Saturday, October 09, 2021

A Word On The Classics

American Classic Wentworth 700 X 40mm* on the Standard Rando v2
 The reemergence of the American Classic name in cycling was a bit of a surprise this past September, as I stated in this "FN&V" post last month. The business model that the company chose was maybe even a bigger surprise. Going consumer direct, with distribution via Amazon, was a cheeky move in light of how traditional branding and marketing in the cycling space is handled. 

I had no idea if this meant that 'traditional marketing' was also being short-circuited. So, I took matters into my own hands and ordered a set up to test and review on Of course, subsequently I ended up being contacted by a marketing company that works through traditional channels and ended up getting more American Classic tires to test. (See Standard Disclaimer page) In this post, I will only be talking about the tires I purchased with my own money, but I will tell you that my findings have been consistent with what was sent out to Riding Gravel as well. 

So, 35 dollar tires, eh? Yep. This in a day when - first of all - you are fortunate to even find tires. The shortages are real folks! Then you have prices, which are typically nearly twice that or more for what I would call 'name branded', well known gravel tires. The 'cheapest' tires previously being Panaracer Gravel King SK's which run about 12 bucks ,on average, more than these AmClassics, and then you get into WTB gravel tires for another ten more than that. But I am here to tell you that by next Spring those prices will be higher. But that's another story....

So, for thirty-five, what do you get?  Well, AmClassic says these are 40mm tires. Nope! Not even close. I mounted these on a pair of Irwin Cycling Aon Carbon 35 wheels and those have a 24mm inner rim width. Pretty 'average' width there and it happens to be what AmClassic recommends for their 700 X 40mm tires. So, at 40psi these measure out at 38.5-ish mm on my digital calipers. Exactly what I would have expected for a tire labeled as "700 X 38mm". But, these are 'supposedly' 700 X 40mm. Hmm.... 

I was impressed with how these were for air retention though. These tires don't leak down much, and that is kind of nice when you run tubeless. I had no issues setting them up tubeless either, other than that these tires were exceedingly tight on the wheels I chose to use with them. 

On smoother bits of gravel, the skinnier AmClassics were okay, but on pavement they felt 'draggy'.

Then the riding commenced. The casings, being undersized as they are, ride like skinny gravel tires. There is not a lot of room for bigger, sharper edged hits, like on broken pavement, to be absorbed. Higher volumes of air in a tire equals more of an ability to absorb impacts. These AmClassic tires in the 38mm width, (because that's really what they are), don't have the same ability to absorb impacts like a 700 X 40-43mm tire does, and it shows. 

On smoother gravel, these tires were 'okay'. I could likely live with them seeing as how they are so inexpensive. But on my roll-down test these tires were below average. I could maybe bump up pressures from my 'high-30's psi' but that would negatively affect their ride feel even more. And I don't think this is an issue with tread pattern. I cannot really fault the tread here. I don't think it is where the problem is with these tires in general. My take is that it is the quality of the casings which are at fault. 

When I got these tires, (and the ones I paid for came first, just so you know), the casings appeared as those I would generally associate with 'cheap' tires. The inner casings were ribbed, sort of, more so than you'd normally see. The materials over the textiles looked and felt thicker, which is another characteristic of cheaper rubber for bicycles. The inner casing's coloring was familiar in this way also. I've handled a LOT of bicycle tires going back to the mid-1990's and certain characteristics are associated with inexpensive tires and these AmClassics lean toward that end of the 'feel' and 'appearances' spectrum than not. 

Does any of that mean these tires are made cheaply? No. Not necessarily, but when matched up with the performance, observed characteristics (especially in width), and considering what you pay for, I am thinking that you are getting no more value for your dollar here than you should expect for 35 bucks. It isn't like these are on par with Gravel King SK's, or a WTB gravel tire, because clearly, this is not the case, in my opinion. I'll sum up my feelings so far with this maxim which comes to mind when I think about these AmClassic tires: "You get what you pay for".

And really, is that such a bad thing?

1 comment:

Spiff said...

I was shopping for new tires for my commuter bike (Surly Straggler) when these new AM tires hit Amazon. For $35, I figured it was worth a roll of the dice and got a pair of the Kimberlite (700x40). My experience thus far with them sounds like your experience: they were exceptionally tight getting on the rim but set up tubeless very well, they're a bit narrower than spec'ed, they feel fairly thick/cheap, roll decently - basically, they're fine for what you paid.