The American Classic Sprint 350 tubeless wheels are light, stiff and bang on-trend for wider profile or tubeless tyres. A good choice for general riding training or a dabble in the racing pond, so long as you're less than 100kg. This weight/pricepoint is a crowded space and they could be cheaper, so shop around.
Weighing in at 1,440g without valves or quick release skewers, for £600 the Sprint 350s are starting to get up there price-wise in the highly-competitive 1,400-1,500g wheelset category. Logical spec/feature comparisons can be drawn with the likes of the Hunt Race Aero Wide wheels (try saying that three times fast), which at £419 RRP with a 95kg limit might seem a better use of your cash. I've not ridden these specific Hunts, but Dave liked them and I've been impressed with other versions. Clearly this is a space where research and asking around can pay dividends.
You get more spokes on the American Classics than the Hunts: 28 front/32 rear against 20/24, which you'd think would add up to a stiffer, more robust wheel. Dave has a good 20kg and 50-odd watts on me and in the above review he didn't find the Hunts flexy even in race scenarios, so clearly more isn't necessarily better on the face of it. That said, it's impossible to get a long-term reliability view of a product out of a month or so's testing. But enough of a competitor's comparison.
The 19.6mm internal rim width as measured (19.7mm advertised) certainly suits the wide-tyre consensus. Not 'trend', consensus. If you've been under a rock for the last three years, a quick update: wide is good. Preferably 28mm or bigger, at sensible pressures like 70-80psi or less. They're provably faster and offer more grip than narrower, harder setups (no correspondence will be entered into). Indeed, for a 19mm internal rim width, accepted wisdom says 28mm is the narrowest tyre size you should run lest the profile become too wide and shallow once inflated.
Not being excessively aero at 24mm deep, the key feature of the Sprint 350s has to be the tubeless-ready rim bed and profile. American Classic include in the Sprint 350 package a pair of natty red tubeless valves complete with American Classic logo that you'll never see again once it's inside the tyre. American Classic have optimised the rim profile for tubeless integrity, with a 'bead barb' or ridge sitting slightly proud of the rim bed to either side of the centre channel. 'Barb' is too strong a term as we are talking maybe a millimetre-high ridge here, but it's enough to prevent the tyre bead from slipping towards the centre channel under hard cornering at low pressure. Stopping that prevents the classic 'burping' scenario that can cause an instant partial or complete loss of pressure and subsequent collapse of a tubeless tyre.
I've been riding many combinations of tubeless-ready and non-tubeless-specific rims with tubeless tyres for three years now, and have yet to experience a 'burp' nor have I heard of anyone suffering one in a road cycling context (anecdotes welcome). Mountain biking or cyclocross, yes, but the pressures used off-road are close to an order of magnitude lower than on the road so tyre deformation and bead slippage is much more likely. With the bead barb feature it's perfectly acceptable to run a low-pressure tubeless cyclocross or gravel tyre on the Sprint 350s, making the £600 pricetag a bit easier to swallow if you need them to do both road and rim-braked cyclo-cross duty.
Double, double, toil and trouble...
What the bead barb and overall rim profile including dual layers of tubeless tape do is make fitting tyres a decidedly piggish affair. Fitting my tried and trusted 28mm Continental Grand Prix 4 Seasons (with tubes of course) was an exercise in sweary, borderline snappy-levered frustration. Tyres that go straight on to other rims with no tools took three goes, with close attention needed to ensure each bead was sitting as low as possible in the centre channel as I worked my way around, then judicious use of my Sunday Best tyre lever to do the final pop; no way was I retaining skin on my thumbs getting the last bit of bead over manually. All the while I was ruminating on how much fun this experience wouldn't be on a cold, wet roadside with fellow riders looking on. Once both beads were on the act of inflating the clincher tyre sounded just like a tubeless, the beads popping over the barb and sitting home against the rim wall with a loud bang.
Levers to bed; 'tis almost Fairy time
American Classic include detailed tyre fitting instructions, most of which comes down to 'no carbon beads' and 'use dishwashing liquid'. Doing a with/without comparison proved that even a small amount of Fairy on the last section of bead does make a considerable difference, the bead of my go-to Schwalbe One 28mm Tubeless popping over just using thumbs and a bit of towel to improve friction and spread the pressure evenly. Again, attention was required to keep the tyre bead in the centre channel, giving some play to get the final section over the rim.
