Diamondback's Andean

For some weeks now I’ve been hinting that, as regards new tri bike launches, this will be the most interesting Autumn ever. Two reasons for my hinting just got launched this week: TriRig’s Omni and today the Diamondback Andean. And we’re just warming up! There are more to come!

If halo bike porn gets you all worked up it doesn’t get any pornier than the Andean. But it’s not just in halo bikes. One place everybody agrees trickle down economics works is in the downstreaming of bike tech. Within the past month we’ve seen new models from Quintana Roo (PR3) and just yesterday Canyon (Speedmax CF) that look like pricey stuff but cost $2 thousand and something complete.

Now, about the Andean, when I first saw mechanical drawings I immediately thought of the first Cervelo, the Baracchi, a bike you’ll never see on the road. It was Phil White and Gerard Vroomen’s original moonshot and of bikes like this designed more than 20 years ago White said, "We couldn’t sell our aero bikes when we first brought them out — they looked too different.” If you look at the Andean you can see what White meant by “different."

The feature most striking about the Baracchi was that leading edge down tube which served as a continuation of the front wheel's trailing edge. Like the 10mm rubber De Soto put in one of its wetsuits, this is one of those things we all have thought about, but we all assumed would prompt the response, "You’ve gone too far this time!"

In truth, I’ve been waiting for somebody to eventually do this, and in a way it’s fitting because a chief designer of the Andean is Kevin Quan, an engineer who did work for Cervelo back in its formative years.

The Andean is Diamondback’s moonshot. Never has a bike required a rider accept as axiomatic features that are non-negotiable. The rider must assume that disc brakes and 1x are the appropriate way a tri bike should be ridden and 1x is certainly making its case, what with the TriRig Omni and the Andean both introduced with the front derailleur sitting on a shelf, lonely with only the unused second chain ring for company.

But more than this is the notion that the frame down tube’s leading edge will work on the road, not just in a wind tunnel. Over the summer we’ve had vigorous discussions on our reader forum about the very elemental nature of how a bike is ridden, what keeps it upright, how it steers, how the rider determines his steering inputs. Central to this is countersteering which, notwithstanding other arcane definitions, at least means the need to steer away from the desired direction before steering toward it. This maneuver is how we remain atop our bikes. It is repeated many times a minute.

This means two things at least: Everything attached to the bike’s steer tube (like the fork, front wheel and handlebar) is always in a yaw, and that these forward elements see a greater yaw than everything behind the steer column (the main frame and everything attached to it).

Here (it seems to me) is the big gamble Diamondback is taking: When you are riding, how closely does the trailing edge of the front tire sit in front of the leading edge of that down tube? And how often is it close enough for that leading edge to produce the desired effect? The desired effect is what Diamondback calls its "Aero Core” philosophy and this is how Diamondback explains it:

"The Aero Core is the section of the frame that sits directly between the wheels. The Andean connects the two wheels with one large integrated airfoil that begins with the front wheel, transitions over the bottom bracket and exits off the rear wheel. By doing so, the laminar flow across the entire system is improved, reducing the overall aerodynamic drag of the bicycle system.”

It’s one thing to test a bike in a wind tunnel or model it via CFD. It’s another thing when a rider is aboard, steering left and right just to remain riding in a straight line. I don’t mean to cast doubt. What I do mean to cast is a healthy skepticism until I actually ride this bike which I have not yet done, in field testing which I have not done with this bike.

The other question I have revolves around the trend toward more surface area for the last half-dozen years and whether this trend has been over-emphasized. We published an article over the summer talking about the yaws that matter, which are predominantly 10 degrees on either size of the bike. The closer you get to zero yaw the more often the bike sees that yaw. It’s not that the bike is sitting at zero yaw, looking straight ahead, it’s that the bike is constantly passing back and forth – remember countersteering – through zero.

Large surface area bikes are great in 15 or 20 degrees of yaw, because they act as sails. It’s not that they’re bad in low yaw, just that the surface area is less helpful. Still, with both this bike and the Omni the designers are saying the same thing: "Let’s move the air from the front to the back with as little disruption as possible." This bike, the Andean, is the most obvious and outspoken attempt to make that happen.

