a Weekend Warrior
from Peoria, IL
Date Reviewed: August 31, 2010
Strengths: The hub is strong, light, and very smooth rolling
Weaknesses: The 6 pawl ratchet mechanism does not always engage, which makes it slip. No rebuild kit available from American Classic.
Stay away from the American Classic 6 pawl design. I had Dave's Wheels build an awesome wheelset with this American Classic rear hub, and a Hugi 240 hub for the front wheel. After 8 years, the wheels are as true as the day I bought them.
But the cam plate and the 3 little "fingers" inside the hub do not work well, causing the 6 pawls not to engage all the time. Only a few months after I got the wheelset, the freewheel was slipping while we were riding at Moab. When I got home, Dave Thomas told me over the phone how to take the hub apart, stretch out the springs under the 3 little "fingers" and put it back together. It worked fine until now, but the wheel is still perfectly true but the hub is junk and worn out.
I looked at the American Classic website, and they have very good instructions on how to rebuild these hubs, but unfortunately my hub is discontinued, and parts are no longer in stock.
I never had a problem with the old Shimano stuff, but they didn't have cartridge bearings. So, I'm thinking about rebuilding the wheel or getting a new one with a Chris King hub.
a Cross Country Rider
from Fife, UK
Date Reviewed: May 4, 2007
Weaknesses: Axle, getting replacement parts
I've had the axle fail twice and I've also had the clutch plate fail/wear out once. American Classic service has not been very responsive. Hard to get spares in the UK. Still, while the hub was working it was nice and light.
Weaknesses: Reliability, Quality, Customer service. Did I mention reliability? Don't be deceived by the smoothness of the bearings when you hold the hub in your hands. When clamped into a fork/frame, their poor design/fabrication results in end loads that cause drag and premature bearing failure.
American classic hubs are totally unreliable. I had a rear hub seize (after a month of use, bought brand new) while descending causing a crash and long walkout. American Classic informed me that they had been mis-machined and the problems corrected. The new hub failed the same way. The new hub also came with the bearing journal oversized so the wheel had play. American Classics elegant solution was to tell me to put loctite in the bearing journal to fill the gap and hold the bearing in place – now that’s a professional organization! Just what you want when you buy a “high-quality” product.
I thought I would hang on to the front hub, thinking it was simple enough that even American Classic couldn’t mess it up. Wrong! They seem to spin freely but when locked in a fork as a hub alone have terrible drag. Turns out the hub body (on both the front hubs I have from them) were poorly machined (one bearing journal not deep enough, the other one just poor quality machining and oversized aswell) so that the bearings were end loaded meaning that they run with lots of drag and fail prematurely.
Customer service likes to claim that is it the consumer's fault. Have you noticed that virtually each year they come out with a new model that supposedly corrects the reliability issues of the preceding ones? But they never get it right and their customer service is abusive and condescending. They recently told me that getting a season or two out of mountain biking equipment is all you can hope for.
Read the reviews here and you will catch the recurring theme of poor quality control, questionable designs, and inadequate customer service. They work OK for some people. Obviously, if you make enough parts some will be OK for a while but you really can’t count on them and I suggest you not waste your time or money.
By the way, WTB hubs have been made by American Classic and are subject to the same kinds of problems. Check those reviews as well. If it looks like an American Classic and smells like one it probably is one and should be avoided like the plague.
Get a King, they last forever with little maintenance. DT Swiss hubs are excellent as well.
Similar Products Used: Chris King, Shimano, DT Swiss, Tune
a Cross Country Rider
from Baltimore, MD
Date Reviewed: April 19, 2005
Strengths: Looks, initial price.
Fall of 2001 I had a set of wheels built up with AC hubs - wheels were the only thing I didn't build up on this bike myself. The build was done by a good builder that frequented this web site, the build was outstanding.
The rear hub failed rather quickly when injected grease prevented the drive mech from catching. I got some rather strange phone support from AC telling me to open up the rear hub, pull the pins and stretch the springs out, which I did while on the phone. The problem was solved until grease once again made its way into the drive mech gumming up the works. It seemed that the grease port was no longer an option if I wanted these hubs to function.
