PezCycling News - What's Cool In Pro Cycling : PEZ-Tech: American Classic’s Aero 420 3

Now On Pez
Tech N Spec
Pez Videos
Readers' Rigs
tech n spec
PEZ-Tech: American Classic’s Aero 420 3
American Classic look nothing like the American Classic of just a few years ago. Different logos, different rims, different hubs… The only thing that hasn’t changed are the folks behind the products. They still have the same basic philosophy in design and customer service and it shows in new products like the AC Carbon 58’s we’ve already shown and in the new 420 Aero 3

Click the thumbnail at top for the BIG view.

Past wheels from AC have all been very traditional looking. Either silver or black spokes, hubs and rims, and built up to allow easy servicing with readily available parts.

The designs are still very service friendly, but new for AC are bolder graphics and white rims that stand out far more than the traditional silver. It’s not just the color that gets a geek’s attention though. The detail of both the coating and finish machining for the 420’s is really good.

The coating is very even, complete inside and out and a mid gloss that cleans up easy (thankfully for white). The machining detail is pretty visible around the valve hole. Very clean inside and out in an area that’s a common place for causing flats when not treated well.

The brake track is machined after coating…

The grooves and surface are less deep and less uniform than their 58’s and lots of other brands. A very even and pulse free surface and they seem to be pretty brake pad friendly so far. They chew through pads slower and leave very little residue compared to their 58’s and wheels here from Zipp, Bontrager and Mavic. There’re two schools of thought on rim wear here. One is that they have machined away less material for the more slight grooves, leaving more meat, but the shallower grooves may shed a bit less water and provide less contact area when your pads are broken in. That said, I really note no difference so far. There’s plenty of bite and again, good even performance (using several different brakes…).

And under all of the nice looking stuff lies a completely new rim that meets AM Classic’s weight spec but is both stiffer and more durable…

The front is AC’s Micro 58. It’s the same hub as on their carb 58. Versus AC’s older hubs, they have bearings spaced out right at the tips for better stability and longer wear.

The flanges are fatter for better durability and that makes for a good platform for radial spokes on newer wheel sets.

Bearings on this set were standard 688 stainless (an upgrade from their older sets) but AC of course have a ceramic option.

Note the double punch machining (looks like a little spoke hole made on the big spoke hole) so that bladed spokes work with the new hubs).

And just FYI, but noting that one white dot (spoke head), I can tell you that I saw the single white spoke at AC before I saw it at other places…

The Rear Hub has some new “twizzle” as it relates to the flange height and the wheel build…

Unlike past hubs including our last 58 review, this hub is a new High/Low flange design (note the part that the spokes get stuck to on the hub…) One side is taller than the other.

The drive (chain) side is taller than the non-drive side. That makes for shorter spokes on the drive side and allows for tension of the spokes to be equal on drive and non-drive spokes (something not everyone does). It also makes for a little different dish for the rear.

AC also run the spokes in tighter proximity, drive and non drive, set in groups of three rather than equal spacing.

What this does in back (and what the fatter flanges and radial spokes on front do), combined with the new rim structure is help improve stiffness. Some folks asked for better lateral stiffness from AC (wind up stiffness was always relatively good) and these are a bit better than past wheels.

The rear hub also benefits from the fatter 17mm Axle and better (wider) bearing placement and a beefed up bearing spec.

Note this is their standard hub with even flange height, cut away to show the guts.

And they have VERY good engagement from an improved cam action (rather than springs).

The hub looks as if it could be noisy based on the cut away pics, but a cam plate lifts the pawls off of the drive contact (where springs always push pawls against the drive) making this not only very quiet, but also creating less drag than some other designs.

In fact it works well enough that AC decided to go with solid double contact pawls that make for 12 (I think) drive contacts (most wheels run 4-6…).

It’s sure footed engagement that is quite a bit better than past AC hubs in performance and durability.

Another great idea for bangers and mashers is AC’s choice to reinforce their freehub body. Rather than building the whole thing out of tough (but heavy) stuff, why not just reinforce it with strips that keep the weight down but get the job done?

I strapped on a set of Vittoria’s newest 320 TPI Open Corsa Evo’s…

Vittoria North America are your source.

…With the new AquaGrip tread pattern that I’m sure would be fantastic in the wet if I ever had rain in Arizona…

And loaded them onto the 2009 test bench bike VeloVie 300 SE

Then I peeled everything off and remounted Vittoria 320 standard Open Corsa’s because I test everything with the same tires and tubes and tire pressures… At the same pressure, the two tires ride VERY much the same, just FYI. I think the grip and rolling are better with the standards in dry weather but the ride feel is pretty much a wash. So no penalty in the dry, but better wet weather traction and a real bonus of better puncture resistance with bumped up armor in the new EVO’s.

The wheels, in short, are comfortable. Much like the 58’s were, relative to their depth. It seems like lots of wheels that are built with more traditional spokes, nipples and metal rims tend to be wheels you don’t mind putting loads of miles on.

Comfort is certainly normal for American Classic. Go back 5+ years and you’ve never heard anyone complain about the road soaking ability of AC products. That they’ve made these notably stiffer without coughing up some of that comfort is what I appreciate most. The wheels are not overly high strung and if you go really wonky you can get them to move around, but you have to try harder than the old wheels.

These hold speed reasonably well. They’re not really a “deep” dish but seem to hold speed better than most box section hoops. Bladed spokes and that little extra profile depth can’t hurt that. No cross wind issues at all which makes sense given the profile, spoke count and mid range weight.

Claimed weight is 1530 and our set rolled with a 1 gram savings. That’s also nice because lots of component companies are with claimed weight what auto manufacturers are with Horse Power numbers.

American Classic are also relatively healthy. That’s nice because lots of component companies are with business practice what auto manufacturers are with… Anyway, the customer service (and credibility) at American Classic is its same solid self.

Personally I like full blown geek-kit more than most, but I like the 420’s because, despite the bling factor with the colored hubs and spokes and the new graphics, when you get to the guts of the product it’s all well applied but with readily available pieces. Nothing here will stump a fair bike shop with regard to parts or servicing. No one of a kind, unavailable spokes, no special welded in nipples (with easy access), easy to fit bearings. All normal parts, they just dress it well enough that it resembles more high strung gear.

It’s like a hot girl that takes 3 minutes and no makeup to look fantastic, gets along no matter where you take her and maintains it all without caring where or what she eats…

Retail is US$999, so right about where you would expect a wheel set in the high 1400 to low 1500 gram range with this type of looks. Check with your AC dealer (or just email AC) to get more info on bearing upgrades, spoke options etc… There’s more on offer than you see here.

Have Fun,
Charles Manantan

Thanks for looking. If you have other experiences with gear, or something to add, drop us a line. We don’t claim to know everything (we just imply it at times). Give us a pat on the back if you like the reviews, or a slap in the head if you feel the need!

PezCycling News and the author ask that you contact the manufacturers before using any products we test here. Only the manufacturer can provide accurate and complete information on proper use and or installation of products as well as any conditional information or product limitations.

Send your comments to:


Related Stories