The Andean's Long Awaited New Stem

The Diamondback Andean got a new stem. Is that a stop-the-presses piece of news? Yes, in fact, even more so than when I wrote about Quintana Roo’s PRsix getting its new stem and in my mind that was the key that finally unlocked the success of that bike (in my mind, QR’s PR series is one of the top 3 or 4 lineups in tri, and that stem for its flagship bike was a big part of its recent success).

The Andean’s new stem is even a bigger deal because of two things: First, the bike is an engineering marvel, which I’ll get to; and second, because the original stem was also an engineering marvel but a huge inhibitor to the use of this bike.

As with people, when you spend real time with bikes you make little discoveries that tell you about the quality (or lack thereof) of those bikes. Today’s superbikes are really terrific. I love working on them. But sometimes they’re precise but they fail in the big things. Scott’s Plasma Premium rules when it comes to the precision of its integrated front hydration, but the bike is highly unadjustable lengthwise (prior to 2018, at least).

This bike, the Andean, came with a stem that only allowed the use of a single aerobar: the HED Corsair. This was a problem because of that bar’s lack of height adjustment. This bike badly wanted a Profile Design Supersonic (or Zipp, or anything that pedestaled). But the original stem (which came in 3 sizes) had “wings” that flared out adjacent to the rear of the pursuit bar that did not allow clamping of any other bar.

So, some of us just took our hack saws to those “wings” and if you ever get a chance at a race expo to visit the SRAM booth and see the Andean they have there you’ll see the most gorgeous tri bike on two wheels today, but they had to do some real scrollwork on that original Andean stem to allow Zipp bars to fit.

I would talk to these Diamondback guys, as I talk to a lot of bicycle product managers, and I’d say that I’d love to write more about the marvel that this bike is, but this bike needs a new stem. Aerobars are getting very adjustable these days (see what Profile Design is doing) and you don’t need several stem sizes (I told them), at least not right away. Let the aerobar do the adjusting and just put a stem out there that can accept today’s great aerobars.

Why not just put an aftermarket stem on there? Which you could do. But, look at this bike. See the rearward top tube storage? That really wants to get faired by the storage in front of it, so that new stem needs to let that front storage piggyback atop it.

It took a year. Actually, a year and a half. But we finally have our new stem.

It’s 95mm long, center:center, and it’s very low. As you’ll note, the clamp itself – where it attaches to the steerer – is quite small in height, top to bottom. About 30mm tall. As an aside, it’s going to be one of the few stems that can go aftermarket on the original Felt IAx (when those bikes came with its steerer cut to fit). If you want to go lower with your Felt, here’s your stem (once it becomes aftermarket available).

Will the stem become aftermarket available? It comes inch-and-an-eighth even tho the Andean’s steerer is one-inch, so, yeah. That’s got to be the thinking. The stem comes with a couple of plastic top plates that allow for top storage mounting and have come brake cable housing guides (and the brake housing – wonder of wonders – actually “wants” to nest in those guides).

It also comes with a plastic nose piece to clean up the front, as the old stem did, but one of the casualties of this stem change is that the old stem’s plastic nose cone (just below) housed as a Di2 junction box.

So, when I talk about engineering marvels, how cool was that nose piece? The junction box didn’t just sit in there. It clipped in there. I wish there was a way to have preserved that nose cone for the new stem. Alas, where now the junction box? I drilled a couple of holes in that front storage box, on one each lower front quadrant, and routed the Di2 cables in there. I put the junction box in there.

My one gripe about this new stem is that, while the front storage box fixed hard to the stem’s plastic cover in the front, it wasn’t a hard fix in the rear. It needed more. I also needed to route the Di2 cable out of there and into the frame. So, I drilled out a hole in the rear, maybe 3/8” or so, whatever the size is of a chain ring bolt hole. I screwed in a track chain ring bolt that fixed everything hard, and I passed the Di2 wire through the center of that bolt. (I had to drill the bolt’s center out a bit.)

I’ve now got a Profile Design Supersonic bar on this bike. Using the old stem and Cobra aerobar the way this bike used to adjust up or down was by aero headset spacers, sort of like the Cervelo P5-6 with the 3T Aduro bar. I was not overfond of this motif. I much prefer just using the pedestals in the aerobar if I need to go higher. As you see from the shots of this bike, I’ve got 30mm of pedestals under my aerobar, but this didn’t change the orientation of the storage units.