In the forums here I stated my experience and was quickly berrated, AC hubs were the next great thing and I was going against the grain. The wheel builder offered to take the rear and have it serviced with a mod that AC had determined would solve future problems, so I sent the wheel back. The solution was a flat rubber gasket around the hub body and a set of double sealed bearings. The grease ports were officially out of the picture, no big deal, right? Double sealed bearings all around should solve me problems! Also, word was AC was taking info from the field and fixing problems left and right. Good deal.
Well the bearings, for me, never held up much of a seal. Every 3 or 4 rides or after any deep water crossing I would pull the seals (brass I think), clean up the bearings and repack w/grease - then repress the seals back in. This is still done to this day. To lube the drive mech I used a very light oil, anything else caused the thing to fail.
My cassette body also is quite soft, it has the dings and knicks to prove it.
I have spent most of the last couple years away from MTBR.com, and today I am surprised to see that the AC hubs are still experiencing the same problems I had a few years ago.
Bike Setup: Home build SC Chameleon w/XTR, Avid Ti, Easton Fiber, Thomson etc.
a Weekend Warrior
Date Reviewed: June 16, 2004
Strengths: Light. Unique engagement mechanism. Competitive price compared to Hugi, King, etc.
Weaknesses: I had an early version that was mucho problemo. American Classic took good care of me resolving this problem (they better; they're in my backyard) I have had no issues with this hub for a good year now. It is doing its job. The bearings, however, do suck. I've got a couple rough ones, but not majorly. That problem is now solved ... read on:
Finally, it looks like there is a solution to the Achilles heel of this hub--those damn bearings.
Enduro, maker (or at least the brand) of aftermarket hop-up bearings for high-end bikes and bike stuff has a product (two, actually) for our hubs. Their Enduro and Enduro Max bearings are available in the elusive 15 x 26 x 7 mm size. Both are high quality, using grade 25 bearings (i.e., Dura Ace, XTR, Campy grade), while the Max is of the full-compliment type.
Have your Local Bike Shop contact this popular dealer-only wholesale distributor: Bicycle Technologies International. Probably better known as just BTI. If your LBS hasn't heard of them, find a new one.
The part numbers: AB-8567 for the more expensive Enduro Max AB-1526 for the Enduro
Similar Products Used: Shimano XT; Rolf and Hayes stuff made by DT-Hugi.
Bike Setup: Santa Cruz Superlight, mostly XT with a sprinkling of light parts. 4 inches, front and rear. A fairly good steed for agressive XC, yet still light (about 25 pounds +/- 0.5).
a Cross Country Rider
Date Reviewed: June 14, 2004
Strengths: Nice looks, high flange design, color (the black ones), strength and low weight
Weaknesses: Cheap smaller sized “non-standard” cartridge bearings, hub’s ultimate durability, soft alloy cassette body, side-to-side play that must be factored in the hub’s final adjustment to protect the cheap bearings
About a year ago, a friend and I both purchased a set of American Classic’s Shimano splined Ultra-Light non-disc rear and front hubs. Since I’m a bike mechanic, and since we ride together a lot, and since there were 2 hubsets involved, this ended up being a perfect opportunity to evaluate the performance, strength and durability of the American Classic.
First of all, I’m 6’2” and 175 lbs, and my friend is 5’10” and 165ish. I ended up building both wheelsets…the same Mavic 517 rims and the same Sapim race spokes. Both sets built up very strong and light. After the build, the high-flange design of both hubs, especially the rear, stood out as a major plus. We both have high-end mountain bikes; both hardtails with front suspension. We ride about 30-50 miles per day, 5-6 days per week. Our loops end up being about 60% smooth pavement and the rest steep, but reasonably smooth, mountain trails. We both are strong riders, but we treat the equipment very well…no jumping and no going over tall drop-offs.