One thing a lot of surface area does is give you opportunities to fair elements in the back half of the bike (such as that lone chain ring) and to provide faired storage areas. The Omni and now the Andean have each taken this to heart. I’m really impressed with all the storage on this bike.

Geometrically, the Andean’s designers did exactly what the Speed Concept’s folks did before that bike’s 2011 launch: Instead of staking a geometric flag on the ground, making a statement about fit, they simply graphed the existing geometries in the market and drew a line down the center. They very smartly picked their fights, and they chose not to pick one with geometry.

Now, let me tell you where I do have a concern. To understand the relationship between Diamondback and HED – which is quite obvious here as it was with Diamondback’s Serios – you need a little history. For a few years now Diamondback and HED products have been ridden by the Optum Pro Cycling Team. That team’s owner does a very good job of networking, bringing his partners together to give them every bit of strategic leverage. These two companies began a relationship that eventually bore fruit in the Serios and now with the Andean. HED’s wheels ought to be on this bike and before the Autumn is over I predict you’ll be hearing about, reading about, talking about HED an awful lot. The one item that I’m concerned about is the HED Corsair Aero bar spec’d on all models of this bike. Nothing wrong with the bar. Just, this is not a bar known for its adjustability. Accordingly, while I love the choice of HED wheels on the Andean, the Corsair is in my opinion a better aftermarket bar than an OE bar.

Accordingly, my view on how this bike will fit is as follows: Yes, it’s right down the middle, in terms of frame geometry to the head tube top. But I think the middle is a little high. I think we’ve gotten slightly too high, freezing out some of those who’d like to ride a bit lower. I’d like to see Diamondback offer a second bar as an OE option, particularly one that starts with a very low stack. Some might ask why I didn’t criticize the Omni for a geometry not so dissimilar to this geometry here. It’s because the bike is paired with TriRig’s Alpha X bar which is a very low bar unpedestaled. The Andean so-spec’d would be an interesting and compelling bike.

The Andean is sold consumer direct. So, move over Canyon and Omni, here’s one more. And move over your LBS I guess, there’s one more option for complete bikes that didn’t used to exist. Still, consumer direct remains an unproven channel for bikes in the U.S. If you live in Germany and you need to find a warranty or recall solution that’s a country that can still be driven in a car in a part of a day. If you’re suffering from a wild hair and you need redress you just get in your Audi and motor over to Koblenz to have a chat with the factory. Not so in the U.S. Whether consumer direct will be the huge win in the U.S. it has proven to be in Europe, in the words of the legendary German triathlete Wolfgang Dittrich whenever he was asked about a future unknown, “We will see.”

What I like about the Andean are the available color options. This slide above shows only a part of the options. Get ready for this kind of thing. I wrote about a start-up last month, HIA Velo. Its president, Tony Karklins, brought Orbea to the U.S. and 8 years ago he offered Orbeas just this way, Trek Project One style. Tony was a little ahead of its time, but I would imagine Tony will offer something very much like this again when his bikes launch. Canyon, Trek, Diamondback, this is just the beginning of what will become the major technological initiative in bike sales. No, not a special kind of carbon. No, not low low prices. But this. Getting exactly the bike you want, spec’d just as you want it, in the color you want it. Customers don’t mind waiting a month. What they mind is settling for only half the bike they really want.

Diamondback’s Serios debuted at about $8,500 and really it was a little too ordinary at a price a bit extraordinary. Here with the Andean, at $4,779.99 up to $8,069.99 we have a set of options that begin at a lower price and top out at a price not that outrageous. This is a step in the right direction for Diamondback. Further, it would not surprise me if clubs and coaches and other affinity groups might wrangle discounts.

This is a bike I want to ride. I’m curious. There is so much that is new, never before done, I’m interested to see what that sensation is like. Certainly one thing is true: Usually the café racers on their Ducatis scream by me as I’m pedaling over and through the San Gabriel Mountains where I live. They’re going to slow down and stare when they see an Andean. Read more about it.