The Aero 420 has been an American Classic favorite for more than 5 years and with recent developments in wheel technology it's unlikely that a wheel this old is worth considering when looking to for the ultimate aero clincher. Testing the new 420 Aero 3 proved this wrong and got us thinking that developing and improving a product over time trumps the more popular "latest = greatest".
American Classic have morphed almost everything about the 420. The hubs are redesigned, the spokes and spoke pattern are different, the rims are still 420 grams and 34mm deep but the brake surface has been improved and the wheels look completely different. The sum of these changes dramatically alter the ride of the 420's and the new version of this wheel is a huge step up from earlier models. If wheels were evaluated on performance + durability + price the 420's are right up there as one of the best ever wheels. At 1530 grams and 34mm deep, superbly reliable and $1100 it's hard to find competition for the 420. The drawback here is they are not exactly the best at anything. 1530 grams is not super light, reliability is hard to quantify and $1100 is still a lot of money even of carbon clinchers are now more than $2500. The 420's do however come in as an excellent all rounder, ideal for using every day, winning the group sprint and competing in a tri or TT.
On the road the 420's provide a fantastic ride sensation. They spin up fast, feel lively and sure. I did some quality training miles in the rain and hills and some pretty competitive masters racers around South Carolina and the 420's were ideal for all applications. Gone is the flimsy feeling in the front wheel of the older 420's and gone is the springy feeling in the rear I had experienced with a pair of 420's I had owned some years back. The redesigned rear hub with it's oversize alloy axle and repositioned bearings felt stiff while the freehub engaged firmly without hesitation. The bladed spokes are rigid and the American Classic factory build was sufficient for me not to have to true the wheels at any time. They are as true now after 8 busy weeks as they were when I pulled them out the box. Other positive ride qualities of the 420's are the lightness and maneuverability of the front wheel, ideal for racing and sprinting I felt the front wheel was very light and stiff for an aero wheel and this gave me complete confidence navigating a fast moving field. The 420's were also windproof, at least for me at 175lbs (79kg's) no feeling of gusting and been blown around even on fast descents.
On the downside the braking surface of the 420 rim has a pulse at slower speed. When pulling up to a stop on a steep incline you feel the rim join passing through the brake calipers. At speed this is not as pronounced. You also have to love a bold look and it better be red and white or white and red. The 420's looked killer on my all black NeilPryde Alize. They also looked good on a blue/white Cinelli Saetta, so may be no downside to the color as long as you like wheels that stand out.
Back to application and tires. The 420's are bombproof, light and aero. Throw on some GP 4000's and ride them all winter, throw on some Schwalbe Ultremo ZX'x and they are much lighter and racier. In short the 420's can do it all. So if you are going to do all your riding on one pair of wheels consider these.