Let me explain. See how those two storage units line up? Under the original plan, if you pedestal under the stem that raises the entire front end, and that front storage box is no longer in line with the rear top tube storage box. Now the whole thing stays in line.

The Andean has so much storage you could go touring on it. When I ride this bike I feel like Jethro Clampett driving cousin Pearl’s 1922 Buick out to California: ”They loaded up the truck and moved to Beverly; Hills, that is." But what about front hydration? (If that’s how you roll, which I do). The bike is made to work with a Profile Design Aero HC bottle in line and it lines up like a little soldier right in front of the rest of the front storage. But I didn’t have one of those Aero HC bottles at the ready, so I cannibalized a couple of old Profile Design J2 brackets and put a front cage on there. If you’re going to angle it down underneath the bars, like I did, you need a pretty grabby cage, like an XLAB Gorilla or similar.

I’ve spent time with the Cervelo P5X, ridden a fair bit on it, watched it being assembled, but I haven’t personally built it up. This bike, the Andean, I have built up and you can’t appreciate its precision, thoughtfulness and detail until you taste and smell it up close. But it just wasn’t ready, because of the limitations of its original stem. This bike is now free at last.

I’m jumping the gun here. This stem will make landfall in about 4 weeks, along with a bunch of frames. Diamondback is in a similar position as Canyon, with tri bikes going out as fast as they arrive. Managing the consumer-facing end of the pro bikes Diamondback makes is Matt Hill, and I’m going to do something really questionable: give out his email address to Slowtwitchers. It’s mhill followed by with the @ sign in between (yes, Matt and I talked about this first!).

I’m giving you his direct contact because I went through the process and virtually built an Andean in its Custom Studio, pretty similar to what you see here, Ultegra Di2, these HED Jet 9 wheels, Conti GP4000 in 25mm, and it comes in at about $5,900 with DB’s own aerobars. But, you can’t order the bike with this stem yet, that is, Diamondback’s configurator hasn’t been updated to reflect this, that I can see. Further, this bike really wants the aerobar I have on it in these pics: a Profile Design Supersonic. It also is not on the configurator.

So, you can’t order the bike as I’m telling you to order it. However, "Custom really does mean custom for us,” Matt told me. "If they don’t see something on the menu, we will make it happen.” But that means you need to contact Diamondback outside of the custom configurator process and while Diamondback’s configurator has an online chat attached to it, I want you all just to talk to Matt directly (who is himself a F.I.S.T.-Certified bike fitter, among other things).

As regards cost, I went through the Configurator, for grins, and spec’d it with a SRAM Force group and HED Ardennes wheels. It came in at $3,999. That’s just crazy (GP4000s? TRP disc brake calipers?). Besides everything else on this bike, the Ardennes is a $1000 wheelset. It’s what I’m riding right now on my Litespeed gravel bike, and I saved up for these wheels.

I’ve always felt the Andean is a first-tier pro tri bike. But not with its original stem. Yes, for me, no problem, "Have Dremel Will Travel." But should I expect you to buy a new bike and immediately start cutting up the stem? No. I therefore haven’t talked much about this bike. But it’s ready for prime time now, or it ill be in about 4 weeks, tho I wouldn’t wait to order; I don’t see at-once deliveries happening for awhile.

There is one more thing to be done. I’ve built the sizing matrices for a number of bike companies because while these bike companies don’t realize how easy it is, I do! This new stem, with a set of Supersonics, requires a new Pad X/Y matrix, which I will sit down and do sooner rather than later. Or, D’Back’s engineers will do it. This is the final requirement, I think, to make this an easy transaction for you (assuming you know your bike position).

Go through the Custom Studio, price things out, then just contact Matt. The bike you see in these pics is a Shimano Di2 bike, with 1-button sycnro shifting, the non-Shimano drivetrain part being a Rotor crank (and power meter), Profile Design Svet pursuit bar, Supersonic aerobars and PD's grips all around. My advice is to give Matt your shopping list and let him go to work.