I never imagined that I would be writing this evaluation, but enough went on with our hubs that I thought it prudent to share my evaluation. So, here’s what I found out.
Let me begin by saying that the front hubs are in the “pretty good” range. Actually, I kind of like them. They are strong and durable for being so light. I also like the high flange design. But, bottom line on the front hubs; they use the same cheap, smaller, non-standard sized cartridge bearings (that you’ll hear more about below) as in the rear Ultra-Light hubs. Even though the bearings do last longer in the front hub than the rear hub, and the maintenance is extremely easy for the front hub, you’ll still have to probably replace or service the front hub’s bearings once a season. If they need to be replaced, you’ll have to go to American Classic, or your bike shop that stocks them, to buy the bearings since they are not a standard size that you can get at a bearing supply place.
Now, about the Ultra-Light rear hub. As I scroll through and read the evaluations, everybody has hit the nail right on the head concerning really the “major” negative issues with these hubs. They are: First, the cheap stock (made in China) non-standard sized smaller cartridge bearings that American Classic uses in these hubsets don’t cut it. They’re not durable, you can’t find upgraded bearings, and they can’t withstand the torque and axle flexing stresses the hub is exposed to under normal to high-end usage to insure a tight and smooth rolling hub. Second, the cassette body is made from too soft an alloy. Third, the grease injector system is really not the best way to re-lube the 2 cartridge bearings that bookend the hub’s shell. And, fourth, because the cartridge bearings can’t do their job, American Classic advises that a certain amount of side-to-side play must be left in the hub’s final adjustment to protect the weak bearings from premature wearing.
I’d like to add just one more issue that I don’t know if anyone has caught, but one that I’m very familiar with due to my experience with White Industries hubs (which are my all-time favorite). In the Ultra-Light’s case, the issue is that the side-to-side play mixed with some normal flexing that happen to lighter alloy axles causes the stronger (steel) inner bearing races to “micro-groove” into the softer (alloy) axle. So, after some time passes, the flexing of the axle against the cartridge bearing’s inner race tend to cause a “micro-groove” in the axle at the spot where the inner race sits. Long story…but it also happens to White Industries hubs, but those hubs I was able to solve the problem. Well, the same thing is happening to the Ultra-Light hub. The end result to this problem is that some of the play is partially attributed to the micro-small grooves in the axle. That part of the play can only be rectified by replacing the axle.
I’ll be happy to concede to American Classic one of the four issues because it’s really a “no-issue”…meaning the soft cassette bodies. Ok, the cogs do eventually bite into the cassette body which makes for more work to remove the cassette, however, this one is really no big deal.
However, I find their current cartridge bearing quality issue unacceptable for such a high-end hub. The durability and the way a hub rolls should be a top design priority for all high-end hub manufacturers. My definition of durability is the amount of time a hub can last and perform as expected without service or parts replacement. I don’t care what American Classis says concerning their design philosophy, they missed the target on durability. Using too small and too poor quality cartridge bearings can spell “zero” for their hubs longevity…even when doing normal, basic mountain bike riding.
To this date, I can’t find better quality bearings with the same dimensions to be able to even experiment if better bearings would solve the problem. The outside diameter of their stock cartridge bearing is 26mm, with a 15mm inside diameter, and they are 7mm thick. The “standard-found anywhere” cartridge bearing, given the same 15mm and 7mm measurements, comes with a 28mm outside diameter. And, actually, I have used this 28mm sized bearing in many other hubs and have had superlative luck with them. They are very durable, strong and they roll smooth for many seasons…even some of the cheaper quality ones…but not from China.
Therefore, American Classic notifies everybody that a small amount of “side-to-side play” must be factored in when tightening the adjustable and lock nuts at the end of a service when the wheel is on the bike to protect their bearings from premature wearing. They’re not kidding! If the lock nuts are tightened to the point of “no play” in the hub, the bearing could be trash in just 2 weeks…I know, that’s exactly what happened to me. After I replaced all the bearings and factored in a small “faint” amount of play, things improved, but, about every week, when I always checked the hubs, the “play” got progressively worse. I had to tighten the adjustable and lock nuts just a smidge to get it back to only a “faint” amount of play. And, as I was doing this, the bearings were slowly showing signs of wear by getting that gritty feeling.
