The American Classic brand was relaunched in mid-September with a new website and a line of tires. At the Sea Otter Classic 2021 we had a chance to see the new products and chat about the company’s rebirth and direction.
The new American Classic website offers a short history:
Nearly 40 years ago, founder Bill Shook was a talented professional road racer who raced for the U.S. National Team. A drive to create better, lighter products inspired him to start experimenting in his garage, engineering his own aluminum bicycles and components. A global search for the finest production facilities led American Classic to form an early partnership with Taiwanese manufacturers in the mid-’90s and decades of influential product introductions.
Bill Shook closed the Taiwan factory in 2018 and has moved to full-time design consulting. The American Classic brand and intellectual property were acquired by Cavan Lee, a former production director for American Classic for more than a decade. American Classic recently named industry veteran Christopher Clinton as President, to oversee day-to-day operations. With this team, Clinton states, “Now we have a very aggressive plan for growth…” Clinton comes with experience at Trek, Challenge and Duro Tires.
With ties to the tire industry, and motivation to offer quality performance bicycle tires with value, American Classic’s rebirth is with 8 new tires for road and gravel with a definite bias to the latter. All tires are either $30 or $35 USD. That is not an indication of inferior design or materials. Instead, American Classic analyzed distribution channels and decided that selling direct to the consumer using an established sales and distribution channel made the most sense. Hence, the tires are sold directly to the cyclist through an Amazon store.
Notable is American Classic’s confidence in its new offerings with a road hazard replacement policy that offers 50% cost replacement if you puncture or tear your American Classic tire while riding and it no longer holds air. Given the low initial cost of the tire, that is quite generous.
The line consists of eight tires: one tube-only commuter/e-bike tire, two road tires available as tube-type or tubeless, and five tubeless-ready gravel tires. Different casings and rubber compounds exist for each application. Tube-type tires are $30 and tubeless are $35. The Lamplighter is the road racing tire available in 25 or 28mm, the Torchbearer is a more all-around road tire also available in 32mm.
All the other tires are available in 700C x 40, or 50 and 650B x 47. The 5 gravel models share the same rubber compound and 120 tpi casing with bead-to-bead protection American Classic calls Stage 5S. This is a combination of microfiber tread composite with a 120 TPI aramid fiber layer.
The 5 treads vary from smooth road to rough trail orientation. A graphic on the American Classic website and Amazon Store offers recommended use and relative surface grip information to help the buyer decide. Tire weight for the 700C x 40 varies only slightly among the treads: 550 -585 grams with 3 of the 5 with a claimed weight of 565 grams.
We saw all the tread patterns at the Sea Otter Classic 2021. They should cover all the gravel needs we could dream up, especially given the available 700c X 50mm size which was not on display. What is absent is a tire that would serve as a good non-UCI cyclocross tire. 40mm is reasonable for amateur ‘cross, especially in dry early season conditions, but 550+ grams is a lot for that application. That said, for gravel and adventure, the American Classic offerings look good. We’re told the Aggregate model in 700C x 40 won a recent Belgian Waffle Ride here in the U.S., though a sponsorship deal was still in the works, so we cannot say who it was.
The Aggregate is a tread with evenly spaced dot-like knobs, similar to the Schwalbe G-One All Around. However, the knobs are spaced a bit further apart and are hexagonal-not round. The knobs are a bit taller away from the center for better cornering engagement. American Classic labels this tire for hard-packed dirt and mixed surface, with “minimal road vibration and consistent traction”.
The gravel tire with the lowest listed weight among the American Classic offerings is the Wentworth (550 grams) that has a more aggressive tread with square knobs and has a similar appearance to the Hutchinson Touareg we recently reviewed. This tire appears to be a good all-arounder for gravel adventure.
American Classic built the brand on innovative wheels and components, including the steel-faced splines on an alloy cassette body for durability while maintaining low hub weight, and the ‘bead barb” on early tubeless-ready rims to retain the tire seal in the event of air loss. The company was also famous for its lightweight seatposts. With that legacy and the introduction of tires with the brand’s rebirth, is it safe to assume American Classic wheels are next? The website does have a non-functioning “wheels” tab!
We’ve just received our first set of American Classic gravel tires for review. Stay tuned to read our impressions as we put them through the Cyclocross Magazine ride and review.
More info: amclassic.com