Bill Shook, American Classic president and founder, gives us an in-depth interview on everything from the beginning of the brand to the latest wheel tech

American Classic on MTB wheel sizes, road discs and 11 speed

Can you take us through a brief tour of American Classic’s history?
I started riding at 14 and then trained hard to become a champion road and track cyclist, earning a place on the US National Team. While racing, I started my design career building projects in my Dad’s garage. In 1974, I created and fabricated the first large tube aluminium bicycle in the world and raced it. While racing, I strove to find the lightest tyres and rims, but in the 1970s in the US, fine equipment was hard to find. That sparked the idea of American Classic — a place where I could design and distribute high performance components. After retiring, I received a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from Ohio State University.

In 1982, the first products were new concepts, the lightweight water bottle cage and the revolutionary lightweight adjustable seat post. American Classic now has two facilities including our own testing and quality control centre, rim factory and wheel building plant. American Classic has a broad variety of unique designs in all disciplines including road, track, triathlon, cyclo-cross, trekking, cross country, all mountain, downhill and hand cycling. All this, because I couldn’t find the right wheels to race in the ‘70s!

What’s new for American Classic’s 2014 range?
Road Wheels, Argent tubeless with 11 speed disc, Hurricane tubeless, Hurricane tubeless with 11 speed disc, Victory 30 tubeless, Carbon 40 all carbon clincher, Carbon 46 tubular, Carbon 46 tubular with disc, Carbon 3 tubular (trispoke style front for TT), Carbon TT Disk with 11 speed (1050 gr), AC RD rim line, 2218 tubeless road rim (24 or 28 spoke holes), Hub (road or MTB), 11 speed disc hub, MTB wheels, Wide Lightning 29 tubeless (32mm wide), Wide Lightning 27.5 tubeless (32mm wide) Disc 101 tubeless rims (32 spoke holes) in 29, 27.5 or 26.

The brand is embracing road discs?
Yes! We had them last year already, so this is the second wave of road discs.

What is American Classic’s take on the changing wheel sizes of the mountain biking world? Is 26-inch taking a back seat to 27.5 and 29ers now?
We discontinued the 26-inch wheels. We have some in stock if people want them, but we are not making more. In the UK Moore Large have sufficient stock of 26-inch wheels and will continue to carry them in the near future.

Are there any recent developments in American Classic’s hub technology that the trade should know about?
Yes, the 11 speed disc hub is unique. The concept is this: AC MTB disc hubs are all 135mm wide with a Shimano 9/10 cassette body or SRAM XD body. This year, I decided it would be important to offer the 11 speed cassette body for Shimano offered on current road hubs. This body is less than 2mm wider than the existing 10 speed body. So, I make a change to the hub shell forging shrinking it (very expensive, requires new tooling etc) to accommodate the wider 11 speed body. Even though Shimano has not offered the 11 speed disc group yet in MTB, we think it is coming. So we are ready.

Can you tell us about American Classic’s own production facility? What advantages does this offer over the competition?
It’s a long road from an idea to a quality product suitable for the American Classic brand name. The process requires team work and careful attention to detail. We are self-reliant with our own designs, assembly and quality control system. With input from our staff and the marketplace, I spearhead a new project or existing product improvement because I see the rider’s need and want to provide a successful solution. I describe my designs as “an elegant solution to an engineering question striving for a complete solution that pushes the edge of what is a possibility.”

My design criteria for an American Classic product are first, a product must be functional and durable, then light, strong, aerodynamic and beautiful. There are no gimmicks. All products have my distinctive look, minimalist, smooth curves, and large diameters. I undertake the arduous task of the design, perform the mathematical calculations on dimensions and aerodynamics, the stress analysis, 3-D modeling and the decisions made on the metallurgical properties of the materials. When the engineering drawings are complete, the idea becomes a custom-made prototype tested at our in-house test facility, which includes dynamic wheel, hub and seatpost test machines, a scientific microscope to study the metal and more. I use the test data from our facility and input from riders to tweak and finalise designs.

The next phase is manufacturing where the idea becomes a reality. Machine tooling is designed, machines set up, and efficiency reviewed. Raw materials become products. Quality control systems are put in place for checking the product during manufacturing and the assembly process in our plant. Assembly and quality control is performed by valued staff who use state of the art instruments and gauges to check the product according to quality control protocols. Wheels require the special attention. Wheels are built in-house to rigid quality control standards and subject to careful hand finishing and tension gauge checks to ensure durability and trueness. Our staff prides itself on the care, attention and time put into the quality of all American Classic products. It is a team effort to bring the best wheels and components to you.

And how about AC’s tubeless tech?
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 fibre tape covering the spoke holes and two layers of AC honey coloured tape to seal the rim. Next, install tubeless ready clincher tyres 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. I designed the rim with a bead barb running along the edge of the bead shelf. When installed, the tyre firmly pops into position over the bead barb. The tyre bead centres 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 tyres. In the event of a puncture, the sealant quickly fills and closes small holes in the tyre preventing flats caused by glass, metal and various other debris. Pinch flats cannot 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 tyre 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 tyre and tube because the tube is gone. Liquid sealant is lighter than a tube. You can ride lighter weight tyres with our tubeless system because you don’t have to use tyres 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 tyres are past history.

American Classic is available to the trade via Moore Large.

01332 274252;

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