To be honest with you, I have a problem with leaving “play” in any hub...especially a higher end hub. I mean…I’m one who doesn’t like, and spends a lot of time, taking the “play” out of rotating components. Maybe a little faint play is ok, but not such that you can feel a “clunk” as you rock the tire back and forth. After hand picking the rims and spokes for strength and lateral stability, and after seeing how strong and light the wheels built up, it was very disconcerting to realize that there must be “play” left in the system via the hub.
Be careful with the grease injector system. There are only 2 cartridge bearings that benefit from this system. They each need about ½ teaspoon, or less, of grease each. The hub’s hollow chamber, where the grease injector port is located, can hold about a cup of grease. I would agree that lighter grease is better so that the centrifugal force can send the grease to the bearings, and not just fill the entire hub’s hollow chamber with unused grease.
Bottom line: I like the strength, high flange design, color (we have the black ones) and weight of these rear hubs. But, their ultimate durability is so very poor that it makes for a very expensive hub to maintain. In 8 months, I’ve had to replace 8 bearings in the 2 rear hubs. Each bearing now cost $8 from Am. Classic.
The Ultra-Light hub maybe ok for very lightweight riders who don’t put in a lot of hard miles. But, for stronger riders, who demand durability, look elsewhere…like maybe White Industries (which, incidentally are fantastic hubs).
I really think that if American Classic would consider redesigning their hubs to facilitate the 28mm larger cartridge bearings, and maybe if the non-drive side outboard bearing could be moved outward along the axle just a smidge to give the axle more stability, it would make the Ultra-Light hubs a flamin' 5 chilis (A+) hub, even for racers. Right now, it doesn’t cut it for the amount of money spent.
Similar Products Used: Shimano, White Ind, TEC (Italy)
Bike Setup: Specialized M4, XT-XTR mix, Mavic rims
Ree Sheng Ong
a Cross Country Rider
Date Reviewed: March 7, 2004
Strengths: very light
Weaknesses: The bearings they gave is very low quality China bearing. Easily spoilt and the size for the bearing is a special size (very hard to find, even SKF and NTN don't have it). I have to pay a lot more for such a cheap bearing.
The hub can give a quite smooth ride, but the bearing inside is very very poor in quality. My rear hub bearing spoilt 3 out 4 in 6 months time. I hope American Classic can change the bearing into better bearings instead of using cheap china bearings. by the way if you know where can we buy a better quality bearing for this hub, please let me know.
Cartridge Bearing Model: 15267-2RS
The maintenance for this hub is quite expensive too. It always gives me problems after a few rides, and I have to service it. I can save a lot if I'm using other hub.
Similar Products Used: Deore XT (the bearing used are ball bearings. very easy to find a replacement bearing)
Ace Niño Gica
a Cross Country Rider
from Cebu City Philippines
Date Reviewed: December 10, 2003
Strengths: like shimanno xt and ringle
Weaknesses: the cassette body is a little bit soft
the hubs works really good in all conditions and i am using this for the stiffness lightness and superbility and it is polished very good i love this hubs lighter then xtr chris king wyte or hope its great but the aluminum cassette body is a little bit soft but it doesnt give me problems at all as long as you maintain it good if the aluminum cassette body was a little bit harder i would give you 5 flamin'chilis
Favorite Trail: single track river trail and downhill drops
Duration Product Used: Less than 1 month
Purchased At: wellson enterprises
Similar Products Used: deaore shimano mavic 501
Bike Setup: xtc team giant avid disc brakes 317 rims
a Cross Country Rider
Date Reviewed: November 23, 2003
Strengths: Light weight and works well in all conditions.
Weaknesses: Bearings are not stantard size. Aluminium cassette body is bit too soft. Cogs cut little bit the cassette body, but does not cause any problems.