American Classic advise to slather the entire rim in liquid soap, to aid the bead popping over the bead barb during the seating process. After the aforementioned Conti GP 4Seasons debacle above you might lay the blame at the user's feet for not following instructions but, my concern is what do you do when out on the road. Weapons-grade tyre lever, sure, but who carries a towel and sachet of Fairy liquid in their jersey pocket?
Unlike the Continentals, the Schwalbe Ones seated without the tubeless bang, with or without liquid, and went up first time. The American Classic 350 + Schwalbe One combination stayed inflated the first time, using 45ml of Slime Pro sealant http://road.cc/content/review/89759-slime-pro-tubeless-sealant . A benefit of the 19.6mm internal rim width is that once fitted the 28mm Schwalbe Ones measure up bang-on 30mm wide.
Should you ever find your American Classic wheels out of true, a note of caution: don't jump in with a spoke wrench, as the nipples are treated with spoke freeze so you'll need a 'third-hand' tool to hold the spoke while you apply enough force to break the seal, or risk spoke wind-up.
On the 350g rim (see where they got the name from?) there's a brake surface wear dot adjacent to the valve, to aid you in assessing when it's time to retire the wheels. The brake surface is lightly machined and works well even in wet conditions, if used with a soft-enough brake block. I found my go-to Kool-Stop Salmons (as recommended by American Classic) to work pretty well in the wet, even on the low-end calipers fitted to my winter bike.
If you're 'lucky' enough to purchase and then crash the American Classic wheels in the US, they offer a two-year crash replacement program. Nice to know, but would be even nicer if it was a global offering. Should you trash a rim outside the US, replacement rims are available through your American Classic dealer.
American Classic's parts and serviceability has to be among the best in the industry; no throwing out the whole wheelset for want of an obsolete bearing or unavailable axle. Replacement bearings are readily available (two 688s up front, four 6803s for the rear, full instructions on the American Classic website) as are replacement axles, quick release skewers and freehub bodies for both Shimano/SRAM and Campagnolo. If you plan to swap Shimano/SRAM with Campagnolo American Classic advise a wheel re-dishing is required so you'd need to budget time or cost for that.
I took the American Classic 350s out on my steel bike, a Charge Juicer frame that's the proverbial Washington's axe of upgrades and on which I've used a number of wheelsets. The riding hereabouts is a good test of going up, down and flat out, over both smooth and rough-as-guts surfaces often mired in rural detritus. Over a month of testing I found the 350s to be perfectly capable under all circumstances I could provoke.
Wrestling up one-in-four ramps there was no hint of brake rub due to wheel flex, and the subsequent descents were confidence-inspiringly on-line and without trepidation. In soaking rain I found the rim surface to clear of water quickly and afford two-fingers-in-the-drops braking for all but the hardest of stops. The wide 22.6mm external profile matched the 28mm rubber well, and while there's no science involved in such a statement, aerodynamics never felt compromised in high head- or cross-winds.
Both the tubed Continental 4 Seasons and the tubeless Schwalbe Ones felt well-grounded and comfortable. As usual I was able to run the tubeless Schwalbe s about 10PSI lower than the tubed Continentals while retaining good levels of cornering and braking feel. Under my 75kg frame that amounts to about 60psi rear and 45psi front.
With hand-finished truing and a high spoke count you can expect American Classic wheels to survive a battering. As mentioned above the sealed bearings are easily replaced, as are the generic spokes if you somehow manage to break one, and American Classic provide full instructions on their website as well as a full suite of spares.
Given the quality on show I'd see most American Classic owners wearing a rim out through normal braking before any other part failed irreparably, but if you use soft pads and ride often in spectacularly adverse conditions where grit and mud are a daily part of your bearing's life, the ease of replacement is reassuring.
It's refreshing to see a manufacturer stand so strongly behind home servicing of their product, making the investment sensible for high-mileage users. If you have the cash, want to go tubeless, on road or gravel, and like the idea of repairing not replacing, the American Classic Sprint 350 wheelset is one to consider.
