American Classic is a company that is dedicated to continuos innovation. I guess that’s what happens when your founder, Bill Shook, is an engineer. If you spend any time talking to Bill, you can sense that he’s constantly looking for problems to solve.
Just a couple of years ago, rims with an internal width of 25mm or more were considered to be in the realm of downhill bikes only. Bill saw that wider rims could have benefits for all discipline,s though, and began adding millimeters across their line. Most notably, American Classic’s Wide Lightning wheels are almost 30mm wide internally. Even at that width and a tall 22mm profile, they weigh less than many carbon wheels, at 1569g for the 29 inch set. They’re able to do that by refining the alloys used in their rims, as well as getting crazy-thin extrusions. Not only that, they’re tough, too. American Classic markets the Wide Lightnings as being able to handle everything from XC racing to enduro. Speaking from personal experience, they aren’t just blowing smoke.
When I saw an even wider set of wheels on display at Interbike, I was very curious. The new Smokin’ Gun wheel set is available in either a 27.5″ or 29″ diameter and measures 40mm wide internally. These suckers are massive. While not officially a “plus” wheel set per se, American Classic doesn’t recommend running tires less than 2.5″ wide. Anything narrower than that, and the tire’s profile will get too squared off, leading to some awkward handling characteristics. If you’ve spent any time on a fat bike where the tire wasn’t wide enough for the rim, you know what I mean. You have to steer more than you lean, which isn’t something you want to be doing on a mountain bike.
On the subject of weight, the Smokin’ Guns are very light for their width, coming in at 1733g for a pair of 27.5″ wheels. To put that in perspective, the Ibis 741 carbon wheels are just a hair lighter at 1710g, but also cost nearly twice as much. A Stan’s Flow EX 27.5 wheel set weighs in at 1850g, but is also only 25.5mm wide internally–15mm narrower than the American Classics.
American Classic has gone with a clean, understated graphic on all their wheels for 2016, and as long as you like black (and who doesn’t?), they’ll look great on any bike. The Smokin’ Gun wheels will be available in January for $899 in either diameter.