American Classic Tires: Getting Rolling – by Guitar Ted
When you hear or read the name “American Classic”, you probably are not thinking about tires. If you are a cyclist, you may be triggered to remember wheels. Maybe you might think about seat posts, or really light hubs, but you probably are not going to remember American Classic, the bicycle wheel company, as a tire company. But now that has all changed.
How did that happen anyway. That American Classic is now a tire company may come as a surprise to you. Well, here is how we got to this point, in brief. Bill Shook started American Classic in the early 1980’s, then along the way he became known as a wheel purveyor, and even some other components were once made with the American Classic name, like their well loved seat post back in the 1990’s. The company embraced 29″er wheels and came along with a very popular line of pre-built wheels in the 2000’s. Things were getting tougher for the company in the late twenty-teens and by 2018 the company shuttered and put up its intellectual properties for sale.
Then about a month ago social media for American Classic sprang to life. A vague campaign started out saying that the company was back. Then the surprise announcement that it was coming back with bicycle tires. A wide range of which are aimed specifically at gravel and unpaved road riding. We were recently sent a suite of offerings from American Classic to test and review, and we also purchased a set via Amazon. American Classic is selling through that portal for now. Let’s take a look at what we have here.
What It Is: American Classic is doing a couple of simple things within their tire range. First, in terms of the gravel tire offerings, you get three sizes to choose from in every model: 650B X 47mm, 700c X 40mm, and 700c X 50mm. All models in all sizes come in black or skin wall. All models cost, (get this), $35.00 each! Now it should be said that American Classic also offers road bike tires and City/E-bike tires, but we are concentrating on the range for gravel here.
American Classic has five tires in the gravel range which go progressively from one end of the usage spectrum to the other. They are, in order from most good for pavement to most good for dirt, these tires: Kimberlite, Aggregate, Uden, Wentworth, and Krumbein. We received the three models in the middle of the range, the Aggregate, the Uden, and the Wentworth. We received the Uden, Aggregate, and Wentworth in 700c X 40mm, and the Wentworth 700 X 50mm as well.
Here I will breakdown each model and list the features and attributes of each. That said, there are attributes and features which are the same for all the range, not just the tires we received. Those are as follows:
- Tubeless Ready
- “Rubberforce G” compound which is cut and tear resistant. High tensile strength and abrasion resistant.
- “Stage 5S Flat Protection: A bead-to-bead puncture and tear resistant protection belt.
- 120 TPI casing
Aggregate: One thing I’ve noticed about the American Classic tire line is that their tread patterns are vaguely reminiscent of other brand’s patterns. The Aggregate reminding me of a slightly more aggressive Schwalbe G-One. This tire is more about speed on smoother surfaces and American Classic says it has the lowest rolling resistance of the three models we have to test.
Uden: This is a tire that strikes me as being the design most ‘gravel-ish’ and very much reminiscent of the Donnelly MSO. American Classic suggests that air pressure will be key in making this tire either a pavement muncher or a great gravel tire at lowered pressures.
Wentworth: American Classic suggested that the Wentworth was the best tire in the range for course, loose crushed rock. Exactly what we have here in the Mid-West for the most part. So we got both 700c sizes here to check out. Now this tire’s tread had me stumped for a bit, but I knew I’d seen something like this before. Then it occurred to me that it looks a lot like the old GEAX, (Vittoria) AKA tread pattern, which I absolutely loved on our single track here. But this is about gravel…. American Classic says the Wentworth is “suited for long days of aimless exploration and lining up on rainy race days where anything could be around the next corner.” Cool. Sign me up!
First Impressions: The American Classic tires came in an ‘old school’ tire box. Tires used to come this way a lot back in the 1990’s. Anyway, upon opening these there was a strange aroma, almost like something was slightly burnt. Weird! Then out came the tires. Okay, the inner casings look a bit different here. Thick beads! Maybe a bit heavy? Let’s see about that….
The website says the Uden should be about 565 gms and the Aggregate should be the same. The actual weights came out to be 560 gm for the Aggregate and 565 gms for the Uden. On the Wentworth 40mm tires the claimed weight is 550 gms and the 700 X 50mm is listed as being 740 gms. Actual weights were 492/532 gms on the 40’s and 735/731 gms on the 50’s. On weight, we’re looking pretty good here.
I found while fitting the Wentworth 40’s that they were very tight on my Irwin Wheels. This wheel set usually isn’t a big problem with other tires, so this was a bit of a surprise. The tires were set up with the Finish Line sealant we are testing and they aired up fine with a floor pump. After 24 hours at 40psi I measured these at a bit over 38mm wide for the pair. Hmm…. A bit disappointing there. On the 50’s I went with the Spinergy GXX wheels and those tires were easily installed by hand on that wheel set. However; due to the stiffer nature of the tire imparted by the puncture protection belt in the casing, I had to use a blast from my small air compressor to set them up. I imagine a similar blast from one of those tubeless compatible floor pumps would also have done the trick here. After sitting at 30 psi for 24 hours these tires measured out at 46mm. Again, a bit underwhelming. By the way, I used my home made sealant in these tires.
The Uden and Aggregate first impressions will come in their own post later, so stay tuned for that.
So Far… The surprise tire release from American Classic adds a wide ranging set of choices for the gravel/back road rider at a very attractive price point. The feature set is looking good with puncture protected casings and high thread-per-inch counts. What wasn’t very inspiring were the actual measured widths. While American Classic claims these should be 700 X 40mm or 50mm, they should probably be listed as 38’s and 45’s. Going forward, that is how we will assess these tires. The rest of the review will also ferret out what the ride performance is like and how the feature set of the American Classic tires does out on the gravel, dirt, and pavement. Stay tuned for the “Checkpoint” reviews to learn more.
The review will be updated when we get measurements for the Uden and the Aggregate once they have been mounted up. Those tires will be ridden and reviewed by Andy, who you might know from the Riding Gravel Radio Ranch podcast. I (Guitar Ted) will be riding the two Wentworth sets we have on test. So, look for a “Checkpoint” post for those pairings and then we will bring it all back together with a final word in our “At The Finish” post later on.
Note: American Classic sent over the 700 X 50 Wentworth, 700 X 40 Uden and Aggregate tires for test and review at no charge to Riding Gravel The 700 X 40 Wentworth tires were purchased at retail by Guitar Ted. We were not paid, nor bribed for this review and we always strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.