Fast, quiet, light and tubeless-ready, with spares easily sourced, these are a good all-round choice - if you have the cash
road.cc test report
Make and model: American Classic Sprint 350 Tubeless wheelset
Size tested: n/a
Tell us what the wheel is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
A sturdy, high-spoke count set for people wanting longevity and repairability, in a lightweight package, with tubeless compatibility in a wide rim profile.
American Classic say:
AC tubeless wheels take rim technology to the next level. Our mountain bikers are successfully riding and racing tubeless, and now this innovation is available for our AC road riders. Our tubeless wheels are set up with a base layer of AC fiber tape covering the spoke holes and two layers of AC honey colored tape to seal the rim. Next, install tubeless ready clincher tires and pump liquid sealant into the system through our proven AC valves. The liquid sealant replaces the conventional tube.
You may ask how our tubeless system works. Bill Shook designed the rim with a bead barb running along the edge of the bead shelf. When installed, the tire firmly pops into position over the bead barb. The tire bead centers and tightly grips the circumference of the rim creating a sealed environment to hold the liquid sealant without burping.
The number one reason to run tubeless wheels is to avoid flat tires. In the event of a puncture, the sealant quickly fills and closes small holes in the tire preventing flats caused by glass, metal and other debris. Pinch flats can not occur as the tube is not part of the system.
Our tubeless system is about speed. It lowers wheel weight at the extreme outer edge of the rim resulting in lower rolling resistance and better performance. In a traditional clincher set up, the tire and tube interface moves as the wheel rolls, creating friction and energy loss. With the AC tubeless set up, there is no frictional energy loss between the tire and tube because the tube is gone. Liquid sealant is lighter than a tube. You can ride lighter weight tires with our tubeless system because you don't have to use tires made with heavy, inflexible puncture layers. Overall, our tubeless system is lighter and the wheel will spin up faster with less rider energy output. And the best part is flat tires are past history.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the wheel?
Weight limit: rider 100kg
RIMS 24mm Deep 350gr Aluminum Clincher Rims 700c
SPOKES AC 14/15 Guage Spokes Black | AC Aluminum Nipples Silver | 28h Radial Front | 32h 3-Cross Rear
WEIGHT FRONT 598 gr | REAR 798 gr | PAIR 1396 gr
HUBS/SPACING FRONT Micro 58 100mm | REAR RD205 130mm | REAR SPLINE Shimano/SRAM 10/11 or Campagnolo 10/11
LOOK/COLOR AC Black with Gray Hubs
INCLUDED AC Tubeless Tape Installed | AC Tubeless Valves
QUICK RELEASE Cromoly QR's
UPGRADES Wheel Bag | Ceramic Bearings
*Can be ridden with regular tire and tube
1551g incl QR/valves
1440g w/o QR/valves
Excellent. Solidly assembled, should last a long time.
Very stiff - couldn't get a single rub out of 'em. And always felt ready to get up and go.
With the build quality and assembly method, these should stay true for an age.
1440g for wide tubeless, OK not the deepest, but still very respectable.
This is where AC get beaten by other reputable brands, offering similar weights and features for considerably less cash.
Did the wheels stay true? Any issues with spoke tension?
Yes, and no. Simple.
How easy did you find it to fit tyres?
An absolute pig for Conti 4Seasons, but Schwalbe One's no problem. Your mileage may vary. Practice.
How did the wheel extras (eg skewers and rim tape) perform?
No concerns. Smooth QR's and tape held up.
Tell us how the wheel performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Very pleased with them. I imagine the price would fade whilst enjoyment and value lived on.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the wheel
The repairability, and the bead tech.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the wheel
The price, and the piggish fit.
Did you enjoy using the wheel? Yes
Would you consider buying the wheel? Yes
Would you recommend the wheel to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
If they were sub-£500, it'd be 4.5 stars. Sub-£350, a five. But there's no escaping the fact £600 is a lot of cash these days for a wheelset north of 1400g.
About the tester
I usually ride: Merida Ride 5000 Disc My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo cross, club rides, general fitness riding, mtb, Dutch bike pootling.