Love it or hate it, the landscape for bike sales is changing. Though our own audience survey found that nearly 50 percent of our readers still buy their bikes from a bike shop, it also found that a direct-to-consumer brand had the biggest change in “interest to buy” by a large margin over other traditional bike manufacturers. All of this means that more people are interested in buying bikes online without the help of a bike shop—either online or brick-and-mortar.
This was the logic that led A2 Bikes founder AJ Alley to first look into sourcing frames directly from Taiwan. While most bike brands are manufactured in China or Taiwan, very few customers are able to purchase those foreign-made setups without going through the bike manufacturer and shop. At each junction the price is marked up to account for the cost of shipping, keeping the lights on, paying employees, etc. Alley’s dream was to create and sell bikes that skipped most of those steps.
With the release of A2 Bikes’ Speed Phreak, Alley’s company sells a full carbon tri-specific bike directly to customers via its website. For less than $2,000 ($1,900 to be exact), purchasers can get a bike equipped with 105 front and rear derailleurs, Tektro rim brakes, FSA cranks and bottom bracket, Vision Trimax aluminum base and aerobars, and basic Alexrims training wheels (upgrades are also available). Bearing in mind that most carbon tri completes start well above $2,000, any small upgrades are a manageable expense if needed later down the line.
When it comes to the frame itself out on the road, expect a ride that falls right down the middle between rough and smooth, falling slightly on the smoother side for bigger vibrations —like bumps and ruts—and slightly on the rougher side for high-frequency road chatter.
More interestingly, the Speed Phreak does a fantastic job of comfortably holding a straight line—something that’s essential particularly for beginner to intermediate riders who might find this bike within their budget. Even down steep descents, the Speed Phreak makes easy work of holding its line and doesn’t require constant correction. Even more surprisingly—especially for a bike that’s so stable at speed—the Speed Phreak does an exceptional job of handling tight corners aggressively and predictably. The most likely reason here is the super low front end.
Per size, the Speed Phreak has one of the most aggressive front ends found on tri bikes from major manufacturers. With a tiny 90mm head tube on a 53cm top tube, this is a bike that is built with a very low basebar, right out of the box. While the aerobars themselves can be raised with a set of spacers, it’s important to note that, since this is a bike purchasers will be assembling and setting up themselves, a fit from a professional would go a long way. Think of the bike fitter fee as a worthwhile investment, given the money you’d save buying this bike direct.
In person, the Speed Phreak looks and feels like a hyper aggressive tri machine, with a straight-shooting top tube that runs horizontally from seat tube to head tube. Though certainly a fast-looking and eye-catching bike, the sharp lines and aggressive default position actually bely a more even-tempered ride experience than one would expect. With the help of an experienced fitter, this bike serves as a solid foundation for an athlete to build an any-distance, skies-the-limit superbike without breaking the bank.