Background & Design
You've likely heard (and heard of) Industry Nine's flashy, loud, high-engagement wheelsets. Now the Asheville, North Carolina, based company is branching out from creating hubs, wheels, and other small bits such as their Matchstix thru-axle multi-tool, and adding stems to their repertoire.
I9's A35 stem is machined from aluminum billet and designed for, as the name so subtly hints, a 35mm diameter bar clamp. The stem is available in multiple lengths and like the brand's wheels, multiple anodized colors. It sells for $125 and for those who want a little extra customization, you can mix the stem and faceplate color combos for an extra $15.
A35 Stem Details
• CNC-machined aluminum
• Bar clamp: 35mm
• Lengths: 32mm, 40mm. 50mm, 60mm
• Weights: 128g, 135g, 150g, 165g (respectively)
• Rise: +/- 6-deg (32mm length: +/- 5-deg)
• Stack: 40mm; (32mm length: 42mm)
• Colors: 11 different options
• MSRP: $125 USD
So, a stem from what's been known as a "wheel company" for over a decade is a bit of a leap, but it seems that the crew at I9 have put quite a bit of thought into it. I asked where the inspiration came from and, according to Vice President Jacob McGahey, it's a project they've been wanting to do for some time. He said, "We wanted to produce something that provided class-leading performance, but also visually distinguished itself from what is currently available. However, we didn't have the room take it on due to the combination of rapid growth and keeping up with all of the demands of the hub and wheel market. We recently added some additional engineering and operations resources that opened up the bandwidth needed to jump into some new projects."
A little history - Industry Nine have been selling their own wheels since 2005. While the stem is technically the first foray for I9 into anything unrelated to wheels and axles, the manufacturing side of I9, Turnamics, has been making bicycle parts outside of hubs and wheels for almost 30 years - including many of the parts for the original RockShox suspension forks. Turnamics still does manufacturing for several other bike industry brands, as well as contract manufacturing for other industries. All of this is under the same West Asheville roof as I9.
Laser etching and anodized colors make for a pretty sleek look.
As far as the design and construction of the stem goes, the same team that designs I9's hubs and wheelsets worked on the stem. According to McGahey, the biggest challenge with creating the stem was "making a structure that meets our form follow function ethos." In other words, I9 likes function and fashion to coincide.
The stem was made to be as stiff as possible, but still at what I9 considered to be a competitive weight, while upholding their standards. "Every curve and chamfer on the stem was designed to place material where it was needed for strength and appropriate wall thickness," according to I9.
To test the stem, I9 built an in-house stem and handlebar testing unit and utilized a test protocol that exceeds the ISO standard for stems. "We brought in competing products from most of the premier stem manufacturers to benchmark against as well," says McGahey. "All four lengths of our stems lasted over 50,000 cycles at progressively higher loads, while none of the other stems we tested made it over 30,000."What's With the A35 Name & What about 31.8?
The A35 name comes from the A-axis in I9's five-axis CNC machining centers. 35? Well, that's the bar diameter the stem works with. Easy enough.
As far as a 35mm stem goes, I9 said that they wanted to go with it, "because it is steadily taking off as the industry standard for aggressive mountain biking and as bars continue to get wider, the 35mm clamp allows handlebars to be made lighter and stronger." I agree with that - there's no doubt that more and more bikes are coming with 35mm bars. They also said, "we want to make sure we can deliver the 35mm product to our dealers and customers before jumping into additional offerings." Respectably, McGahey says that they do recognize that the 31.8mm size has a place and they are certainly considering adding that diameter in the future.
Details are well thought out.
I've been using the A35 stem for several weeks now. It went on the bike easy as any stem should. I torqued it to spec and have been riding it without much thought since. I will say that it looks damn good on the front of my Yeti SB130 test bike and has garnered more comments than the bike in short order. I'm using the 40mm edition and it's nice to see a variety of lengths, including a short 32mm offered.
As far as any issues go, we're talking about a stem here so I'm really hoping to never have any or much more to report on that side of things.Pinkbike's Take