Bearings were bit loose when I bought this product (1 mm free motion in rim sideways). I didn't care about it nad I have know driven over 5000 km and hub still has the same 1mm free motion. Bearings can be tighten up but someone said me that bearings would wear quickly after tightening.
Freewheel machanism is good, it's works well and if it doesn't you can fix it. Shimanos often get frozen in cold conditions, but this one has worked always. (Tested at -35 C)
Bearing are some china made and outer diameter is 26mm and 28mm is stantard. If you have to renew bearings you must buy new AmClassic china bearings.
Weaknesses: Bearings, seals, body, injection system, price, etc.
Broke the flange on the AC front hub & they stood behind their warranty. Broke the rear flange & they didn't, but a different guy was at customer service the 2nd time. (I don't have what it takes to ride hard.) He offered me $10 off their low-end seatpost. Also, the bearings in the new front hub wet the bed after 250km & 3 rainy rides. Go to Pricepoint & get their XT/Rhyno wheelset for $139--less than half of what I paid for this dreadful AC hub set.
a Cross Country Rider
from Fredericksburg, VA
Date Reviewed: September 11, 2002
Strengths: light, quick engagement, good price, cool looks
Weaknesses: grease injection system, seals
mike garcia built a wheelset for me based around these hubs. he did a great job but the hubs are really letting me down. i lubed them prior to my first ride per the instructions but quickly discovered that the freewheel was so clogged with grease that it wouldn't spin so i took the hub apart, removed all of the grease and tried a lighter grease, same problem. for a while i ran them with grease packed in the bearings and light oil on the pawls and things were great except for the fact that the seals on the bearings are trash and couldn't keep any dirt or water out which meant that i had to take the hub apart every few rides (or every ride in nasty conditions). mike garcia then started offering a light weight grease that was supposed to be ideal for this application. i applied some through the injection system and was very happy for about a week. everything was running super smooth and then i realized i couldn't stop. the hub had been slowly throwing grease out of the seal around the freehub mech behind the cassette which flew all over my rims, got wet and obviously made for bad stopping.
so, i'm left with the option of taking this hub apart about once a week or dealing with grease all over my wheels. i've chosen the latter because it's easier to degrease my rims each ride than it is to deal with a tear down and then re-adjustment of bearing load. the dry dusty conditions around here combined with a grease coated hub, cassette and spokes makes for a nasty mess. i can't even add air to my tires without getting grease all over my hands and gloves from the spokes. don't even get me started on how nasty it makes my cassette and drivetrain all the time...
verdict: unless they have changed the design to sealed bearings, save your cash and buy something better.
Bike Setup: breezer lightning, fox float, magura hs-22's, thomson post/stem, xt & lx drivetrain
a Cross Country Rider
Date Reviewed: July 12, 2002
Strengths: As update to my previous review, this hub can be serviced and the internal freehub pawls and stuff can be cleaned with regular tools, don't need to buy expensive custom tools....This is good.
Great hub, light weight, quick engagement, easy to maintain and service.
Similar Products Used: XT, XTR, Chris King (All excellent)
Bike Setup: All knds of mixed stuff.
a Cross Country Rider
from Franklin, Massachusetts, USA
Date Reviewed: June 15, 2002
Strengths: Engagement pawl design and quick engagement, lightweight, grease ports for on the bike maintenance, easy to adjust. Most importantly because I regularly ride through 1 1/2 - 2 foot deep streams and mud it is great to be able to just pump in some greaseto the grease port and see the crud and water come right back out of the bearings by the axle without having to take apart the hub or replace the bearings.
Weaknesses: None so far. Small cogs on XT 11-34 cassette seem to be wearing or cutting through the splines on the aluminium cassette body. Should be made of harder material. I've been told this is normal occurance on all aluminium cassette bodies.
Great hubs, Light weight, easy to service, subject to my abuse and they still work. I would give 5 chili's if the cassette body was a harder material to prevent the digging of the edges of the loose cog.