I am used to AC hubs, so I use them on geared and SS bikes, no problem, I actually prefer them to some of the ' faster engaging hubs, as AC hubs have pretty large bearings despite the low weight, and replacing them with proper NTN bearings results in very reliable smooth hubs.

JXV, May 11 2015 01:08

I would prefer to be able to purchase these as rims only. Reason being that I want to fit similar hubs to those I already have. This offers back-up spares in an emergency and also means I can swop wheelsets without having to reset brake calipers or derailleur indexing.
Even though hub dimensions are supposed to be standardised, there are small differences between manufacturers so it is not guaranteed that a new wheelset with different hubs will be plug-and-play.

ACM, May 11 2015 09:01

I have 2 bikes - both bikes have the exact same Hope Pro Evo hubs. Plus I'm using the same fox fork on both - slightly different models. Still, when I swap wheels I have to reset callipers. So, I don't think plug & play is a given, even if you use the same kit on both bikes.

Lance Roberts, May 12 2015 07:46

Does the wider foot print of the tyre on the ground not add more rolling resistance?

Cptmayhem, May 12 2015 07:59

Does the wider foot print of the tyre on the ground not add more rolling resistance?


Short answer. No

Cptmayhem, May 12 2015 08:04

Longer answer. The increased width of the tire allows you to run a lower pressure, which then allows the tire to absorb more of the irregularities on the trail without having multiple small rebounds which slow the bike down incrementally. The effect of a wider contact patch is minimal.

Pikey, May 12 2015 08:25

Longer answer. The increased width of the tire allows you to run a lower pressure, which then allows the tire to absorb more of the irregularities on the trail without having multiple small rebounds which slow the bike down incrementally. The effect of a wider contact patch is minimal.

Excellent explanation.At last I understand,could never wrap my brain around why wider would not = a lot more rolling restitance. They feel bloody responsive and very quick,can transform a bike for sure. The grip for climbing and cornering I find very reassuring. And they plenty tough as well. Rock gardens included.

Nice write up 👍

Lance Roberts, May 12 2015 08:51

Longer answer. The increased width of the tire allows you to run a lower pressure, which then allows the tire to absorb more of the irregularities on the trail without having multiple small rebounds which slow the bike down incrementally. The effect of a wider contact patch is minimal.

Thanks for the explanation, I'm a lot closer to buying a set now, just waiting for EVO to get new stock in.

 

Cheers!

Cptmayhem, May 12 2015 09:16

Excellent explanation.At last I understand,could never wrap my brain around why wider would not = a lot more rolling restitance. They feel bloody responsive and very quick,can transform a bike for sure. The grip for climbing and cornering I find very reassuring. And they plenty tough as well. Rock gardens included.

Nice write up

 

 

Thanks for the explanation, I'm a lot closer to buying a set now, just waiting for EVO to get new stock in.

 

Cheers!

For an action-sequence over the top explanation of it, have a look at the comparative videos showing a 650+ tyre and a normal 29er tire going over a block of wood. 650+ tyre just soaks it up and carries on, whereas the 29er can't deform enough and deflects a bit, which causes the suspension to compress, and robs the bike of forward momentum. 

 

Bear in mind that this is a large-scale representation of what happens on the trail, and the multiple undulations will have a smaller effect on the tyre's behaviour - but one that adds up over time. 

IH8MUD, May 12 2015 11:03

I did it this morning . . . . . :ph34r:

 


Attached Images

  • Wide Lightning.jpg

BenGraham, May 12 2015 11:35

But can you get them in 26?

Lance Roberts, May 12 2015 11:36

I did it this morning . . . . . :ph34r:

 

Ag nee sies man!!

Show-off!!

Pikey, May 12 2015 02:41

I did it this morning . . . . . :ph34r:

You gonna be well impressed. Good choice.

Pikey, May 12 2015 02:46

But can you get them in 26?

Unfortunately not,also wanted them in 26" . Only 29" & 27.5"

Captainturbo, May 14 2015 06:58

I bought a set from CWC Willowbridge. . R6500.. Couple of months ago. . Very happy and impressed. Did find that the rear hub engaged bit slower than my Shimano's hubs with Syncros rimms up Stairway to heaven at Meerendal. . As if there should be more rachet teeth... or they should be smaller... so yes.. be in correct gear and keep pedaling around tight corners. I saved 450gm on rear wheel and 350gm on ftont wheel.. same tyres and cealant.. with 107kg limit and me only 75kg.. they are pretty much bullet proof!

Captainturbo, May 14 2015 07:10

O yes.. Just a reminder for all buying a set.. please set the bearing locks, so that the bearings do not get pinched tight when fastening QR or through axles. Too loose and the wheel will woble, to tight and you will have extra resistance. Still think it is the best value for money rimms out there... enjoy!

Paul Ruinaard, May 22 2015 08:38

Does anyone know if any local folks have stock of these - I want a set but cant find them anywhere...

Iwan Kemp, May 22 2015 08:42

Does anyone know if any local folks have stock of these - I want a set but cant find them anywhere...

 

Not yet. Last we heard they should have in 2 weeks. You can place a pre-order on evobikes.com - something I would strongly recommend as there are LOTS of people waiting.

werner1619, May 22 2015 08:34

I am also looking for a 27,5 set :-)

 

( how sad that lbs has stock issues ... ? )

NGUTF, May 25 2015 03:32

Are the WL's true tubeless (or what ever its called?) or do you have to run tape and all that other stuff to seal them proper? 

Iwan Kemp, May 25 2015 03:41

Are the WL's true tubeless (or what ever its called?) or do you have to run tape and all that other stuff to seal them proper? 

 

 

They come standard with American Classic's own rim tape fitted. Have a look here

 

https://www.bikehub....or-wheels-r2367